Posts Tagged ‘Family Separation’

Daily Dispatch 8/21/18

A new series in which we (will aspire to) offer a sampling of today’s headlines on immigration, race, and related stories.

August 21, 2018

Top Stories:

Today begins what is intended to be a 19 day strike by prison inmates across the nation, demanding an “end to prison slavery.” In prisons and immigrant detention centers, prisoners are made to work for as little as $1 a day, sometimes in life-threatening work – fighting wildfires or working kill lines. The strike, set to end on the anniversary of the Attica uprising, is largely organized by prisoners themselves in response to recent deadly riots in a South Carolina facility. Jailhouse Lawyers Speak issued a list of “national demands,” including the rescinding of recent prison reform laws, fair pay standards, and restoration of voting rights. 

The Policies:

There seems to be a theme here: first DHS began using kids as bait to lure undocumented sponsors for deportation. Then CBP and ICE began taking kids away from their parents as a punishment/deterrent for crossing the border. Now the Department of State is getting in on the hurt-the-kids-to-hurt-the-parents trend, making changes to the Foreign Affairs manual to expand the definition of “public charge” to include government benefits (including CHIP, Earned Income Credit, Obamacare subsidies) received by US citizen children if one of their parents is a legal immigrant, rendering that parent ineligible for a green card. This isn’t exactly breaking news, but a couple of articles today are worth a mention. Check out Salon’s “Trump’s immigrant family separation strategy 2.0 targets children as they return to school” and this segment from All Things Considered.

Immigration policy takes center stage at the VMAs, as Logic builds a human wall.

An exploration of the many Stephen Millers of American history.

Examining Trump’s immigration policies from the POV of an immigration restrictionist.

The New York Time’s “The Daily” podcast begins a three-part series on family separations. Today’s installment examines how it all started (also available via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and RadioPublic).

The Courts:

29 parents who were separated from their children and denied asylum have filed suit against the government for violation of due process.

From the Salt Lake Tribune: Warrantless genital inspections at baggage claim by Customs and Border Protection. These stories recounted in great detail in multiple lawsuits against the agency are very disturbing.

American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) head discusses new national campaign and associated resolution to establish an Article I immigration court system. Another AILA representative also published an opinion piece.

After two years in ICE custody, court confirms US citizen’s status as US citizen.

A DOJ employee who joined a group of activists protesting DHS Sec Kirstjen Nielsen at a DC restaurant and criticized family separation online has not violated the Hatch Act, according to the US Office of Special Counsel, which is “closing this matter without further action.”

95 year old Nazi war criminal deported to Germany – which is, frankly, a little surprising.

The Circus:

Trump salutes ICE and… Canadian public radio?  Reading from a teleprompter, Trump refers to Customs and Border Protection as CBC eight out of eight times. It’s CBP. (Full video of the ceremony with transcript.)

And then this happened:

 

 

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Trump’s War on Immigrants has Many Fronts

The Trump administration is waging a war on immigrants with many fronts, including: Adopting “zero tolerance” policies at the border, expanding detention, seeking ways to limit legal immigration, making it harder for people to become permanent residents and citizens, and launching a massive review of people who have become naturalized citizens. On all fronts, Trump’s war is being waged using existing policy instruments and institutions. We must acknowledge this reality – as the entire system is deeply flawed. At the same time, Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to generate fear and make an inhumane system even more intolerable.

Family Separation

As we reported last week, the Trump administration declared that it was unable to locate the parents of over 500 children separated from their families at the border, and suggested that the ACLU would be better placed to find them. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said that this was unacceptable:

“Many of these parents were removed from the country without their child,” Sabraw said. “All of this is the result of the government’s separation and then inability and failure to track and reunite. And the reality is that for every parent who is not located there will be a permanently orphaned child. And that is 100 percent the responsibility of the administration.”

Sabraw [also] said the government must identify a person or team to oversee the remaining reunification process, potentially from the State Department or the Department of Health and Human Services, and produce a plan as to how reunification would be accomplished.

Contrary to Trump’s assertion that family separation was simply a by-product of enforcement of federal law – it now seems clear (not that we ever doubted it) that the administration sought to target families for enforcement. The organization Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) has issued a new report, Death by a Thousand Cuts, which documents step by step the policy changes employed by the Trump administration to target children and families for enforcement.

All of this was done intentionally to spread fear and to discourage migration to the United States, and the administration is not done yet, as it seeks to alter the Flores Agreement in order to detain children and families longer. From Newsweek:

The Trump administration had argued last month that in order for it to end its family separation policy, it would need to be able to detain children with their families longer than the 20-day maximum period outlined in the Flores agreement.

The administration’s bid to modify the decades-old deal was shot down by Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Federal District Court in Los Angeles, however, with the judge saying there was no basis for changing the agreement and that it was an issue the legislative branch would have to solve.

“They are claiming that much of this is a deterrent, to deter future immigration,” [KIND spokesperson] McKenna said. “But, we see it as, if it’s a matter of life or death, they are going to come anyway—and for many of the children we represent, it really is a matter of life or death.”

Legal immigrants under fire

As reported by NBC News, the Trump administration is expected to issue an order that would make it more difficult for people to become permanent residents and then citizens.

The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare, four sources with knowledge of the plan told NBC News.

The move, which would not need congressional approval, is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller’s plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.

The plan will move to the Federal Register soon – where some period of public comment should be available. Until then, you can call the White House and let them know that this is wrong! White House comment line: 202-456-1111.

De-naturalization

Just in case we thought creating a dragnet at the border, separating children from their families as a matter of policy, and seeking to block legal immigrants from obtaining green cards and or seeking citizenship is not enough, the Trump administration is also launching a “de-naturalization” task force that could potentially strip people of their citizenship. The announcement was made several weeks ago. Vox created an informative background piece on denaturalization, its history, and what the current mandate is (or at least, what it is supposed to be).

On the current mandate of the taskforce, it is really limited to reviewing fingerprint records on some 300,000 + applications, to check if anyone had applied for citizenship under a false name. As explained by Vox:

The denaturalization task force that USCIS is assembling now is the next phase of something that, under the Obama administration, was called “Operation Janus” — and that stretches all the way back to the Bush era.

In 2008, a Customs and Border Protection agent discovered that more than 200 people from four countries had become US citizens despite having past deportation orders — something that should have, legally, disqualified them from naturalization — because the deportation order was under one name and identity and the citizenship had been granted to another. The identity fraud hadn’t been caught because the fraudsters’ fingerprints hadn’t been digitized, and so they hadn’t turned up matches in an existing DHS database.

DHS subsequently launched a task force to figure out just how many fingerprint records it was missing from people who should be barred from citizenship. In 2011, it calculated that the answer was 315,000: people who’d been convicted of crimes or were fugitives, or who had been ordered deported from the US since 1990. About half of the 315,000 print sets ultimately got digitized, but the department ran out of money before it could finish the job.

This does not mean that there are hundreds of thousands of fraudulently naturalized citizens out there. It just means that any one set of missing fingerprints might theoretically match to someone who had become naturalized under a different identity.

In late 2016, the government started accelerating its Operation Janus efforts again. In September 2017, the DOJ filed its first three civil denaturalization suits under Operation Janus. (The first successful denaturalization order under the operation was issued in January.)

In June 2018, the director of USCIS, Cissna, announced that he was hiring a team of attorneys for a separate office in California for the purpose of investigating the remaining Operation Janus cases and making the necessary referrals to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

Every week seems to bring some new horror, some new step intended to make life harder for people who have migrated to this country. The Trump administration’s war on immigration has laid bare the inequities in our immigration system. It must be taken apart and rebuilt with a new set of principles at its heart; principles that recognize the fundamental rights of all people, wherever they are born, to live free of violence, intimidation and economic degradation.

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Guidance for Jeff Sessions and other news

Yesterday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released a Policy Memorandum offering guidance for border officers in dealing with asylum cases, in accordance with Jeff Sessions’ ruling that domestic violence and gang violence will no longer constitute credible fears for asylum applications. The memo can be read here, the ruling here, and some news coverage here.

A couple of weeks ago, Sessions recounted some of the ugly crimes committed by MS-13 members while defending the family separation not-exactly-policy-but-definitely-not-law. Trump invokes them nearly every day to stoke the fires of his base and create straw-men for politicians and journalists. The problem with this tactic is that it shines a spotlight on the administration’s (a) lack of logical consistency and/or (b) blatant race-based hypocrisy. Trump and Sessions want to revel in the heinousness of the crimes in order to demonize the very people seeking asylum to escape those crimes.

Is the gang violence bad? Yes? Then asylum is a legitimate claim. Is asylum from gang violence legitimate? No? Then the violence must not be that bad. In case he is a more visual learner, I have created this helpful flowchart that Sessions might want to consult in order to understand that he cannot have it both ways.

By denying asylum to those fleeing gang violence, Sessions is telling us that Central American parents should just accept the fact that their children will either likely be recruited to commit such crimes or be killed in a manner he deems unacceptable – at least for (non-Central) Americans.

Frankly, the only framework in which Sessions’ argument is coherent is one that sees Central Americans as a virus to be subjected to quarantine until it dies out and children from these countries as less deserving of the protections we seek for kids in the United States; in other words, a racist framework. (Laura Bush wrote an op-ed comparing family separation and detention to FDR’s Japanese American internment camps during WWII.)

In other news:

  • CLINIC and ASAP released a study on In Absentia removal of asylum seekers.

  • Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary, stated that the facilities for kids who have been taken from their parents by the government are “one of the great acts of American generosity and charity.”

  • Paula White, Trump’s “spiritual advisor,” said:

“I think so many people have taken Biblical Scriptures out of context on this, to say stuff like, ‘Well, Jesus was a refugee.’ Yes, he did live in Egypt for three-and-a-half years. But it was not illegal. If he had broken the law, then he would have been sinful and he would not have been our Messiah.”

Setting aside the significant historical and theological problems with her statement, we are still left to ask: Is she suggesting that babies can be criminals? And is this part of her “spiritual advice” to Trump?

  • And finally, ICYMI, Sessions doesn’t mind joking about family separation:

 

 

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Pushback from Immigration Advocates

I don’t need to repeat all the bad news on immigration this week (although I may do a little of that). Instead, I’ll begin by focusing on how grassroots activists, advocacy groups, and even some politicians are organizing to quash the oppressive and inhumane policies being propagated by the executive branch in the name of spurious national security interests. 

Yesterday, Quixote Center staff attended a rally in Baltimore, protesting the Trump administration’s “family separation” policy as part of the National Day of Action for Children

House Democrats have also released a letter demanding that the administration end the policy.

Representatives from Texas advocacy groups, law firms, and the Women’s Refugee Commission have filed a formal complaint, in the form of an Emergency Request with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, demanding that children be reunited with their parents and that the family separation policy end immediately. They maintain that this policy violates international human rights standards as well as U.S. asylum laws and due process.

The ACLU has released a report documenting instances of child abuse by Customs and Border Patrol and ICE. The report is chilling and can be read in full (along with FOIA documents) here.

Stephen Miller, speaking for the White House, echoed the tired refrain that asylum is a “loophole” that needs to be closed.

Earlier this month, DHS secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, said, “If you as a parent break into a house, you will be incarcerated by police and thereby separated from your family. We’re doing the same thing at the border.” Not to beat a dead horse, but we would remind DHS once again that asylum seekers are not lawbreakers.

At the same time, despite protests by senior staff, Nielsen defied the administration by dispersing federal grant money to sanctuary cities. So, there’s that.

In another example of one step forward, two steps back, John Kelly said that TPS status should be eliminated and those here under that status be given a path to citizenship. In the same interview, however, he praised the family separation policy and reassured the nation that the children will be cared for – put into foster care or whatever.”

In other news:

At a rally in Tennessee on Tuesday, Trump engaged in a dangerous call and response.

“They’re not human beings,” Trump said. “What is the name?”

“ANIMALS!” the Angry Mob responded.

Scary. Really.

Last Thursday, Trump appointed Ronald Mortenson to be Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration. Mortenson is a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think-tank and Southern Poverty Law Center-Designated Hate Group with associations to white nationalism. Last year, Mortenson wrote an opinion piece, for example, titled “Most illegal aliens routinely commit felonies.”

Coming up:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will introduce a bill that would put a halt to Trump’s family separation policy.

And finally:

Thanks to all of you who commented on the DHS Notice this week. We tripled the number of comments and drowned out its supporters. Good work!

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