Daily Dispatch 5/24/2019

Trump wants immigrants and sponsors to repay government assistance

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Daily Dispatch

May 24, 2019


Trump’s efforts to make life miserable for people seeking a new life in the United States is increasingly focused on those who migrated to the U.S. through official, “legal” means. Since his administration’s efforts to recraft the “public charge” rule last October – a new rule under which people here with a green card that received any government assistance could face removal proceedings – to the proposal of Housing and Urban Development last month to evict people from public housing if any member of that household was undocumented, Trump is engaging an all out war to target low-income immigrants. Yesterday, Trump announced that his administration issued a memorandum requiring that immigrants or their sponsors pay back any government assistance they may have received:

President Donald Trump took another step Thursday to crack down on legal immigration, instructing agencies to enforce a 23-year-old law that requires sponsors of green card holders to reimburse the government for welfare benefits.

Trump approved a memorandum Thursday to enforce a pair of provisions signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the White House said. The move comes as Trump has sought to overhaul legal immigration despite congressional resistance.

U.S. President Donald Trump visits the US-Mexico border in Calexico California, U.S., April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The announcement came with a justification – one we’ve heard before – that 58 percent of non-citizen headed households have accessed public assistance “in some form.” The source of this statistic is most likely a National Academy of the Sciences report that found that 58 percent of immigrant households with children had used “any welfare.” Importantly, included in this definition of welfare is food assistance programs like free lunch and breakfast programs at public schools. The same study showed that “native” households accessed housing and cash assistance programs at higher rates than immigrants. The percent of immigrant households where someone had accessed Medicaid was 50 percent, but a number that fluctuates dramatically state to state.  A fact check of an earlier similar claim by Trump included this:

University of California, Davis Law School Dean and immigration expert Kevin Johnson said immigrants cannot be over consuming public benefits because they are not eligible to receive the benefits in the first place.

“To say that the general rate of use by immigrants of public benefits is anywhere close to 50 percent is an exaggeration and just isn’t supported by the evidence,” he said.

Ultimately, the numbers ignore income levels and the fact that many immigrant headed households have citizen members of that household, often the children.

But the point, for Trump, is not to be accurate. Remember this is the man who last year Tweeted:

Not a single statistic in this tweet is accurate. The $3,874 number came from a report about a refugee family (legal!) receiving a one time cash assistance payment (not monthly) to help with resettlement – IN CANADA! Average social security checks in the U.S. are over $1,400 a month – not that this was the point of the tweet.

Trump is working from a very old playbook – associate immigrants with crime and welfare, project the idea that they are granted some kind of preferential treatment over U.S. citizens and blame all of this on the Democratic Party. This is warmed over “southern strategy” style race baiting. The goal is to create resentment and give those in the twitter-verse, social media and watching Fox News a target for that resentment. Which is to say, accuracy has nothing to do with it. 

As the election proceeds, Trump will continue to beat the drum of “deserving” and “undeserving” immigrants issue statements that confuse documented and undocumented immigration to cast a shadow over everyone in this country that is not a U.S. citizen. Fight for policies that animate this bigotry in an effort to keep the debate going and put the Democrats on the defensive should they push back at all.

Of course, it is not 1968. Demographic trends are not on the GOP’s side. This is the racist swan song of a dying order. But, for now, enough people are willing to dance to this tune that real damage to our country and the lives of millions of people is being done.

Fight back.

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12 Families Receive Homes in San Marcos, Nicaragua

Members of housing cooperative in San Marcos with Institute staff

The following report is abridged from the Institute of John XXIII/Assocation Roncali’s report on completing the first phase of housing in San Marcos, Nicaragua. The Quixote Center’s Homes of Hope program was the principal funder of this housing initiative. We thank all of you who have supported the project thus far!

On Saturday, May 4, twelve families who are members of the Cooperativa Fuentes de Agua Viva (COVIAMFAV) of San Marcos were able to move into their new homes. “This is a miracle,” said Pastor Anibal Chavarria, president of COVIAMFAM. 

The cooperative was created in January 2014 and in 2015 was able to purchase land for up to 20 houses. Once in possession of the land, they searched tirelessly for financing, but were unable to find a bank willing to work with them. Several people resigned in frustration.

In January 2018 the Institute of John XXIII (Association Roncalli) began working with the members of the cooperative through mutual relationships developed years before with another housing cooperative:¨One day Don Nicolás (a director with the Institute of John XXIII) arrived in San Marcos to get to know the project. We are very grateful to him. The hand of God has always been with us, thanks to God, the Institute of John XXIII and their partners¨ Pastor Anibal Chavarria concluded.

The construction process with COVIAMFAV has been difficult. The terrain is very hilly so several improvements had to be carried out before starting the construction of the houses including creating terraces for the homes.

Kenneth García is an engineer working with the Institute and oversees all of the construction sites. Mr. García explained that he had to design a new model home that would meet the requirements of families. The result was the Sapphire model of 57m2, an austere and more economical model than the 42m2 model that was originally created for this project.

New homes in San Marcos

Terracing the land also required the construction of retaining walls. “The processes of construction of retention walls, in many cases was more expensive than the construction of houses,” explained Mr. García. 

Liliet López, another Institute engineer, who was in charge of the supervision of the work during the four months, stressed that the biggest obstacle was the topography of the land and the need to create varying levels for each lot. Engineer Lopez pointed out that with this project four contractors were employed, who had several squads of workers, for a total of 50 people employed during construction. Members of the cooperative also helped work on the project.

“We had 50 workers working from Monday to Saturday and days of mutual aid by members of the cooperative on Sundays”.

Of the 12 members who received their housing, 11 are women who struggle daily to get ahead with their family. Silvia Dávila, member who received her house, with tears in her eyes expressed her gratitude to the Institute of John XXIII (Roncalli Association) for believing in the cooperative and giving them the opportunity to have a decent home. “One of the things we learned in this project was patience and working together. We had the land, but not the money for housing. Thanks to the association our children will have their space. Most of us are women, heads of family. I longed to have my house, and today is the day they give us the key, the beginning was difficult, but God is just.”

“I am very grateful we have persevered” were the words of Martha Lucía Galeano, 38 years old, a member of the cooperative, who received her house and who has a bakery as a means of subsistence. “When I arrived, I listened to the desire to have a home and in this cooperative we were given space as working women”.

Another member who received her home was 39-year-old Jeaneth Bonilla. She expressed the happiness of receiving her home. “I come to thank God for this blessing and all those involved in this project, the cooperative and the Roncalli Association that helped us make this dream come true,” said Mrs. Jeaneth. 

On behalf of the Institute of John XXIII, Roncalli Association, the director Edwin Novoa, also expressed his satisfaction at the completion of these 12 homes. “All this work is the product of faith, will and relationships. It has been a collective work, which has required the will of public authorities and families. But we are still missing eight homes and we have the commitment to build them, this is just beginning .”

Edwin also encouraged the members to support the board of the cooperative and encouraged them to plant trees to give the soil consistency. Likewise, he recognized the engineers, construction masters and local authorities for all the support and effort.

Edwin Novoa hands keys to member of cooperative.

For the development of this project, the support of the mayor’s office of San Marcos was indispensable. Mayor Linda Tellez acknowledged the accompaniment provided by the Institute of John XXIII to the cooperative and thanked Pastor Aníbal for making the mayor participate in this project.

The celebration of the delivery of the homes concluded with the handing over of the keys to their home to the 12 members who were very happy.

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Daily Dispatch 5/23/2019

ICE arrests DACA recipient – then her family

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Daily Dispatch

May 23, 2019


Paula Hincapie-Rendon (center, white dress) surrounded by staff and alumni of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and members of Voces de la Frontera, an activist group from Milwaukee, outside of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Chicago field office, May 8, 2019. Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

On May 8, Paula Hincapie-Rendon was arrested by ICE agents while driving her daughter to school. In 2004, Hincapie-Rendon’s family fled from violence in Colombia. Their asylum claim was denied in 2009, and a deportation order was issued. In 2015, Hincapie-Rendon was granted protection from deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), a status that was renewed in 2017. DACA protects some people from removal proceedings if they arrived in the U.S. as children. Hincapie-Rendon should not have been arrested. But what happened next suggests that her arrest was a pretext to get to her parents. From the Chicago Sun-Times

Hincapie-Rendon asked if she could take her daughter back to the house and leave her with her parents. The agents obliged, with one caveat — they would be driving her car while she sat in their van, handcuffed.

“My daughter was crying so loud in the back seat, scared and confused,” she said.

Once at the house, agents found Hincapie-Rendon’s dad, Carlos Hincapie, leaving for work. They arrested him on the spot. Agents then went into the house and arrested Hincapie-Rendon’s mom, Betty Rendon, a Lutheran minister who was set to start her doctorate at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in June. Agents also arrested Hincapie’s cousin, who was staying with the family.

The agents drove the family to ICE’s field office in the Loop. The agency released Hincapie-Rendon that same afternoon under an order of supervision… Hincapie-Rendon’s parents and her dad’s cousin were taken to an ICE facility in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. They are now being held at the Pulaski County Jail in Ullin, Illinois, and face deportation to Colombia.

You can read the full story here.

Detention reaches an all time high

When the Trump administration talks about the “crisis” at the border and the need for more detention beds, stories like the one above are not mentioned. And yet, nearly 37% of ICE arrests and detentions in December were people with no criminal background. (And please note those with “criminal backgrounds” are not hardened criminals – low level arrests can place someone in removal proceedings and lead to detention, even permanent residence.)

Nevertheless, the Trump administration is now detaining a daily average of more than 50,000 people a day.

From Buzzfeed:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is detaining more than 52,000 immigrants in jails around the country, officials said Monday, an apparent all-time record as the Trump administration contends with a surge of migrants at the southern border.

As of Monday, ICE was holding 52,398 migrants, of which 998 are family units, an agency official told BuzzFeed News. The number represents a significant population spike from just two weeks ago when ICE was holding more than 49,000 migrants.

Perhaps, coincidentally, GEO Group’s stock price got a bump on the Monday news of record detentions. GEO Group is the largest private prison operator contracting with ICE on detentions.

Disaster aid bill held up over Trump immigration plans

And of course, the “crisis” means Trump wants more money to detain people, which means other things cannot get done unless he gets it.

From The Hill:

Immigration’s emergence as a sticking point comes after lawmakers managed to work out several other issues. They say they’ve reached a deal on aid to Puerto Rico despite Trump’s previous criticism of the island territory, and Republicans have jettisoned harbor maintenance funding and a short-term extension of the Violence Against Women Act.

The White House’s $4.5 billion border money request included $3.3 billion for humanitarian assistance. About $1.1 billion would go toward operations such as expanding the number of detention beds and providing more investigation resources.  

Shelby told reporters Wednesday morning the debate was stuck on funding for ICE and detention beds for migrants detained along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Democrats have agreed to include humanitarian aid as part of an agreement on the disaster package, but a previous offer didn’t include the administration’s request for more money for ICE detention beds, considered a non-starter for most of the caucus.

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Self-Care for Activists

In 2014, Erica Garner led a protest march in New York City after a grand jury decided not to indict a police officer involved in the death of her father, Eric Garner.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

In 2014, Erica Garner led a protest march in New York City after a grand jury decided not to indict a police officer involved in the death of her father, Eric Garner. Andrew Burton/Getty Images

In January of 2015, I had the honor of sitting in front of Erica Garner at the BET Honors award show in Washington, D.C. Erica Garner is the daughter of Eric Garner, a man who was killed by a New York City police officer after the officer used an illegal chokehold on Garner. The tragic death of her father ignited her passion for social justice work. She became very vocal about the unjust killing of her father and about police misconduct.

CNN reported in December of 2017:

Erica Garner became a prominent activist in the wake of her father’s death, pushing for   political change and social justice broadly aligned with the Black Lives Matter    movement.

She told CNN’s Don Lemon in 2014 she believed her father’s death had more to do with police misconduct than race.

“I can’t really say it’s a black and white issue,” she said. “It’s about the police officer and abusing their power.”

Sadly, three years after the death of her father, Erica Garner died after suffering a heart attack at 27. She was the mother of two children. I am thankful I had the opportunity to meet her and tell her how her family’s story impacts my work; however, Erica’s sudden death and the deaths of other young activists like her brings to the issue of self-care in activism and justice work.

Oftentimes when we get involved in advocacy and justice work, we fail to think about the toll it takes on our physical, mental and emotional health. That’s why over the next few weeks for our “Wellness Wednesday,” we’re going to share self-care tips for activists on our Facebook, Twitter and IG pages. Follow us, and stay tuned.   

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Daily Dispatch 5/22/2019

Let’s End 287(g)!

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Daily Dispatch

May 22, 2019


Map of 287(g) agreements, Immigrant Legal Resource Center

Around the country, different localities have signed “287(g)” agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 287(g) agreements deputize local law enforcement to enforce immigration law. This can include inquiring about someone’s immigration status during routine traffic stops or other interactions with police, and detaining people until ICE takes custody of them.

287(g) agreements have been signed with 81 localities in 21 states. Almost all of them are set to expire on June 30, 2019. This creates an opportunity for communities around the country to mobilize to block extension of these agreements. From the Center for American Progress:

Under President Trump’s punitive immigration agenda, sweeping changes to immigration enforcement within the United States included rebooting the controversial federal-local partnership known as 287(g), through which state and local law enforcement officers act as ICE deputies. While the Trump administration did not create the 287(g) program, it views it as a critical tool in its ability to deport as many undocumented immigrants living in the United States as possible. Today, ICE has 287(g) contract agreements with 81 law enforcement agencies in 21 states, two-thirds of which were signed during the Trump administration.

The decision to collaborate through a 287(g) agreement is purely discretionary, and state and local officials can terminate these agreements at any time. Over the next month, jurisdictions must choose whether they will side with President Trump’s immigration policy by continuing their collaboration on federal immigration enforcement or protect their communities and prioritize public safety by not renewing their expiring 287(g) partnerships.

287(g) agreement cost communities a lot of money!

Not only is the 287(g) program riddled with transparency and oversight flaws, but it also threatens local economies and communities. According to previous CAP analysis of 40 participating 287(g) jurisdictions, immigrant households in these localities contributed $24.4 billion in annual tax revenue and generated $65.9 billion in spending power. Localities signing up for this voluntary program are thus doing so at the risk of losing these vital economic contributions.

Read the full story from the Center for American Progress.

There has been resistance to 287(g) agreements almost everywhere they have been signed. In the current context, mobilizing communities to demand local officials do not re-sign agreements with ICE can be effective.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center maintains a map of 287(g) agreements – this includes current agreements and the 21 communities that have organized to suspend these agreements. See if your community is on this list and get connected to a campaign to let these agreements expire.

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Daily Dispatch 5/21/2019

ICE use of Solitary Confinement Extensive

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Daily Dispatch

May 21, 2019


Illustration from report: Rocco Fazzari for ICIJ

The Intercept and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published an extensive report on Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE’s) use of solitary confinement to punish immigrants incarcerated in ICE custody. The report was based on a review of 8,400 reported cases of immigrants placed in solitary confinement.

The U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Torture has strongly spoken out against the use of solitary confinement except in the most extraordinary circumstances when all other options have been tried to protect a prisoner or detainee, or if they pose a unique threat to others, and then only used on a very limited bases. The U.N. has argued that use of solitary confinement in excess of 15 days constitutes torture.

Of the 8,400 cases reviewed over half of them were in excess of 15 days. 573 in excess of 90 days, and in 32 cases people were held in solitary for over a year. From the Intercept:

In nearly a third of the cases, detainees were described as having a mental illness, which made them especially vulnerable to breakdown if locked up alone in a small cell. Records reviewed by ICIJ describe detainees in isolation mutilating their genitals, gouging their eyes, cutting their wrists, and smearing their cells with feces.

The review found that immigrants held in the agency’s isolation cells had suffered hallucinations, fits of anger, and suicidal impulses. Former detainees told ICIJ that they experienced sleeplessness, flashbacks, depression, and memory loss long after release.

“People were being brutalized,” said Ellen Gallagher, who currently holds a supervisory role in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Gallagher has tried for years to sound the alarm within her agency about a wide range of abusive uses of solitary confinement at ICE detention centers.

The impact on detainees, especially those with mental illness, is severe:

ICIJ’s analysis found at least 373 instances of detainees being placed in isolation because they were potentially suicidal — and another 200-plus cases of people already in solitary confinement moved to “suicide watch” or another form of observation, in many cases in another solitary cell.

“This is the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a fire,” Kenneth Appelbaum, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who has examined ICE’s segregation practices as a DHS consultant, said of using solitary confinement to manage suicidal detainees. “This is a practice that exposes detainees to real psychological and physiological harm.”

Read the full report from the Intercept. To view the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists companion report, here.

Last year we wrote a report on detention policies that constitute torture and degrading treatment. Our review focuses on prolonged, indefinite detention, the use of child separation as a tactic, and the failure to provide adequate review of individual cases. By all of these standards, U.S. immigration policy enforcement constitutes violations of human rights and international law. In some cases, these practices constitute violations of U.S. law as well – particular legal standards put in place to protect those seeking asylum.

This is our country today, and importantly, it has been our country for over a decade. The use of solitary confinement, family separation and prolonged detention are practices that all predate the Trump administration. Trump’s administration has elevated the use of these dehumanizing tactics in an effort to deter future immigration, and score political points with the far-right. But he has been able to do this because of years of indifference to the situation of detainees. We can only hope the focus brought to Trump’s particular brand of cruelty will be the spark to move us to demand long-lasting change in our immigration system.

Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons Still Abused

Immigration policy is a microcosm of broader trends in our society. It casts a spotlight on abuse because the people in detention have not committed crimes. They are in “civil detention” and have limited access to fair processes. The injustice is thus striking. However, this country’s manic addiction to mass incarceration and tendency toward official cruelty as punishment have deep roots. That immigration enforcement has adopted these harsh techniques is hardly surprising. The use of solitary confinement is no exception.

Despite years of efforts at reform – that have made a difference in some states to be sure – solitary confinement is still a practice that is abused by prison authorities in the United States. On any given day there are an estimated 61,000 people held in solitary confinement. 61,000.  From an extensive report by Vox on solitary confinement:

Thousands of people — at least 61,000 on any given day and likely many thousands more than that — are in solitary confinement across the country, spending 23 hours per day in cells not much bigger than elevators. They are disproportionately young men, and disproportionately Hispanic and African American. The majority spend a few months in it, but at least a couple of thousand people have been in solitary confinement for six years or more. Some, like Woodfox, have been held for decades.

Solitary confinement causes extreme suffering, particularly over prolonged periods of months or years. Effects include anxiety, panic, rage, paranoia, hallucinations, and, in some cases, suicide.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez, deemed that prolonged solitary confinement is a form of torture, and the U.N.’s Mandela Rules dictate that it should never be used with youth and those with mental or physical disability or illness, or for anyone for more than 15 days. Méndez, who inspected prisons in many countries, wrote, “[I]t is safe to say that the United States uses solitary confinement more extensively than any other country, for longer periods, and with fewer guarantees.”

Many practices in the US criminal justice system are harsh, ineffective, even absurd, from the widespread use of money bail to detain unconvicted people to extremely long sentences and parole terms and a host of other outrages. But placing people in solitary stands out as a violation of human rights.

 

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Daily Dispatch 5/20/2019

Increase in the number of immigrants becoming citizens

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Daily Dispatch

May 20, 2019


Last year there was significant uptick in the number of immigrants who became citizens. The 15 percent increase is not historically huge, but likely indicates an increase as the next election cycle looms – a clear inspiration for becoming a citizen is voting.

More than 544,000 immigrants became U.S. citizens in the first three quarters of fiscal year 2018, overall a 15 percent increase from the same period a year ago, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The largest year-to-year increase occurred in the first quarter of 2018, however there was a slight decrease in the third quarter.

Most immigrants can apply for U.S. citizenship after being a permanent resident for five years, or three years after marrying a U.S. citizen. The U.S. immigration agency estimated (pdf) that there were 13.2 million permanent residents in 2015, and 9 million among them would be eligible for citizenship upon application.

Read more here.

ICE prepares to open more detention facilities

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is looking to open new detention facilities to incarcerate immigrants. Over the past three months, arrests at the border have increased significantly. Because this administration refuses to utilize the many available, cheaper and more humane options to incarceration, capacity at detention facilities is strained. So, by the logic of the corporate/government daisy chain, more detention beds are needed.

ICE is considering using existing facilities or constructing new facilities in the Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco areas to house between 5,100 to 5,600 detainees, according to official documents posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website. The facilities would be used to house “criminal aliens and other immigrant violators,” the documents say.

The move comes as U.S. border patrol said it would consider flying migrant families from states along the border to other locations across the country.

ICE has faced significant opposition to opening new detention facilities in the past. In 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union and 13 other groups issued a letter imploring ICE to halt plans to open new facilities across the country.

Full story from Time, here.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP/REX/Shutterstock (10188671d) President Donald Trump speaks as he visits a new section of the border wall with Mexico in Calexico, Calif Trump, El Centro, USA – 05 Apr 2019

Rolling Stone’s takedown of Trump’s immigration strategies

Ryan Bort, at Rolling Stone, offers a critical overview of Trump’s latest immigration plan, placing it in the context of a number of half-baked ideas and cruel fantasies that are part of the inspiration for this administration’s approach. For example:

Putting his son-in-law in charge of immigration is only one element of Trump’s braindead approach to the border. On Thursday, the Post reported that the president’s obsession with the aesthetics of a potential border wall is driving up costs and giving designers headaches. According to current and former administration officials, his “frequently shifting instructions and suggestions have left engineers and aides confused, and he has repeatedly insisted on cosmetic features that serve little practical purpose. For example, he has demanded the wall — which would actually be a fence — be painted black and have spikes on top, “describing in graphic terms the potential injuries that border crossers might receive.”

Trump has also insisted the fence be as tall as possible despite warnings about inflating the cost and potential structural integrity. He has rejected the idea that the wall will take years to build and, according to the officials spoken to by the Post, “suggested that some of his friends in New York would have ideas on how to build it faster.”

You can read the full article here.

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Daily Dispatch 5/17/2019

Trump’s immigration plan

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May 17, 2019



Yesterday Trump announced an immigration plan that was broadly focused on two themes: Border security and reform of our visa system. Video and transcript available here.

On border security, Trump’s plan calls for the construction of more wall along sections of the border. He is also calling for technological improvements at ports of entry that will allow scanning of all vehicles. A border security trust fund, would be created from fees assigned at the border, to cover the costs of these changes.

Trump also repeated his claims about abuse of the asylum process by those with “meritless claims.” However, there was little of substance on asylum proceedings. As we noted yesterday, Lindsey Graham has offered legislation that would gut the asylum process. We can only assume that some of these measures would be attached to any comprehensive reform effort. Indeed, Trump encouraged passage to Graham’s “reforms” during his speech.

On the visa system Trump was more specific on goals, less specific on means.

The reforms are touted as focused on creating a “merit-based” system that would replace current preferences given to family members of U.S citizens and permanent residents. From NBC News:

The White House estimates 12 percent of people who obtain green cards and citizenship do so based on “employment and skill,” while 66 percent enter via family-based connections and 22 percent through humanitarian visas and the diversity lottery. Under the new proposal, employment and skill would increase to 57 percent, 33 percent for family-based and 10 percent for everything else.

The merit-based system proposal is centered around what would be called the “Build America” visa. It recognizes three categories: extraordinary talent, professional and specialized vocations, and exceptional students.

The plan, as announced, would be a significant overhaul of the system, one that would impact millions of people currently waiting for visas around the world. Stuart Anderson, writing for Forbes, explains:

Under the proposal, more than 4 million people waiting in family and employment-based green card backlogs would have their immigration applications eliminated, even if they have been waiting in line for years to immigrate.

“Immigrants in the green card backlog would lose their place in line and would need to apply under the new point-based system,” according to an analysis from Berry Appleman & Leiden. “The White House has said people who are currently waiting for green cards will receive additional points, but no specifics have been released.” This was confirmed by Donald Trump’s May 16, 2019, speech, in which he stated that all current family and employment-based preference categories would be eliminated and replaced by new “Build America” visas awarded by points.

Anderson concludes: The most common argument made against helping Dreamers and others without legal status is that we should welcome immigrants to America who have waited patiently to immigrate and have “played by the rules.” The irony is that over 4 million people who have waited patiently in immigration backlogs and played by the rules have just been told they have wasted their time.

Part of the plan outlined by Trump would include a civics test that must be passed prior to receiving a visa. Some reflection on this:

“This test is at best unnecessary and could screen out some very skilled, ambitious immigrants who are ready to be productive in America, whatever the test says,” said Daniel Griswold, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and co-director of its Trade and Immigration Project.

“It could be a barrier to very productive immigrants becoming a part of American society,” he said.

Griswold and others said that while the details of Trump’s proposal remain unclear, they have never heard of such a requirement at that level in the immigration process. Such exams are usually part of citizenship tests, they said.

“It’s like asking for people to apply for citizenship when they arrive,” said Theresa Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank. “It’s a big thing to ask of people from other parts of the world.”

[Note: It might be interesting to require members of Congress to take the test before voting on any legislation related to immigration.

Trump’s plan did not directly address issues impacting people already living in the United States: No mention of a legislative solution for people currently protected from removal proceedings under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), or Temporary Protected Status. As is, Trump’s efforts to end these programs is tied up in federal courts. 

The Trump plan will be presented to Congress at some point. Once it has been translated into legislative language that references the specific changes to current law necessary to implement these proposals, we will have a better sense of what is at stake. Currently, Trump seems to be mostly testing the waters and his re-election campaign talking points. However, these reforms would have a dramatic long-term impact on our visa system, so we must take them seriously.

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Statelessness: The Unending Plight of Haitians

Most Haitians, whether in Haiti or abroad, experience a form of statelessness. This refers to the condition of not being considered a national by any State under its laws. Jus soli Haitians living in Haiti are citizens by birth. Their statelessness, however, speaks to the nature of their existence in the world as they are not afforded the rights and protections that come with being a citizen inside or outside of Haiti.

Image result for Haitian Citizens leaving country
Children march with the Haitian and American flags. Joe Raedle/Getty

Citizenship is a legal concept denoting ‘in-ness’ and ‘out-ness.’ It serves as a framework for the social contract that exists between a government and its constituents. This contract suggests a mutual obligation between the state and its citizens: the state provides the security of law, and in exchange citizens provide support to the state, materially in the form of taxes, or less directly, allegiance to, or participation in, the process of governing. The state of Haiti exists, but lacks capacity to deliver basic services to its citizens. And because the state is unable to fulfill the basic functions, third parties step in to do the job (NGOs, philanthropists, etc.). This has created a cycle, whereby the state’s weakness becomes the entree for non-governmental organizations, whose very presence acts to further weaken the state’s capacity. Which is to say, Haitians, even within Haiti, are living a stateless existence.

Haitians are leaving this situation of de facto statelessness in Haiti. But when they do, they become “othered” elsewhere – i.e., in but not of the community – physically present but not deserving of legal status. Which is to say, when people do leave Haiti, they are met with inexplicable contempt that reeks of anti-blackness and classism.

Traditionally, Haitians have migrated in large number to the Dominican Republic, the United States, neighboring Caribbean islands, and Canada. A number of Haitians have recently sought refuge in Chile, where nearly 150,000 Haitians (a little over 1% of the country’s population) have migrated in the last two years alone. Chile has become a promising destination  (or really just an alternative) for thousands of Haitians seeking work in Chile’s growing economy. Concerned, the Chilean government has returned hundreds of Haitians to Haiti on what it refers to as “humanitarian flights” in recent months. This forced deportation has been described by the Chilean government as “voluntary” even though it requires that Haitians leaving Chile sign a declaration saying they won’t return for nine years and must take any immediate family back with them.

Haitians do not pose a threat to Chile.

Yet they have been shipped back to where they came from by the boatloads for the sole purpose of cutting migrant numbers. It appears that no matter how willing Haitians are to work or even to renounce their citizenship, they remain unwelcomed.

Since the Trump administration’s announcement to end temporary protected status for Haitians back in 2017, much fear and anxiety have ensued. Haiti has yet to recover from several natural disasters, incidents of international theft, and indemnity. TPS recipients living in the United States do not necessarily have homes in Haiti, let alone family. And even if they do, 25% of Haiti’s GDP stems from the Haitian diaspora sending money back home. This decision would take an even worse toll on the Haitian people who rely on their family members living in the U.S. for support.

In March of this year, House Democrats proposed the Dream and Promise Act, which would allow for over 2.5 million people living in the U.S. (through DACA, TPS, etc.) to apply for legal status which could place them on the path to permanent citizenship. While this news is exciting for Haitian TPS recipients who feared deportation, it doesn’t guarantee that they will remain in the United States. For one thing, the bill is not likely to pass in the current environment.

What says the Haitian Constitution of the government’s duty to the Haitian people? What makes someone a citizen of Haiti other than having been born on Haitian soil and a legal document to prove (if even they are able to gain access to this)? Have we lost faith in the democratic process? Or have we lost faith in the Haitian government; did we ever have faith in the Haitian government – let alone imagine that they were capable of governing? It is still the job of the Haitian government to maintain a system of checks and balances, so that development NGOs don’t have the option of trading aid for sex with teenage girls? It is still the job of the Haitian government to maintain a sanitation system so that the Haitian people don’t have to burn their trash in the streets, releasing pathogens into the air and further spreading disease-causing bacteria?

It is fair to argue that when a government ceases to invest in its citizens and ceases to maintain security for its citizens, especially from harm done by foreigners, those citizens are not citizens. They become people moving from one place to another in search of the protections that governments are supposed to provide.

Obviously, the role of the U.S. government and outside aid organizations crippling Haiti’s economy and state building capacity has to be explored. While the exploitative practices that have plagued Haiti for generations persist, it is no longer enough to say that they are the primary reason why the Haitian government has not been able to carry out the most basic functions of the state.

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Isabella Louis is a recent graduate of Goucher College. She majored in Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies with a focus on Africana Studies. Louis identifies as a Haitian-American, first-generation, black feminist. In her free time, Louis enjoys reading and writing on the Haitian state, singing, dancing, and spending time with family and friends.

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Daily Dispatch 5/16/2019

Trump to discuss immigration plan in speech today

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Daily Dispatch

May 16, 2019


Image result for daca immigration

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Trump is scheduled to give a speech today in which he will unveil details of a plan on immigration crafted by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Administration officials have already released some information on the plan, which does not address the situation of undocumented immigrants within the United States at all. Rather it is a mix of border security proposals and introducing new formulas for legal entry. A summary from NPR

The plan, as described by the administration official, would prioritize merit-based immigration, limiting the number of people who could get green cards by seeking asylum or based on family ties. But it would keep immigration levels static, neither increasing or decreasing the number of people allowed to legally enter the US each year. Here are the elements of the proposal as described to reporters:

      • Securing the border: Finishing the border wall
      • Protecting American wages: Stemming the flow of low-wage labor
      • Attract and retain the best and brightest immigrants
      • Prioritize nuclear families: It would limit which family members can come to the country to children and spouses
      • Import labor for critical industries
      • Preserve humanitarian values: Keep asylum system, but limit it.

The plan does not include any provision for Dreamers, young people brought into the country as children, who currently have protection from deportation proceedings and can get work permits – provided they register with DHS. Trump has tried to end the Obama program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that provides these protections. The future of DACA is currently tied up in court actions. Creating a permanent, legislative solution for Dreamers has been a primary concern of Democrats. They have been working on a bill in the House, but that is tied up in disagreements over qualifications for protection.

Trump’s plan seems geared toward securing Republican support around this particular set of ideas, and may be best read as an election strategy more than a legislative proposal. Because Trump’s plan does not reduce legal immigration levels, it is already facing criticism from the hardliners. Absent some proposal to extend DACA through legislation, the Democrats won’t join on board. So, in its current form, the plan is not likely to go far.

If interested in watching Trump’s address in the Rose Garden today, it can be viewed here at 2:30 EST.

Image result for Lindsey Graham Immigration

Meanwhile Lindsey Graham…

…has introduced legislation to revamp the asylum process. From CNN:

The legislation would change the system in three substantial ways: It would require migrants seeking asylum to apply at a consulate or embassy in their home country or in Mexico, instead of at the southern border; it would increase the amount of time that migrant children could stay in custody from 20 days to 100 days; and make it easier for officials to deport unaccompanied minors to Central America.

The measure also calls for 500 new immigration judges to chip away at the massive immigration court backlog.

There are a lot of problems with this plans. First, it is worth noting that the Trump administration ended a program set up by the Obama administration to allow people to apply for asylum at embassies in Central America last year. The program was not very effective in the sense that it took a very long time to process claims, but it did offer a way for people to seek asylum before making the trip to the United States border. Increasing the amount of time that children can be held to 100 days is an end around the Flores Settlement Agreement and won’t work. The administration is already trying to establish new rules to get around the 20 day limit – these will be reviewed by the judge responsible for administering the Flores Settlement, and is not likely to be approved. Adding new immigration judges is not an inherently bad idea – but immigration judges operate under the Department of Justice, not the Federal Courts, and thus the Attorney General will oversee this process with little oversight. That is not good news for immigrants.

Graham’s bill is not likely to go far. But provisions could get bundled with other elements of Trump’s plan if that plan ever makes into actual legislation. For now though, immigration remains the vehicle for political grandstanding. Workable solutions seem a distant prospect.

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