Daily Dispatch 11/21/2019: Take Action Updates!

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Daily Dispatch

November 21, 2019

Over the last couple of weeks we have put out some call to actions and discussed other items in the news. For today’s Dispatch, we want to simply update folks about these actions.

Defund Hate 

Last week we circulated an alert for the National Call-in Day in support of the Defund Hate campaign of the Detention Watch Network. As a coalition we are not real sure how many calls, tweets and other communications resulted, but a rough tally from a few sources suggest at least 1,000 people took part around the country. If you were one of them, thank you!!!

So what does it all mean? The goal for the campaign is cutting Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection’s budgets as a means toward reducing – eventually eliminating – the incarceration of immigrants. That message has been received loud and clear – though remains a highly partisan frame. A proposed budget (not yet voted on in the House), for example, reduces daily average of people in detention to 34,000 from the current 45,000 budgeted for FY2019 (though ICE is holding 50,000 and wants capacity to hold 52,000 a day next year). The Senate proposal is higher, largely giving in to ICE’s demands for bed space and border agents (and funding for the wall). There is a big fight looming once these proposals hit the floor for debate in each house, and then have to be reconciled. We are not there yet.

We are now in the Continuing Resolution (CR) phase of the budget cycle. That time of year when the government is out of money because no budget has been passed, and in order to avoid shutting down, Congress passes CRs to keep the government funded at its current rate. So, the goal at the moment is to make sure the CRs are not padded with extra money for immigration enforcement. ICE and other agencies would love to get extra funds this time of year as a way of boosting their overall budget, and, in theory, give them leverage for even larger sums of money in the fight for FY2020.

A Continuing Resolution was passed in the House this week – and there was no extra money added for ICE or CBP – which means ICE and CBP must continue to operate, on a prorated basis, under the same budget as last year. The Senate votes today and is expected to support the House version of the CR. There is money for the wall in there – because there was funding for the wall added to last year’s budget. But no new money for detention or enforcement, which is a success. The CR runs until December 20th, at which point a budget will need to be passed, or another CR passed, or the government (more likely specific departments) will be forced to close again. This last option is actually likely as the CR will end during the most likely week for an impeachment vote in the House….

For now, keep up the pressure on Congress to cut funding for ICE and CBP in FY2020! We’ve made this case several places – most recently here. And no new funding in any future CR.

Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act – New cosponsors, need more

A couple of weeks ago we put out a call to action to encourage folks to contact members of Congress to request they become co-sponsors of the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act. We spend a lot of time talking about the problems with immigrant detention – the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act actually offers most of the solutions we want, at least what we can get out of legislation (more details here). The general consensus is that the bill will not get a vote this year, but that we need to use co-sponsorship as a means to build momentum for action next year (and a lot of this depends on the outcome of the elections).

You can still ask your member of Congress to do what they can to move it out of committee!! This probably won’t happen, but it is still a message they need to here.

You can still take action HERE!

Check the current list of cosponsors first. If your member of Congress is already here, thank them! And then ask them what they can to get it to a vote. Let us know what they say!

Scott Warren Acquitted!!

Scott Warren, a volunteer with No More Deaths, was tried for a second time, charged with harboring and trafficking. Scott was tried back in June for the first time, with the result being a hung jury. Federal prosecutors dropped conspiracy charges, but chose to retry him on another charge. We have reported on his trials here and here

This week he was acquitted!! Great news for Scott and for everyone doing what they can to accompany and provide assistance to people risking their lives to cross the deserts in Arizona and Texas. One day, this work will be unnecessary. Until that day comes, we are thankful for the courage of Scott and other volunteers, who continue to be harassed by federal authorities.

SaveAsylum – Keep the calls coming!

Finally, Tuesday we put out a call to action along with LAWG, WOLA, Alianza Americas and other organizations. The goal – get congress to stop (and defund) the Remain in Mexico policy. This call to action, though more specific, is very much in line with the Defund Hate actions we’ve been involved in. We hope you have a made a call. If not, get the details here, and make a call.

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Daily Dispatch 11/19/2019: #SaveAsylum

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Daily Dispatch

November 19, 2019

This week we are joining with the Latin American Working Group, Alianza Americas, the Washington Office on Latin America and many others, to #SaveAsylum! Today, and through the week (indeed keep at it as long as necessary), we are getting the word out to call members of Congress and demand that they defund/end the Remain In Mexico program. This is a good follow-up action for those who took part in the National Call-in Day to Defund Hate – as it is the same set of policies! From the Latin America Working Group:

The Trump Administration’s immigration policies violate more human rights by the minute. 

Over 60,000 families, men, women, and children who have been returned to Remain in Mexico are waiting in danger throughout their asylum proceedings. And the numbers keep growing. The administration calls this the “Migrant Protection Protocols.” We call it the #MigrantPersecutionProtocols. This needs to end. We can’t let more people be turned away, waiting without shelter and in danger. 

Sham virtual courtrooms costing $20 million were created in tent facilities to hear 500-700 asylum cases per day. Apart from violating asylum seekers’ rights to due process, the public is also barred from entry. This is outrageous. The administration is trying to rush through these cases, denying asylum seekers their fair day in court to try to deport them more quickly. 

To add insult to injury, a transit asylum ban was implemented to deny protection to those who traveled through other countries first before arriving at our border, denying access to asylum to everyone but Mexicans. “Safe Third Country” agreements were signed with Central American countries that are not safe. This means that migrants from other countries will be sent back to the very conditions that they were fleeing in the first place.

These are not the principles under which this country was founded. We don’t turn our backs on people when they need us most. The actions of our government undermine what it means to be an American. Join us in speaking out. 

Take Action!!

Here’s what you can do to get involved:

Together, let’s make their phones ring: 

    •         Call your representative and two senators. Find them here >>>
    •         ​Sample Script: “My name is ____ and I am a constituent from ____. I urge Representative/Senator ____ to defund and terminate the harmful MPP policy. DHS must be held accountable for violations of the rights of migrants due to their policies. Asylum seekers should be allowed to wait for their asylum hearings in safety within the United States, not be sent to harm in Mexico to wait for months. I am alarmed that they are being returned to dangerous Mexican cities where they are at risk for kidnapping and extortion. I implore you to speak out against these policies. My community welcomes and values immigrants & refugees, and as someone who represents my community, I urge you to do the same.” 

Together, let’s get trending: 

Join us in this Week of Action to raise our voices and tell the administration that we will not let them shut the door on asylum. Your action is vital. 

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Daily Dispatch 11/14/2019: No more money for Trump’s enforcement nightmare

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Daily Dispatch

November 14, 2019

You might not remember this, but when Trump came into office (2017), border apprehensions on the southwest border were at a 40+ year low. In other words, no crisis. It is not that immigration policy was working well. Clinton, Bush and Obama had each added on features to an increasingly inhumane detention and deportation machine, and somehow this went under the radar of policy makers despite the protests of many. What years of congressional indifference had wrought, however, became clear once this machinery was handed over to Trump in January of 2017. 

Trump came into office committed to warring against immigrants, and he has. Nearly three years later, it is clear that the administration is out of control, violating the law and congressional oversight authority. For what? As a candidate, Trump spoke continuously about criminal aliens, violent thugs and gang members. This was always a lie. There aren’t enough “criminals” to go to war against. Indeed, Trump’s ICE has the lowest criminal removal rate of any administration bringing cases to immigration courts – and like past administrations, the most common lead charges for those “criminals” who are removed are traffic violations. So, who are we going after really? Refugees, children, and authorized immigrants (yeah, people we are supposed to be welcoming because they “stood in line” and did it the “right way”). Trump talks about MS-13 at rallies and then locks up people fleeing torture in Cameroon and sexual violence in Honduras or blocks H-1 visas for computer science majors. 

Which brings us to the would-be-funny-if-not-so-incredibly-tragic part. He keeps running out of money doing this – and none of the Atlas Shrugged-hugging, small government pinheads care. So, he wants more dollars, and he wants you to pay those dollars, all for a set of policies that don’t work and are morally repugnant. Congress has the power to shut it down, but instead has been way too generous (or too weak). 

Trump’s war on refugees

So, let’s get specific. Over the last year the Trump administration has taken unprecedented steps to disrupt all avenues for seeking asylum in the United States. This has included incarcerating people seeking asylum – even those who declare their intent to seek asylum at a port of entry, and even after those people have passed credible fear interviews. The administration is also denying bond hearings to those who cross between ports of entry, even though asylum law allows anyone, regardless of how they cross the border, the right to seek asylum. As a result, of the 47,260 people in ICE detention at the end of last week, 13,462 have already established a credible fear of torture or persecution if returned to their home country. Yet they are still being jailed (and tortured) in this country. 

Earlier this year, the administration expanded the Orwellian named Migrant Protection Protocols to cover the entire border with Mexico. Under this policy, piloted late last year just in San Diego, anyone arriving at the border seeking asylum is denied entry altogether and made to “Remain in Mexico” for a hearing before an immigration judge. When the policy was generalized to cover the whole border this summer, more than 6,000 asylum seekers already in the United States were sent back to Mexico. In total, 55,000 people have been returned to Mexico to await hearings. These hearings began in September and are a farce. Asylum seekers are allowed to cross the border for a day, taken into a tent where they speak to an immigration judge through video conferencing – the judge is elsewhere – and then have to return to Mexico to wait longer. The system, as volunteer attorneys attempting to provide services have argued, is designed to fail. Indeed, it is designed to make people so miserable they give up and go home, or seek permanent resettlement in Mexico.

Still not content, the Trump administration then published a new rule that actually denies anyone who arrives at our border the ability to even apply for asylum if they passed through any other country first – unless they have applied for asylum in that country and been denied. What this means is that basically no one from any country other than Mexico can apply for asylum at the southern border. The policy was clearly aimed at denying Central Americans the possibility of seeking asylum. It also seems to be a very clear violation of existing law – and yet the Supreme Court overturned an injunction put in place by district courts while the merits of the law are being challenged in court. So, even if likely to be overturned eventually, the new rule is being allowed to proceed for the time being. As a result, asylum seekers arriving since the July 16 rule went into effect are denied access to the asylum process completely and constitute a whole other class of individuals waiting in detention to be deported.

If the Trump administration had stopped here, it would already be a debacle by any standard of respect for human rights. But they didn’t. The administration went even further, pushing its enforcement regime into Mexico by blackmailing the government of Mexico under threat of tariffs to adopt stricter enforcement measures. The goal: to keep people seeking asylum from ever reaching the U.S. border. Mexico has complied with “requests” from previous U.S. administrations to step up enforcement, so again, nothing new in principal. But Trump went further – and so has Mexico. The Mexican government has added 6,000 people to patrols along its southern border and has stepped up deportations (Mexico was already deporting twice as many Central Americans as the United States before the new rules). Another impact is expanded detention within Mexico and a new crisis on Mexico’s southern border for immigrants not from Central America who cannot be easily deported. This group, primarily refugees from Africa and the Caribbean, have been trapped in camps along the border, denied the ability to travel through Mexico as they could before, to seek asylum at the U.S. border.

But we are still not done. The Trump administration has negotiated agreements with the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras allowing the administration to send asylum seekers and other immigrants back to one of these countries – even though a large majority of the asylum seekers at the southern border are fleeing conditions in one of these countries. 

Big Paydays for Crisis (Mis)Management

Returning back to the United States, the Washington Post reported this week that the administration purposefully sought to extend detention times for children caught up in this dragnet as part of its broader “deterrent” strategy. They did this, in part, by changing the process for locating sponsors. The administration was using information sharing between the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services (which oversees child detentions) to actually entrap unauthorized immigrants who might come forward as a sponsor for a relative child. This rule was eventually changed again, but only after children were being detained for up to 95 days on average late last year. This was before a surge of apprehensions at the border in the spring of 2019 pushed the whole system to the verge of collapse. The administration blamed this surge for the problems, but that is a well documented lie. The crisis was created intentionally before the surge in arrests began.

And yet, for the administration and its network of subcontractors/donors, the manufactured crisis paid off well. A $4.6 billion emergency supplemental was handed over by Congress – and that, only after the Senate stripped the bill of added oversight measures (and Democratic House leaders went along). 

But you know, for this gang, it is still not enough. When the administration ran out of money again in August they simply moved $267 million from other accounts, without congressional authorization. Yes, they paid for more detention beds with money from the Coast Guard, and paid for the unauthorized Remain in Mexico policy with money from FEMA. And did so without prior-notification to Congress (re-programming money is not a new thing, but is supposed to happen only after oversight committees approve). So, we can add a clear violation of Congress’ Article One powers to authorize expenditures to the list.

Now Trump wants even more money for ICE and Border Patrol for the FY 2020 budget. He wants 52,000 bed spaces a day for detention, more border patrol agents, and a wall. This administration has gone from a 40-year low in unauthorized border crossings, to a 10-year high, managed to lock up 70,000 children in one year on purpose, absolutely gutted the asylum process, and achieved the highest daily average of ICE detainees ever recorded by jailing people fleeing torture. In short, the biggest failure by any measure of a policy one can imagine. And he wants more money? Congress has to just say no. The budget for detention and enforcement needs to be cut, and cut dramatically. We need to demand that Congress defund this administration’s policies of hate now!!! Congress helped build this monstrosity. It is time to take it apart.

What better time than now?

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Daily Dispatch 11/13/2019: Tell Congress to #DefundHate

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Daily Dispatch

November 13, 2019

Today is a National Call-in Day to Congress demanding that they cut (not increase!!!) the budgets for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). We have written about specific issues concerning the Trump administration’s refusal to abide by Congressional authorizations concerning how money is spent. 

You can also personalize your communication with members of Congress. A summary of some points you might raise.

  • Congressed authorized funding for just over a 45,000 daily average of people in ICE detention in Fiscal Year 2019 (Oct 1, 2018 to Sept 30, 2019).
  • The intent was that detention would decline from the 49,000 daily average at the time the budget was passed, to 40,000 by the end of the fiscal year.
  • By August of 2019, ICE was holding 55,000 people a day.
  • In August, 9,000 of the people in detention were asylum seekers who had already passed their credible fear interview, and according to DHS’ own guidelines, it would “no longer in the public interest” to detain them.
  • They were not released. Instead, Trump administration officials shifted funds from the Coast Guard and other accounts to fund expanded detention.
  • Today, there are over 12,000 people still in detention that have demonstrated a credible fear of persecution of torture should they be returned home – even though overall detention has declined to 50,000 (still above authorized amounts). 
  • In other words, the reason that the administration is over budget is not a surge in border apprehensions, but the cruel decision to hold all asylum seekers throughout their entire process.

This should NOT be funded.

  • This summer the administration secured an extra $4.6 billion in emergency funding following disclosure of horrible conditions in Border Patrol stations, where children were being held for three weeks or more without adequate food or sanitation.
  • The administration blamed this on a backlog at the Department of Health and Human Services, which receives unaccompanied children from Border Patrol to detain while awaiting placement, because of a surge in apprehensions at the border.
  • Reality: HHS facilities were over capacity prior to the so called border surge, with average detention stays up to 95 days by November of 2018. Why?
  • The Trump administration policy to use children in detention as bait to catch undocumented family members who might come forward as sponsors – which, as reported by the Washington Post this week,  they knew would lead to a backlog at HHS.
  • Thus, the horror we witnessed at Border Patrol detention facilities this summer was the result of an intentional policy to deter children from coming here.

This should NOT be funded!

  • The Border Patrol does NOT need more agents.
  • The Washington Office on Latin America reported, “In all of 2018, the average Border Patrol agent apprehended 14 single adults—one every 3.7 weeks—and 10 children or parents who sought to be apprehended. If staffing levels remained similar in 2019, the average Border Patrol agent apprehended 18 single adults—one every 2.9 weeks— and had to process 33 children or parents.”
  • So, even with the increase in apprehensions last year, on average, a border patrol agent took 1 single adult and 2 children alone (or 1 child with a parent) into custody every 3 weeks.
  • As WOLA notes, what is needed is more staff to process asylum claims, not more agents to arrest people.
  • This is needed so that people can be processed and RELEASED!

No more detention dollars for ICE, no more enforcement dollars for CBP. They do not need the money. The crisis at our border is a real one – but it has been created by this administration’s cruelty, and the false notion that deterrence is an effective strategy to end migration. We are violating human rights and in effect torturing people in detention, in order to discourage immigration.

It is time to #DefundHate, and stop this!!

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

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Daily Dispatch

November 12, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update on Tania Romero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Line: (404) 893-1210

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

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

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

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

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

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

Announcement from No More Deaths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Action to Halt Deportation

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

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

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

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


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Daily Dispatch 11/7/2019: Nebane Abienwi

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Daily Dispatch

November 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, he was denied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Daily Dispatch

November 6, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Daily Dispatch

November 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Daily Dispatch 10/31/2019: Defunding Hate

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Daily Dispatch

October 31, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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