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Home | Tag Archives: border crisis

Tag Archives: border crisis

Donald Trump Jr. visits private border wall amid immigration crisis, Mueller aftermath

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. – Donald Trump Jr. on Friday used every second of his brief visit to the border to defend his father and his administration, warn against the spread of socialism and alert a friendly Republican crowd that although his father’s reelection next year should be easy, it won’t be in the current political climate.

Trump Jr. was a special guest at an event dubbed the Symposium at the Wall: Cartels, Trafficking and Asylum. The three-day affair is put on by the same organizers behind We Build the Wall, the group that raised millions through a GoFundMe account to build a border barrier on the private land where the symposium took place.

“What you finally have now is a president who is willing to fight for Americans,” Trump Jr. told the crowd of about 100 people during a 13-minute speech. “ That was his mandate and that’s what he’s been doing. He’s the first politician, maybe in history, who’s taken hell for actually doing all the things he said he would do.”

Trump Jr. used several of his father’s talking points and favorite phrases – including “witch hunt” and “hoax” — to attack Washington Democrats in the aftermath of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before two congressional committees earlier this week.

“It was a coup. Anyone who watched on Tuesday can now realize that Robert Mueller was put in there as a figurehead,” he said. “He had no idea what was going on in his own investigation.”

Trump Jr. also threw in a couple jabs at the press, who he claimed was pushing the “great virtues of socialism and effectively, communism” and spent a few minutes warning against what he said was the rise of the two movements in America.

“Find one person who’s lived under that system who will vouch for it,” he said. “Why is it that that person doesn’t exist? Why are the [people who have never lived under that system] the only advocates?”

The event featured panel discussions on border security, immigration asylum and other issues, all held in an outdoor tent erected snug against the recently built border barrier. Behind the makeshift stage, organizers parked tractors used in the wall’s construction, near an armored vehicle where New Mexico state police stood guard. Near the tent, Benton Stevens, the 7-year-old from Austin who raised at least $22,000 for the border wall, set up shop and sold $10 cans of “Patriot Lemonade” and “Freedom Lemonade” — $2 for a glass and $10 for a larger container.

The symposium also featured former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, both outspoken advocates of restricting immigration, who are listed on We Build The Wall’s website as part of its leadership team.

Before Trump Jr’s arrival, Bannon lauded the group’s ability to build the barrier on private land.

“If people came down here to the border and came down to El Paso and Sunland Park and saw this wall, immediately talked to the people [to] understand what the cartels have done … tried to criminalize Northern Mexico and prey upon the good citizens of Mexico, people would understand that every town in our country is a border town,” he said.

Guests scheduled to participate in panel discussions later Friday and on Saturday included U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. and conservative commentator Michelle Malkin.

The event brought a rebuke from the campaign of former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who is trying to become the Democratic nominee to challenge President Trump.

“The Symposium at the Wall is focused not on facts but on fear. A giant wall along our southern border will not make us more secure,” O’Rourke’s campaign said in a written statement. “Just as caging children and refugees and asylum seekers will never make us great.”

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Broken Border

A surge of migrants arriving at the Texas-Mexico border has pushed the country’s immigration system to the breaking point as new policies aimed at both undocumented immigrants and legal asylum seekers have contributed to a humanitarian crisis. The Texas Tribune is maintaining its in-depth reporting on this national issue.  MORE IN THIS SERIES 

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Most migrants won’t qualify for U.S. asylum under new Trump policy

The Trump administration wants to make migrants who pass through another nation before entering the U.S. at its southern border ineligible for asylum, the Associated Press reported Monday. The effort would disqualify most asylum seekers who did not first seek safe haven in another country before crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, including unaccompanied children.

The AP reported that there would be exceptions to the rule, which was published in the Federal Register and is expected to take effect Tuesday. Migrants would still be eligible for asylum if they had been trafficked, for example, or if they sought asylum in another country but were denied.

The rule, issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, is an effort to crack down on what the Trump administration says are “meritless” claims of asylum from tens of thousands of people who have exploited current law, according to the text.

“By deterring meritless asylum claims and de-prioritizing the applications of individuals who could have obtained protection in another country, the Departments seek to ensure that those refugees who have no alternative to U.S.-based asylum relief or have been subjected to an extreme form of human trafficking are able to obtain relief more quickly,” the text states. “Additionally, the rule seeks to curtail the humanitarian crisis created by human smugglers bringing men, women, and children across the southern border.”

The American Civil Liberties Union promised immediate legal action to halt the policy.

“The Trump administration is trying to unilaterally reverse our country’s legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This new rule is patently unlawful and we will sue swiftly.”

Other efforts by the Trump administration to change asylum policy — like denying asylum to migrants who cross the border illegally or detaining migrants while their cases are decided — have been blocked.

The latest policy is an attempt to reduce a surge of unaccompanied children and family units — mostly Central Americans seeking asylum — crossing into Texas and other states on the southern border. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security said that through June, U.S. Border Patrol agents had apprehended more than 688,000 undocumented immigrants, an increase of about 140% from last year, a DHS spokesperson said.

The two most heavily used routes go through El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley. From October, when the federal government’s 2019 fiscal year began, through June, more than 27,800 unaccompanied children and about 166,000 family units were apprehended by or surrendered to Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector — an increase of 60% and 293% from 2018, respectively. In the El Paso sector, which also includes New Mexico, about 14,600 unaccompanied children and 117,600 family units were apprehended. That’s an increase of 267% and 1,759% from 2018, respectively.

The new rule could also add to the current logjam of asylum seekers and other refugees in certain Mexican border cities that have to accept asylum seekers under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, known as “remain in Mexico.” The program began in California in January and was expanded to the El Paso ports of entry in March. It expanded to the Laredo and Nuevo Laredo border in South Texas last week.

Through July 11, more than 9,300 people had been returned to Ciudad Juárez under the program, according to Chihuahua state officials. About 36% are from Guatemala, 29% are from Honduras, 16% are from El Salvador and the rest from other countries, including Cuba.

On Friday, Enrique Valenzuela, director of Ciudad Juárez’s Centro de Atención a Migrantes, a migrant transition facility operated by the Chihuahua state government, said state and local officials are trying to quickly find more shelter space in the border city as the number of migrants returned or waiting to apply for asylum grows.

Members of Congress and immigrant advocates have also criticized the conditions that many migrants are facing while detained in Border Patrol processing centers in the United States. Migrant men at a McAllen center hadn’t showered in “10 or 20” days, according to accounts from reporters who accompanied Vice President Mike Pence on a tour of the facility Friday.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

A surge of migrants arriving at the Texas-Mexico border has pushed the country’s immigration system to the breaking point as new policies aimed at both undocumented immigrants and legal asylum seekers have contributed to a humanitarian crisis. The Texas Tribune is maintaining its in-depth reporting on this national issue.

MORE IN THIS SERIES 

In El Paso court, migrants no longer get legal advocates or pre-hearing briefings on their rights

After being detained in a U.S. Border Patrol processing facility for more than seven weeks, a young Central American woman was finally able to tell immigration Judge Nathan Herbert the most harrowing part of her journey to the United States.

“I was separated from my daughter. I need to be with her,” the woman, who had requested asylum, told Herbert. “I’ve never been [apart] from her.”

Later, another female asylum seeker asked Herbert if she’d be sent back to Mexico the way several thousand others have been under a program called the Migration Protection Protocols.

Herbert had the same response for both women: “That decision is not mine to make.”

More than three months after the MPP program was expanded to include the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez border, confusion about the program still dominates the proceedings in federal immigration court. And attorneys and advocates said the confusion has become worse this week after the government ended the main tools it had used to help migrants navigate a complex judicial system.

In late June, the U.S. Justice Department stopped allowing attorneys or immigrant rights groups to give “know your rights” briefings to asylum seekers before their initial court hearings. The short seminars included overviews of the asylum and removal processes, as well as other topics, like the MPP program.

Then, earlier this week, the department stopped allowing advocates known as “friends of the court” to assist the judge and the asylum seekers during the hearings, immigration attorney Taylor Levy told The Texas Tribune on Monday. Lawyers say the friend of the court program was essential in helping asylum seekers who hadn’t found or couldn’t afford legal representation to understand the asylum process better.

Friends of the court can be lawyers or other people; they are authorized to do things like explain court procedures, help translate for migrants who don’t speak English and relay relevant information to the judge.

Levy, who represents one of the migrants in her family separation case but not in her asylum proceedings, said the move makes the MPP program more confrontational.

“It really feels like MPP couldn’t get much worse, but that’s what is happening,” she said.

On Monday, Mike Breen, the president of Human Rights First — an independent, nonprofit advocacy group — was in the courtroom as an observer and said the chaos was apparent.

“It’s pretty clear that these folks have not been advised of their rights,” he said. “The confusion in the courtroom is palpable. I think the fear in the courtroom is equally palpable.”

Levy and other observers have said Herbert, who was appointed to the bench less than a year ago, is fair and doing his best under the circumstances as the backlog of cases keeps growing and he is forced to walk migrants through the process now that friends of the court are banned.

“The resources that have been devoted to the adjudication system have been cut steadily, so there is a huge backlog of people waiting for their day in court,” Breen said.

Through May, more than 908,500 cases are pending in the country’s immigration courts, including more than 132,200 in Texas, which has the second-highest backlog in the country, after California’s 161,281.

Officials at El Paso’s immigration court referred questions about the changes to the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. A spokesperson said the office would be unable to meet the Tribune’s deadline for comment.

Levy said she was told by El Paso court personnel that the friend of the court program was discontinued because of ongoing litigation surrounding the MPP. A federal judge in California temporarily blocked the program April 8, but a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later put that order on hold while the case plays out.

“We were told we are third parties and are not allowed to serve as friends of court because we’re a third party,” Levy said.

The government’s reasoning for eliminating the know your rights briefings, Levy added, was that asylum seekers are technically in federal detention, and only their attorneys are allowed to speak with them while they are in custody.

She said halting the briefings could violate the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees people access to counsel and knowledge of the charges against them, among other things. Levy said under normal circumstances, she’d be allowed to talk to a person in custody to determine her ability to help with a case.

“I can go to any of the jails or detention centers in the country [now], and I can get in and talk to potential clients,” she said.

But Levy said she was told that if attorneys want to interview asylum seekers to see whom they might want to represent, they have to do it in Mexico.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

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Border apprehensions dropped in June, but federal officials say crisis continues

The number of people who were apprehended by or surrendered to federal immigration officials on the U.S.-Mexico border dipped by nearly 30% last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday.

In June, about 104,350 people were apprehended or turned themselves in, compared with about 144,300 in May — a decrease of 28%. That decrease outpaced last year’s May-to-June drop by 11%, officials said. But the agency also warned that the one-month change does not signal that the ongoing surge of asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors and family units, is over.

“We are still in an ongoing border security and humanitarian crisis. U.S. Border Patrol made 688,375 apprehensions through the end of June, 140% higher than through this time last year. And our June apprehension numbers are still higher than last year’s, when we were already in a crisis,” the DHS press office said in a news release.

Officials credited the decline to several factors, including the recently implemented Migration Protection Protocols, which requires that some asylum seekers be sent back to Mexico while they wait for their immigration proceedings in American courts.

The program began on the California-Mexico border in January before expanding to El Paso-Ciudad Juárez in March. As of last week, more than 7,600 people had been returned to Ciudad Juárez, according to Chihuahua state officials. The Trump administration announced Tuesday that the MPP is now in place on the Laredo-Nuevo Laredo border.

The decline can also be partially attributed to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s deployment of Mexican National Guard troops to secure that country’s southern border with Guatemala to stem the flow of migrants from Central America intent on traveling north to the United States. López Obrador agreed to the deployment after President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25% on Mexican imports.

“Since the administration reached a new agreement with Mexico, we’ve seen a substantial increase in the number of interdictions on the Mexican southern border,” DHS officials said.

The MPP program has been heavily criticized by immigration attorneys and advocates who argue the U.S. government is sending asylum seekers to violent Mexican border towns where law enforcement is unable or unwilling to protect them.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR –  The Texas Tribune

Read related Tribune coverage

Gallery+Story: Congressional delegations visit Clint, Hondo Pass Border Patrol Stations

Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), member of the House Judiciary Committee and Freshman Representative of the Hispanic Caucus, led a delegation to El Paso and Clint to investigate several facilities used to detain immigrants.

The visit to the Border Patrol stations came on the heels of a report that revealed a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents, where users allegedly made controversial comments about the migrants being held at the facilities, the border in general, and ‘throwing burritos’ at the visiting congressional detail.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), and Congressman Joe Kennedy III (MA-4) attended the event, touring the facility at Hondo Pass and the Clint Border Patrol Station.

As Ocasio-Cortez left Hondo Pass, she shared with members of the press a story she had been told of a woman forced to drink water from the toilet in her stall.

Later she tweeted about the experience.

In Clint, two groups of protesters gathered. While the Representatives toured the facility, the groups clashed – shouting at each other about the needs of children at the facilities.

The hostilities continued when members of the House addressed the press – with Islamic slurs being thrown at Congresswoman Tlaib.

Later in the afternoon, on Twitter, Representative Joe Kennedy described the entire tour atmosphere as “contentious and uncooperative,” writing the following in a thread of Tweets:

Author: Jordyn Rozensky  |  Gallery by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – El Paso Herald Post 

Presidential candidate O’Rourke talks immigration, child detention at Clint Border Patrol Station

In the heat of an El Paso June day, approximately 200 protesters gathered to challenge child detention and cheer on presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke.

With cars parked up to a 1/4 mile away and a hoard of press in attendance, local El Paso politicians spoke out against child detention before welcoming O’Rourke.

Roughly five counter-protesters chanted from across the street. When they crossed to be closer, they were met with mostly annoyance.

Their chants of “finish the wall” were met by responses of “we are the wall” from individuals who blocked their approach.

O’Rourke took to the stage, pausing for selfies and handshakes as he snaked through the crowd. “Thank you for bearing witness to what is happening in our name, right now, in the United States of America,” he began.

“The only way this is going to get better, the only way that it is going to change, the only way that you can really be here for these kids is to be here right now for those kids and to share with our fellow Americans just what is being done in our name.”

O’Rourke called the detention of immigrant the largest incarceration of children who had not been convicted of a crime in American history – second only the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

Prior to his arrival at Clint, O’Rourke and his team visited with families at Casa Del Migrante, the largest shelter for migrants in Juarez.

There they spoke to families and individuals who had been sent to Mexico to await their court date, including a 19-year-old woman who was separated from her parents and younger siblings.

Of the experience, O’Rourke shared “We met people, our fellow human beings, who are leaving some of the most horrific conditions that you can imagine.

The O’Rourke campaign released a statement yesterday, reading, “Earlier this year, O’Rourke released a sweeping immigration plan to immediately end family separation and reunite those already separated, protect asylum seekers, create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people and make naturalization easier for 9 million eligible immigrants, establish a first-of-its-kind community-based visa, and only require detention for those with criminal backgrounds who represent a danger to our communities. His plan would also more than double U.S. investment in Central America to address the violence and instability in the Northern Triangle driving so many families to flee.”

Author and Photos by – Jordyn Rozensky / Frontera Studio – El Paso Herald Post

Story in Many Pics: ‘Faith Action’ at Stanton Street Bridge

On Thursday, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso and clergy of the Diocese of Ciudad Juárez participated in the binational ‘Faith Action’ at the Stanton Street bridge in Downtown El Paso.

As the temperatures in the area soared above 100 degrees, Bishiop Seitz, Rev. Javier Calvill  and scores of migrants met and marched under the sweltering summer sun.

At virtually the same time, dueling protest were being held several miles to the east, in front of the now notorious Clint Border Patrol Station.

Our very own Jordyn Rozensky, along with Justin Hamel were at the bridge and event, and we bring your their view via this ‘Story in Many Pics.’

House, Senate have passed competing border aid bills. How would each help migrants detained at the border?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Amid a raging nationwide debate over the dire conditions of migrant detention centers, the U.S. House and Senate rushed to pass competing bills this week to address an unfolding crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Both the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate approved bills with around $4.5 billion aimed at improving conditions in overcrowded migrant detention centers, but the bills allocate their money differently and offer different levels of assurance that the Trump administration puts the appropriations to their intended use.

But with calls to address the humanitarian situation at the border grow louder, the leadership in both chambers are on a collision course as they scramble to address the situation ahead of a weeklong July 4th recess. Here’s a look at how the bills compare:

What’s in the House Bill?

The House passed a $4.5 billion border aid bill Tuesday night on a 230-195 vote. Only three Republicans supported the bill, including one Texan, Will Hurd of Helotes. The funding designations of the House bill are carefully crafted to funnel appropriations towards improving conditions at detention facilities and extending aid and legal services to migrants.

Most of the House’s appropriations—some $2.9 billion—would go to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) toward funding legal services for migrant children who have been detained and relieving overcrowding by creating more licensed facilities to hold migrant children.

And of the remaining $1.5 billion in the House bill, the majority would go to the Department of Homeland Security, whose sprawling network of agencies include U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In the eyes of some Democrats – most prominently U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who voted against the bill – sending any more funding to DHS risks helping support ICE’s efforts at deportation.Even though the House bill notably does not allocate any funding for ICE, the agency has developed a reputation for supporting itself through back channels. In recent years DHS has sometimes diverted funding from other areas to ICE, according to Greg Chen, the Director of Government Relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

But the House bill is careful to spell out how DHS is allowed to use the new funding, requiring the agency to ensure it has an adequate supply of necessities like food, water, blankets, soap, toothpaste and diapers. Extreme shortages of such productshas stoked widespread outrage and served as a flashpoint in the national conversation about the situation at the border over the last week.

Still, nearly $800 million of DHS’s funding in the House bill is designated for the expansion of “soft-side and modular facilities”—the overflow shelters often referred to as “tent cities”—an expansion of detention accommodations that critics have argued are inhumane.

Unique to the House bill are $17 million in allocations to the Department of Justice prescribing legal services for children and $20 million to ICE to fund alternatives to physical migrant detention centers. While some Democrats see any financing going to ICE as a non-starter, the language in the bill makes clear the money is aimed at softening enforcement measures. Opting instead for various alternatives to physical detention, Chen said, has proven effective in ensuring that asylum-seekers attend court hearings and keep up with their legal responsibilities, while being “far less expensive than physical custodial detention that the administration has been using as a default practice.”

Several provisions added to the House bill in the hours before it passed were aimed at appeasing hold-out members of the Congressional Hispanic and House Progressive Caucuses. These amendments established even tighter restrictions on the use of humanitarian aid funding and stringent standards on the care and resources provided to detained children including a 90-day limit on the detention of unaccompanied children at influx shelters, demands that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol adopt higher standards of medical care and hygiene for unaccompanied children, and a guarantee of translation services and legal assistance for detainees.

Perhaps the most significant distinction in the House bill are the “guardrails,” as some members have called them – provisions intended to prevent the misappropriation of funds by ICE and the Trump administration. Republicans argue that these restrictions on implementation severely limit the ability for the Trump administration to administer a unilateral response in an emergency situation.

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, of Fort Worth, in a statement on behalf of the Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee, criticized the House bill for including “provisions that tie the hands of the Administration, restricting President Trump’s ability to respond to the humanitarian crisis.”

Author: ADAM WILLIS – The Texas Tribune

Trump renews pledge to deport millions, but ICE reality is far more limited

President Donald Trump has begun his reelection bid by reviving a campaign promise to deport “millions of illegal aliens” from the United States, saying his administration will get to work on that goal “next week” with raids across the country.

But the president’s ambitious deportation goals have crashed, again and again, into the earthly reality of the U.S. immigration enforcement system.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is averaging approximately 7,000 deportations per month from the U.S. interior, according to the agency’s latest data. With unauthorized border crossings soaring under Trump to their highest levels in more than a decade, ICE has been facing a shortage of funds and detention beds, and experts say that a large-scale push to arrest and deport hundreds of thousands of migrants would be exorbitantly expensive and highly unlikely.

For ICE, making “at large” arrests in homes and neighborhoods — the key to chipping away at the “millions” Trump wants to expel — will require significant amounts of planning, coordination and secrecy. By telegraphing plans to begin a nationwide roundup, the president has risked undermining the effectiveness of ICE’s largest and most complex enforcement operation in years.

Trump and Mark Morgan, the acting director of ICE, talked several times in recent weeks about the operation, including as recently as this weekend. But senior White House and immigration officials did not know the president planned to announce it on Twitter, a senior White House official said Tuesday, and many felt it was detracting from the launch of the campaign. But Trump is eager to appear that he is making progress on immigration and remains fixated on the issue, advisers say.

The sensitive plan is aimed at sweeping up and deporting thousands of migrant family members in major U.S. cities who were ordered to leave the country after their cases were evaluated by immigration judges. Department of Homeland Security officials say the arrests are at the heart of their attempts to deter Central American families from making the journey north.

On Tuesday, current and former ICE officials acknowledged that Trump’s unexpected tweet had blown the cover off the plan, and they predicted that would-be deportees could scatter from known addresses in the coming days, diminishing the agency’s chances for success. Lawmakers and immigrant advocates expressed alarm and outrage at the possibility that ICE would go forward with the plan, which risks separating parents and children as agents fan out to knock on doors and make mass arrests.

ICE declined to say whether Trump’s tweets referred to a specific operation in the works, but U.S. officials acknowledged privately that they are preparing to move forward with their long-planned blitz to take thousands of families into custody.

Morgan said Tuesday on “PBS NewsHour” that he hoped immigrants facing deportation would “work with us” and “come and turn themselves in to ICE agents, and we will work with them to remove them to their countries.”

“We don’t want to have to go and track them down into the neighborhoods in the cities,” Morgan said. “We don’t want that, and I don’t want that for the families.”

Morgan said he did not think Trump’s tweet publicizing the planned arrests put immigration agents at risk because the president did not provide specifics. “I’m not concerned,” he said. “They’re professionals. They know exactly what they need to do.”

With hundreds of ICE agents deployed to the border in recent months, interior arrests have dipped. From October to December, the most recent period for which statistics are available, ICE deported 22,169 people from the U.S. interior, down 7% from the same period in 2017. About 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants are in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center.

To meet the president’s goal of millions of deportations, ICE would need significantly more agents and funding. ICE’s division of enforcement and removal operations has fewer than 6,000 officers nationwide who are potentially available to carry out the kind of arrests described by the president, which would entail higher risks because they would involve knocking on doors and arresting parents and children in homes and apartments.

There is division among Trump officials about whether the roundup will make for good politics and policy. But Morgan, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and the president support the actions, a senior White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal fissures.

Authors: NICK MIROFF, MARIA SACCHETTI, ABIGAIL HAUSLOHNER AND JOSH DAWSEY, THE WASHINGTON POST

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Casa Carmelita: A soon-to-be home for Migrants seeks connection, creation

A stone’s throw from the Border Wall, a refuge for reflection and community is taking shape in the form of Casa Carmelita.

Named after Carmelita Torres – a hero of the 1917 Bath Riots – the building sits blocks from the Stanton Street Bridge. According to Zeb Green, a founding member of the space, the building is named to honor the resistance and memory of Torres.

For decades, migrants and day workers crossing from Juarez into El Paso were subjected to toxic chemicals in the form of a forced “delousing” gasoline bath. Men, women, and children were stripped naked and told to stand for inspection. Secret photographs were taken and passed around publicly, even posted at local cantinas.

Torres, who was just 17 years old in 1917, stood up to the callous treatment. Described at the time as “an auburn-haired Amazon,” Torres led 30 women in protest, inspiring others to riot.

Casa Carmelita speaks to her legacy – and the role of women of color in resistance work. “It’s women of color who often bear both the inspiration to resistance and the greatest brunt of oppression,” says Green.

The ultimate vision for Casa Carmelita is “connection.”

The proximity to the Border Wall is something Casa Carmelita grapples with; the wall “stands in contradiction with what we stand for,” says Green. “It is the antithesis of connection.”

Green, who holds a Master’s in Divinity and practices a form of liberation theology, came to El Paso in the wake of the Tornillo camp. Looking to disrupt the detention of children and the treatment of migrants and refugees on the border, he connected with a group called Tornillo: The Occupation.

Now, along with a handful of activists, Green has begun work on Casa Carmelita.

“People see our protests and think we’re only fighting,” said Green. “But this space is about investing in El Paso. It’s about wanting to create and not just tear down.”

Casa Carmelita currently requires some imagination. The walls are peeling, and the rooms are bare.

Remnants of the previous tenant, a bus company, remain. Green and his team of activists are working, in conjunction with their neighbors, to transform the downtrodden building into a space for worship and learning.

There are plans for a multi-religion congregation, with worship led by local and indigenous leadership, and an altar painted to reflect the spiritual needs of the community.

Just past the altar another sacred space is taking shape in the form of a library, with books donated from Green’s personal collection and Houston’s now-defunct Sedation Bookstore.

Known once as Houston’s only anarchist bookstore, Sedation lost their physical space, but their books found a home in Casa Carmelita.

Pointing to the idea of food as medicine, Casa Carmelita will also house an initiative known as Food not Walls. Currently run out of the homes and personal kitchens of leaders, Food not Walls provides home cooked and healthy meals that resonate culturally.

At Casa Carmelita, the group will have access to a full kitchen, a food pantry, and a community dining area. Green is quick to point out that anyone in need is welcome to dine or visit the pantry.

Green’s philosophy is rooted in “listening to the voices of the marginalized and following their lead.”

This way of thinking is clear in how he speaks of the building, showing his own enthusiasm and ideas, but making space to let the community lead. It’s important to Green, and his team, that the building is locally owned and managed.

Casa Carmelita is still under construction, but they hope to open their doors later this year.

 

Hurd on the Hill: Addressing the Border Crisis

Our South and West Texas communities are bearing the brunt of the immigration crisis. When crisscrossing the 23rd District of Texas, I consistently hear that folks I represent are concerned about the influx of migrants and subsequent releases by the Customs and Border Patrol.

Residents are rightfully concerned about this issue, and the ramifications for public safety and the drain on taxpayer resources. That’s why I took two actions in Congress recently to immediately address these concerns.

We must address the pull factors that encourage the mass migration to the United States we’re seeing. One of these pull factors is our outdated asylum laws. Word gets out through the smugglers and migrant populations on what to do and what to say when being apprehended at the border.

Too many loopholes and nefarious motives have allowed people to take advantage of the system and overwhelm the process. The cascade effect leaves more and more migrants with fraudulent asylum claims entering our country every day, taking advantage of our outdated laws. If we’re serious about solving the border crisis reforming our asylum laws is an essential step.

I have a plan to reform U.S. asylum laws, address the humanitarian crisis at the Southern border and provide the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal agencies with much-needed relief. My Asylum Reform Act of 2019 would overhaul antiquated laws ill-equipped for addressing the current crisis.

The proposal will fix our broken asylum system and end the cycle that encourages illegal immigration, diverts resources from those with legitimate claims and, in many cases, actually rewards the kingpin human smugglers who thrive on its perpetuation.

The Asylum Reform Act of 2019 would make several important changes to U.S. asylum laws, including:

  • Limiting eligibility for asylum to migrants who enter the U.S. at a port of entry, which would discourage illegal entry into the country and ensure Customs and Border Protection can process migrants in a controlled and orderly manner;
  • Prohibiting migrants who are arriving from a contiguous country (i.e., Canada or Mexico) from seeking asylum unless they have already been denied asylum or a similar protection in that country, ensuring that migrants are seeking protection from our neighbors before entering our asylum process. This prohibition would not apply if migrants are seeking asylum because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution in Mexico or Canada;
  • Codifying the administration’s credible fear standard used to screen migrants seeking asylum to ensure agents on the ground are evaluating the credibility of their statements when making their determination. Currently, 80% of migrants from the Northern Triangle pass their credible fear screening, but only 20% ultimately receive asylum. This change will help ensure that future administrations must take into account the credibility of the applicants;
  • Removing existing obstacles that prevent DHS from removing asylum seekers to a safe third country;
  • Deterring frivolous asylum claims by closing loopholes and defining what is considered a frivolous asylum filing; and,
  • Extending the statute of limitations for fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents that may be used in asylum matters from 5 years after the date that the offense occurred, to 10 years. Given the current backlog of asylum claims, we are rarely able to prosecute these types of offenses.

These reforms would halt the widespread abuse of our current system, streamline our existing processing of these individuals and, most importantly, ensure that our asylum system works for the people who need it most – those fleeing legitimate persecution in their home country.

There is still more to be done, and I remain committed to soliciting feedback and doing whatever it takes to solve this problem so we can actually help our communities.

I’m also standing up for border communities by asking for federal reimbursement for expenses incurred by local governments assisting with the ongoing needs of the migrant population. I fired off a letter this week to the Appropriations Committee, of which I am a member, urging more funding for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) State and Local programs accounts for Southwest border states, and asking that these funds be used to reimburse cities, counties and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) fulfilling the role of the executive branch while dealing with the influx of migrants in their backyards.

Our Texas communities should not be forced to shoulder the costs of dealing with the humanitarian crisis at our southern border. That’s why I am asking for federal reimbursement for our taxpayers. Due to a lack of human resources, DHS has been forced to release thousands of individuals into small communities along our southern border oftentimes without notice to NGOs or local governments.

Local communities should not have to bear the brunt of flawed policies at the border and must be fully compensated both for their humane response and for the security of our citizens, who are dealing with an issue that should be shouldered by federal agencies.

The Asylum Reform Act of 2019 and championing a federal reimbursement for localities are my latest efforts to help address the problem at the border. These are only parts of the larger whole, but I remain committed to implementing the over $220 billion I have voted for to fund DHS and improve technology and security at the border.

***

A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where he is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness, and the House Committee on Appropriations, where he serves on the Subcommittees on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.

***

The El Paso Herald-Post welcomes all local guest columns, open letters, letters to the Editor and analysis pieces for publication, to submit a piece or for questions regarding guidelines, please email us at news@epheraldpost.com

Trump backs off tariff threat, says Mexico will help stem tide of Central American migrants headed for U.S.

President Donald Trump announced Friday evening that his administration has reached a deal with the Mexican government over immigration and the punitive tariffs he threatened to impose on Mexican imports have been postponed indefinitely.

“I am pleased to inform you that The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico. The Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended,” he tweeted. “Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border. This is being done to greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States.”

The deal includes the expansion of the Migrant Protection Protocols program across the entire U.S.-Mexico border, according to a U.S. State Department spokesperson. The controversial program requires some migrants seeking asylum in the United States to wait in Mexico for their immigration hearings. The United States said on Friday that with the expansion, it will work to speed up adjudication of asylum claims and removal proceedings.

That program began in California in January and was expanded to the El Paso ports of entries in March. It’s drawn the ire of immigrant rights groups and immigration attorneys who argue the policy affects an immigrant’s ability to have adequate representation because shelter space is limited in Mexico and it’s unclear where their clients are staying.

Lawyers also say their clients face threats and have expressed fear of living in border cities that are prone to violence.

Mexico will also deploy units of its national guard throughout the country, with an emphasis on its southern border, and will make greater efforts to address human trafficking and smuggling.

“Additionally, the United States and Mexico commit to strengthen bilateral cooperation, including information sharing and coordinated actions to better protect and secure our common border,” according to the statement.

The State Department added that if “expected” results are not reached, both countries will take further actions and will continue to discuss the issue over the next few months. The statement did not give exact benchmarks for what the Trump administration would consider success on Mexico’s part.

The news brought relief to Texas lawmakers and economists from both sides of the aisle who had urged the White House to reconsider the use of tariffs, citing the long-term economic damage Texas would incur.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, cheered the decision and congratulated the president on reaching a “solid agreement.” Brady, the the ranking member on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, said last week the tariffs could have jeopardized the pending United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade pact seen by some lawmakers and economists as a much-needed improvement to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.

“The outcome is a strong win for Texas and America. I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues in the House and Senate to pass USMCA without delay so that American companies and workers can reap the benefits of this updated and modernized agreement,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said he was pleased with the agreement.

“I am optimistic that this announcement will bring confidence back to Americans,” he said.

Jon Barela — CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, a nonprofit focused on promoting business and economic development in Ciudad Juárez, El Paso and New Mexico — called the announcement “great news”.

“Uncertainty is the enemy of jobs, investment, and economic development. Congratulations to the negotiators in the U.S. and Mexico for their efforts to protect the borders and promote job growth and prosperity,” he said. “Predictability, free trade, and secure borders are not mutually exclusive concepts.”

The tariffs were scheduled to begin June 10 and Trump said he would increase them to as high as 25% by October if Mexico didn’t do more to stem the tide of migrationthrough that country by immigrants whose ultimate destination is the United States.

This week Customs and Border Protection announced that in May about 133,000 migrants were apprehended or surrendered to border agents on the southwest border. Approximately 11,400 more were deemed inadmissible at ports of entry. The total represents an increase of about 32% from April.

The tariff threat came after Mexico recently became the United States’ largest trading partner, though it has been Texas’ top trade partner for several years. Through March, more than $150 billion in trade passed through the countries’ ports, according to trade data analyzed by WorldCity. The U.S. exported $63.95 billion worth of goods and imported $86.63 billion worth of goods from Mexico. Texas’ ports at Laredo and El Paso are the the two busiest on the border, with $55.8 and $18.6 billion passing through those regions during that time frame.

Read related Tribune coverage

Abby Livingston contributed to this story.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Migrant apprehensions continue to surge on Texas-Mexico border

The surge of unauthorized migration that has the U.S. Border Patrol sounding alarm bells continues to rise to modern-day records, according to government statistics released Wednesday.

Across the southwest border, about 133,000 migrants were apprehended or surrendered to border agents on the southwest border in May, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Approximately 11,400 more were deemed inadmissible at ports of entry. The total represents an increase of about 32% from April.

The El Paso and Rio Grande Valley areas continue to see the largest influx of migrants — the vast majority of whom were unaccompanied minors or families from Central America who are seeking asylum in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Del Rio area is becoming the latest hot spot for migrants; agents in that sector have also seen apprehensions increase by the thousands each month.

About 49,880 migrants crossed the border in the Rio Grande Valley, a 35% increase over April. Another 38,630 came through the El Paso sector, which also includes New Mexico — a 43% jump since April; and about 8,560 crossed in the Del Rio sector, representing a 46% increase.

From October, when the government’s fiscal year began, through the end of May, the number of migrant family-unit apprehensions in the El Paso sector increased by about 100,000 – about 2,100%, compared to the same time period during the 2018 fiscal year. In Del Rio, agents apprehended 15,600 more families from October to May compared to the same period in 2018, a spike of 1,034 percent.

The surge of migrants at the southern border has led President Donald Trump to issue his latest threat toward Mexico. Last week, Trump announced he would slap tariffs on all imports from Mexico as soon as next week unless the Mexican government halts the flow of migrants through its territory.

Border Patrol stations, which are designed to hold a relatively small number of people for short periods, have been overwhelmed and have been forced to construct temporary facilities to hold and process migrants. Last month agents unveiledmassive, 500-person tent facilities in El Paso and the Rio Grade Valley city of Donna to deal with the crush of migrants; about two weeks later Customs and Border Protection announced that they needed more space and planned to build even more facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.

On Tuesday, the agency announced it also has erected tents in Eagle Pass, part of the Del Rio sector, where overall apprehensions have increased by 200 percent this fiscal year.

Agents have also seen a significant number of undocumented immigrants traveling in large groups. Through the end of May, more than 180 groups of more than 100 people have been apprehended on the southwest border, according to a Border Patrol statement. That includes a group of more than 1,000 apprehended in El Paso last week.

On Memorial Day alone, agents in the El Paso sector apprehended about 2,200 migrants, including groups of 200 and 430.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Video+Info: Cornyn – HUMANE Act Would Address Crisis at the Border

WASHINGTON – Wednesday on the floor of the Senate U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) called on Democrats to support a real solution to the humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border, like his HUMANE Act.

Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s floor remarks are below:

“First, we need to get additional funding to the departments and agencies that are trying to manage this crisis and care for the migrants in their custody.”

“Without action here in Congress, funding could dry up by the end of this month, creating an even more dire situation.”

“But that’s not a fix. That’s a patch. Any sort of lasting change cannot be solved by a funding bill or by tariffs. It has to be solved by something only Congress can do, by passing legislation that addresses the root of the problem.”

“The HUMANE Act is bipartisan, it’s bicameral, and it would provide real relief for folks in Texas and other border states who are struggling to manage the crisis.”

“I know most of our Congressional Democratic friends have adopted the posture of reflexively standing against the President on anything and everything that he asks for.”

“I think this is a much better solution than tariffs on Mexican goods brought into the United States.”

“I would urge all my colleagues to take a serious look at the HUMANE Act so we can finally do our part, that only we in Congress can do, to stem the flow of Central American migrants who are flooding our borders and prevent criminals and human smugglers from infiltrating our country as they are doing now.”

Background on the HUMANE Act:

Improving Care of Children and Families at the Border:

  • Requires DHS to keep families together during court proceedings and provide additional standards of care for families being held in DHS facilities*
  • Improves Due Process for unaccompanied children and family units by prioritizing their claims for relief in immigration courts.
  • Provides safeguards to prevent unaccompanied children from being placed in the custody of dangerous individuals.
  • Requires DHS to continually update their regulations to prevent and combat sexual abuse and assault in DHS facilities.
  • Fixes a loophole in current law to allow unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries to be voluntarily reunited with their families in their home country.*
  • Clarifies that the Flores settlement agreement applies to unaccompanied children apprehended at the border.

 

Streamlining Processing and Increasing Resources at Ports of Entry:

  • Mandates the hiring of additional DHS personnel, upgrades and modernization of our nation’s ports of entry to expedite legitimate trade and travel.
  • Improves processing of humanitarian relief claims by requiring certain applications take place at designated ports of entry.*
  • Requires DHS to establish four or more Regional Processing Centers in high-traffic areas to process and house family units in a humane environment.*
  • Requires the Executive Office for Immigration Review to assign at least two immigration judges to each of the Regional Processing Centers that DHS is required to establish along the southern border.
  • Mandates a strategy and implementation plan from the Department of State regarding foreign engagement with Central American nations.

 

*Recommendation of the bipartisan DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council

 

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.

Video+Gallery: Ropes, ladders, mass entry at US/Mexico border raises questions

On Saturday, June 1st , on my way to the radio show I occasionally host, I began to receive some very strange phone calls. I was being told that, along Border Highway, near Riverside High School, there were two ladders over the border fencing.

At first, I dismissed it. How could a ladder, much less two of them, be attached to the fence without Border Patrol being aware?

After receiving a few other calls that afternoon, I had to go out and see for myself. So, on my way home, I drove very slowly along Border Highway.

Even then, I almost missed it. I had to walk almost half-a-mile back to get where the ladders were.

Right there, in broad daylight, were two ladders – one appeared to be a rope ladder, and the other reminded me of an old collapsible metal ladder that one might have either in the Navy or at home to escape a second story fire.

How did these ladders get there? What happened to the people that put them there? I was curious.  Beyond that, the appearance of the ladders gave me an opportunity to talk with Border Patrol officials about something else that I had noticed.

For the past week, I’ve noticed that there haven’t been any Border Patrol agents along the fencing on Border Highway. I live in the Lower Valley and several times a day I drive Border Highway.

Not more than a week ago you would see marked SUV’s all along the fence. On the opposite side, in the westbound lanes, you would have marked El Paso Police Department units watching the border – as part of a funding grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

They were not there. I wanted to know why.

I reached out to Agent Baca, who is one of the Public Information Officers for the Border Patrol here in El Paso, about the ladders I saw and the lack of agents on the border.

As for the ladder incident, Agent Baca indicated that even though they were on both sides of the fence, they may not have been utilized by anyone.

Several scenarios were possible according to him: people could have put the ladders in place, and then been scared off by the amount of traffic; they could have been used, and the individuals were taken into custody.  (EDITOR’s NOTE: As of publication, Monday June 3rd, there have been no releases regarding the ladders, or anyone being taken into custody)

The ladders were removed by agents shortly after our conversation; however, even with his explanation, I still had a lot of questions about this whole situation.  I went back and did more independent research.

As I said, I live in the Lower Valley. I drive that stretch of highway daily. I know that there are times when there is little to no traffic on that part of Border Highway.

During the wee hours of June 2nd, I sat on the side of the road, where the ladders were the day before, and it was forty-nine minutes before the first car passed me – from just after two a.m. to almost three a.m. only two cars passed me. Two.

As for the lack of Border Patrol agents on the border, as they have been placed since the early 90’s as part of Silvestre Reyes’ ‘Operation Hold the Line;’  according to Agent Baca, the agents that would normally be along that stretch of Border Highway – as well as Paisano Drive – have been transferred to “assist with processing and caring for the large numbers of migrants crossing into the El Paso sector daily.”

Again, a good explanation, but one that seems contrary to all the information that the press and the public has been given.  We’ve already seen one video of 1,200 people crossing the border and coming through what is normally a locked passageway in the border fencing.

From Memorial Day (May 27) thru June 2nd, I made it a point to check for agents and their vehicles at various times along that stretch of road – from Downtown to Ysleta. While there were a couple of vehicle near or at the ports of entry, the majority of the border in between yielded the same result – no agents, no vehicles.

Every single day, Border Patrol agents are apprehending individuals coming into the United States. From the Customs and Border Protection’s information office, we are getting releases enumerating the flow, with pictures of large groups in custody.

Considering the stance of this country regarding this border crisis, aside from the unblinking eyes of the cameras, a large swath of our border was apparently left physically unwatched, leading to the video of the 1000+ migrants flooding ‘unchecked’ into the US, through a normally locked gate.

The entire situation leads to difficult questions.

If agents were stationed along the fencing, as has been the case for years, then would they have come over? Would those rope ladders have been put in place, and possibly used?

Amidst this ‘unprecedented flow,’ why is the fencing left unguarded? Why was this gate left open?

If the cameras are going to be stand-ins for agents, and the migrants are captured none-the-less, why have the agents spread every 1/4 along the fence/wall?

As we move forward in the next few days and weeks, we’ll be looking into these issues and working to bring answers to these questions to you.  Send me your tips, questions and anything else – steven@epheraldpost.com

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