Daily Dispatch 11/12/2019: #HomeIsHere, DACA in the Supreme Court

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Daily Dispatch

November 12, 2019


Today the Supreme Court will hear arguments on President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). DACA as established by the Obama administration following the failure of Congress to pass the Dream Act (DACA recipients are often referred to as “Dreamers”). DACA protects unauthorized immigrants who were brought into this country as children from removal proceedings, provided they have a clean criminal record and are in (or have completed) school. Under DACA, recipients must reapply every two years, but once registered are allowed to work and attend school.

Trump’s Attorney General at the time, Jeff Sessions, announced the end of DACA in September of 2017. However, the administration’s decision to end the program immediately ended up in court. Three of these cases that challenged the administration have been consolidated and form the basis for the arguments being heard today.

One of the plaintiffs, Martín Batalla Vidal, writes about his experiences under DACA and his decision to challenge the administration for Vox today:

If the Court sides with Trump, the consequences would be devastating for me, my family, and communities across the country. For the past seven years, over 700,000 young undocumented immigrants, who came to the United States as children, have been able to work at the jobs of their choosing, graduate from schools around the country, contribute billions of dollars to the economy, and support their families and communities — all because of DACA.

We are business owners, artists, school teachers, lawyers, mothers, fathers, and nurses like me. Even though the program’s structure has meant that I have been living my life in two-year increments (recipients must reapply every two years), DACA provides me with critical immigration relief, allowing me to work and remain in the United States with my family.

With DACA, I have been able to grow up with my siblings. Together, we have been able to celebrate our birthdays and christenings. I have been able to help them with their homework, see them graduate from middle school and high school, and even help them get over their first heartbreak.

A coalition of organizations came together in October to begin preparing for this day. The Home is Here Coalition will be among those organizing a presence at the court today, as well as talking to members of Congress.  The House of Representatives passed the Dream and Promise Act this summer, which would make DACA permanent and extend a path to citizenship for those registered in the program. The bill also extends permanent residency to people here under Temporary Protected Status – another program Trump has tried to cut. The Senate has not acted on the Dream and Promise Act.  Over 80 percent of Americans polled support DACA.

Here is Home is lifting up the stories of DACA recipients so that we all understand how important the program has been to the 700,000 young people who have registered.

Update on Tania Romero

Last week we shared an alert from Mijente about Tania Romero, who is recovering from stage 4 cancer and is currently being held in ICE detention in Georgia. Despite her illness, the fact that her case is under appeal, and that the government of Honduras has not issued travel documents for her – in part because she will not be able to receive adequate medical if deported – ICE is still trying to get her out of the country. Last night, ICE agents took her from a cell at Irwin Detention Facility and dragged her to an airport. She has still not been deported. Her son, a student at Yale University, which has gained the case more notice, has been working with Mijente and others to put a spotlight on her case. Below is the latest alert from this morning.

Around midnight on Monday, ICE woke my mother and told her she was being deported. My mom exercised her rights and informed officials that she cannot be deported because she has motions and appeals pending and ICE has not received the travel documents necessary to put her on a flight to Honduras. ICE proceeded to threaten her with pepper spray and ultimately relied on physical coercion to forcibly remove her. According to her testimony, around six guards grabbed her by the arms and legs and carried her away like an animal. As a result, she has bruises all over her arms. ICE did not allow her to take any of her essentials, including her glasses, and proceeded to transport her to an unknown airport. ICE did not inform anyone that she was being deported or where she was being sent. Since we had no knowledge of her whereabouts or her final destination, we were unable to ensure that she would be received by the appropriate people and get the immediate care she needs. We conclude that ICE planned to leave my mom completely on her own, in a country she has not lived in for over 20 years, all without regard for her ever-weakening health. Even though ICE knew they could not deport her due to lack of travel documents from the Honduran Consulate—in addition to pending motions and appeals—they still used physical force in an attempt to deport a woman recovering from cancer and in a seriously fragile physical state. ICE is conducting these actions with well-documented knowledge of her illness.The Honduran consulate has provided written statements that she should not be deported because she will not be able to receive the medical care she needs in Honduras. This contradicts one of ICE’s main justifications for not granting her a stay of deportation, as they claim she would have access to the necessary care.  

ICE’s repeatedly malicious actions are putting my mom’s life in danger. This unmistakably amounts to torture. We denounce these actions and demand her immediate release. I am asking for congressional support to advocate for my mom to receive humanitarian parole and to relieve her of the threat of imminent deportation by releasing her from detention. It is imperative that our elected officials intervene to stop this injustice. We urge members of Congress to help ensure that my mom can return to her family and access the medical care she desperately needs.

Call the offices of Congresswoman Lucy McBath and Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue and ask them to intervene against ICE’s continued denial of Tania’s release.

Representative Lucy McBath: (470) 773-6330 (GA Office) | (202) 225-4501 (DC Office)

Senator Johnny Isakson: (770) 661-0999 (GA Office) | (202) 224-3643 (DC Office) 

Senator David Perdue:   (404) 865-0087 (GA Office) | (202) 224-3521 (DC Office)

Sample Script For Congressional Offices: Hello, my name is _________. I am calling to urge you to save the life of Tania Romero, A# 095-087-219, currently detained in the Irwin County Detention Center. I have recently been informed that ICE has tried to move forward with Tania’s deportation while she is still seeking to appeal the decision through appropriate legal channels. Tania is a stage-4 cancer survivor who requires consistent medical care. Rather than releasing Tania to allow her to see her doctor, ICE forcibly attempted to deport her, failing only because they had not acquired the proper travel documents. The Honduran Consulate in Atlanta has submitted written documentation to ICE that Tania Romero’s deportation is medically inadvisable and would jeopardize her life. I would be outraged if (Elected Official) would allow this deportation to take place while Tania’s medical health and life is at grave risk. I urge (Elected Official) to advocate for Tania to receive humanitarian parole, halt the threat of imminent deportation, and release her from detention. 

Call and email ICE to request that they allow Tania to stay in the U.S. during her appeals process. 

ICE Atlanta Field Office
180 Ted Turner Dr. SW Suite 522
Atlanta, GA, 30303

General Line: (404) 893-1210

  • Follow the automated prompts to reach the Office of the Field Director. SDDO Cesar Ciprian: Cesar.E.Ciprian@ice.dhs.gov (404) 893-1214
  • Deportation Officer Morris: (404) 893-1334
  • Assistant Field Office Director Kristen Sullivan: (404) 893-1203
  • SDDO Vincent Fairnot: (404) 893-1246
  • Atlanta ICE Field Director Sean Gallagher: Sean.W.Gallagher@ice.dhs.gov
  • Assistant Field Director Sean Ervin: Sean.C.Ervin@ice.dhs.gov
  • Supervisory Detention & Deportation Officer (SDDO) Alicia Ferra: Alicia.Ferra@ice.dhs.gov 

Hello, my name is _________, and I am calling/writing to urge you to save the life of Tania Romero, A# 095-087-219, currently detained in the Irwin County Detention Center. I have recently been informed that ICE has tried to move forward with Tania’s deportation while she is still seeking to appeal the decision through appropriate legal channels. Tania is a stage-4 cancer survivor who requires consistent medical care. Rather than releasing Tania to allow her to see her doctor, ICE forcibly attempted to deport her, failing only because they had not acquired the proper travel documents. The Honduran Consulate in Atlanta has submitted written documentation to ICE that Tania Romero’s deportation is medically inadvisable and would jeopardize her life. I urge you to put a hold on Tania’s deportation and to release her on humanitarian parole during her appeals process.

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Daily Dispatch 11/11/2019: The U.S. in Bolivia, foreign policy is immigration policy

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Daily Dispatch

November 11, 2019

Morales announces resignation. Image: Enzo de Luca, AP

Net migration rate is a measure of the number of people arriving in a country minus the number of people leaving the country per 1,000 residents. If the rate is negative, more people are leaving than arriving. Bolivia’s net migration rate has been steadily approaching zero over the last 17 years from -1.47/1,000 in 2000 to -0.5 in 2017. There are still more people leaving than arriving, but when adjusted for population, the rate is one-third the rate in 2000. Though the trend was in place prior to Morales’ election, net migration has continued to narrow at a significant pace since 2006 – falling over half in that time. This is one of the lowest rates in Latin America. One of the reasons is that Bolivia has witnessed extraordinary economic growth over the past 13 years. 

The Center for Economic and Policy Research released a study in October on Bolivia’s economic reforms. From the summary:

  • By 2018, real GDP per capita had increased by 50 percent above its 2005 level. While the region overall has experienced a sharp slowdown over the last five years, Bolivia’s per capital GDP growth was the highest in South America. Since 2006, Bolivia’s real per capita GDP has grown at double the rate for Latin America.
  • In the first eight years of the Morales administration, national government revenue from hydrocarbons increased nearly sevenfold, from $731 million to $4.95 billion. Most of the increased revenue resulted from nationalization and associated policy changes, including a doubling of production by 2013. These revenues were central to allowing the government to achieve macroeconomic stability and accomplish most of its other goals.
  • Bolivia’s unemployment was nearly halved (from 7.7 percent to 4.4 percent) in 2008, and has continued at roughly around that level through 2018.
  • Bolivia has recently held investment at very high levels as compared to the past, with investment averaging 21.8 percent of GDP annually in the past five years (2014–2018).
  • Public investment has increased with the growth of Bolivia’s economy, even during periods of unfavorable terms of trade. Bolivia has had the highest public investment, as a percent of GDP, in the region.
  • Starting in 2010, Bolivia’s Central Bank has applied unconventional monetary policy through a quantitative easing program, in order to purchase financial instruments issued by state-owned enterprises as well as government bonds. In December, 2018, almost half (44 percent) of the Central Bank’s balance sheet was invested in domestic assets (up from 12 percent in 2010).

The paper also notes that “significant challenges remain,” in diversifying Bolivia’s export markets and products and reducing current account and public sector deficits, but that Bolivia’s public debt is fully sustainable.

CEPR notes that part of Bolivia’s success was ending formal agreement with the International Monetary Fund, eschewing the neo-liberal formula that has wreaked havoc in much of the rest of Latin America. 

Yesterday this experiment with a mixed economic model, and the plurinational political coalition that made it possible, was seriously ruptured as the result of a coup d’etat. Evo Morales was forced to resign amidst threats from the military, leaving the country without a clear constitutional path forward. Whatever happens next, we can be assured of serious economic disruptions, and if the last two weeks is any indication, escalating violence from right-wing forces seeking to re-consolidate their grip on the country. This means an exodus of people. 

The argument here is not that migration out of Bolivia is the concern, but that increased migration will be the unavoidable symptom of a structural crisis brought on by this effort to destroy what was otherwise a reasonably effective experiment in social democracy. Morales government was not perfect – what comes next, however, will be a debacle of human rights if this coup is allowed to stand.

What brought this on (in the short term) was a controversy over election tallies in the October 20 election. The reported vote gave Morales a large enough margin of victory to avoid a run-off. No one is arguing he didn’t receive the most votes – he clearly did. The accusation is that the tally was manipulated to ensure there would not be a run-off. This does not seem to be true. An analysis of the election results from the Center for Economic and Policy Research demonstrated that a late surge in votes for Morales was geographically determined, and consistent with previous elections, as more heavily pro-Morales precincts reported later in the process.

Nevertheless, the OAS seized on the narrative of vote manipulation – without ever providing evidence of such manipulation – to press for an overturning of election results. With the OAS pressing, demonstrations expanded dramatically, and ultimately the army took sides – against Morales. As Mark Wesbrot from CEPR noted, the OAS “never did find any evidence of fraud in the October 20th election, but the media repeated the allegation so many times that it became ‘true,’ in this post-truth world.” 

What happened in Bolivia yesterday was a coup d’etat, make no mistake about it, and the United States government is the biggest cheerleader. From Mark Wesbrot in The Nation last week.

Hours before the OAS press statement, and even longer before the votes were counted, Senator Marco Rubio stated falsely, “In #Bolivia all credible indications are Evo Morales failed to secure necessary margin to avoid second round in Presidential election.” He also alleged, without evidence, that there was “some concern he will tamper with the results or process to avoid this.” Trump administration officials followed with similar statements.

The potentially violence-promoting claims of the OAS, which echo those of Rubio and the Trump administration, have driven much of the media’s coverage, and serve as an anchor for those who want to discredit the election.

And so, we have another coup in Latin America, one supported by the United States, and one that will certainly lead to an explosion of violence, economic immiseration and dislocation if allowed to stand. Regime changes are not simply about replacing individual rulers, or institutional frameworks. They destroy lives. Foreign policy is immigration policy.  Time after time the United States government makes clear that its conduct of foreign policy has nothing to do with democracy or human rights, but enforcing the law of market domination. They just did it again.  

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The NY Times misses the point once again on Haiti

People march in Cite Soleil area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti during a protest to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise [Chandan Khanna/AFP]

The New York Times published an editorial on Haiti earlier this week (November 4) titled Haiti’s Ashes, with a subtitle/teaser that read: Decades of misrule have once again brought Haiti to the brink of collapse. Does anyone care?

In my years of doing work in Haiti, there are a couple of things that have been consistent. One is that U.S. foreign policy has been focused on using Haiti for regional balance of power purposes, as a source of cheap labor and as a market for U.S. products, all while resisting any domestic political process that might challenge these external uses of Haiti. The second thing, is that The New York Times coverage of Haiti has sucked.

This latest editorial is par for the course. It is patronizing. It flies in the face of reality, given the historical context of U.S. intervention, and even manages to be vacuously saccharine with its “nobody cares about Haiti” refrain. 

There is no doubt that the people of Haiti are facing a crisis that could well shape the future of the country. The government is on the verge of collapse. It is strapped for resources and unable to build a governing coalition, a step necessary for the government to access aid, pass a budget, and hold local and parliamentary elections – now past due. It is a serious moment to be sure, and it may well be that the situation is not getting sufficient attention outside of Haiti. But The New York Times myopic analysis is not the place to start, but being The New York Times, sadly, people will listen.

After presenting the broad outlines of the crisis – which is simplistic but basically accurate – the editors say, “[Moïse] refuses to step down, and few Haitians have put forward any ideas on who or what should come next, or how Haiti can pull itself out of its tailspin.” Because the Haitians can’t figure it out on their own, the Times editors want more U.S. engagement:

What is clear is that something has to change, and the country needs outside help. The question is where to begin. The Trump administration is not in the business of helping poor countries unless there is some sort of reciprocal deal. The current spasm of destructive demonstrations does not seem capable of bringing real change.

Yet it is demonstrably in the interest of the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere to help their poorest neighbor get back on its feet. There must be enough expertise and imagination available in Haiti and among international and nongovernmental organizations to formulate a plan and to help form a coalition government, and there must be long-term international assistance to get them going.

Okay, so where to start? Firstly, The New York Times manages to get significant things wrong in this editorial. For example, they say “[t]he country has had at least 10 presidents since its first democratic election in 1990; only three have completed five-year terms.” This is not true – or at least highly misleading. Haiti has had six presidential elections since 1990. Preval won two of these, Aristide won two of these. Martelly and Moïse “won” the other two. Preval and Martelly completed their terms, and Moïse may or may not. Aristide was ousted in coup d’etats twice (1991 and 2004). So, Haiti’s issue with democracy is not that they can’t figure it out, as the Times implies, but that powerful domestic interests, aligned with international actors, including politicians in the U.S. and Canada, have resisted allowing a left leaning president and the Lavalas movement to consolidate power. This inside/outside alliance, with some variation, supported coups in response to both of Aristide’s elections. This is a very important point, given where the editorial is heading – basically a call for more intervention.

Then the editors give us a history lesson: 

Compounding the misery is a sense that nobody cares. During the Cold War, the United States tacitly supported the dictatorships of François Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier because of their anti-Communist stance, and in the 1990s Washington first propped up and then helped force out the first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. 

After a horrific earthquake in 2010, in which more than 200,000 people lost their lives and tens of thousands of buildings were destroyed, many countries and organizations responded with generous aid and teams of rescue and medical workers. A United Nations peacekeeping mission set up in 2004 provided a modicum of stability, but it was also blamed for bringing cholera to Haiti, and dozens of its peacekeepers were involved in sexual abuse scandals. The last of the United Nations peacekeepers recently departed, contributing to the current lawlessness.

While one can only do so much in a paragraph covering 70 years of history – this is highly misleading as well. 

I would add a few things: The U.S. relationship with the Duvaliers is complicated. The United States supported a failed coup attempt against Francois Duvalier in 1958, and then ended up backing him for lack of an alternative. Jean Claude Duvalier received support from the United States as well – but it was also the United States that made clear when it was time to go in 1986 and flew him out of the country amidst a popular uprising. The Duvaliers were never more than vehicles for U.S. maintenance of a system of domination put in place after the occupation. The Cold War made a good excuse, it was not the cause of U.S. support for the Duvaliers. The one institutional allegiance the U.S. maintained was the Haitian military – which the U.S. created during its 20-year occupation of Haiti in order to suppress domestic opposition. The military continued in this role once the U.S. occupation ended.

After Aristide was elected the first time, George H.W. Bush and ideologues in Congress like Jesse Helms, denounced his election. When the 1991 coup came against Jean Bertrand Aristide, it was a U.S.-trained general, Joseph Raoul Cédras, who orchestrated it and CIA assets in charge of the FRAPH that worked alongside him in order to consolidate power in a murderous counter-insurgency against the leadership of the Lavalas movement. So, to say that the United States first propped up Aristide is basically incorrect. Clinton did mobilize U.S. forces to reinstate Aristide – first assigning a variety of conditions that have hamstrung the country in the years since. Clinton even admitted this – in a most Clintonesque way – by apologizing for forcing reductions in tariffs and other economic measures back in 1995 while basically promoting the very same neo-liberal agenda in his role as special envoy following the 2010 earthquake.

That the United States helped to force Aristide out in 2004 is true – though a few more details are really needed here as well. As even The New York Times reported (too late to matter), the U.S. government was involved in funding the opposition to Aristide, and there were clear connections between U.S.-funded “democracy promotion” grantees and the armed groups that invaded the country from the Dominican Republic, sparking the final days of Aristide’s second term. None of this was ever investigated by Congress.

The U.S. military flew Aristide out of the country – he claimed against his will – and dropped him off the Central African Republic were he was detained for weeks. When he made an effort to return to Haiti, he got as far as Jamaica. The George W. Bush administration threatened sanctions against the government of Jamaica in response. Eventually, Aristide ended up in exile in South Africa. Meanwhile, the U.S. government invaded Haiti, installed a prime minister it considered an ally – even though his most recent gig was as a right-wing radio host in Miami – and then turned the whole operation over to the U.N. 

This is the “stability” about which The New York Times is nostalgic. Let’s be clear, though, that the U.N. was not simply “blamed” for bringing cholera, but has been demonstrably proven to have brought cholera into the country, and still resists taking responsibility for it. Involvement in sexual misconduct was endemic to the mission (not just “dozens” of peacekeepers). United Nations peacekeepers left over a year ago – what remained was a police training mission working to “professionalize” the Haitian police – units of which engaged in a massacre in the presence of these trainers in November of 2017. The end of this final phase of the UN mission on October 15 did not contribute to “lawlessness,” if this term is meant to refer to the current demonstrations, which had already begun well before this date. 

The point is that U.S. intervention, influence, interference, or whatever one wants to call it, has been a consistent feature of governance in Haiti for over 100 years. That is not hyperbole. That is a simple fact. Haiti was a U.S. colony from 1915 until 1934, and has never truly gained independence in the years since. Asking for the U.S. to “step up” and get more deeply engaged in managing the crisis is absurd. The fault-lines of the crisis were by and large made in the United States to begin with.

But it is the opening salvo in the editorial that is perhaps the most condescending nonsense in the whole piece. “[F]ew Haitians have put forward any ideas on who or what should come next, or how Haiti can pull itself out of its tailspin,” the editors quip.

I’m not sure what to do with this. The New York Times has a much larger budget for research than the Quixote Center, and, we assume, reporters who go to Haiti from time to time. And yet, the Times is not aware of the many, many people in Haiti who have promoted a variety of ideas for moving the country out of the crisis. It may be that the Times staff knows about all of this, but refuses to take such voices – those of Haitian people – seriously. But to opine that “few Haitians” have anything useful to say is pretty thick.

We can start with the fact that the constitution of Haiti has something to say about the resignation and/or impeachment of presidents. There are different interpretations of powers and process here, and so, should Moïse step down, the path forward would still require some negotiation.

The Times is certainly aware of the much publicized demands of the leadership of the political opposition in Parliament, that Moïse step down and hand the government over to a committee, drawn from the opposition, that would then oversee elections. One might imagine a number of issues with this approach – but it is basically the same thing the opposition in Nicaragua demanded of Ortega, a position the Times went along with in that case.

Of course, Moïse has a plan as well. He wants to establish a process of “national dialogue” out of which the hope is that a compromise on a new government would be achieved and then a path forward for elections. The proposal seems a non-starter in Parliament where the opposition sees no reason to negotiate with Moïse at this point, except to talk about how he leaves – as his hold on the presidency seems to weaken ever day. 

Outside of these “official” positions on transition, there are a number of grassroots coalitions that have offered their own proposals for moving forward in concert with the Constitution, but recognizing the need for a negotiated transition.

It is, of course, possible that if one could get the right leadership in a room, that effective outside mediation might help move the process forward. Some negotiation is obviously required to balance various interests and come to an outline for transition that can be broadly supported. That will be hard to do with only the usual power brokers vying for position.

But such mediation is not a role for the United States government. It cannot play a mediating role and be seen as a legitimate. Further, we know, given years of history, that the U.S. government will not be a neutral broker at all. Rather, if it gets into that room, it would only seek to gain what advantage it can for its own interests, which at this point seems to be keeping some version of Moïse’s party in power.

Could the United State and the international community do something? Sure. Back out. Cancel Haiti’s debt and get the International Monetary Fund out of Haiti’s budget process. Quit playing games with Haiti’s tariffs and using aid as a lever for open access to Haiti’s resources. Quit funding select political formations and bankrolling elections in Haiti in order to control (or try to control) the outcome.

The mantra for U.S. policy in Haiti and elsewhere in the world should become, first, to do no harm. Indeed, Haiti’s problem is not that the U.S. government doesn’t care. The problem is that the U.S. government cares too much about the wrong things.

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Daily Dispatch 11/8/2019: Scott Warren Goes to Trial…Again

From Intercept: The defense: Greg Kuykendall and Amy Knight, along with the defendant, Scott Warren. Illustration: Molly Crabapple for The Intercept

In June, Scott Warren was put on trial in a Federal Court on conspiracy charges connected to human trafficking. His crime was helping two immigrants from El Salvador when they showed up at a shelter in Ajo, Arizona. We wrote on the background of Scott’s case in May, lifting up a detailed review from the Intercept. Scott’s trial ended in a hung jury, and in July, the Federal government decided to retry him on harboring unauthorized immigrants, dropping the conspiracy charge. The new trial begins next week.

The organization that Scott volunteers with, No More Deaths, will be hosting a webinar this Sunday for anyone interested in finding out more about the case and the advocacy that the organization is involved in to support immigrants. Scott was not the first No More Deaths volunteer to be prosecuted – indeed, attempts to prosecute volunteers, who leave water and other supplies in the desert, go back to at least the Bush administration. But Scott’s trial for conspiracy was a unique overreach, clearly intended to intimidate those not only helping immigrants but using those experiences to speak out for changes in policy.

Announcement from No More Deaths

No More Deaths is hosting a webinar this Sunday at 12 PST/1 MST/3 EST for folks interested in learning more about the case. Please join in:

*Water Not Walls: Resisting the Criminalization of Aid in the Borderlands* Register here.

An overview will be given of the legal challenges No More Deaths has faced this past year as well as discussion about the upcoming trial.  This webinar is designed to give participants the information needed to speak about why the prosecution of aid workers sets a dangerous precedent for people of  conscience everywhere.

The Intercept followed Scott’s trial with a detailed, fascinating account that you can read here. An interesting aspect of the trial corresponded to another action we joined in June that involved providing support for two human rights workers in Mexico, Cristóbal Sánchez and Irineo Mujica, who were arrested on trafficking charges as well. Part of the government’s conspiracy case revolved around connections between Scott and Irineo Mujica. From the Intercept:

Mujica operates a migrant shelter in the Mexican border town of Sonoyta, just south of Ajo. He is better known, however, for his role leading Pueblo Sin Fronteras, an immigration rights group that organized and supported some of the migrant caravans that led President Donald Trump to declare a national emergency and deploy thousands of troops to the border last year. In February, The Intercept revealed that Mujica and Pueblo Sin Fronteras were targets in a sprawling intelligence-gathering operation that swept up a number of activists, journalists, and immigration attorneys working with caravan members in the San Diego, Tijuana, area in late 2018 and early 2019.

Mujica and Sánchez were arrested during Scott Warren’s trial – indeed the day he was scheduled to testify. Both were released within days. At the time it seemed to be a clear cut effort by the Mexican government to make Trump happy amidst threats from the administration for increased tariffs and so on. However, I have to wonder about the timing and if this wasn’t also part of an effort to boost the government’s case against Warren.

In any event, none of this worked.  The jury was split – eight finding him non-guilty, and four finding him guilty. 

The day after Warren’s trial ended, a terrible reminder about the importance of the work of No More Deaths, and the abject cruelty of U.S. border policy:

Border Patrol agents recovered the body of 6-year-old Gurupreet Kaur the following day. She was found south of Ajo, on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where Warren and other area humanitarian groups have directed much of their work. Her cause of death was heat stroke. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, temperatures had reached a high of 108 degrees in the area where she was found. The second grader passed away while her mother, who came to the U.S. from India to seek asylum, was searching for water.

The full Intercept article on Scott’s first trial is here.

Take Action to Halt Deportation

[We received this from Mijente just before publishing the Daily today. Please take action and share widely!!!]

The community in Georgia is in need of help to halt the deportation of
Tania Romero, a Honduran mother and survivor of stage 4 cancer. She has
been detained for over two months and her health is deteriorating by the
day, particularly because ICE has refused to provide her with the medical
attention she needs.

As of today, ICE has attempted to get the Honduran Consulate to issue a
travel document to have her removed, despite her health condition. Her
attorney is currently working on a Stay of Deportation, but we need lots of
attention on this case to make time for this to happen.

If you can help us by sharing this petition far and wide, it would be very
helpful. Also, if anyone has any ideas for the family and community of
steps that can be taken in the meantime, they would be much appreciated!


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Daily Dispatch 11/7/2019: Nebane Abienwi

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Daily Dispatch

November 7, 2019

In the last year, nine immigrants have died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Two have died since the new fiscal year started (which forms the basis of ICE reporting). Both of the men who have died since October 1st this year were seeking asylum: Nebane Abienwi of Cameroon and Roylan Hernandez-Diaz of Cuba. Both would still be alive today if they had been given humanitarian parole and released to await final decisions on their cases. We wrote about Roylan’s case two weeks ago. Nebane Abienwi’s was the subject of an investigative report in USA Today earlier this week.

Nebane Abienwi left Cameroon this summer, flying to Ecuador and then traveling up through Columbia, Central America and Mexico. He arrived at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego and declared his intent to seek asylum. Nebane was 37 years old and a father of six children. According to family members, his goal was to settle in the United States and then bring his family to join him.

Declared inadmissible, Abienwi was placed in custody to await a determination of his asylum claim. From USA Today:

Customs and Border Protection confirmed that Abienwi presented himself at the San Ysidro Port of Entry and was “screened and cleared by medical professionals.”

“CBP makes all efforts to ensure those in our care are treated with humanity and compassion, and this case was no different,” the statement says.

CBP did not confirm whether Abienwi requested asylum. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that handles asylum requests, also refused to confirm whether Abienwi requested asylum, saying the agency “does not release or comment on individual cases.”

The Trump administration has sought to keep asylum-seeking migrants in detention until an immigration judge decides their case. Abienwi did not have a criminal record, according to an ICE summary of his case, but was held in detention as he awaited his day in immigration court.

Abienwi stayed in CBP custody for two weeks until he was turned over to ICE, which is responsible for long-term detention. He was then taken to Otay Mesa Detention Center.

On September 26, Abienwi apparently fell off his bunk, and was found in a confused state. He was eventually sent to Chula Vista Medical Center where it was discovered he was bleeding severely in his brain. The family was contacted on September 30th. At this point Abienwi was on a ventilator. Abienwi’s brother informed officials that the family wanted his brother to remain on life support until someone could come to be with him. However, after declaring that Nebane was brain dead, medical staff took him off life support. His brother, who was trying to get travel documents together to come be with Abienwi was not informed by ICE or medical staff. He found out from a reported who called about the case.

In the days that followed, his brother tried to reach the USA. On Oct. 21, he applied for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Johannesburg. Akongnwi lives in South Africa, where he has a 5-month-old son and runs a company that fixes, buys and sells cars. After a short interview, he was denied under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which requires people seeking temporary visas to prove they will not remain in the USA. 

“Unfortunately, because you either did not demonstrate strong ties outside the United States today, or were not able to demonstrate that your intended activities in the U.S. would be consistent with the visa status, you are ineligible for a nonimmigrant visa,” according to the letter, which Akongnwi shared with USA TODAY.

He said he decided to try again in his native Cameroon. He flew there and applied for a visa Oct. 24. This time, the interview was longer, but Akongnwi said the questions shocked him.

“They asked me, ‘Are you going to apply for asylum like your brother was doing?'” he said. “I could not believe it. I explained why I was going, that I’m running around to see that my brother is put to rest.”

Again, he was denied.

In a statement, the State Department said it could not provide details about specific U.S. visa requests because of confidentiality laws.

Akongnwi said he doesn’t know what else to do. He told his brother’s wife to get a passport so she could try her luck at a visa. He borrowed money to pay for all the traveling he’s doing in his quest to reach his brother’s body. 

This case is particularly infuriating. It highlights the utter inhumanity of our immigration policy. Everyone involved in this story is seeking legal pathways to come to this country. Indeed, Abienwi’s family is just trying to confirm his identity and pick up his body, and still they are being denied entry. I have to wonder how we got to this point. 

There are 50,000 people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody today. 12,500 of them have already demonstrated fear of persecution of torture if returned home, but are still awaiting a final determination in courts on asylum – a process that could take months or even years. Trump is demanding they all stay behind bars as they wait and wants more money from Congress to make this happen.

We say no more. Join us on November 13 for a National Call-in Day and other actions aimed at sending a clear message to Congress that ICE and CBP’s budgets should be cut – not expanded for detention. 

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Daily Dispatch 11/6/2019: Save the Date: November 13 National Call-in Day

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Daily Dispatch

November 6, 2019

There is an upcoming battle over the budget of the Department of Homeland Security that will pivot on immigration policy. The House and the Senate each have appropriation bills in place, but on the issue of immgration, especially immigrant detention, the bills are miles apart.

The House bill would reduce the daily average of people detained to 34,000 (it was 50,000 in October this year). The House leadership is also looking to regain control over the budget process; seeking to both cut the detention budget back to where it was a few years ago, and limit the administration’s ability to move money around. (As we discussed last week, in August of 2019, the Trump administration went well over budget for detention, moving money around from other accounts in order to pay for its over-spending).

The House budget proposal from Committee is not something overall we would support. However, there are elements of the bill that are important to lift up. From the narrative report (pp 5-6) on the House bill (ADP = Average Daily Population):

ICE has routinely ignored congressional intent by exceeding its funded ADP, requiring funding transfers from other departmental compo- nents in fiscal year 2018 to prevent it from going anti-deficient. In fiscal year 2019, ICE has again failed to live within its means, an outcome that can only be partially explained by an increase in single adults apprehended by CBP at the southern land border…

Congress provides transfer authority in the Department’s annual funding bill to give it flexibility in responding to unforeseen events and circumstances, not to routinely augment appropriated funding levels. The Administration’s increasing defiance of congressional intent, as expressed in appropriated funding levels, cannot continue…

The Committee recommendation includes funding to support an overall ADP for single adults of 34,000 during fiscal year 2020, equivalent to the ADP funded by Congress between fiscal years 2012 and 2017. This total includes an ADP of 17,000 for single adults arrested in the interior and 17,000 for single adults trans- ferred to ICE custody by CBP; no transfer authority is provided that would allow ICE to exceed this ADP. Because the number of single adults transferred from CBP custody is not within ICE control, however, a contingency mechanism is included in the bill to give ICE access to additional funds in response to a significant in- crease in the volume of single adults so transferred. This approach is intended to reclaim the authority of Congress to determine funding levels for immigration detention, while also providing flexibility to the Department to manage circumstances beyond its control.

Meanwhile, the Senate is caving into administration demands to hold a daily average of 52,000 people, with no limits on transfer authority.

Cutting current detention numbers to 34,000 from the 50,000 in October may seem like a huge cut – it is. And absolutely necessary. As of October 28, there were 49,419 people held by ICE. Of these, 12,488 immigrants in custody were determined by USCIS to have a Persecution Claim Established or Torture Claim Established. By simply releasing through humanitarian parole those asylum seekers who have passed through the first phase of determining their case, the daily detention rate would fall to 37,000. We would argue that none of the remaining people should be in detention either – but certainly members of Congress should be able to agree that people who have established a torture claim and are seeking asylum should not be behind bars…right

The only way to force the administration’s hand is to cut its budget.

With that in mind, next week we are joining in with other members of the Detention Watch Network to tell congress to #DefundHate. On November 13, a week from today, there will be a national call-in day to Congress demanding cuts to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Custom and Border Patrol budgets, and Congressional limits placed on the ability of the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to shift money around to pay for unauthorized expenses.

So save the date, tell some friends and be ready to join in a national action next Wednesday to shut down Trump’s detention machine.

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Daily Dispatch 11/5/2019: Courts will decide major immigration cases

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Daily Dispatch

November 5, 2019

President Trump has used his executive authority to make some substantial changes to immigration policy – or at least he has tried. When we take stock of all the things he has done, however, it is actually amazing how much has been blocked or moderated by Federal Courts – at least at the district level. If Congress was doing its job, we’d actually be witnessing something like a functioning system of “checks and balances” – which is supposedly the major constitutional innovation of this country’s founding. As the administration continues to step in the way of meaningful oversight, and Congress largely lets this happen (oh party loyalties are much stronger than constitutional obligations), the courts are, for the time being, the only thing holding back a logjam of very bad ideas generated by this administration. 

The big test, however, is coming. Many of these blocked rule changes, executive over-reaches, and seemingly clear violations of existing federal law will be coming before the Supreme Court in the next few months. The Supreme Court is not simply a partisan tail wagging the policy dog, but it is not exactly neutral either, and is clearly leaning toward the Trump camp. So, we are ALL nervous about what the next few months will mean for immigration policy, and executive powers more generally, and, well, the future of this country.

In light of this, Forbes’ Stuart Anderson has a great review of “All the President’s Lawsuits” today that is worth spending some time with. A few examples:

Using the President’s 212(f) Authority to Limit Immigration: Congress has not supported the Trump administration’s efforts to eliminate family immigration categories and reduce legal immigration. As a result, Donald Trump and his chief immigration adviser Stephen Miller have turned to executive branch authorities.

The boldest of these measures is an October 4, 2019, presidential proclamation using Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to bar new immigrants from entering the United States without health insurance, potentially reducing legal immigration by hundreds of thousands of people per year. For context, note the Supreme Court permitted the administration to use 212(f) authority in the travel ban decision.

A Federal Court in Oregon issued a temporary injunction on this new health rule over the weekend (we reported yesterday). However, the bigger issue of the president using “212(f)” authority to expand authority to block legal immigration, essentially circumventing congressional rule-making, will likely end up in the Supreme Court. The travel ban decision, as Anderson notes, allowed the president to use this authority – however, the travel ban that came before the Court in that ruling was a third effort, still seriously flawed and doing much harm to families impacted, but restricted somewhat by earlier decisions. 

Using the Public Charge Regulation to Limit Legal Immigration: Like the health insurance requirement on new immigrants, the public charge rule could significantly reduce legal immigration. The rule was “an obsession” for Stephen Miller, according to the book Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration by New York Times’ journalists Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear.

On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its final rule on Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds. “Judges before U.S. District Courts for the Southern District of New York, Northern District of California, Eastern District of Washington, Northern District of Illinois, and District of Maryland have ordered that DHS cannot implement and enforce the final rule on the public charge ground of inadmissibility,” stated U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

On October 11, 2019, in a ruling in a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, U.S. District Judge George Daniels issued a nationwide injunction against the public charge rule.

The big, big case coming before the Supreme Court next week is the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama era program intended to protect people brought into this country as children from removal proceedings, providing they have a clean criminal record and complete school. Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation making the program permanent and providing a path to permanent residency and citizenship. The House passed the Dream and Promise Act this summer, for example, but it is stalled in the Senate where no one expects any action at all. So, the Supreme Court will decide. From Anderson’s article,

DACA: On September 5, 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Created during the Obama administration, DACA granted work authorization and administrative relief from deportation for up to 800,000 individuals who came to America before the age of 16, completed high school or were in school, and passed background checks.

The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Trump administration’s DACA action on November 12, 2019. “The justices will consider three consolidated cases – filed in California, the District of Columbia and New York,” writes Amy Howe for SCOTUSblog. “The challengers in all three cases argued that the termination of the program violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which is the federal law governing administrative agencies, as well as the rights of DACA recipients, and the lower courts ordered the government to keep DACA in place.”

[United We Dream and others are organizing actions for the November 12. There will be a major mobilization in D.C. including presence at the Court and congressional lobbying. Check out Home is Here for more information.]

There is further information on Temporary Protected Status which is before the courts (the termination for Haiti, Nicaragua and El Salvador remains blocked by courts until January 2021); Trump’s many asylum orders (this will be a separate Dispatch); and various rulings broadly under the contours of Federalism and the balance of power between the Federal government, states and localities. Read the full article here.

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Daily Dispatch 11/4/2019: Monday news

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Daily Dispatch

November 4, 2019

Loren Elliott / Reuters

“Remain in Mexico” Policy hurts families in many ways

As a result of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, 55,000 people seeking asylum in the United States have been forced to relocate to Mexico to await their immigration hearing dates. Most of these people, including families with children, are living in very precarious situations in border towns in Mexico. In Matamoros, Mexico, just across the border from Brownsville, families live in tents next to the bridge connecting the two countries. A few weeks ago some people, tired of waiting, engaged in a protest whereby they blocked the bridge for 15 hours. The Mexican government responded to the demonstration by opening a new shelter some 30 minutes away by car from the bridge. 

This past Friday, a government official from National System for Integral Family Development  entered the camp in Matamoros to tell people to relocate to the new shelter and indicated that those with children who refused to relocate, risked losing their kids. Though the official seemed to be improvising on his own concerning policy, he nevertheless sent much fear through the camp. From Buzzfeed:

Esmeralda, a Guatemalan asylum-seeker with a 13-year-old daughter who declined to give her full name, said a man who identified himself as a representative of the National System for Integral Family Development (DIF) approached her and offered help. When Esmeralda declined to give him her information, the DIF representative said he could take her daughter if they didn’t go to a shelter the city had recently opened.

“I have the ability with the law, which I have in hand and can show you, to collect the girl, take her to a shelter, or repatriate her to her place of origin,” the man said in a recording provided to BuzzFeed News. “If you don’t do it voluntarily I have the ability to do it by force.”

The representative maintained children shouldn’t live in the encampment and that it was his job to protect the kids.

One can certainly agree that a tent city at the foot of an international crossing is not the best place for kids. However, the families have many reasons for staying there; reasons that may well be in the longterm interests of their kids. For one, if they move into the shelter in the city they may lose access to attorneys who have been crossing into the camps to help them prepare asylum cases. The situation speaks to the incredible insecurity these families are facing and the underlying cruelty of the Remain in Mexico policy. 

Edwin, a 42-year-old asylum-seeker from Honduras with an 8-year-old daughter, said he didn’t want to go to the shelter because he doubted U.S. attorneys who go to the encampment to offer them legal aid, medical providers, and volunteers who feed them would travel to the shelter.

Until some people shut down the bridge, the Mexican government had shown little interest in helping them, other than to offer them buses that would take them to the Mexico–Guatemala border, Edwin said.

“I know we’re living in bad conditions, but we don’t have another option,” Edwin told BuzzFeed News. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give my daughter to the government. She’s all I have.”

It is interesting that Trump is facing impeachment for threatening military aid to Ukraine unless the government investigate Joe Biden’s son (or the business he was involved in). And yet, Trump can threaten Mexico with tariffs and the suspension of aid unless it move to make life miserable for hundreds of thousands of people, and this is just a policy debate. #justicewhere?

Judge issues restraining order against Trump health restrictions

The Trump administration issued a new rule that would deny visas to people coming the United States unless they could prove that they would have health insurance within 30 days of arriving in the U.S. or could demonstrate financial means to cover most health-related expenses. It is estimated that this new rule would cut out about two-thirds of current visa applicants, making it one of the most effective of several efforts by Trump to restrict authorized immigration. The justification for the rule was based on the faulty logic that uncovered health expenses by immigrants is a major drain on government accounts. We discussed how wrong this is when the rule was issued.

This weekend a judge in Oregon issued an injunction against the new rule pending a trial to determine its merits. This means the rule will not go into effect…yet. From CNN:

A judge in Oregon granted a temporary restraining order Saturday against a policy that would have denied immigrants a visa unless they can prove they will have health insurance.

This order comes after a group of U.S. citizens sued the Trump administration, arguing that this is a new form of “family separation.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, claims that the proclamation will bar hundreds of thousands of immigrants from coming to the United States, and as a result, could separate families who are immigrating via family-sponsored visas.

Justice Action Center spokesperson Esther Sung said she was encouraged by the court’s decision in a statement. “The ban would separate families and cut two-thirds of green-card-based immigration starting tonight, were the ban not stopped. It’s egregious that President Trump is attempting to flout the will of Congress and squeeze through a complete overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws without anyone noticing.”

We noticed!! 

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Daily Dispatch 11/1/2019: Trump’s attack on asylum is a redux of Reagan’s attack on Haitians

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Daily Dispatch

November 1, 2019

Haitian refugees lined up in cots in the McCalla hangar in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on Dec. 5, 1991. AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

As despicable as Trump’s immigration policies are, and they are truly despicable, we often try to remind people that they did not emerge solely from Trump’s head or the pixel-pages of Breitbart, but from U.S. practices manifested over a long history of discrimination at our borders and beyond. Most people know this, of course. We just don’t think too much about the long-term structural features of the system while battling the latest incarnation of nationalism in the White House. The balance we need to fight this fight, however, must include some reference to history because if Trump leaves office tomorrow we will still have a lousy immigration system, just as we had before he moved into the White House and made it worse.

This week I ran across a journal article from 2014 that documents the development of detention in the United States – and its diffusion as an approach to immigration enforcement across the globe, particularly to the European Union and Australia. The author is Michael Flynn of the Global Detention Project, and the article is certainly worth reading in its entirety. For this dispatch, however, I am simply focusing on one historical section that struck me as holding many lessons for what Trump is doing today.

As we and others have discussed recently, our current detention and deportation infrastructure has been developed over the course of the last 40 years. Detention in the U.S. was largely an ad hoc system from the early 1950s following the closure of Ellis Island (the west coast version, Angel Island had closed in 1940 – though in some sense replaced by war-time detention of Japanese and U.S. American families), until the 1980s when immigration from and within the Caribbean increased dramatically. The response of the Reagan administration to Caribbean migration provided two important precedents to the current approach being employed by Trump. The first was detaining (or trying to detain) targeted groups. Initially, Haitians fleeing the slow collapse and violence of the last years of the Duvalier regime. 

The modern U.S. immigration detention estate first emerged in the early 1980s, when the Reagan-era Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) began systematically apprehending unauthorized migrants from certain countries in response to growing migration pressures from the Caribbean. The INS opened a number of new detention centers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland to cope with the resulting surge in detainees (Frenzen 2010, 377). According to Welch, “Prior to the 1980s, the INS enforced a policy of detaining only those individuals deemed likely to abscond or who posed a security risk” (2002, 107).

In a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court case, Jean v. Nelson, the court overturned a mandatory detention policy put in place in 1981 that strictly targeted Haitian nationals. According to one migration scholar, “To a large extent once the Jean v. Nelson decision came down and the Reagan administration did not have the authority to detain only Haitians, the current detention system was born, i.e. detain all nationalities.”

The second approach utilized by Reagan’s administration was to offshore enforcement to keep people from ever reaching U.S. soil.

At the same time that immigration authorities were busy rounding up Haitians and “excludable” Cubans on US territory, the Reagan administration began a policy of interdicting migrant boats in international waters. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan issued a presidential proclamation in which he “suspended” the “entry of undocumented aliens from the high seas” because it had become “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

He subsequently ordered the Coast Guard to board foreign vessels in international waters to determine whether passengers had documentation to enter the country (Frenzen 2010). While the United States officially acknowledged that the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugee’s prohibition against non-refoulement applied to people interdicted during these operations, Haitians were given summary asylum hearings on board Coast Guard vessels that lasted only minutes. The vast majority were then sent back to Haiti under an agreement the United States had established with the Duvalier regime. Of the estimated 23,000 Haitians interdicted by the Coast Guard during this program, only eight were judged to have bona fide asylum claims (estimate from Cheryl Little, cited in Frenzen 2010, 380). As one scholar writes, “Washington wished to deal with Haitian migrants outside U.S. territory, since if they reached U.S. shores they could often delay deportation through a series of claims within the US administrative and courts systems” (Mitchell 2000, 87).

The offshoring of enforcement also included agreements to detain people outside the United States – this included establishing detention space on Guantanamo. Reagan also sought to establish agreements other Caribbean states to take Haitian immigrants.

In the early 1990s, a political and humanitarian crisis in Haiti spurred by the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide prompted a new large-scale migration to the United States, which was followed in 1994 by a significant upsurge in Cuban balseros. This time, however, the United States faced political challenges in returning the interdicted migrants because of the brutality of the Cédras junta that had ousted President Aristide. While the United States sought out third countries to send Haitians fleeing the violence— including Jamaica, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Belize, Venezuela, Honduras, and Suriname (Frenzen 2010)—“those intercepted were kept on the decks of Coast Guard cutters, under jury-rigged tarpaulins to ward off sun and rain,” writes Mitchell (2000, 88).

Conditions on the vessels quickly became unmanageable … and camps for the migrants were hurriedly constructed at the nearest offshore U.S. facility: The Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in eastern Cuba. At other times, detained refugees were held on U.S. bases in Panama, and on a hospital ship anchored in the harbor at Kingston, Jamaica. (ibid.)

According to the Congressional Research Service, the administration of George H.W. Bush began using the Guantánamo naval airbase to detain Haitians in 1991. It reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses this “Migrant Operations Center” to hold no more than 20-40 people at a time (Wasem 2009).

Throughout the 1990s, Guantánamo was a key element of the U.S. response to boat migration events. In July 1994, for instance, as the U.S. prepared to overthrow the military junta then in power at Port-au-Prince, it began sending all interdicted Haitians to Guantánamo as part of a new safe haven policy, ultimately detaining some 16,000 people there. After the overthrow of the junta, the United States gave the detainees that remained at the facility the option of voluntarily returning and receiving $80 dollars or being forcibly repatriated without payment (Frenzen 2010, 384).

In addition to Guantánamo, by the early 1990s, the United States had access to a network of offshore “processing” facilities that extended from the Bahamas to Panama. As one scholar writes, these sites presented a “range of logistical constraints” for detainees, and, importantly, the camps made it challenging for asylum seekers to access US asylum procedures (Magner 2004).

There are many parallels to this treatment of Haitians and what is happening today to asylum seekers from Central America. We can start with the fact that an increase in people seeking asylum in the United States is not treated as a humanitarian crisis facing refugees, but a logistical and financial problem for the United States politicized through a thinly veiled racialized discourse about criminal elements abusing the asylum system. Reagan did this to Haitians in much the same way Trump is doing this today to Central Americans (and is still doing to Haitians!).

The response to detain people seeking asylum while they await processing of their claims begins with Reagan – and was done specifically to Haitians, both as a deterrent to discourage others from migrating here, and an effort to keep the migrants themselves behind bars until (most) could be deported. As the response to the Jean v. Nelson ruling indicates, faced with a ruling that it could not only detain Haitians in this way, Reagan expanded detention to other groups rather than treat Haitians more humanely.

Currently, Trump is detaining asylum seekers, mostly, though not exclusively, from Central America throughout their entire processing. As we wrote earlier this week, the administration is continuing to detain asylum seekers, even after they have passed their credible fear interview, a point that, by any reasonable standard, they would be granted humanitarian parole. This inhumane policy is what is driving record detention numbers – not the “border crisis.”

Trump is also borrowing from another aspect of the Reagan playbook and that is doing everything possible to keep people from reaching the U.S. border to begin with, so that they cannot access what is left of our asylum system. This has included, sending asylum seekers to Mexico to await processing, to now denying them even the possibility of seeking asylum unless they try (and fail) to get asylum in Mexico first. Trump has negotiated agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to receive asylum seekers, even though the vast majority are seeking asylum from these regimes. It is an absurd approach, but one rooted in history. 

Finally, the evolution of this system from Reagan to Trump has been built using private contractors. Over the last 33 years this has meant the development of a massive infrastructure of detention facilities (the largest in the world) that is run as a profit seeking enterprise, making a complete mockery of any concept of justice or humanitarian response. The first private facility was opened under contract with Reagan’s Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1986 with what is now CoreCivic. The facility, the Houston Processing Center, is still in operation under contract between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and CoreCivic, just down the road from the newest massive ICE facility built in Conroe, Texas and operated by the GeoGroup. Sadly, this privatization approach to detention is another element that U.S. policy has helped diffuse to other countries, which along with border security, is now a multi-billion dollar global enterprise.

People like to say that the United States is a nation of immigrants. This is only partially true, of course, and the reality is that every generation of immigrants has been treated badly. Yet, the official discriminatory practices created never seem to go away. Rather, they just form part of a tool box of oppression that successive administrations can pull from and readjust whenever it is the right political moment to “get tough” on refugees. You can see this continuity from Chinese immigrants detained on Angel Island to keep them out of the U.S. in 1910 to Central Americans relocated to Ciudad Juarez as part of the “remain in Mexico” policy today. Trump won’t be around forever – indeed, he might not make it until March next year as president. However, the historical legacy of inhumanity embedded in our immigration system will remain until the system itself is dismantled and reconstructed under different principles that respect human rights and basic dignity.

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Daily Dispatch 10/31/2019: Defunding Hate

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Daily Dispatch

October 31, 2019

In August it was reported that, “the Department of Homeland Security will lose $116 million previously allocated for Coast Guard operations, aviation security and other components in order to fund nearly 6,800 more beds for immigrant detainees.” What was going on? The Trump administration had expanded Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s use of detention for immigrants well beyond the 45,000 daily average of detention beds that Congress had authorized for fiscal year 2019. In August of 2019 the administration was holding 55,000 people, while the daily average for the year had topped 50,000 (a significant increase over the 38,106 daily average recorded in FY2017). Over budget, and out of funds, the administration moved money around from other security operations in violation of the budget authorized by Congress. Indeed, there was no pre-notification or request for the transfer. Merely a memorandum from DHS notifying OMB that the transfer had already occurred.

The administration’s expansion of detention was pitched as the result of a dramatic increase in the number of people apprehended at the border. That apprehensions at the border had more than doubled from January through May compared to the same period last year is uncontested. However, the reason ICE detentions increased had little to do with border apprehensions and everything to do with Trump’s war on asylum. Border apprehensions were in fact at an all time low before this year’s spike, and at no point in recent history, including this year, has the total come anywhere near the 1.6 million people apprehended in 2000 at the southwest border, when average detention numbers were just over one-third what Trump has clocked. In August of this year, as total detentions broke 55,000 a day, the number of asylum seekers who had already passed their credible fear interview, but were still in detention was over 9,000 a day. This was being done in spite of several court directives to the administration mandating that it to allow for the release of people seeking asylum through humanitarian parole, and admonishing southern district immigration courts for issuing blanket parole denials.

In short, the Trump administration overspent on detention, took money from the Coast Guard and other security accounts to pay for it contravening Congressional oversight. And did so in order to detain people federal courts had already directed the administration to release.

However, this was not the only shift in funds. DHS also moved money around to pay for temporary courts being erected at the border to hear asylum cases under its Migrant Protection Protocol program. The MPP is better known as the Remain in Mexico policy, under which people seeking asylum in the United States are made to await hearing dates for immigration courts in Mexico. The policy has led to 55,000 people stranded on the border, many facing recurring insecurity and placed far from counsel and other assistance they would normally be able to access in preparing their asylum cases. The absurdity of the policy has been increased by the fact that once a court date is achieved, the people seeking asylum do not have access to a real immigration court. Rather, they are shuffled into makeshift tents where they address judges sitting in a real courtroom somewhere else through video chat. The facilities are not run by the Department of Justice (like real immigration courts), but by the Department of Homeland Security, which, predictably, has turned the whole exercise into a debacle of over-wrought security measures that make it nearly impossible for asylees to meet with counsel. The whole system, as noted by attorneys attempting to provide assistance, is designed to fail

In order to pay for this obscene deconstruction of due process, DHS shuffled $151 million from FEMA (during hurricane season no less), without prior notification or authorization from Congress for such purpose. So, not only is the administration abusing executive authority to create draconian anti-immigration policies through executive order or administrative rule making, but is also using funds authorized for other purposes to pay for implementation of these measures. 

Reprogramming funds is not a new phenomenon. Last year DHS moved $200 million around to fund 2,300 new detention beds and expand deportation operations. According to CNN, “Congressional records indicate that ICE reprogrammed $83 million combined in fiscal years 2014 and 2015, and another $127 million in fiscal year 2016.” However, in these instances Congressional oversight committees were notified and approved the funds transfer. This does not appear to have happened this year.

So, whatever one thinks of the policies themselves, such an unauthorized shifting of funds is a clear violation of expressed Article 1 powers of the U.S. Congress. Will Congress challenge the administration on constitutional grounds? Not likely at the moment. But Congress should nevertheless seek to legislatively restrict DHS’s authority to reprogram money.

Currently, there is a looming budget impasse. The government is operating under a continuing resolution (CR) – which is funding Federal agencies at the level set for last fiscal year (which ended September 30th). The current CR is operative until November 22 at which point a new one will need to be passed, or the government will close again.

As budget negotiations continue, we are supporting the Defund Hate Campaign of Detention Watch Network. In a letter sent to Congressional leadership, we joined the campaign in making these specific requests: 

  1. Cut funding for ICE and CBP, including decreased funding for detention and agents, and no border wall funding.
  2. Terminate DHS’s authority to transfer and reprogram funds for the purpose of detention and enforcement.
  3. Terminate the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” or MPP program, an unlawful and shameful program that returns asylum seekers to Mexico to await their court dates. There are more than 140 publicly reported cases of rape, kidnapping, and assault against asylum seekers forced to return to harm through this program.
  4. Place strong guardrails on the treatment of people in ICE and CBP custody, particularly ensuring that no person is held in CBP custody for longer than 72 hours. As many members of Congress have observed first hand, no amount of funding will ensure that ICE and CBP treat those in its custody humanely unless the law instructs them to do so.

As the budget process unfolds, using these ideas as a guide, we will continue to speak out against this administration’s abuse of executive authority.

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Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)