Daily Dispatch 6/19/2019

Juneteenth and the ongoing struggle for justice

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Daily Dispatch

June 18, 2019

154 years ago today, a union general announced to a group of enslaved people on Galveston Island, Texas that they were free. The Civil War had ended two months earlier; the Emancipation Proclamation issued two years earlier. But June 19, 1865 has been celebrated as Emancipation Day since.

Lauren Jones reflects on this history in the Quixote Center blog today. In “Juneteenth, Why we still Fight for Freedom,” she points to the interconnected struggles for justice:

This is why in the midst of our celebrating, Juneteenth should remind us that we still have a long way to go when it comes to “justice for all,” and we should continue to be vigilant in our fight for justice. The hope is to see a country where all of its citizens are truly free and those seeking refuge are offered the opportunity to experience this freedom as well.

Also drawing the connection between the celebration of emancipation and the call for justice today is Van Newkirk II, writing in The Atlantic.

In 2019, Juneteenth will be celebrated as emancipation was in the old days: with calls for reparations. As the country marks 154 years since news of the end of slavery belatedly came to Texas, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the subject of reparations for black Americans. It is a watershed moment in the larger debate over American policy and memory with regard to an enduring sin.

The hearing is a discussion of the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act. The hearing will examine, the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice. Legislation to create this commission was first introduced by John Conyers in 1989, and in every Congressional session since, but it has not seen much movement. Ta-Nahesi Coates, who will testify today, is perhaps most associated with re-energizing the discussion on reparations. His piece in The Atlantic’s June 2014 issue, The Case for Reparations, became their most widely shared article. For an alternative take on the debate on reparations, from a left perspective, see Cedric Johnson’s “Reparations isn’t a Political Demand”, in Jacobin.

Trump threatens expanded enforcement and deportations

President Trump is threatening mass enforcement actions to round up and deport “millions” of unauthorized immigrants in the United States in the coming week. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seemed unaware of any plan: “ICE said on Tuesday that it will continue to conduct “routine targeted enforcement operations” and referred questions about Trump’s tweets to the White House.”

Whether more Trump bluster, or not, the threat is having its intended consequence: Suck up all of the media air on immigration and generate fear among communities throughout the United States.

To be clear, the United States is now incarcerating over 53,000 people on any given day in adult immigrant detention facilities, approaching 14,000 in child detention facilities, and 2,000 in family detention. The administration is already over budget on detention, and thus has no ability to actually detain hundreds of thousands of people and offer any kind of due process concerning claims about immigration status on that scale. That said, there may well be several high profile enforcement actions in the coming weeks.

Trump’s war on immigration is about to step up. Are we ready?

Presidential candidates talk to the New York Times about immigration

The New York Times published a series of interviews with Democrats vying for the nomination for president. The video interviews cover a range of topics, here you can see their views on the question, “Do you think illegal immigration is a major problem for the United States?” Few of the candidates answered the question directly.

We’re wondering why the New York Times didn’t ask, “Is incarcerating tens of thousands of people each day for seeking a new life in the United States a major problem for the United States?”  Or, “Are mass arrests and threatened deportations of millions of people already living here a major problem for the United States?” Maybe in the next round of questions.

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Daily Dispatch 6/18/2019

The Mexico Deal: What really matters

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Daily Dispatch

June 18, 2019

Listening to Trump explain one of his achievements reminds me a lot of listening to my son read the lyrics to the Beatles’ “I am the Walrus.” Something about the meter and the fact that what is being said makes no sense. And so, no surprise, that the “deal” with Mexico was not so much a deal, in reality, but more of an agreement to talk about a future agreement, at a later date, maybe in 45 days. Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come. I’m crying.  Goo, goo, goo, g’joob. See how that works…

From the text of the letter representatives from the U.S. and Mexico actually signed:

The United States and Mexico will immediately begin discussions to establish definitive terms for a binding bilateral agreement to further address burden sharing and the assignment of responsibility for processing refugee status claims of migrants.

The art of the deal indeed…

However, even if the much touted “deal” is not much of a deal, Trump still got concessions from Mexico through threatening tariffs that will prove disastrous for migrants. This is the media magic of Trump. Somehow the things that really matter get lost in the analysis of Trump’s veracity and the indignity that ensues when he takes credit for an achievement not nearly as “huge” as he claims.  

So, what matters:

Mexico really did commit to send more guardsmen to its border with Guatemala – 6,000 in total. That Mexico was already engaged in its own crack down on migration at the border – one that expanded greatly in 2014 in response to refugees from Central America – has been lost in this discussion. Which is to say, the massive deployment envisioned will be a human rights nightmare if current practices are any measure.

Speaking of human rights, the Mexican government arrested and detained two human rights activists, Cristóbal Sánchez and Irineo Mujica, in the midst of the bilateral discussion who had been vocal in criticizing the treatment of Central American migrants. Both were released after a campaign from the Alliance for Global Justice and others to press for their release. The arrests were clearly seen as an effort to intimidate activists speaking out in defense of migrants – and a step taken under pressure from the Trump administration.

The head of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, Tonatiuh Guillén resigned on Friday, to be replaced by the head of Mexico’s national prison system. Much as Trump has been cleaning house at the Department of Homeland Security to bring in hard-liners, Mexico seems to be doing the same.

Of the items discussed in the joint declaration last week, and the supporting document released by the government of Mexico (to make clear there was no “secret deal” as Trump claimed), the most controversial part is Mexico being designated as a “safe third country.” Such a designation would require that refugees crossing into Mexico would have to first apply for asylum there, even if their intent was to come to the United States. This would require action by Mexico’s legislature, and it is not clear this will be accepted.

For now, Trump is still enforcing the “remain in Mexico” practice of requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico until their asylum cases can be heard by immigration authorities on the U.S. side of the border. The process is moving very slowly, leaving thousands of people waiting for a chance to file their claim formally in the United States. Following the announced agreement, Trump extended the practice to cover the entire U.S./Mexico border. This led to 10,000 Central American refugees being returned to Mexico by U.S. authorities to await asylum hearings. Part of the joint declaration, the only real commitment the United States made, is a promise to speed up the asylum process.

So, yes Trump exaggerated the extent of his deal with Mexico. But let’s be clear, he got what he wanted, at least thus far. Mexico is upscaling its crackdown on immigration under pressure from the United States. This will be a disaster for refugees seeking passage through Mexico to seek asylum in the United States. That human rights disaster should be much bigger news than Trump inflating his accomplishment.

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Daily Dispatch 6/17/2019

Polls and Pols

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Daily Dispatch

June 17, 2019

I am never sure what to do about polls as an indicator of people’s political views. The findings are driven by the way questions are asked and the answers that are provided for respondents to choose from (seems obvious). Which is to say, polls rarely capture what people actually think about a topic, but at best give a sense of how they prioritize the options pollsters give them. That said, a recent survey by YouGov measuring people’s sense of the pros and cons of immigration for their countries was interesting. For example, of the countries surveyed, people in the United States had the most positive outlook on immigration.

The YouGov study was conducted in the United States, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, France and Germany. Three sets of questions were presented: What was the primary benefit of immigration, what people saw as the greatest negative impact of immigration, and how people generally saw immigration affecting their country. The results were interesting.

On the greatest benefit, in all of the countries surveyed except France, the choice was “better food.” For France it was sports – which if you’ve ever watched the World Cup you’d understand. For the United States the benefits to the local economy came in second with culture coming in third. (Note: What culture means, distinct from food, music and sports, all other options, is not exactly clear). Here is the graph.

In terms of the greatest harm caused by immigration, the United States was an outlier, being the only country where people identified welfare provision as the greatest harm. In all other countries it was crime (number two in the United States). Here’s that graph.

Finally, and most interesting for those tempted to look outside the Trump bubble, the United States and Britain were the only countries where more people held the view that immigration has generally benefited the country over that those who felt it had generally harmed the country.

If we are to try and draw any lessons from this poll, aside from people apparently appreciating taco trucks and Indian carry-out, those lessons are mixed. On the one hand, the rhetoric over reality impact is sobering: More people are concerned about immigration’s impact on crime and welfare than other issues, even though immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than “native born” people in the United States and are not allowed to participate in most welfare programs whether unauthorized immigrants or permanent residents. One suspects this finding of misunderstanding will give fuel to the fire for those who beat on these drums for political purposes (e.g. Trump).

It is important to note that despite the heavy-handed approach this administration has adopted and the rhetoric that has accompanied it, more people look favorably on immigration in this country than others. Those that have tracked these opinions over time, have found that Trump’s particular brand of nativism seems to have led to a backlash among other voters, and that in fact, pro-immigrant attitudes have increased under this administration.

As we approach the next election cycle, this is very important to keep in mind. Many pundits have suggested that Democrats tack right on immigration to capture some portion of “pro-Trump” voters. Even so-called liberal leaders like Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair have said the same for Social Democratic parties in Europe. Rather than cede ground to the “populists,” it is important to get tougher on immigration, the argument goes, if democracy is to survive (David Frum’s actual argument). Whether one buys this notion that somehow the Democrats are inherently better for democracy writ large, or not, it is worth pointing out that moving right on immigration won’t help them win elections. It is a fallacious argument.

At least, Zack Beauchamp, writing in Vox today, makes a compelling case for this. Comparing research done on European elections and prior elections in this country, he argues that Democrats would lose from adopting more restrictionist immigration policies.

One paper compared data on Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008, which had a comparatively generic outreach program to Latinos, to its 2012 campaign, which focused heavily on turning out Latino voters by emphasizing pro-immigration positions like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The data concluded that “Obama’s Latino targeted outreach was (1) remarkably effective at winning over Latino voters; and (2) it had coattail effects for Democratic Senate candidates.”

There’s reason to believe this could be even more true in the Trump era. While Trump has mobilized a vocal minority of anti-immigrant voters in the Republican Party, survey after survey has shown that this has led to a backlash among the rest of the population, with numbers of Americans expressing support for immigration reaching historic highs in tracking polls.

For now Democrats in the presidential race, and the leadership in Congress seem willing to bet that support for Dreamers, for example, will help them at the polls. However, the candidates willing to press the immigration conversation further into much needed critiques of enforcement measures at the border and detention are few. As the field narrows next year, there will be more pressure to avoid these topics. Certainly in the general election, whoever wins the Democratic primary will feel pressure to tack right on a number of issues, and especially immigration. The research suggests this will be a bad idea.

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Daily Dispatch 6/14/2019

Fort Sill: Can we learn from history?

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Daily Dispatch

June 14, 2019

George Bernard Shaw famously quipped, “Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man [sic] cannot learn anything from history.” The news this week that the Trump administration plans to detain children at one of the locations, Fort Sill Army Base in Oklahoma, that was used as a detention center for Japanese Americans during World War II suggests Shaw was probably correct. Fort Sill has been used before to detain unaccompanied minors: Obama used the base – and other locations – to hold children in 2014.

Whether, as a society, we can learn from history is an open question. Certainly we have made enormous progress in creating legal standards for the protection of human rights, for example. But there is a daily struggle for those rights to be realized. And, of course, exactly what lesson(s) we are to draw from history is not always clear. Many people treat Trump’s immigration policy as though it came out of nowhere when only two years ago under a different president, children were being detained, families were being separated, and tens of thousands of people were being deported each month. That said, we can still try to learn what we can.

With that in mind, I want to encourage people to check out Densho. It is an organization committed to education about the detention of Japanese Americans during World War II in the hopes that a better understanding of what happened can actually prevent a similar tragedy from being visited upon a new generation of people. Their statement on the news this week reads in part:

The Trump administration’s plan to use Fort Sill, Oklahoma as a concentration camp for immigrant and refugee-seeking children is just the latest in a long legacy of violent incarceration and family separation at that site.

Over 700 Japanese Americans were incarcerated there during WWII. One inmate, Kanesaburo Oshima, a Japanese immigrant and father of 11, was shot and killed trying to escape.

But Fort Sill’s history of trauma also includes a Native American boarding school where Comanche, Apache, Caddo, Kiowa, Delaware, Wichita, Navajo, and other Indigenous children were separated from their families, their culture, and their language.

And it served as a Prisoner of War camp for members of the Chiricahua Apache tribe who were forcibly relocated from the Southwest in 1894. The Apache leader Geronimo was among the 300-plus members of the tribe incarcerated there. He later passed away at Fort Sill in 1909 and was laid to rest there.

Fort Sill is not an anomaly, but it is a reminder of the ongoing violences of settler colonialism, racism, and xenophobia that have defined far too much of our nation’s history.

So, rather than have the Fort Sill episode be a soundbite in this week’s news cycle, treat it as an opportunity to learn more about this history. Hegel at least hoped that the world would eventually, through struggle, catch up to its ideals. If not from the lessons of history, at least from the aspiration for freedom. Whether this is correct, only time will tell. But the struggle continues nevertheless.

The Densho statement ends:

Sites like Fort Sill, Lordsburg, and Dilley need to be permanently closed, not recycled to inflict more harm. And we must also acknowledge that every single one of these sites exists on stolen land, and the majority of Central American migrants currently detained are Indigenous people.

The battle we’re fighting today started in 1492, not 1942.


Let’s underscore that NOW!

The Art of Resistance: #NoKidsInCages

In a world where no amount of fact checking can seem to put a dent in policy debates, sometimes the most effective way to make a point is on a more visceral, emotional level. Such was the approach this week in New York City as activists placed cages in the different parts of the city, each with a child sized manequin wrapped in a kevlar sheet inside. Accompanying the visual presentation was a recording of children crying for their parents while being held in detention. RAICES, an organization that provides legal services to immigrants incarcerated near the border, helped to sponsor the installations.

“We want to bring this back to the consciousness of the American people,” RAICES CEO Jonathan Ryan told HuffPost. “One of the many unfortunate consequences of the repeated traumatic stories coming from the border is that, as horrified and angry as people have been, we also become desensitized. It’s important for people … to be confronted with the reality that this is about children, human beings, whose lives are forever affected.”

“This is being done in our name by people who we elected,” he added. “And if we don’t do something to stop this, this will become who we are.”

To see a video of the installations, which were all taken down by early afternoon on Thursday, and to read the full report on Huffington Post, visit here.

Cristóbal Sánchez and Irineo Mujica Freed

Last week we shared an action alert from the Alliance for Global Justice about the arrests of Cristóbal Sánchez and Irineo Mujica, both of whom are activists working to defend the human rights of Central American migrants and others in Mexico.

Both men have been released from detention. See update below:

We are pleased to announce that Mexican immigrant rights activists Cristóbal Sánchez and Irineo Mujica have been released from detention! After more than 20 hours of court proceedings, a federal judge in Tapachula, Chiapas, determined that there is enough evidence to demonstrate that neither one of the activists was at the scene where the crimes they were accused of were committed.

On June 5, 2019, Cristóbal Sánchez and Irineo Mujica were arbitrary detained in Mexico City and Sonora, respectively, on fabricated charges of human smuggling. The arrest of these Human Rights activists came after several days of threats from U.S. President Donald Trump to increase tariffs on Mexican goods in order to push Mexico to detain migrants and refugees, mostly from Central America and pushed out of their homelands as a result of U.S. interventions in the region, seeking asylum in the U.S.

Thank you to everyone who joined in solidarity, supported and shared the actions to demand freedom for Cristóbal Sánchez and Irineo Mujica. The international movement started to demand freedom for the two Mexican immigrant rights activists is an example of the power of grassroots organizing over the expansion of U.S. imperialist practices that demand the criminalization of all of those who denounce the violent consequences of U.S. military, economic and political intervention in the Americas.

There is still a chance prosecutors may attempt to reintroduce charges. We will keep you posted.

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Daily Dispatch 6/13/2019

Another “temporary” prison for children

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Daily Dispatch

June 13, 2019

The Trump administration is opening a “temporary” detention facility for unaccompanied minors at Fort Sill Army Base in Oklahoma that will hold up to 1,400 children. As we reported just yesterday, such facilities do not have the same licensing requirements as other facilities where children are placed. Most facilities run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement have to meet state licensing requirements to care for children. Temporary facilities are not subject to this state oversight. Currently the only other “temporary” facility is in Homestead, Florida. There is an active campaign to get this shut down. See the Daily Dispatch from yesterday for more details.

The main issues here are the lack of licensing, the end around the Flores Agreement these facilities represent, and of course, the simple fact that we are detaining so many children while putting up barriers to their placement with family and community sponsors – thereby extending their detention. Nevertheless, the symbolism of placing children at a facility utilized as a concentration camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II was not lost on some writers. Of course, Obama used the same facility for the same purpose five years ago. So, more than anything, this speaks to the continuity of U.S. mistreatment of immigrants over generations.

Unauthorized immigration at 10-year low

To listen to this administration talk about immigration, you’d have no idea that unauthorized immigration is at a 10-year low (it was before Trump took office, so no he can’t take credit for this).  Until February of this year, arrests at the border where at 15-year low. Indeed, the only immigration Trump has slowed is authorized immigration by delaying processing, increasing denials for Visas, lowering the refugee ceiling, and not even allowing that already low number into the country – and so on.

We thought you should know.

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Daily Dispatch 6/12/2019

Shut it Down: Detention Update

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Daily Dispatch

June 12, 2019

The daily average of people being held in immigrant detention in the United States is now up to 52,000. Detention happens through a sprawling network of over 200 facilities around the country. Nearly three-fourths of the people detained are held in privately managed or owned prisons; the companies with the bulk of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) contracts are the GEO Group and CoreCivic.  

Immigrant detention is supposed to be an “administrative” hold as people wait for a determination of their immigration status. However, the conditions under which people are incarcerated in this system are deplorable. Documented year after year by advocates as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s own Office of Inspector General, detainees are denied access to adequate healthcare, are fed unhealthy, often spoiled food, are placed in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, are effectively denied legal representation by restrictive visitation protocols, are forced to work within these facilities through “voluntary” work programs through which they are remunerated less than $1 a day, and most have no idea how long they will be in these conditions.    

As detention expands, overcrowding is common. One result has been a dramatic increase in serious illness in facilities. In March this year, thousands of immigrants were quarantined around the country. From CNBC:

ICE health officials have been notified of 236 confirmed or probable cases of mumps among detainees in 51 facilities in the past 12 months, compared to no cases detected between January 2016 and February 2018. Last year, 423 detainees were determined to have influenza and 461 to have chicken pox. All three diseases are largely preventable by vaccine. As of March 7, a total of 2,287 detainees were quarantined around the country, an ICE official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Reuters.

So what does all of this mean in human terms? WNYC’s program The Takeaway, ran a report this week about the case of Yulio Castro-Garrido, an immigrant from Cuba who died in January of 2018 after being held at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia for six weeks.

Thirty-three-year-old Yulio Castro-Garrido, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee from Cuba, had no health problems when he first entered ICE custody at the at the Stewart Detention Center, a sprawling immigrant jail in rural Georgia run by private prison company CoreCivic. But Castro-Garrido died two months later of pneumonia, a lung infection and viral influenza, according to the ICE Detainee Death Review of his case.

On January 30, 2018, Castro-Garrido died in a hospital after spending six weeks at the Stewart Detention Center. The review notes three “areas of concern” regarding the migrant’s care while in ICE custody. These include include: staff neglecting to monitor Castro-Garrido’s blood pressure after showing signs of stage-two hypertension, and staff not immediately calling for an ambulance on the day he was taken to a hospital, causing a delay in his access to emergency care.

The third concern detailed in the review involves labor practices at the facility. After reporting his illness to staff, Castro-Garrido worked in the detention facility kitchen for food service duties under CoreCivic supervision, potentially transmitting his illness to others. He even worked in the kitchen on the day he was taken from the facility in an ambulance, the ICE review notes. In the past, the facility has fallen under criticism for allegedly threatening migrants who refuse to take part in labor at the facility.

The report provides a powerful example of how the various forces in play on immigrant detention intersect through the lens of one, tragic but not unique case. You can read the full report from the Takeaway here.  Or listen below.

Child Detention: Shutdown Homestead Facility

Another 13,200 children are being detained through a seperate system coordinated by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) through a network of shelters run by “non-profits” – the largest by far being Southwest Key. In most cases, child detention facilities must be licensed by the states where they are located to provide child care. This provides an extra layer of oversight, but there are still widespread problems. In February of this year, for example, it was reported that the federal government had received 4,500 complaints of child sexual abuse over a four year period in its detention facilities. Last year Arizona suspended Southwest Key’s state license to house children following disclosures of lax enforcement of background checks for people working with children. Southwest Key’s license has since been reinstated, and it began receiving kids again this February.

Standing outside of this system of state oversight (limited though it may be), are temporary facilities used by the federal government to house unaccompanied minors. The most famous was in Tornillo, Texas, just outside of El Paso. Tornillo has been closed, but currently there are up to 2,500 children being held in a large complex in Homestead, Florida. The facility is operated by Comprehensive Health Services. We reported several weeks ago about former DHS head and Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly’s connection to the company. Reuters noted last year: “In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year, the firm’s parent company, Caliburn International Corp., noted President Donald Trump’s immigration policies were driving “significant growth.”

As a temporary facility, the complex is not state licensed. However, children are spending an average of 67 days in this facility awaiting family or community sponsors at a cost of $750 a day. The Department of Health and Human Services has even lowered the ratio of health professionals to children required by its own guidelines for this facility, from 1:12 to 1:20. The lack of oversight has been widely criticized.

Since Homestead has no state supervision, even the Miami-Dade school district does not know what kind of programming the private corporation running the facility is providing to children in detention. Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has criticized the shelter for its lack of transparency and expressed concerns about the inequity of the quality and standards of education provided to children in detention.

Criticism has reached congress. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley introduced legislation with House member Judy Chu earlier this year to ban temporary facilities such as Tornillo and Homestead, called the Shutdown Child Prison Camps Act. It is currently stalled in committee.

Protests are planned at the facility on June 16 to expand calls to have it shut down.

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Daily Dispatch 6/11/2019

Deconstructing the administrative state: Cuccinelli Appointed Acting Head of USCIS

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Daily Dispatch

June 11, 2019

Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. (REUTERS/Brian Frank)

Steve Bannon is long gone from the Trump administration (though he may come back), however, his desire to foment the “deconstruction of the administrative state” still seems to animate decisions at the White House. On Monday, Ken Cuccinelli took over as acting head of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS is the agency responsible for overseeing everything from visa and asylum applications to issuing green cards and managing the process of people becoming citizens. Cuccinelli doesn’t seem to know much about this stuff.

Cuccinelli is an interesting choice. No one likes him – in either party. He probably can’t get confirmed as the permanent director. More on this below. Perhaps more importantly, he has campaigned against birthright citizenship and once compared a caravan of asylum seekers to an invasion that effectively gave states war powers, saying:

First of all, we’ve been being invaded for a long time so the border states clearly qualify here to utilize this power themselves. And what’s interesting is they don’t need anyone’s permission. And because [the states are] acting under war powers, there’s no due process. They can literally just line their National Guard up — presumably with riot gear like they would if they had a civil disturbance — and turn people back at the border. Literally, you don’t have to keep them, no catch-and-release, no nothing. You just point them back across the river and let them swim for it. Maybe you have a little courtesy shuttle and drive them over…and leave them there. The states can do that, interestingly enough, and the federal government can’t.

For a president who appointed a coal industry lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, to be head of the Environmental Protection Agency, this appointment is par for the course. Danielle Spooner, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees union representing USCIS employees, had this to say about Cuccinelli’s appointment:

It has become clear that the goal of this Administration is to end immigration all together. How better to do that then by appointing as the leader of USCIS someone who knows nothing about immigration, Adjustment of Status or Naturalization, and whose sole purpose is to destroy the agency that grants these benefits.

Cuccinelli takes over from Lee Cissna, who was forced to resign in May under pressure from the Stephen Miller faction of hard-liners at the White House. During Cissna’s tenure USCIS began the process of closing its overseas offices. Ted Hesson, writing in Politico at the time of the announcement, noted:

While President Donald Trump frequently highlights his opposition to illegal immigration, his administration also has taken steps to make the legal immigration process more difficult. The latest move could affect everyone from members of the U.S. military applying for citizenship to foreigners seeking to join their relatives in the U.S., according to those familiar with the plan.

Cuccinelli steps in to lead an agency already under stress and with an implicit mandate under Trump to make it harder for immigrants to come to this country and/or become citizens. Cuccinelli probably cannot get confirmed. He has angered too many in the GOP leadership over the years. But Trump doesn’t care about this. Trump has said he likes “acting” heads because it gives him more flexibility. “It’s easier to make moves when they’re ‘acting,’” Trump told CBS News in February. “I like ‘acting’ because I can move so quickly. It gives me more flexibility.”

When Nielsen was pushed out in April from the Department of Homeland Security, AP summarized the situation this way.

Nielsen’s departure threw into sharp focus just how few full-time leaders are at the sprawling department of more than 240,000 people. There’s no confirmed secretary, no deputy secretary, no head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, no formal head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, no head of Customs and Border Protection once McAleenan moves over, and no head of the science and technology branch. In addition, the deputy undersecretary for management at the agency, Claire Grady, will have to be moved aside for Trump to install McAleenan as acting secretary.

This is an insane way to govern.

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Daily Dispatch 6/10/2019

Mexico and the United States reach a deal

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Daily Dispatch

June 10, 2019

With the Trump threat of tariffs on products from Mexico looming, the governments of the United States and Mexico issued a joint memorandum on migration through Mexico on Friday. The details of the agreement, as spelled out in a State Department communique, are vague. But the agreement revolves around four key points:

Firstly, Mexico agreed to step up enforcement through expanded use of the National Guard to police the border with Guatemala and interdict migrants within Mexico. Other news reports put the number of guardsmen being mobilized at 6,000.

Secondly, the United States will expand its current “Migrant Protection Protocols” across the entire border with Mexico – meaning that people crossing the border to seek asylum in the United States will be returned to Mexico to await adjudication of their asylum claim. The State Department statement includes this Orwellian passage:

In response, Mexico will authorize the entrance of all of those individuals for humanitarian reasons, in compliance with its international obligations, while they await the adjudication of their asylum claims. Mexico will also offer jobs, healthcare and education according to its principles.

The United States has its own international obligations to accept people seeking asylum and is offshoring this responsibility to Mexico, which is committing to offer work permits and provide health care and education to asylum seekers.

Thirdly, the agreement will be monitored and further steps taken if needed after a 90-day review.

Finally, announced, but not “negotiated,” Mexico and the United States will continue to work with countries in Central America on issues of economic development and security (really?). Mexico has already launched its own Comprehensive Development Plan to coordinate with countries of Central America – meanwhile, Trump is trying to cut development assistance.

Of course, the devil is in the details. And those are not yet available. Trump indicated, via Twitter, that the deal would have to go before Mexico’s legislature suggesting it is a much more specific agreement than the announced outline would indicate. We’ll have to wait and see.

And, of course, being Trump this point came with a further threat: If Mexico’s congress does not pass the agreement, tariffs will be reinstated (not that they ever went into effect).

TAKE ACTION: As part of Mexico’s renewed crackdown on immigration, two human rights defenders, Cristóbal Sánchez and Irineo Mujica , were arrested last week in Mexico. Take action to get them released. Details here.

24 immigrants have died in detention since Trump took office

NBC and other news outlets ran a story over the last few days about the number of immigrants who have died in ICE custody since Trump took office. The number is 24. The story has been used to discuss the horrendous conditions that immigrants are being held in – as indicated by yet another DHS Office of Inspector General report that documents a lack of access to health care, spoiled food, and a host of other violations.

None of the companies contracted to provide these “services” have lost a contract yet.

While NBC’s story notes that the highest number of deaths in detention was in 2004 (32 in one year), none have mentioned that in Obama’s last year 12 people died in detention – more than in 2017 and the same number as 2018. Which is to say, detention conditions and deaths in the context of those conditions have been a problem for a very, very long time. Trump’s expanded use of detention (52,000 people are being held on average each day) is making a bad situation much worse.

Not included in this number are the five children who have died over the last year. They were not held in ICE facilities – child detention typically takes place through the Office of Refugee Resettlement.


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Daily Dispatch 6/7/2019

Take action edition

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Daily Dispatch

June 7, 2019

Since last Thursday we have written a couple of times about Trump’s efforts to penalize Mexico for not doing enough (in Trump’s mind) to stem the flow of refugees from Central America. There is obviously a high human toll to this effort – and we’re already seeing it. Below is an alert from the Alliance for Global Justice about two human rights defenders detained in Mexico this week – activists who have been speaking about the treatment of refugees from Central America in Mexico. You can read the background below and follow the link to take action in support of Cristóbal Sánchez and Irineo Mujica.

Also, join the “Where are the Children” March, June 9th, 10 a.m to 5 p.m. on the National Mall. 

Connect with local organizations and get involved to support justice for immigrant communities.

Contact Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior, Olga Sánchez Cordero, to demand freedom for Human Rights defenders Cristóbal Sánchez and Irineo Mujica (from the Alliance for Global Justice)

Cristóbal Sánchez and Irineo Mujica were arbitrary detained on June 5 in Mexico City and Sonora, respectively on fabricated charges of human trafficking. Cristóbal Sánchez was detained outside his house in Xochimilco, Mexico City at gunpoint and without a warrant by six men in plain clothes that identified themselves as judicial police. In Sonoyta, Sonora, Irineo Mujica was detained by three officers in plain clothes who handcuffed him and took him to Hermosillo, Sonora. The arrests of these human rights activists, just minutes apart, come after several days of threats from Donald Trump to increase tariffs on Mexican goods if Mexico does not take steps to detain Central American migrants and refugees who are seeking safety in the United States.

Both Cristóbal and Irineo have been victims of harassment, criminalization and threats by different administrations of the Mexican government, including the current government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, as well as by organized crime groups. Only in February this year, prior to a meeting with the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kristen Nielsen, Sánchez Cordero publicly attacked the humanitarian work of Sánchez and Mujica leading to harassment and several death threats against them and other human rights activists.


Cristóbal Sánchez Sánchez has worked on migration issues for the past 15 years and is a founder of the Cultura Migrante Collective (Migrant Culture). He has denounced violence against refugees and provided food and water to them. Due to his human rights work, he was previously detained in 2011 in Tapachula and in February 2019 when documenting human rights violations against migrants. Irineo Mujica has been a human rights defender for more than 15 years, working in Mexico and the United States to promote respect for migrants’ rights and immigration reform. He has founded and supported numerous shelters for migrants and refugees within Mexico and documented human rights abuses against migrants by authorities. Mujica has been unjustly arrested on numerous occasions and he has been target of death treats and subject to an intense campaign of criminalization in the media by Mexican and U.S. authorities. Both organizers are in the process to receive protection as part of Mexico’s Mechanism of Protection for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.

Tweet Olga Sánchez Cordero (@M_OlgaSCordero), and ask her to stop the criminalization of Cristóbal, Irineo and immigrant rights activists in Mexico.
Ask Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard (@m_ebrard) to stop using immigrant rights activists criminalization as a tool to please Donald Trump.

By arresting Cristóbal Sánchez and Irineo Mujica, the Mexican government is trying to appease Trump and prevent them from continuing their human rights work with vulnerable migrants and refugees. Join us to demand the immediate and unconditional release of Sánchez and Mujica and an end to the criminalization of immigrant rights activists.

March to defend children

On International Children’s Day, a coalition of organizations are organizing a demonstration in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall. If you are in the area, come out to the demonstration and show your opposition to Trump’s zero-tolerance policy that has led to a dramatic increase in family separations at the border.

Where are the children?
Details: June 9, 2019 from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm to oppose
National Mall in Washington, DC, between 12th and 14th Streets.

If you are not in Washington, D.C., there are a few simple actions you can take to support the goals of the march including signing a petition to shutdown the Homestead “temporary” shelter that is detaining children well in excess of the 20-day limit imposed by the Flores Settlement agreement. For more information, and to sign the petition click here.

Get connected

If you are outraged by Trump’s immigration policies or simply want to help out in some way, but aren’t sure what to do, check out our Local Action Map to get connected with organizations doing work in your area. The map is a work in progress – so if you know of work being done that is not included there, let us know so we can add the organization!

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Daily Dispatch 6/6/2019

Trump administration cuts educational and legal services for unaccompanied minors

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Daily Dispatch

June 6, 2019

Migrant children play soccer at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children on Good Friday, April 19, 2019, in Homestead, Fla.WILFREDO LEE / AP

There are 13,200 migrant children currently being held in facilities around the country (almost half in Texas). These facilities operate under contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Children in these facilities are held an average of 48 days while waiting for sponsors – usually family members – to be located, so they can be released to await trial dates on their immigration status. The vast majority of these children arrive in the United States unaccompanied, and are transferred from Border Patrol custody to ORR. A smaller number are children who have been separated from family members upon arrival at the border.

Facilities contracted by ORR have to meet federal legal requirements for the care they provide, and are also required to meet state licensing requirements for the provision of child care. State licensing typically means a requirement to provide education and recreational activities. Under new directives from the Trump administration, these facilities will no longer be reimbursed for these activities. Legal services, such as know your rights trainings so that the children are prepared for immigration court hearings, will also no longer be paid.

Rochelle Garza, a staff attorney with the ACLU Texas, works in Brownsville, Texas, near Casa Padre, the former Walmart that has been converted into a shelter for approximately 1,500 boys ages 10 to 17, explained to NPR:

an average day for children housed in a regular security shelter [is] comparable to a full day of school that includes English, math, science and reading classes. The children get periods of outdoor activity and often play basketball and soccer. There are even sporadic outings to a nearby church, park or zoo.

She said without those programs, housed children are “going to be sitting in prison like conditions.” She noted many of the minors are vulnerable children from Central America who have escaped violence.

Trump has requested an additional $3 billion in emergency budget support to deal with an increase in arrests along the U.S./Mexico border. These funds, if approved, would go to expanding detention capacity – not to funding services for those held.

Mexico and the U.S. in Discussions on Migration

Last Thursday, Trump announced (on twitter no less) that the U.S. would begin assigning tariffs on all products coming from Mexico unless the country did more to stop migration to the U.S. border. As we explained last week, Mexico has expanded its enforcement activities steadily since 2014. What Mexico is supposed to do is not clear – though the administration’s point person on these discussion, Peter Navarro, identified three “specific” items they are looking to Mexico to commit to:

  • Mexico should crack down on asylum seekers.
  • Mexico should strengthen its enforcement of its own southern border with Guatemala, he added.
  • And Mexico should put an end to government corruption at immigration checkpoints in the country.

Where to start….

On asylum, Navarro explained in a CNBC report:

The “No. 1” issue on Navarro’s list would be for Mexico to “commit to taking all the asylum seekers and then applying Mexican laws, which are much stronger than ours.”

“Look, here’s the thing,” he said. “If the people who are moving up with scripts to claim asylum from their narco-trafficker, human-trafficker handlers simply understood that that script ain’t gonna work anymore getting into America,” then the stream of migrants coming up to the southern border to claim asylum “will go to a trickle.”

The administration continues to argue that people are being coached to make certain statements to get into the country under asylum laws, and that their asylum claims are unsubstantiated. If this were actually true, then maybe this would work. But it’s not true. Most of the people arrested at the U.S./Mexico border recently are from Honduras and Guatemala, where violence and political instability are widespread. One of the reasons for the unauthorized border crossings is that regular ports of entries are now largely blocked, as the administration makes asylum seekers wait in Mexico – many for months, extending to over a year in some cases. With ports of entry blocked, people are crossing elsewhere in larger numbers in order to make asylum claims from within the U.S. So, the “crisis” of an increase in arrests is not the result of bogus asylum claims, but this administration’s failure to put sufficient resources toward processing claims for what is a very real refugee crisis at our border. Expecting Mexico to crack down on false claims makes no sense. It is not clear what Mexico could actually do, and the claims themselves are not false. People will keep coming.

Mexico has already expanded enforcement along its southern border significantly. Detentions of people migrating through Mexico has increased, and Mexico deports many more people each year than the United States. We wrote more about this last week.

Ending corruption at border crossings might well be a good thing. But the administration creates a cartoonish image of the problem and, we might add, is so clearly indifferent to corruption in its own ranks that speaking out about this elsewhere seems highly disingenuous.  

At this point, talks have faltered. Tariff increases of 5 percent are scheduled to go into effect on Monday, and will increase 5 percent each month (up to 25 percent in October) until Trump gets what he wants from Mexico – and what he wants is unrealistic. Navarro indicated yesterday that tariffs may no longer be necessary because the administration now has Mexico’s attention. The whole episode may well be a bluff to deflect attention from many other problems Trump is facing.

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