Daily Dispatch 10/17/2019: Another death in ICE custody

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Daily Dispatch

October 17, 2019

Roylan Hernandez-Diaz
Image, uncredited on Buzzfeed article

Roylan Hernandez-Diaz crossed the border in El Paso in May this year, requesting asylum. He was handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and placed in detention to await processing of his asylum claim. In August he “passed” a credible fear interview, meaning a review of his case indicated that there was enough reason to believe that his life would be under threat if returned to Cuba to warrant continuing with the asylum process. Yet, ICE continued to keep him in detention. 

In August, ICE was holding more than 55,000 people in detention. At the same time, the agency was decrying a lack of resources and the Department of Homeland Security was shifting money from other accounts in order to pay for ICE’s over-budget detention priorities. And yet, Roylan was just one of close to 9,000 asylees still in detention after passing a credible fear interview.

Roylan began a hunger strike to protest his continued detention. He was placed in solitary confinement, and yesterday he is reported to have hung himself in an apparent suicide while still in solitary confinement at the Richwood Correctional Facility, a private prison run by LaSalle Corrections in Louisiana. From Buzzfeed:

In September, Hernandez-Diaz again sought to be released from US detention. On Oct. 8, the ICE office in New Orleans denied his release once more, the report stated. A day later, his case in immigration court was reset to January. Advocates sued ICE earlier this year… over its low rate of release for asylum-seekers in the southern region.

Two days after he was denied his release from ICE custody, the detention center segregated Hernandez-Diaz from the other inmates after he threatened a hunger strike.

While officers at the detention center noticed he had been eating meals on Oct. 11 and 12, by Tuesday they told ICE officials that Hernandez-Diaz had missed his “ninth consecutive meal and declared a hunger strike, citing his frustration with the immigration process.”

Then, on Tuesday just after 2 p.m., medical staffers at the detention center declared him dead of suicide in the cell.

The case needs to be investigated independently. 

Hernandez-Diaz’s wife, Yarelis Gutierrez, 43, said she last spoke to him on Oct. 9 after an immigration court hearing. She described her husband as angry and disappointed after being asked to provide more evidence about his persecution in Cuba because it was difficult to obtain, especially from within ICE detention.

“He told me he was going to participate in a hunger strike because of the abuse he endured in detention,” Gutierrez told BuzzFeed News. “He never said he was going to hurt or kill himself. This is all news to me and I don’t believe it’s true.”

Roylan is the second person to die in ICE custody in the last two weeks. On October 2, Nebane Abienwi, a 37 year old asylum seeker from Cameroon died at the Otay Mesa Detention Facility in San Diego. Otay Mesa is also run by a private company – CoreCivic.

Last fiscal year (Oct 2018 to Sept 2019), eight adults died while in ICE custody and another eight children died during, or immediately after release from detention by Border Patrol or the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

There is no reason that Roylan should have still been incarcerated, certainly not after his affirmative credible fear finding. Now he is dead. 


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Daily Dispatch 10/15/2019: California eliminates private immigrant jails and other updates.

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Daily Dispatch

October 15, 2019

Today the Dispatch is focusing on a few updates of news items and campaigns we have written about recently.  The first is a big win in California. On Friday we joined a bunch of folks – many of whom have put in years on this campaign – in encouraging our network to pressure California’s governor to sign law AB32, which ends the use of private contractors in immigrant detention in the state beginning on January 1st, and begins the process of phasing out existing contracts. 

The governor signed!

I share an update from California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance’s statewide director, Sandy Valenciano in order give a shout out to some of the groups that did all of the heavy lifting on this campaign.

Dear community! 

I am filled with so much joy in sharing with you all that AB32 has been signed by Governor Newsom thanks to all of your support!🎉

A special thanks to CIYJA’s youth and leadership along with, ILRC, CCIJ, ICIJ, IM4HI, Pangea, Resilience OC, IDP, Freedom for Immigrant, Human Rights Watch, Free SF, CCIRA, SIREN, Bay Resistance, and so many others! 

We owe this victory to Floricel, Raul, Ny, Valeria, Mario, and so many individuals who despite being targeted by the state continue to fight for our collective liberations! 

Please continue supporting us in these next steps as we begin our fight to #FreeThemAllCA For now we celebrate and hold our loved ones closer and continue ensuring each other that a world without cages is possible! 

If you made a call, shared a post or took other action, THANK YOU!!!

Good News/Bad News on Public Charge Rule

Three separate judges issued an injunction Friday against the Trump administration’s new Public Charge rule. Good news first:

Federal judges in three states on Friday temporarily blocked changes to the so-called public charge rule, which would make getting permanent residency more difficult for immigrants deemed likely to seek public assistance.

Abbey Sussell, of the New York Immigration Coalition, said that confusion over the measure already has spurred some immigrant New Yorkers to drop benefits — even ones not specified in the new Department of Homeland Security policy.

“It’s still going to be really complex” to explain to immigrant communities what exactly the court rulings mean, given “a lot of damage that has been done,” Sussell said.

New York Attorney General Letitia James secured an injunction Friday temporarily blocking the federal rule changes, which were to have gone into effect Tuesday. Federal judges in California and Washington issued similar decisions.

The Bad News is that the State Department issued a separate rule that takes effect today, directing consular officers to apply public charge ineligibility more broadly to people seeking visas to come to the United States. 

More worrying for advocates are separate rules from the State Department — published one day before Friday’s injunctions — which, as of Tuesday, will affect some green card and visa applicants who live outside of the U.S.

The State Department rule could hinder applicants abroad who have family petitioning for them in the U.S. — all based on the same 20-point public charge test.

“I think the Department of State thing is really big,” said Jessica Young, an attorney at Make the Road New York, an immigration advocacy group. “And I think that’s not being discussed right now.”

Young noted the State Department rule could affect up to 13 million people.

So, good news, the public charge definition Trump was pushing is blocked for now regarding people already in the United States seeking permanent residency. However, the new definition currently still applies to people trying to get here – with the same discriminatory impact against people who have less economic means.

Less happy news…ICE is still trying to deport a U.S. Citizen

In July the story broke about a U.S. citizen, 18 years old Francisco Erwin Galicia, who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for three weeks, despite having a U.S. birth certificate clearly showing him to be a citizen. The issue was that he also had been issued birth record from Mexico (issued three years after his birth in the U.S.). His mother had sought this so that he could attend public school in Mexico where they had relocated after Francisco’s parents separated. This birth record was later used to secure a visitors visa to the United States – and this raised a red flag for ICE. Whatever one thinks of the decisions made by the mother (and before passing judgement know that her situation is something faced by thousands of Mexican nationals who move back to Mexico with U.S. citizen children), these were not decisions made by Francisco, who was three years old at the time, and is a U.S. born citizen. 

Nevertheless, ICE still has Francisco in removal proceedings, and earlier this month issued him a notice to appear before an immigration judge in 2020. From Dallas Morning News

Two immigration attorneys specializing in deportation defense told The News that based on the fact that Galicia received this most recent notice, he remains in deportation proceedings until a judge cancels the proceedings or ICE terminates the case based on prosecutorial discretion.

Prosecutors for ICE, the agency charged with removing unauthorized immigrants from the U.S., may believe that they have enough evidence to continue pursuing Galicia’s case, said Sui Chung, an immigration attorney who focuses on removal defense and serves as chair of the national ICE committee with the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

“It is ICE’s burden to prove that he is deportable, but if you as his attorney want to kill the case, then you have to show evidence to question why the case is still moving forward,” Chung said.

Chung added that the visitors visa that was issued to Galicia was sufficient enough proof for Border Patrol to hold him for a few hours. But the 23 days he spent in detention seemed like an excess and the current removal proceedings should probably have already been stopped, she said.

So why haven’t they? U.S. citizens end up in removal proceedings at an alarming rate already. It is just one factor evidencing the broken system run by ICE, which prioritizes removals above all else. (“We are in the removal business,” as an ICE officer recently said in relation to a different case). #AbolishICE 

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Daily Dispatch 10/10/2019: Creating more refugees in Syria

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Daily Dispatch

October 10, 2019

Since 2011, the world has watched, and major players have participated in, the disintegration of Syria. The results of the war in Syria are the results of war everywhere – death, massive destruction of infrastructure and forced migration. The war in Syria has created 12.7 million displaced people – more than half the pre-war population of the country. 6.6 million of these people have left Syria and are considered refugees; 3.6 million of these refugees live in Turkey. Most of the rest are in Lebanon and Jordan. Smaller communities live in Egypt and Iraq. Relatively few have made it to Europe and only a tiny number have been allowed into the United States. Only 10% of the refugees from Syria are in camps – the largest camps, collectively holding almost half of these are in Jordan – the rest are living in shelters, or are trying to eke out a living in urban areas like Ankara. In Jordan the poverty rate among Syrian refugees is 93%.

Of Syrian refugees resettled to Europe as of 2017, most are in Germany (530,000). For the rest of Europe, only Sweden (110,000) and Austria (50,000) have received significant numbers of refugees. Only 33,000 refugees have been resettled in the United States – almost none since 2017.

Now Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan has invaded Syria to create a “safe zone” in the northern, predominantly Kurdish region of Syria. Turkey already controls territory in Syria (see map above). In addition to driving a wedge between Kurdish communities in Turkey and Syria, Erdogan plans to relocate 1 million Syrian refugees into this zone. In essence Erdogan is planning to use 1 million refugees as a human barrier between Syria and Turkey. For this he definitely wins the fascist of the week award. 

Of course the only reason people in the United States are paying attention at all is because the runner-up, Donald Trump, pulled U.S. troops out of the area this weekend, essentially giving Erdogan the greenlight to invade. Trump was criticized broadly for this move – including from Republican leaders like Graham and McConnell, who can otherwise be counted on to shine Trump’s sh*tty policies in to red-state shine-ola. Withdrawing from a war zone, however, was one crappy move too far. In response to this rare demonstration of GOP backbone, Trump threatened to destroy Turkey’s economy if the invasion “went too far.” Only to backtrack again to say, this is not our fight, we need to stay out of the way. After all the Kurds “didn’t help us with Normandy,” (yes, he really said this). As a result of his discursive barf-fest, Trump will be able to point to at least one Tweet or soundbite suggesting he was on the right side of history no matter how all of this turns out.

Meanwhile, we return to the plight of 3.6 million refugees in Turkey – 1 million of whom may very soon be forced to populate this safe zone. That is, unless Europe continues to criticize Erdogan’s occupation of northern Syria. In this scenario, Erdogan said today he would send them all to Europe. From Reuters:

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday Ankara will send the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to Europe if European countries label the country’s military incursion in Syria as an occupation.

“We will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way,” Erdogan said in speech to lawmakers from his AK Party.

Turkey has played this blackmail game before. Back in 2015 when refugees from Syria and other conflict zones in the Middle East and Central Asia were making news as they made their way into Europe, Turkey struck a deal with the European Union to allow asylum seekers landing in Greece to be resettled in Turkey. It is a deal similar in tone to deals struck between the U.S. and Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in recent months. Turkey also received 3 billion euros from EU governments and received another 3 billion euros from the European Commission to improve the humanitarian situation of refugees in Turkey. What did this mean for refugees in Turkey and those returned?

The – very – few displaced people in Turkey who are eligible for resettlement and the slow pace of transfers means that, for the vast majority of refugees in Turkey, the deal does little but hamper their options for forward movement.

Some 3.7 million refugees are struggling in Turkey including more than 80% of Syrians, who live below the poverty line. Turkey’s detention infrastructure is growing, and asylum seekers are facing long delays – of several months – in their applications for international protection.

By September 2017, only 5 percent of non-Syrians returned from Greece were able to apply for asylum in Turkey – and just two of them were granted refugee status. By January 2019, more than two-thirds of non-Syrians returned from Greece were deported to their countries of origin, which included fragile states and countries in conflict. One of the biggest receivers of returnees has been Afghanistan, where 343,341 people have been displaced internally due to conflict over the last 12 months.

The truth is the same in 2019 as it was three years ago when the deal was struck: Turkey is not a safe country for refugees, and cannot assure the basic rights of those who are within its territory.

More recently, Turkey has begun expelling Syrian refugees in significant numbers. From Foreign Policy in August of this year:

Once an outspoken activist against the former al Qaeda-affiliated group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Hilal now fears he will face retaliation from the militant group since his deportation to a Turkish-controlled area in northern Syria. He condemned the group for changing “the path of the revolution from aiming for a secular democratic state to an Islamic caliphate.”

Until recently, Hisham Moustafa Steif al-Mohammed worked in a garment factory in Istanbul and lived there with his wife and three children, where he was the only breadwinner. The Turkish police detained the 25-year-old one morning in late May while on his way to work because his kimlik was from another state in Turkey. A few weeks later, on June 15, he found himself on the Bab al-Hawa border crossing station heading to Idlib.

Turkish government officials claim that they are only deporting criminals and people who do not have kimlik papers. Hilal and Mohammed were neither. Hilal says he was threatened, harassed, and beaten after being rounded up alongside other Syrian men, all of them under 35 years old, on a bus in Izmir. He also said he was forced to sign deportation papers after being detained arbitrarily for a week. Hilal is now in an area controlled by Turkish-backed opposition forces in northern Syria, where he feels extremely unsafe. “I am not safe here, even in Turkish-controlled areas, and I can’t leave this house out of fear of al-Nusra and other groups,” Hilal said. 

Erdogan has been working to create this “safe zone” for a while, supporting Turkish backed opposition groups in Syria for a long time. None of this is thus a surprise (or should be). However, the full scale invasion of Turkish forces will obviously escalate things quickly. And, of course, the invasion of Syria is, predictably, creating more refugees already. 

At least 23 fighters with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and eight civilians, two them SDF administrators, have been killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The SDF has not given a casualty toll, while six fighters with Turkey-backed rebel groups have also been killed.

More than 60,000 people have fled since the offensive began, the Observatory added. The towns of Ras al-Ain and Darbasiya, some 60 km to the east, have been largely deserted as a result of the attack.

So, Erdogan is using the refugee crisis as a political foil to achieve long sought objectives concerning disarmament (if not outright destruction) of Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Trump doesn’t think this is a good idea, but made it all possible (If you can prove Trump can find Syria on an unmarked map of the world, I will give you $100). European leaders are lining up to critique, but it is not clear what they will actually do beyond wringing their hands in front of BBC’s cameras. European leadership has been wholly absent in Syria. And in dealing with refugees, the EU has mostly offshored its obligations and created barriers to entry from Libya to Turkey (much as the U.S. is doing with Mexico). Russia is trying to get Syria and Turkey to the table to talk. They’ve been trying this for a long time, but one suspects mostly to create division in NATO, not out of any concern for the Kurds – whom they’ve also bombed. Netanyahu actually raised human rights concerns yesterday, which, yeah, should be a concern, but coming from him is just verbal graffiti mocking the very concept of human rights.

And so here we are again, on the brink of a regional, if not global war, because of the conflict in Syria. The United Nations Security Council will meet today – to do what exactly is hard to say. Lindsey Graham and Chris Van Hollen are pressing for sanctions against Turkey in the U.S. Senate (war makes strange bedfellows). None of this will make much difference to the 12.6 million already displaced by the war, and any actions will come too late to help the tens of thousands who will become newly displaced in the coming weeks.

On World Refugee Day I wrote a somewhat exasperated post titled, “Where the F*ck are People Supposed to Go.” I still don’t know.

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Daily Dispatch 10/9/2019: The removal business

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Daily Dispatch

October 9, 2019

“In my opinion, it makes sense for us to arrest aliens with final removal orders as they represent the end of the line in the removal process,” wrote Andrew Graham, a Boston-based ICE officer. “They are typically the easiest to remove, they have the shortest average length of stay, and at the end of the day we are in the removal business and it’s our job to locate and arrest them.”

Graham was commenting on one of the latest ways that ICE locates, detains and removes people who are unauthorized: marriage interviews.


So, USCIS has a process for people whose presence in this country is unauthorized who wish to have their status authorized if they have become married while here. The process requires them to, in part, demonstrate that their marriage is legitimate. An interesting concept in and of itself – but not the point of this post. As to the process, from NBC News:

Federal regulations allow U.S. citizens…to try to legalize the status of spouses…who [have] been living in the country illegally. Thousands of families are doing it: Records show the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved 23,253 provisional unlawful presence waivers, the final documents spouses, children or parents of citizens need before leaving the country and applying to rejoin their families legally.

But the American Civil Liberties Union says a growing number of officers have “cruelly twisted” the rules by detaining immigrant spouses following marriage interviews. The ACLU is pursuing a similar complaint in Massachusetts and says dozens of detentions also have happened at field offices in New York, Virginia, Florida, Illinois and California.

A quick note – from a conversation with a friend who has been through this process – this brief synopsis (“thousands of families are doing it…”) does not convey the difficulty of the process, or the expense in lawyers fees and application fees (over $10,000 in this case). That said, successfully navigating these procedures is important for families to have security and to remain united. Prior to the Obama era rule permitting the waiver, immigrant spouses had to leave the country and then wait 3 to 10 years before trying to come back in (based on 1996 Clinton era legislation).

So, what is going on now? Again from NBC News:

Obama-era regulations provide for this [waiver], even for people with deportation orders. The months-long process typically requires couples to demonstrate the legitimacy of their marriage as part of the first step. If the couples pass the interview and earn other approvals, immigrant spouses eventually must travel abroad for a visa interview at a U.S. consulate. Only if they receive a visa can they return to the U.S. legally.

It’s unclear how many individuals have successfully become permanent U.S. residents through the process. It facilitates a proper record for families with mixed citizenship, and it’s meant “to avoid the grievous consequences of forcing a spouse or parent to leave” the U.S. for years while trying to build a lawful immigration case from their home countries, the ACLU says.

Now, the plaintiffs say, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is unlawfully using the process as bait. ACLU of Maryland attorney Nick Steiner said it began in 2017 and seems to happen randomly nationwide.

This practice has become the target of a class action law suit – and there is some hope for restitution:

The Maryland case is assigned to U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel, who already reversed the deportation of a Chinese man detained after a successful marriage interview in Baltimore. Ruling just before Wanrong Lin landed in Shanghai last November, Hazel said the government can’t use the process “as a honeypot to trap undocumented immigrants who seek to take advantage of its protections.”

New platform encourages/helps ICE officers to leave their job

So, if you are tired of being in the “removal” business, Never Again Action can help you get a new job. The organization is organized by a Jewish social justice group, and the release timed to correspond to Yom Kippur. From Newsweek :

The Never Again Action group’s Atlanta branch launched the website, saying it wanted to put out the call for a “mass exodus and atonement” for ICE workers “as we approach Yom Kippur.”

With the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year in Judaism, taking place on Tuesday, the group said it was the perfect time for ICE workers to “quit your jobs.”

The organization also appears to be making good on its word to help agents do just that, setting up a career support website that will match ICE workers with a “qualified career adviser.”

The site has just launched, and it is not clear how many ICE workers have utilized the services so far. This is an interesting idea, one that offers a path of resistance while also humanizing the people working for ICE:

“We know it’s easy for protesters to chant ‘quit your job,’ but that it’s a lot easier said than done,” the website states. “We know you have bills to pay, and might have family members relying on your salary or health benefits. That’s why we’re providing this free and confidential service: to help you find a new and better job, so you can quit your ICE job as quickly as possible.”

ICE leadership, as you might imagine, is not impressed. Clearly missing the point, ICE Acting Press Secretary Bryan Cox said, “The men and women of ICE are public servants who faithfully execute federal law as passed by Congress….Demonizing career law enforcement officials with lies and misinformation is disgraceful.”

Cox also seems to have missed the past two and half years of the current executive authorities circumventing the law “as passed by Congress” to make the removal business even more profitable.

In any event, if you know anyone working for ICE – let them know there is help out there if they want to change jobs.

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Daily Dispatch 10/8/2019: Throw away people

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Daily Dispatch

October 8, 2019

Protest against GEO Group 
Photo: Richard Graulich/ZUMA Press/Newscom

One of the themes we write about in the Daily Dispatch quite a bit is the relationship between poor conditions in prisons and detention facilities, and the process of privatization which has turned incarceration into a profitable enterprise in this country. It is not difficult to see that the market forces that ensure adequate delivery of service and price controls in society more generally do not operate in prisons. The people who are on the receiving end of prison services – prisoners and detainees – have no say at all in the companies that are supposed to provide the meals, health services, mental health support, and other services that provide the context in which they are living this portion of their lives. The people paying for the services, state department of corrections, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement are only doing what is legislatively required, and they want it done as cheaply as possible. The companies that receive the contracts are simply doing what the contract requires – again spending as little as possible on delivery of service. The revolving door between private companies and state agencies overseeing them is a big door – and the predictable impact is that there is little meaningful oversight over these companies. Only lawsuits and investigative reports lead to changing practices.

One of the consequences of the privatization of mental health services in state and federal prisons is a serious decline in the quality of care – even as state agencies are paying private companies more than it would cost the state to provide the same service. One measure of this decline in care is an increase in suicides in states that have turned their prison mental health care services over to private companies. 

Reporter Lisa Armstrong, working with Type Investigations, CBSN and with support from a variety of funders, has put together a short documentary on the perils of privatizing mental health services which you can watch below. The documentary begins with the story of Miriam Abdullah, a young woman from Iraq who was incarcerated at age 15. She had well documented mental health concerns and yet received inadequate care, being forced in and out of isolation. She killed herself a few weeks before her 18th birthday. The company with the contract to provide care in Perryville Prison in Arizona where she was being held is Corizon – just one of three companies that dominate this “market.”

In recent weeks we have also profiled similar patterns of denial of service, inadequate care when provided, and an overuse of solitary confinement in detention facilities. For example, the Quixote Center joined with dozens of other human rights organizations in demanding the state delegation from Georgia investigate conditions at Stewart Detention facility. A call that took on added urgency following the release of details of a suicide in the facility last year. From the letter:

The misuse of solitary confinement is alarming because of the detrimental impact that solitary confinement has already had on existing mental health concerns of immigrants at Stewart. Two immigrants with a history of mental health concerns have died of suicide after being placed in solitary confinement for over 15 days—a time period that the United Nations would consider torture. Jeancarlo Jiménez-Joseph, a 27-year-old immigrant with schizophrenia detained at Stewart died of suicide on May 15, 2017 by hanging himself after 19 days in solitary confinement. Almost a year later in July 2018, Efrain Romero De la Rosa, a 40-year-old immigrant with bipolar disorder detained at Stewart, died of suicide after 21 days in solitary confinement. These tragedies point to the pattern of neglect of the mental health of immigrants at Stewart and the expedient use of solitary confinement as a means for Stewart to disregard the humanity of detained immigrants and their need for mental health care.

Stewart is run by one of the big two private prison companies – CoreCivic.

In writing about Romero’s case for the intercept, Jose Olivares wove the personal story of Efrain Romero de la Rosa together with systemic issues that shape conditions at Stewart and elsewhere in the landscape of the U.S.’s ever evolving incarceration nightmare. We wrote about Olivares’ research in the Daily Dispatch in September here. From the article:

Romero’s case stands as a tragic exemplar of an immigration detention system gone off the rails. Solitary confinement is frequently used by corrections staff as a means to punish detainees; a Bangladeshi man told The Intercept in 2018 that guards at the CoreCivic-run Stewart Detention Center — the same facility where Romero was held — sent him to solitary confinement because of a dispute over $8 for prison labor.

The use of solitary confinement in immigration detention is growing and has, in tandem, become a political issue. An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The Intercept, which included testimony from a whistleblower, found that the use of solitary was a go-to practice to discipline detainees and deal with troubled cases, rather than the last resort prescribed by detention standards. After the release of the investigation, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., condemned the use of solitary and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., called for congressional hearings on the practice.

Many of the problems we see in immigration incarceration result from the fact that the methods employed are transferred from our mass incarceration industry. It is not as though health care provision and mental health services were great under state management in prisons. But all incentive to do it well has been gutted by privatization. And underlying all of this is that we treat people in prison as throw away people. Even though 95% of the people in prison will come out at some point, as a society we have decided they are not worth caring for. Our prison system incentivizes poor living conditions – and the trauma inflicted as a result will hurt us all in the long run.

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Daily Dispatch 10/7/2019: Reality takes another beating

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Daily Dispatch

October 7, 2019

The Trump administration continues to look for ways to restrict authorized immigration to the United States. The latest effort is a new rule, issued in a late-night proclamation, that denies visas to people seeking to relocate to the United States if they cannot prove they will be able to acquire health insurance within a month of arrival – or separately show they can afford any “foreseeable health care costs” out of pocket. From CBS News:

“The administration is on-the-record wanting to cut legal immigration, and particularly wanting to cut legal immigration of lower-skilled, lower-paid immigrants who are probably less likely to have health insurance coverage,” said Randy Capps, director of U.S. programs research at the nonpartisan think tank the Migration Policy Institute.

Earlier in the summer, the administration rolled out the final version of a “public charge” regulation, which would make it easier for the government to deny green cards and temporary visas for legal immigrants who use public benefits like food stamps and government-subsidized housing.  

Capps told CBS News that Friday’s proclamation will go “much further” than the public charge rule in terms of health-based restrictions on people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. The administration is hoping to accomplish this, he added, by rolling out an abrupt executive order that will not be subject to feedback prior to implementation — unlike the public charge rule, which is expected to take effect later this month.  

The order itself is framed as denying visas to those who will “financially burden the healthcare system.” The preamble claims that uninsured individuals rely on more expensive emergency health care at hospitals, and that hospitals are often not reimbursed for those costs. From the proclamation:

These costs amount to approximately $7 million on average for each hospital in the United States, and can drive hospitals into insolvency.  Beyond uncompensated care costs, the uninsured strain Federal and State government budgets through their reliance on publicly funded programs, which ultimately are financed by taxpayers.

The order then goes on to claim that immigrants are three times more likely to be uninsured – a claim with no reference. The implication being they are three times more likely to access emergency services and be an extra burden on “U.S. taxpayers.” Is this true?

No. Last year the International Journal of Health Services published an article summarizing 188 peer-reviewed articles published over an 18 year period. The findings were quite the opposite of what is claimed here. Authorized immigrants cost the U.S. healthcare system LESS than U.S. born citizens. And, though Trump’s order focused on authorized immigration, it is also worth noting that unauthorized immigrants use even less resources (adjusting for population). From the study:

While annual U.S. medical spending in 2016 was a staggering $3.3 trillion, immigrants accounted for less than 10% of the overall spending – and recent immigrants were responsible for only 1% of total spending. Given these figures, it is unlikely that restrictions on immigration into the United States would result in a meaningful decrease in health care spending. To the contrary, restricting immigration would financially destabilize some parts of the health care economy, as suggested by Zallman and colleagues, who found that immigrants contributed $14 billion more to the Medicare trust fund than they withdrew.

Does the truth matter? That is a whole other question. Politics, as they say, is about perception. And the perception that immigrants – even authorized immigrants – place an inordinate burden on social services is widespread. It is not true – by almost every measure, from crime to healthcare, to access of “welfare” – immigrants cost “the system” less than U.S. born citizens. Nevertheless, people believe the opposite to be true, and that belief is what Trump is playing to. By doing so, he is placing himself in the position of being the one who “finally did something about it.” It doesn’t matter that the “it” is a myth. Hell, Trump might even believe this – I have a hard time imagining him reading peer reviewed health science journals in his free time. But “belief” is not the place one should make policy from. Evidence is.

Setting all that aside – even if Trump is right –  the reality is that our healthcare system is a mess already. The problems identified in this order are not created by immigrants. The problems are endemic to the system itself – health care costs are too high, and even post Affordable Healthcare Act many people are still left out of the system. This order only makes sense if you believe that it is the uninsured who drive up the costs of a healthcare system they are too poor to participate in. And that is absurd. 

Trump won his election with a minority of the vote by pitching warmed over southern strategy style race-baiting to folks who are nervous about the future. He is governing the same way. Sadly, this means that a simple fact check won’t settle anything. If it did, Trump would have never won a single primary. 

I leave you with this: Immigrants actually subsidize U.S. born citizen’s healthcare costs. From Modern Healthcare in relation to the same study:

Study co-author Dr. J. Wesley Boyd, an associate professor of psychiatry in Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics, said the lower expenditures among insured immigrants seems to indicate that that population makes up a low-risk insurance pool that helps subsidize more frequent healthcare users.

“On average immigrants tend to be younger and healthier than native-born Americans and therefore when they do have health insurance they’re contributing more into insurance pools than they’re taking out,” Boyd said.

Boyd lamented that false preconceptions have informed many substantial policies. (emphasis added).

Trump just added another misinformed policy to the list….

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Daily Dispatch 10/4/2019: Home is Here and D.C. Action

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Daily Dispatch

October 4, 2019

Home is Here Video

There is a video embedded into this article. To view it, click the article link.

Home is Here Campaign Launch

We want to use the Dispatch today to lift up the launch of the Home is Here campaign because of the importance of this issue to so many people (the Quixote Center is not a member of the coalition). Home is Here has been organized to educate and do advocacy in support of DACA’s extension leading up to the November 12, 2019 Supreme Court hearing that will likely determine the future of 700,000 people currently here under DACA. The campaign launched on October 2. Below is information abridged from a press release from coalition member, the National Immigration Law Center, which outlines the campaign and provides a host of valuable resources about DACA.

WASHINGTON, DC — Ahead of the November 12, 2019, U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments in three consolidated cases regarding President Trump’s unlawful termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, DACA recipients and a broad coalition of immigrants’ rights organizations today launched the Home Is Here<http://homeishere.us/> campaign to highlight what is at stake for 700,000 DACA recipients, their families (including 256,000 U.S. citizen children), our communities, the economy, and our country if the Court overturns the lower court rulings currently allowing DACA renewals to continue.

“For the past seven years, DACA has been an incredibly successful program, providing temporary protection from deportation and peace of mind to nearly 800,000 young people who have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives. These Dreamers are part of the fabric of our country, but their futures are once again hanging by a thread as DACA heads to the Supreme Court,” said Karen Tumlin, founder and director of the Justice Action Center, manager of the Home Is Here campaign, and part of the counsel team for McAleenan v. Batalla Vidal. “Ending DACA was both immoral and unlawful, as multiple courts across the country have found. We will continue to fight for DACA recipients and their families whose home is here, in the United States.”

Organizations participating in the campaign include CASA, the Center for American Progress, Community Change/FIRM, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), FWD.us, Justice Action Center, Make the Road New York, NAKASEC, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and United We Dream (UWD).

The Home Is Here campaign tells the stories of and commits to protect DACA recipients who arrived in the United States as children and their families. Over the past seven years, more than 700,000 immigrant youth have been able to work, attend school, better support their families, and make even greater contributions to our communities and our country because of the temporary protection from deportation granted by the DACA program. If DACA ends, DACA recipients would be added to the list of those targeted in the deportation dragnet and threatened with deportation to a country that they may not remember and where they may not even speak the language, sparking a new wave of family separation crises nationwide. Their homes are here in the United States.

The campaign will underscore why DACA is legal, constitutional, and highly successful through events across the country over the next six weeks, including DACA renewal clinics and other efforts to encourage DACA recipients to renew their protections as soon as possible, digital storytelling, paid advertising, organizing, and rallies at the Supreme Court and in multiple cities across the country on November 12.

On November 12, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in McAleenan v. Batalla Vidal, Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, and Trump v. NAACP. The lower courts in each of these cases ruled that the Trump administration’s September 2017 termination of the DACA program is unlawful. Nationwide injunctions and other court orders in place have allowed DACA renewals to continue since early 2018; however, no new first-time applications have been considered or granted since the attempted termination. A decision from the Supreme Court is expected between January and June 2020.

The deputy solicitor general of California, Michael Mongan, and noted Supreme Court advocate Ted Olson, solicitor general of the United States under the George W. Bush Administration, will argue on behalf of a number of individual DACA recipients and the other plaintiffs in these cases, including the regents of the University of California, Microsoft, Princeton University, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Current DACA recipients are encouraged to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to consider their renewal options. More information is available at www.RenewMyDACA.com. Americans can also contribute to a DACA recipient in need of the $495 renewal fee by visiting www.GoFundMe.com/DACA.


– DACA recipients, on average, arrived in the United States at the age of 7 and have lived here for 20 years. More than a third arrived before age 5. They are our classmates, our coworkers, and our friends. Most know no other country as home.

– DACA recipients are parents to nearly 256,000 U.S. citizen children, and nearly every DACA recipient is part of a mixed–immigration status family. Ending DACA would rip apart hundreds of thousands of families.

– DACA recipients contribute significant federal, state, and local tax revenues that help provide important benefits to millions of Americans:

Additional DACA Resources

For more information, visit the Home Is Here website, HomeIsHere.us.

In D.C.? Take Action this Week. From Sanctuary DMV

The DC Council will introduce a bill to end all cooperation between D.C. and ICE. The Council was given notice of the emergency bill today and will vote on it on Tuesday, October 8. If passed, it will take effect for 90 days while the D.C. Council works to pass a permanent version of the bill.

We need your solidarity to make this a reality. Please contact DC Council members to vote for the bill and canvass this weekend to gather community support.

The Sanctuary Values Emergency Amendment Act of 2019 would:

  • Ban D.C. from notifying ICE when someone is being released;
  • Ban D.C. from allowing ICE agents inside its jails and facilities;
  • Ban D.C. from holding someone in its custody for ICE to pick up;
  • Ban D.C. from sharing information about an individual with ICE; and
  • Apply to all D.C. agencies, including the DC Jail and MPD.

In August, Washington City Paper revealed that the D.C. jail has been helping ICE detain D.C. residents by notifying ICE when immigrants are being released so ICE can come and detain them – and by giving ICE agents special access inside the jail. Since 2016, the D.C. jail has transferred 43 of our neighbors to ICE and made it possible for ICE to detain many others directly outside the jail. We have also seen other D.C. officials such as MPD officers help ICE tear immigrants away from our communities.

The Sanctuary Values Act would ban all of these practices so that D.C. stops turning over its own residents to immigration authorities.

We are working in coalition with Many Languages One Voice, United We Dream, the Congregation Action Network, Just Futures Law, and other groups to address serious violations of D.C.’s sanctuary status and build a future without cages or deportation.

Join us in the fight by making your voice heard to D.C. councilmembers and reaching out to the community this weekend.

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Daily Dispatch 10/3/2019: Prison companies feel the squeeze of campaigns

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Daily Dispatch

October 3, 2019

Five of the biggest financial corporations in the world can’t stomach funding the private corporations that profit from incarcerating immigrants anymore – and yet, the U.S. government still wants to give those same private corporations lots of your money. From Forbes:

All of the existing banking partners to private prison leader GEO Group have now officially committed to ending ties with the private prison and immigrant detention industry. These banks are JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, SunTrust, BNP Paribas, Fifth Third Bancorp, Barclays, and PNC. 

This exodus comes in the wake of demands by grassroots activists — many under the banner of the #FamiliesBelongTogether coalition — shareholders, policymakers, and investors. Major banks supporting the private prisons behind mass incarceration and immigrant detention have now committed to not renew $2.4B in credit lines and term loans to industry giants GEO Group and CoreCivic. 

This shift represents an estimated shortfall of 87.4% of all future funding to the industry, which depends on these bank credit lines and loans to finance their day to day operations. 

While capitalism functions on debt in general, GEO Group and CoreCivic are particularly vulnerable here. Both companies, which between them control 75 percent of the private prison market, are registered with the Internal Revenue Service as Real Estate Investment Trusts. One of the requirements of REITs is that 90 percent of company income must be delivered to shareholders in dividend payments. This means more value for shareholders and the REIT designation means lower taxes – and bigger profit for the companies. It also means there is less cash on hand for day-to-day operations, and thus, compared to other corporate structures, a greater dependence on regular infusions of money from new borrowing. 

As both GEO Group and CoreCivic operate contracts with the Federal government that guarantee them bed space and thus income, this has not been a challenge until recently. Indeed, from 2009 until 2017, Congress required that a daily minimum average of 34,000 people be held in detention – a requirement that translated into a guarantee of hundreds of millions of dollars to both companies. By the time this minimum was dropped the daily average number of detainees had reached 40,000 – and has skyrocketed since. Outside of the legislative process, minimums are written into individual contracts as well, minimizing risk to the companies. At the end of 2017, for every 100 people in detention, 32 were in a GEO Group managed facility and 21 were in a CoreCivic facility. 

Then came Trump’s war on immigrants. Both companies saw the bottom line benefits to their work in Trump’s campaign rhetoric, and each gave $250,000 to his inaugural committee. Both have been paid back many times over in new contracts. However, as daily news about the horrible conditions that people are detained in (the conditions themselves have been horrible for many years prior to Trump), public pressure against detention has increased. The current media environment combined with savvy campaigners ready to go after the money flow to stop GEO and CoreCivic led to effective calls for banks to cut financial ties with the prison industry. And it is obviously working.

Meanwhile, the Federal government wants to detain even more immigrants, and, for now, this means giving GEO Group and CoreCivic more money. As we write, Trump is requesting an expansion of detention funding for next year to 52,000 beds a night from the current 45,000 (a budget limit this administration blew early in the fiscal year). Indeed, Immigration and Customs Enforcement was holding 55,000 people in August. GEO Group and CoreCivic won’t receive all of this increase – but they will get a healthy chunk of it, as they have already benefited from Trump’s expansion of new facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi over the past year.

How slimy are these companies? Consider the GEO Group. In 2016 a Texas court blocked GEO Group and CoreCivic from registering as child care providers with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Such a designation would have allowed the companies to detain immigrant families with children indefinitely. In response, a GEO Group lobbyist worked with a member of the Texas legislature to introduce a bill to weaken child care licensing requirements. The new bill did not pass, but the effort illustrated the reach of the company’s lobbying efforts at the state level (private prison companies spent a quarter of a million dollars or more lobbying the Texas legislature that session), not to mention the utter lack of moral accountability that guides their business decisions. Outside of a small state-run facility in Pennsylvania, all of the government’s current family detention capacity is in Texas and run by either CoreCivic or the GEO Group. Not long after the Texas decisions, Trump’s administration promoted changes in the Flores Settlement Agreement that would allow the government to license its own facilities. A federal judge just shot that down on Friday.

The irony is that JPMorgan, Barclays and Bank of America, who collectively helped sink the global economy behind fraudulent lending practices in 2008 and suffered not one indictment between them, now find it is not in their interest to be associated with the immoral practices of the private prison industry. The U.S. government, however, is all too happy to stand with these companies – using your money. Indeed, to pay for its overspending on immigrant incarceration the Department of Homeland Security had to raid other accounts from the Coast Guard to FEMA this year. 

On the one hand there is nothing shocking about this. Everyday the U.S. government hands out billions of tax dollars to really horrible companies that do everything from hold children in immigrant detention facilities to build the bombs that were dropped on those kids homes thereby forcing them to become immigrants in the first place. But there is something particular maddening about the dense layers of hypocrisy that buttress the U.S. government’s policy of immigrant detention and mass incarceration more generally. None of it is necessary. The people in ICE detention are not there on criminal charges. They are awaiting determination of their immigration status. If let out of detention, people will show up for their immigrant court cases. Under community supervision, well over 90 percent do. If one steps back and looks at the entire edifice of the criminalization of migration, detention serves no purpose outside of the value it gives to political posturing and private companies’ stock margins.

For now GEO Group and CoreCivic are feeling the pinch. There is legislation before congress that would phase out the use of private companies (the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act) and nearly every Democrat running for president supports ending private prison company involvement in immigrant detention (and by extension, for federal incarceration). For now, however, that legislation is not moving and Trump is still president. With current income streams in place, one broker, at least, expects GEO Group’s stock to significantly rebound from its current low over the next 12 months. If it does, it will only be because our government has a weaker moral compass than Wall Street. Sobering. 

Postscript: On October 1st, the first day of the fiscal year 2020, a man from Cameroon died in Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego after experiencing a brain hemorrhage during a “hypertensive event.” Otay Mesa is operated by CoreCivic.

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Daily Dispatch 10/2/2019: Enforcement matters at the local level

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Daily Dispatch

October 2, 2019

An immigration activist holds up a sign calling for the abolishment of ICE, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, during rally to protest the Trump Administration’s immigration policy outside the Department of Justice in Washington, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts – RC115555BB50

Immigration policy has become the partisan political football of the season, and nowhere is this clearer than in the battle between local law police, who mostly do not want to become enforcement officers for ICE, and elected officials in GOP controlled states who take offense at the idea of “sanctuary cities.” In a few states, like California and New York, the tensions run the other way, where elected officials are pushing back against ICE enforcement measures and are seeking to restrict cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement from the state level. Of course, some local police officers do support ICE measures – and even in self-identified sanctuary cities, will violate local procedures and share information with ICE anyway. 

What is clear is that trying to pull local and state police into the ICE enforcement machine has been a disaster, creating confusion about police responsibilities and deepening tension across levels of government. It also puts up a barrier between communities and police that result in people reluctant to come forward to report crimes and stand as witnesses. We take a look at a few stories from this last few days that illustrate the problem. 

Florida requires all state law enforcement to cooperate with ICE

Yesterday we reported on a federal court limiting Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s use of detainers – specifically detainers issued solely on information from databases. The ruling applied only to the 9th Circuit in California – though significant in that this area includes one of ICE’s most active processing centers. In light of the multiple problems identified with ICE’s issuance of detainers in the court ruling – including orders to hold people for removal who are U.S. Citizens – it is sad to know that starting tomorrow, all state police and local officials in Florida will be required to cooperate with ICE.

This summer, Florida’s legislature passed law SB 168, which forbids sanctuary cities in the state. Though there is no formal definition of a sanctuary city, in most cases the framework of sanctuary involves non-compliance with ICE’s efforts to use local police as immigration enforcement officers. The most common way enforcement cooperation happens is information sharing between ICE and local police about people in custody, as well as ICE issuance of detainers – or requests that local law enforcement hold someone in custody for up to 48 hours so that ICE can arrest them on immigration charges. As noted yesterday, ICE issued 160,000 detainers last year. 

Florida’s new law requires law enforcement to comply with detainer orders and to make their “best effort” to cooperate with ICE. The law allows state officials to take action against local leaders who do not comply, including their removal from office. From the Miami Herald:

To stay in compliance with the new Florida law, law enforcement offices in all 67 Florida counties will be required to enter into formal agreements with ICE. In the agreements, ICE promises to pay local governments $50 for holding an immigrant up to an extra two days. A group of Florida sheriffs were the first in the nation to reach these kinds of agreements with ICE in 2017. Under the new law, they are mandatory.

This part of the law has drawn protest from some departments that feel they were pressured into entering into agreements with ICE. Before the law was passed, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office did not honor requests from ICE to detain people, because it felt the requests do not meet the “probable cause” threshold needed to keep someone in custody.

In June, the department entered into a formal agreement with ICE.

“We felt that we would get sued,” Art Forgey, a spokesman for the Alachua Sheriff’s Office, told WLRN at the time. “I don’t believe we would have entered into this agreement without the governor and Legislature doing this.”

The law was challenged in court after passage. However, yesterday a Federal District Court in Miami allowed the law to go forward, though the judge blocked one provision of the law that required Florida law enforcement officers to transport suspects across state lines if requested by ICE.

[U.S. District Judge Beth] Bloom ruled that local police cannot transport undocumented immigrants across state lines at the request of the feds, saying it is strictly the job of the federal government. Her ruling can be appealed.

However, her ruling maintained that local police departments would still be required to hold arrested people in jail for an extra two days until ICE picks them up.

She cited laws passed by Congress as opening the door for that kind of local and federal cooperation, shooting down a core argument of the lawsuit, filed by immigration advocates and the city of South Miami.

“Congress gave a clear indication that it sought to facilitate, not preempt, the type of cooperation that SB 168 mandates,” Bloom wrote in the order.

Meanwhile in Virginia….

A police officer in Fairfax County was suspended this week after turning someone over to Immigrant and Customs Enforcement during a traffic stop. Fairfax County has a long standing policy (from 2007) that forbids police from confirming an individual’s immigration status and taking them into custody solely on civil immigration violations. From the Washington Post:

“This is an unfortunate issue where the officer was confused,” [Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C.] Roessler said. “We have trained on this issue a lot. This is the first time we’ve had a lapse in judgment, and the officer is being punished.”

Police said the incident began when the officer was called to a traffic accident in the Groveton area the afternoon of Sept. 21. The officer discovered that one of the drivers did not have a Virginia driver’s license and obtained the person’s information to run a check with the Department of Motor Vehicles, police said.

The check showed that ICE had issued an administrative violation to the person for failing to appear for a deportation hearing.

The officer verified the warrant through the Fairfax County Department of Public Safety Communications’ teletype section, which is responsible for checking on all warrants with originating agencies, police said.

Fairfax County has been one of the localities pushing back against the Trump administration, though issues remain restoring trust between the community and law enforcement.

Fairfax County has taken steps to help immigrants and cut ties with ICE in recent years as controversy has grown over President Trump’s immigration policies.

This week, federal authorities scrapped plans to put a center for unaccompanied minor children in Northern Virginia, after protests. In May, Fairfax County approved a legal fund for undocumented immigrants fighting deportation. Last year, the Fairfax County sheriff dropped an agreement with ICE to hold inmates suspected of being in the country illegally past the end of their sentence.

Luis Aguilar, the director of CASA in Virginia, applauded Roessler for quickly investigating the incident and publicly releasing details, but he said the relationship between immigrant communities and authorities remains fragile, potentially leading to fewer people coming forward to report crimes and serve as witnesses.

And Georgia…

In Decatur police issued new guidelines that restricted cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement last week. The policy, for example, included the passages “Officers shall not inquire into the immigration status of persons encountered during police operations” and “an individual may not be detained or arrested solely for a suspected violation of immigration law.” 

The mayor of Decatur, however, disagreed with the new policies, or at least was miffed at the suggestion that Decatur was becoming a “sanctuary city.” He took to social media over the weekend to demand changes and went to work with the City Council to make them happen. A new set of policies were issued yesterday that rewrote the provisions of the policy.

For example, “Assisting ICE in enforcing civil immigration laws is not permitted unless approved by the Chief of Police,” was changed to, “In the event that ICE requests non-emergency assistance from DPD to further the enforcement of civil immigration laws DPD will make every effort to assist as it would with any federal or state agency seeking such assistance provided such request is approved by the Chief of Police and such assistance can be provided without undue hindrance of the provision of police services to the City at large.”

The passage that states an “Individual may not be detained or arrested solely for a suspected violation of immigration law” was expanded to read, “Individual may not be arrested solely for a suspected violation of immigration laws and will only be detained for immigration law violations if they are already in custody for a non-immigration charge and a detainer is requested by ICE. Such detainer may be requested by DPD whenever the suspect is in custody at the request of ICE but the detainer may only be valid for a period of up to 24 hours beyond the time the other charges were holding the suspect in custody.”

A section-by-section breakdown of the changes in the law is here.

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Daily Dispatch 10/1/2019: Bad day in court for Trump

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Daily Dispatch

October 1, 2019

Friday the Trump administration had a bad day in court, which generally means good (or at least promising) news for everyone else. Yesterday the Los Angeles Times broke down three main rulings that all went against the administration. I’m using their framework here with a few added details.

Huge: The Flores Settlement agreement is still standing. Probably the biggest news is that the federal judge overseeing the Flores Settlement agreement lambasted Trump’s team for trying to kill Flores with new rules that violated the intent of the agreement. Quoting at length here:

In the first setback Friday for the Trump administration, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said new rules it planned to impose violated the terms of the Flores settlement. Gee issued a strongly worded order shortly after, slamming the changes as “Kafkaesque” and protecting the original conditions of the agreement.

Gee wrote that the administration cannot ignore the terms of the settlement — which, she pointed out, is a final, binding judgment that was never appealed — just because leaders don’t “agree with its approach as a matter of policy.”

Barring a change in the law through Congressional action, she said, “Defendants cannot simply impose their will by promulgating regulations that abrogate the consent decree’s most basic tenets. That violates the rule of law. And that this court cannot permit.”

The new regulations would have eliminated minors’ entitlement to bond hearings and the requirement that facilities holding children be licensed by states. They also would have removed legally binding language, changing the word “shall” to “may” throughout many of the core passages describing how the government would treat immigrant children.

What was at stake? The Flores Settlement agreement, among many other very important things, does not allow the government to hold children for more than 20 days in unsecure facilities. Which means, within three weeks of being detained, a child must either be released to family, a community sponsor, or placed in a facility licensed by state agencies for taking care of children. In 2016 federal court determined that this standard applied to children even if they are still with parents. This means, for example, that Immigration and Customs Enforcement cannot hold families with children for more than 20 days. Trump does not like this. The administration had offered a new set of rules that would allow the federal government to establish its own licensing procedure as a way to get around this provision of the Flores agreement. The judge, obviously, did not agree.

Another important feature of the settlement agreement that has emerged over the last two years is the extra oversight it provides to federal detention of children within that 20-day time frame. From Human Rights First:

In June 2017, the district court found that the government was failing to comply with its obligations under the Flores Settlement agreement. Some children and their parents were being held in family detention in secure, unlicensed facilities for up to eight months—well beyond the five-day time limit or the exception of 20 days previously authorized in times of emergency or influx. Additionally, the district court found that the government had failed to meet other obligations regarding Border Patrol facility conditions, including:

    • inadequate provision of food;
    • inadequate access to clean drinking water;
    • unsanitary and unsafe conditions;
    • freezing temperatures, and;
    •  inadequate sleeping conditions.

The district court therefore ordered the government to appoint a Juvenile Coordinator to oversee compliance with the Agreement. Additionally, the order established that if conditions had not improved to reach substantial compliance with the Flores Settlement Agreement one year after the appointment of the Juvenile Coordinator, the judge would reconsider the plaintiff’s request to appoint an Independent Monitor.

As a result of this oversight, conditions in Border Patrol facilities came to light this past June as part of the mandated inspections of these facilities. It would be better, of course, if the administration would simply abide by the standards in place. Absent such a commitment, not likely under Trump, it is important to keep Flores in place because of the court mandated oversight.

The second ruling that went against Trump involved the Immigration and Customs Enforcement use of detainers – orders issued to local law enforcement to hold someone in custody for up to 48 hours so ICE can come arrest them. At issue was ICE’s reliance on databases – which has led to faulty arrests. From the LA Times:

In the second decision Friday, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. issued a permanent injunction barring ICE from relying solely on databases when issuing so-called detainers, which are requests made to police agencies to keep people who have been arrested in custody for up two days beyond the time they would otherwise be held.

ICE is also blocked from issuing detainers to state and local law enforcement in states where there isn’t an explicit statute authorizing civil immigration arrests on detainers, according to the judge’s decision.

The decision affects any detainers issued by an ICE officer in the federal court system’s Central District of California.

That designation is significant because the Pacific Enforcement Response Center, a facility in Orange County, is an ICE hub from which agents send out detainer requests to authorities in 43 states, Guam and Washington, D.C. It is covered by the Central District.

The implications of the ruling are significant. ICE issued 160,000 detainers last year, and, as the article reports, a majority (70 percent) of ICE arrests are of people who have been detained by police (though not necessarily charged, much less convicted of a crime). So, limiting ICE’s ability to use local law enforcement in this way is significant.

Limiting the use of database-only information as the basis for detainers is important as well. For example, in a seven-month period, ICE issued detainers 42 different times against U.S. citizens from its databases.

Finally, a federal court blocked the administration’s efforts to expand expedited removal proceedings.

In a third defeat in less than a day for the Trump administration, a federal judge blocked it from vastly extending the authority of immigration officers to deport people without first allowing them to appear before judges.

The decision late Friday came before the policy, which was announced in July, was even enforced. The move would have applied to anyone in the country less than two years.

More detail from NPR:

The procedure, known as “expedited removal,” has previously been used to deport undocumented immigrants who cross into the U.S. by land without an immigration hearing or access to an attorney if they are arrested within 100 miles of the border within two weeks of their arrival. In July, the administration expanded the rule to include undocumented immigrants who couldn’t prove they had been in the U.S. continuously for two years or more, no matter where they were in the country.

In a 126-page report issued just before midnight on Friday, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson issued a preliminary injunction on the policy change. She stated that the administration did not follow the correct decision-making procedures, such as the formal notice-and-comment period required for major federal rule changes, and likely violated federal law in failing to do so. She said that “no good cause exists for the agency to have not complied with these mandates in this instance.”

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

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

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

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