Haiti Re-designated for Temporary Protected Status

One of the goals you have been working on with us and a host of other organizations was finally achieved this weekend. The news was first announced on Buzzfeed News:

The Biden administration will grant more than 100,000 Haitians in the US the opportunity to gain temporary protected status, shielding them from deportation and allowing them to obtain work permits, according to a Department of Homeland Security document provided to BuzzFeed News.

The decision, which immigrant advocates have been pushing for several months, comes as Haiti suffers from a growing political crisis after the opposition party’s calls for the president to step down failed. Reports of increased gang violence and kidnappings have roiled parts of the country, which is already struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The official announcement came on Saturday – and underlined the date of re-designation – May 21, 2021. Only people already here on or before that date are able to apply for TPS (it is not automatic). From the official announcement from the Department of Homeland Security:

WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced a new 18-month designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This new TPS designation enables Haitian nationals (and individuals without nationality who last resided in Haiti) currently residing in the United States as of May 21, 2021 to file initial applications for TPS, so long as they meet eligibility requirements.

“Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “After careful consideration, we determined that we must do what we can to support Haitian nationals in the United States until conditions in Haiti improve so they may safely return home….”

….It is important to note that TPS will apply only to those individuals who are already residing in the United States as of May 21, 2021 and meet all other requirements. Those who attempt to travel to the United States after this announcement will not be eligible for TPS and may be repatriated. Haiti’s 18-month designation will go into effect on the publication date of the Federal Register notice to come shortly. The Federal Register notice will provide instructions for applying for TPS and employment authorization documentation.

A lot of people have been working on this issue for a long time. Thank you for taking part in the effort. We do not get a lot of victories in this work, so we celebrate the ones we do achieve.

That said, the work never stops. Guerline Jozef, Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, who has been everywhere one can be talking about TPS and removals to Haiti, was on MSNBC this morning explaining the decision – and the people not included.

Some other statements on the decision

From the Family Action Network Movement (FANM) statement:

Marleine Bastien, Executive Director of Family Action Network Movement (FANM), stated, “We applaud and commend the Biden Administration’s decision to redesignate TPS for Haiti. During a recent march in Washington on May 18th and a meeting with White House and DHS officials Thursday evening, I sent a strong message to President Biden that given the deteriorating political situation in Haïti including state sponsored massacres, kidnapping/killing of political opponents , widespread raping of women and girls , it was time to redesignate Haiti for TPS and that “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.””

Steve Forester, Immigration Policy Coordinator for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), said, “Haiti’s redesignation for TPS recognizes that extraordinary conditions of political and social crisis and insecurity make deportations to Haiti unsafe and redesignation appropriate. We applaud the administration, which since February 1 has expelled about 2,000 Haitians on 34 flights, for this long overdue and entirely appropriate action.”

Legal Defense Fund: Raymond Audain, Senior Counsel at LDF, issued the following statement following the president’s announcement:

“We are encouraged that President Biden has redesignated Haiti for Temporary Protected Status – and that members of the Haitian TPS community now have the security and stability they were unjustly denied for three years as Haiti’s status remained in limbo. While Haiti should have unquestionably received TPS redesignation due to the country’s concerning humanitarian situation alone, the blatantly racist nature of the Trump administration’s decision to revoke its status speaks even further to the rightfulness of today’s decision to undo this deeply discriminatory and shameful action.

Alianza Americas and Presente.org

“We commend the Biden-Harris administration for their decision to provide a new TPS designation for Haitian nationals. This has been one of the demands that many Latin American and Caribbean immigrant communities made early on. The situation in Haiti has been deteriorating with human rights violations, poverty, and social unrest caused by the pandemic, further limiting the ability of Haitians to return safely to their country. Over 100,000 Haitians residing in the U.S. will now be able to live without the fear of being detained and deported back to the country they fled from,” said Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas. 

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Out of Many, One: The Fine Art of Immigration Policy

In his retirement, former president George W. Bush has famously taken up painting. His first collection was titled “Portraits of Courage, a collection of oil paintings and stories honoring the sacrifice of America’s military veterans.” His latest work is titled Out of Many, One and is a series of portraits of people who have immigrated to the United States. In an article published in the Washington Post, Bush writes that he had two goals for this series: “to share some portraits of immigrants, each with a remarkable story I try to tell, and to humanize the debate on immigration and reform.”

In the Post article, Bush says he’ll leave specific immigration policies to current political leaders. But then goes on to outline exactly what he thinks should be done in 6 parts. Let’s take a look at each of his ideas.

  1. Bush advocates for a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Well, this is low-hanging fruit. He feels like this is an easy place for agreement and it is, with the majority of the country supporting this. But then he goes on to argue that Dreamers should be granted a path to citizenship because “they ought not be punished for choices made by their parents.” Ugh, Bush, really. You had to throw that line in, didn’t you? So, there you have it. Dreamers are good immigrants. Their parents are bad ones. Dreamers shouldn’t be punished, but the implication is their parents should. Their parents are human beings who risked everything to try and provide a life for themselves and their children. Yes, their children had no choice. But one could argue that their parents felt they had no other choice as well.
  2. His next point is the need for a secure and efficient border. He advocates for “all the necessary resources — manpower, physical barriers, advanced technology, streamlined and efficient ports of entry, and a robust legal immigration system — to assure it.” Hmmm. Ok. I definitely agree with a robust legal immigration system (I’d add a robust, fair, legal immigration system). I also support streamlined and efficient ports of entry. Physical barriers and advanced technology? Have we not seen that border walls don’t work like when kids are being dropped over the wall? Or when tunnels are dug beneath them? The ever-increasing militarization of our border just leads to more human rights violations, deaths of migrants, and to one the most dangerous border between two countries NOT at war in the world.  “Advanced technology,”  in this context — from facial recognition programs to drones — turns out to be little more than a euphemism employed to legitimize increased state surveillance behind a veneer of ostensibly respectable innovation.
  3. His third point is that we need to “work with our neighbors to help them build freedom and opportunity so their citizens can thrive at home.” Yes!!! Let’s address root causes of migration. Trump’s presidency did nothing if not prove that horrific conditions here and at the border do not prevent people from trying to come to the US. Why is that? Perhaps because no amount of deterrence can trump (pun intended) desperate conditions in home countries. But what does it look like to help build freedom and opportunity? Supporting an authoritarian president whose term has ended like Jovenal Moise in Haiti? Imposing sanctions, as in Nicaragua? Supporting known drug traffickers like Juan Orlando Hernandez in Honduras?
  4. Bush also suggests modernizing our asylum system. He says we need a “system that provides humanitarian support and appropriate legal channels for refugees to pursue their cases in a timely manner. The rules for asylum should be reformed by Congress to guard against unmerited entry and reserve that vital status for its intended recipients.” Yes!! Ok, we agree on something. The system has to start recognizing that people seeking asylum aren’t just fleeing persecution based on religion, race, ethnicity or politics. There is a large, and growing, number of migrants fleeing home countries because of climate change. Our definitions of refugee and asylum need to expand to respond to current realities.
  5. Increased legal migration, guest workers, etc. A point of agreement- if it is done equitably and fairly. You’ll excuse me if I’m doubtful.
  6. Lastly, he goes in hard against undocumented immigrants. All the same old arguments — “amnesty would be fundamentally unfair to those who came legally.” No, the system that allows some to come legally while others are forced to risk their lives to come “illegally” is unfair. He does say that undocumented immigrants should be brought out of the shadows with a gradual process to legal residency, so that’s something. But let’s stop acting like our current system is fair and some people are wrong for not playing by the rules.

He closes by saying “Over the years, our instincts have always tended toward fairness and generosity. The reward has been generations of grateful, hard-working, self-reliant, patriotic Americans who came here by choice. If we trust those instincts in the current debate, then bipartisan reform is possible. And we will again see immigration for what it is: not a problem and source of discord, but a great and defining asset of the United States.”

Wait — since when have our instincts tended toward fairness and generosity? The Chinese Exclusion Act? Ethnicity-based quota systems? In an excerpt from the book, Bush acknowledges the racist, biased history of our immigration system. But based on this article, he seems to have forgotten. If we trust our instincts we will end up right where we started. But I’ll agree with Dub-ya on one thing. Immigration is a “great and defining asset of the United States.” So let’s start there and build a new system actually built with fairness and generosity.

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Lino: Journey to Hope

Map from Jesuit Migrant Services of different train lines across Mexico.

Those seeking to immigrate to the United States do not take the decision lightly. The journey is too often mired in trauma brought on by discrimination and exploitation, and too many of their stories go unheard. Asylum seeker Lino, whom I recently interviewed, was not an exception to this rule. We explore his background as well as his migration story, both linked to an emerging understanding of himself as a lesbian in his childhood, followed by later embracing his identity as a trans man. 

Lino was born in 2001 in a small Garifuna (Afro-Indigenous) minority community in Honduras. Due to colorism and anti-blackness within his community, he experienced racism, discrimination and marginalization throughout his entire life. Even as a child in school, Lino and his Black classmates were separated from the “white” Honduran students. These white students had better educational resources, while teachers and students alike would discriminate against the Black students due to the color of their skin, going so far as to forcibly cut off Lino’s afro. In addition to Lino’s race, he was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation as a lesbian, the brutality of which led to his mother disenrolling him from school around the age of 13. 

While Lino stayed home, he was sexually abused by his older sister’s ex-boyfriend and despite telling trusted individuals, no one seemed to believe him. In the midst of repeated abuse, apathy, and indignation he learned to remain silent against his abusers. At age 15, Lino began to date a 28 year old woman. This displeased his parents. His mother supported his sexual orientation; however, his father was disgusted and began to physically abuse Lino’s mother for her solidarity. Eventually, Lino’s father abandoned them and left the mother, Lino and his sister to care for themselves. As Lino found jobs to support his family, he also experienced a lot of threats due to his sexuality. One threat became a reality when they burned down his home; his mother was there when it happened. That’s when Lino decided to immigrate to the United States in order to protect his mother from harm and to protect himself from the anti-black and anti-LGBTQ+ persecution. This was the beginning of his journey. Aged 17, with no money, and no idea how he was going to survive.

Thankfully Lino reached Vera Cruz unharmed. While in Vera Cruz, he met a 34 year old Honduran man who provided food, shelter and money to Lino on the condition that he have sexual relations with him. The constant sexual exploitation and assault weighed heavily on Lino who sought an escape. “I depended on him and he kept threatening that he’d abandon me in Mexico if I didn’t give him my body. So out of obligation, I gave him my body. So, I had to escape him.” After his escape, the Honduran man continued to search for Lino and threatened his life. He claimed that Lino was his property. Lino spent 6 months in Mexico where he struggled to find food and money to cross the border. Once he crossed, he was arrested by ICE and placed in an all women’s detention center. 

At this time, Lino began to embrace his identity as a trans man which increased his vulnerability while in detention. Black trans migrants in detention face unprecedented levels of trauma due to anti-Blackness, xenophobia, and transphobia. They also become victims of sexual and physical assault by other detainees and/or prison staff and are often denied access to adequate health resources such as mental health resources. The lack of adequate hygiene expedites their increased risk of illness, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, Black trans migrants are detained longer, held in solitary confinement more often, and suffer humiliating and degrading treatment from prison staff.

Throughout approximately 7 months in detention Lino repeatedly faced anti-Blackness and anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination by other detainees and officers. Lino remembers “one officer in particular, who humiliated me because I didn’t have any money to call anyone outside of the detention center. The officer always seemed bothered when I’d ask for toothpaste or toilet paper. Sometimes, she’d even lie and say that they ran out when they did not”. That and other experiences such as being unjustly held in solitary confinement only augmented the trauma he faced on his journey to safety and security. 

Any communion between detainees is a serious crime and the first time officers put Lino in solitary confinement because a fellow detainee, a Black Honduran woman, had sexually assaulted him. Consequently, both individuals were placed in solitary confinement and under investigation. Lino was unjustly placed there for seven days for being the survivor of sexual assault. The second time Lino was placed in solitary confinement was after a white Mexican woman told one of the guards that Lino had kissed her in the early morning. Despite the interaction being fabricated, Lino was placed under investigation and spent 12 days without sunlight and meaningful human interaction. When asked how Lino felt about the ordeal, he stated  “I felt bad and recognized the injustice. I was the victim in the situation but they didn’t take my word for anything, they put me in solitary confinement for 12 days without TV, without even seeing the sunlight- all for a lie”. Severely shaken by his experiences, he contemplated deporting himself and returning to Honduras. “When problems started to arise, I didn’t feel comfortable. I almost deported myself but I knew that’d mean I’d continue to suffer in my country”.  

Holding onto hope, Lino was able to connect with a pro bono immigration lawyer and eventually with others who were able to support him. He was connected to Casa Ruby, a nonprofit organization that is run by transgender women of color. Casa Ruby serves as a home for marginalized people, predominantly belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, that provide social services and programs for the success and growth of the person. Casa Ruby is also “everyone’s home” which provides a welcoming environment for people beyond the LGBTQ+ community, it extends to their families and the community at large. While at Casa Ruby, Lino met his current partner. Now, Lino lives with his partner and is in the process of seeking asylum. 

Despite all of the hardship Lino has faced throughout his life, he remains hopeful about his immigration process. “I feel saved. Hopefully I’ll have my papers soon. I’m happy I’m out of my country.” Lino still communicates with his mother, yet feels the absence of his loved ones. “It’s hard to get up sometimes. I only have my sponsor here. But I know I’ll get up soon”. 

The harassment he faced because of his sexuality, gender, and Blackness were the driving forces behind his decision to immigrate to the United States.  Certain marginalized individuals such as Lino, a Black trans migrant, face an increased risk of trauma. The trauma immigrants face after fleeing their homes is exacerbated by maltreatment from ICE staff. Black trans migrants are a vulnerable population and ICE is not equipped with the training or resources to ensure their safety and wellbeing while in custody. Although, Black trans migrants constitute a relatively small number of those in detention, the conditions they face provide evidence of the moral vacuity of ICE detention more generally and their struggles, like Lino’s experiences, provide another reason why immigrant detention must end.  Here at the Quixote Center, we support Lino, recognize the unbelievable hardship of his story, and honor him for everything that he has overcome. Lino’s story is one of perseverance, resilience, strength and hope. 

SJ Fernandez is at the Quixote Center this summer under a fellowship from Georgetown University where she is a graduate student in conflict resolution. Her studies are focused on racial and ethnic identity-based conflict within the United States, as well as immigrant and refugee rights. 

Lino for bravely sharing his story. 
Taurence Chisholm Jr. for providing helpful edits that honored Lino’s story. Quixote Center Staff for this amazing opportunity. 
Lastly, my mother, Annie Gonzalez, who raised me to be respectful and outspoken, not quiet.

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Taste The Nation

Taste the Nation, a new series on the streaming network Hulu, is hosted and produced by Padma Lakshmi, best known as the host of Top Chef. An immigrant herself, Padma wanted to research immigration in the US in the wake of Trump’s election and the US’s latest anti-immigrant wave. Recognizing the power of food, she chose it as the lens to frame the topic. Through 10 episodes, the show explores 10 popular foods in America. As we learn the history, techniques and rituals that surround the food, we are also shown the history of the people making it, particularly their migration story. The immigration policies that impacted them, both current and historical, are also highlighted.

It is often said that the United States is a nation of immigrants. However, that statement negates an entire group of people and mischaracterizes the history of another. 

There are people whose ancestors have always lived here in the Americas and episode 7 explores the rich food traditions of the Apache and the impact of colonialization on those traditions. The episode starts with fry bread. A food many are familiar with and often considered traditional. But the episode quickly explains that fry bread is a food that was developed out of a necessity to use the commodity food rations given to indigenous people by the United States government, after forcibly removing them from their traditional land and food sources. Though it may be tasty, it is a painful symbol of colonialization, displacement and genocide. The episode goes on to highlight the amazing bounty of food that the Arizona desert provides.  Foods such as prickly pear fruit, barrel cactus fruit, onions, and small game such as rabbit or pack rat. Indigenous chefs are reclaiming the recipes and cooking techniques of their ancestors that have been erased and nearly lost. They are reclaiming the medicinal, healing properties and health benefits of their ancestral food. 

To say that African American ancestors “migrated” to the Americas negates the fact that they were forced to come in chains. Episode 3 explores the rich food traditions of the Gullah Geechee, descendants of enslaved Africans who were brought to the Americas primarily for their knowledge of growing rice. They now live along the coast from northern Florida to North Carolina with an unofficial capital in Charleston, SC. Modern southern and soul food can be traced back to the Gullah, but often they aren’t given credit. Padma talks with chefs and community members who are working and fighting to preserve the traditions and language of the Gullah (a blend of the various languages of the enslaved Africans and English). Sitting on ancestral land where so many atrocities happened, Padma acknowledges that talking about Gullah history is painful, but it is an important part of American History and it is part of the healing process this nation has to undertake. 

They say you are what you eat, but do we even really know what we are eating? or where it comes from? Hot dogs are often seen as quintessentially American, as American as baseball and apple pie. But hot dogs, or wieners, are German; so, in episode 2, Padma travels to Milwaukee to explore German immigration. This episode focuses on assimilation and the fact that so many of the German contributions to US culture have been so thoroughly absorbed, they are no longer viewed as German, but simply American. Padma says “Assimilation is complicated. While many people fight to be accepted. Others work to hold on to what might get lost. And that push and pull my friends, is America.”  

Many episodes explore what it means to pass on your cultural traditions to children who have a hyphenated identity. In episode 3, about Indian dosas, Padma’s daughter (Indian-American) reluctantly admits that she prefers pancakes to dosas. This cultural transmission is further complicated when you can’t travel back to where your traditions originate, as in episode 6 about kabob and the Iranian-American children of immigrants who fled Iran following the revolution. 

The very first episode of the series is perhaps the most relevant to our current debate on immigration. The episode goes to El Paso, to explore, the burrito. The chefs interviewed are quick to note that what we’ve been eating at Chipotle, is NOT what they are making. One chef notes that “a burrito is tradition wrapped in colonialization… Flour is not one of our ancestral foods. It’s an imposed food.” So that flour tortilla, like fry bread, is a symbol of colonialization. The episode talks a lot about the region and the arbitrary border that separates families and friends and has become ever increasingly militarized. Padma says, America loves Mexican food, but asks, “what about the hands that make that food?” Chef Marentes takes great pride in making his tortillas but notes, “It’s hard for me to think that people are going to accept my tortillas before they accept my cousins.” 

The last episode takes the viewers to Hawaii and is about poke. It focuses on the fusion of traditional Japanese and Hawaiian ingredients and cooking techniques. Gastronomically, the two have fused well, elements of each have been retained but have combined to create a delicious hybrid. Padma wonders if this could serve as a model for the nation. What would our country look like if traditions could be accepted and respected but also joined to create something new and beautiful. It’s a hopeful note, one that is much needed in these times. 

What does it mean to be American? Who decides? Which cultures are welcomed, accepted? Which ones are ignored or erased? Taste the Nation explores all of these questions and more. 

But as Chef Twitty says, quoting a West African saying, “if you sit at my table and eat with me, you’ll know who I am.” The table Padma Lakshmi explores is rich in flavor and diversity. It brings stories of pain and hope. And if we sit together and eat at this table, we will get to see the beauty of what it means to be American. 

(Hulu is a subscription based streaming service: https://www.hulu.com/)

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Democrats need to start talking about immigration again!

In the last debate of the Democratic presidential primary prior to the Iowa caucuses, the word immigration was said twice, once by Sanders and once by Klobuchar. Both times it was said in passing, absent any reference to an actual policy. That debate was themed “America’s role in the world” and was billed as a debate on foreign policy. Immigration policy is, of course, intimately connected to foreign policy. From Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya and Syria, the world’s largest refugee crises have resulted from wars the U.S. is deeply involved in. The multiple crises in Central America and Venezuela that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of people seeking asylum here and elsewhere, are also impossible to separate from U.S. policy. The fact that the U.S. is gutting our asylum system by largely offshoring it to Mexico and Guatemala is itself a foreign policy issue. And yet, there was not a single question about immigration in general, nor about refugees or asylum. Indeed, since last June when Democrats issued a number of statements critical of Trump’s border policies amidst stories of children detained in horrible conditions by U.S. border patrol, immigration has faded from Democratic presidential priority.

Certainly part of the reason is that the candidates with the most creative, and critical policy ideas are no longer in the race. Julian Castro set the tempo early by challenging his colleagues on the debate stage to take a stand on repealing the federal law that makes irregular entry a crime. By demanding that immigration be treated as a civil enforcement issue, not criminal, Castro was well ahead of the field in challenging the core element of Trump’s strategic (and false) frame of the “criminal alien.” But Castro was not alone. Cory Booker introduced a plan to essentially eliminate immigrant detention through selective use of executive orders. Kamala Harris supported the banning of private prison companies from immigrant detention, and supported a broad expansion of those people protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to include current DACA recipient families. Beto came into the debate early, beating everybody but Castro in  presenting a comprehensive redraft of immigration laws, that was creative in many of its elements and yet limited by his refusal to join Castro in decriminalizing irregular entry. 

All of these candidates are now out of the race. Of those remaining, Warren is the only one to incorporate most of these ideas into a comprehensive immigration plan. Her plan decriminalizes irregular entry, reduces immigrant detention and ultimately eliminates private companies from detention contracts. She calls for the restructuring of immigrant courts to give them an independent status outside of the Department of Justice, and calls for the restructuring of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Warren and all of the remaining candidates support creating a legislative solution for DACA recipients, the “Dreamers.” And most support crafting a qualified path to citizenship for those people currently living in the U.S. unauthorized. 

By and large, however, the Democratic field has limited itself to criticizing Trump when the optics are at their worst (children being torn from parents, and/or detained in horrible conditions in border patrol stations) and otherwise saying little. Substantively, most simply argue for the resetting of policy back to January 20, 2017, failing to note how bad immigration policy was under the Obama administration (or Bush or Clinton).

Trump’s presidency provides an opportunity to do much more. Everything Trump does unveils a systemic problem, and because he cannot seem to talk about immigration in a way that is tempered by a desire for compromise, he rubs our noses in the brutality of that system every day. It is both a horror to watch, and a clear opportunity to actually revolutionize our immigration system – because its inherent brutality is no longer hidden. Trump daily celebrates this capacity for cruelty – a capacity handed to him by the cumulative impact of the policies of five previous presidential administrations, and a political culture saturated in weaponized identity. All have been dragging us closer to the abyss of inhumanity in the treatment of migrants. Trump might well be taking us over the edge as a country. But we can no longer pretend it’s not happening. Assuming, that is, we see Trump’s administration for what it is: A revelation of the worst impulses in our political culture, not their creator. 

The Democrats helped create this mess, and now they have a chance to make amends. But first they have to address it. Earlier this week, on the three year anniversary of Trump’s first disastrous policy move, the Muslim travel ban, Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center, wrote

we need to demand more from the Democrats running for president. More than simply rejecting Trump’s agenda, the candidates must commit to truly transforming our approach to how we talk about and include immigrants in conversations of critical national importance — from health care, to housing, education, and climate change. Our ability to thrive together depends not only on holding Trump accountable, but also on truly changing how we treat our most marginalized communities.

I completely agree. There were hopeful signs early on in the race, but the conversation has faded to the back burner of the primary season. Whoever wins this primary will have to address immigration policy in the general election. They need to be building their case now.

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Daily Dispatch 1/16/2019: State/Local vs Federal Government

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Daily Dispatch

January 16, 2020

In this Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, file photo, Linda Evarts, an attorney for the International Refugee Assistant Project, speaks to the media outside the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, Md. A federal judge agreed Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, to block the Trump administration from enforcing an executive order allowing state and local government officials to reject refugees from resettling in their jurisdictions. U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte in Maryland issued a preliminary injunction requested by three national refugee resettlement agencies that sued to challenge the executive order. (AP Photo/Michael Kunzelman, File)

Federal Court blocks Trump Refugee Order

On September 26, 2019, Trump issued an Executive Order (EO 13888) that requires state and local officials to provide written consent in order for refugee resettlement to continue in their states and localities. This means that refugee resettlement will stop in an entire state unless the governor sends a letter providing consent. County executives or their equivalents, depending on each state’s setup, must also provide consent in order for refugees to be resettled in their localities.

On January 8 a Federal District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland heard arguments against the executive order. Two days later, Texas became the first state to opt out of the refugee resettlement program for FY2020. Forty-two states have agreed to continue accepting refugees. Only two counties had voted to opt out of refugee resettlement: Beltrami County in Minnesota (in which no refugee has been resettled in over five years) and Burleigh County in North Dakota (which voted to limit the number admitted but still accept some refugees- only 19 refugees were resettled in FY 2019). The debates have proved very contentious – which was clearly part of Trump’s intent.

Yesterday, the District Court in Greenbelt issued an injunction against the executive order. From the Associated Press:

A federal judge on Wednesday halted President Donald Trump’s executive order that gave state and local officials the ability to shut the door on refugees, and ignited a fierce debate in communities about how welcoming the United States should be.

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte in Maryland said in his ruling that the president’s order “flies in the face of clear Congressional intent” of the 1980 Refugee Act by allowing state and local governments to block the resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions.

In issuing a preliminary injunction, Messitte said the process should continue as it has for nearly 40 years, with refugee resettlement agencies deciding where a person would best thrive.

This is great news. However, while the legal process drags on, the uncertainty remains for the 1,800 refugees that are to be resettled in Texas – almost all with family in the state.

Meanwhile, the overall cap on refugees allowed into the United States continues to fall under Trump. This year the cap is just 18,000. It was 110,000 in 2016. Currently between 150,000 and 200,000 refugees are in the pipeline, seeking resettlement in the United States.

In a first, ICE subpoenas Denver police

In a bizarre development in the ongoing war between “sanctuary” cities and the Trump administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has issued subpoenas to the police in Denver to force release of information on four men that ICE is seeking to deport. According to Denver police, however, they’ve already given the information sought to ICE for three of the men in question and will provide release information on the fourth one when he is actually released from custody. From the Associated Press:

The four men, three Mexican nationals and one Honduran, had all been arrested and jailed for violent offenses such as sexual assault and child abuse and had all been previously deported, according to ICE.

“ICE officials contacted Denver to request jail release notifications involving four inmates,” Luby said. “Contrary to what ICE is saying, we honored three of those requests for the three inmates released at that time. We will honor the request for the fourth inmate when he is released.”

So what is going on? Denver has adopted policies that restrict police cooperation with ICE. In particular, the Denver police will not detain people for ICE. The ICE practice of requesting “detainers” is controversial. ICE requests that local police refuse to release people for up to 48 hours beyond their scheduled release date, so that ICE field offices can send someone to pick them up. Local and county law enforcement have begun to push back against the use of detainers, with many now refusing to keep people in custody for ICE, unless there is a warrant issued by a federal judge requiring it. Holding people so ICE can come and decide what to do with them is a violation of civil rights. Or so, Denver, among other cities, has argued. From the Associated Press:

The subpoenas were issued Monday. In three of the cases, officials have 14 days to respond with information, and in one case, three days. Ryan Luby, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office, said the subpoenas requested additional information than what was already provided.

“The subpoenas were not issued by a court of law and not signed by a judge. There is no indication they are related to a criminal investigation,” he said. “Denver does not comply with subpoenas unless they are Court-ordered or unless they are primarily related to a criminal investigation. Our immigration ordinance fully complies with federal law.”

This was apparently the first time ICE has issued a subpoena against a law enforcement agency, but likely will not be the last. What ICE is actually expecting from Denver’s police is not clear. As noted, ICE received release notifications already. This seems an effort to reframe the optics of “law and order” in the administration’s favor, while attacking the credibility of sanctuary policies. It could prove to be much ado about nothing in the long run or, or signal a new tactic in the administration’s war on immigrants and the people who stand with them. 

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Chairman Fred Hampton and Why His Life Still Matters 50 Years Later

Photo courtesy of Haymarket Books

“We should be working together.”

An older White man said this to me as I listened to his story about how his Latinx immigrant friends were beaten by Black youth in Southeast, Washington, D.C. I could see that he really thought I had the answers as to why it happened – as if Black people have banded together against the Latinx community or immigrants. He just couldn’t comprehend why I, a Black woman, wanted to raise awareness about the U.S.’ inhumane immigration policies and detention. Why would I be interested in helping them?  

“I feel called to serve the least of these…as Jesus commanded. I am a minister,” I responded.

There is a video embedded in this post. Please visit the website to view it.

These kinds of conversations are why the life and teachings of Chairman Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party still matter today. True knowledge of Hampton and the Black Panther Party would dispel the myth that Black people have not spearheaded political movements rooted in solidarity with other oppressed people and that Black people only care about the conditions of other Black people. This is simply not true. Fred Hampton recognized and taught how the elite or those in power use racism to divide the working class, and he was leading an effective movement to work against it. He wasn’t just the leader of the Black Panther Party. He was a leader for all oppressed people. And that’s what made him so dangerous.   

50 years ago today, Fred Hampton was assassinated by the Chicago Police Department along with his comrade, Mark Clark. Their murders were state sanctioned and in partnership with the FBI and its COINTELPRO program. His pregnant fiancé, Aku Njeri, was in bed with him that night when the police fired hundreds of bullets into their bedroom. He was only 21 years old at the time. He only scratched the surface of becoming the man and leader he was determined to be, but his impact was monumental nevertheless and surpassed his years. He had the ability to attract and ignite disenfranchised youth, and he was on the way to building a multiracial socialist movement. He promoted political education and solidarity, and he was conscious about how to combat racism, capitalism and the injustices that faced all oppressed and poor people.

Fred Hampton’s legacy continues and his spirit is evident in the leaders that have emerged in the last five years – specifically those from Ferguson, Missouri who protested and organized after the murder of Michael Brown by police. Sadly, many of those comrades and revolutionaries have met a similar fate to Hampton, but we continue to fight.

Hampton’s life still matters and his legacy lives on, and despite what mainstream society thinks, Black people are continuing to organize, unite, and fight for the humanity, dignity and freedom of all people.

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Daily Dispatch 5/24/2019

Trump wants immigrants and sponsors to repay government assistance

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Daily Dispatch

May 24, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fight back.

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Daily Dispatch 5/23/2019

ICE arrests DACA recipient – then her family

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Daily Dispatch

May 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the full story here.

Detention reaches an all time high

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

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

From Buzzfeed:

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

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

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

Disaster aid bill held up over Trump immigration plans

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

From The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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Daily Dispatch 5/22/2019

Let’s End 287(g)!

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Daily Dispatch

May 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full story from the Center for American Progress.

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

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

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