Luis Orozco Morales had made the trip many times between his home in Hobbs N.M. and El Paso. But this time, when he tried to pass through a remote Border Patrol checkpoint, he was arrested and detained by the Border Patrol, despite having paperwork that showed he was allowed to remain in the United States.
Orozco, 47, said he agreed to help a friend transport auto parts from El Paso to Hobbs last week. The trouble started when Orozco, an undocumented immigrant from the Mexican state of Chihuahua, gave Border Patrol agents his paperwork that showed a federal judge had closed his immigration case in 2014.
His attorney, Eduardo Beckett, said Border Patrol agents rejected Orozco’s paperwork, mocked him and detained him for nearly a week. His wife and sister-in-law were not allowed to visit him in detention, Beckett said.
“I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong, the whole time I was [acting] within the law, but they asked me to exit the car and said my papers weren’t valid,” Orozco said last week from Beckett’soffice.
Orozco, who was caught entering the United States illegally in 2010 but later released, doesn’t have a green card or a work permit, but what he does have is paperwork signed by a federal immigration judge who in 2014 closed Orozco’s immigration case through a process called administrative closure — which puts an immigrant’s case on indefinite hold and takes them off the court’s docket.
It’s a tool that federal immigration agencies have used for cases they consider low priority and not worth expending time and resources. It’s also used when the immigrant has a pending issue with another agency, such as a visa application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Administrative closure was widely used under the Obama administration, said Michelle Saenz-Rodriguez, a Dallas-based immigration attorney and member of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association.
“They were taking really the low priority cases … and taking them off the docket and giving them administrative closure,” she said.
As of January 2018, about 350,000 immigration cases had been administratively closed, according to the American Bar Association. But the practice has become rare under the Trump administration. A rule issued in May 2018 by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions overruled a court decision that allowed judges to administratively close a case.
Beckett said his client’s court order is still valid and a rogue Border Patrol agent single-handedly overruled the judge’s order.
Orozco said that when he pulled up to the checkpoint, the Border Patrol agent told him the judge didn’t know what he was doing when he signed the documents.
“[He] said you’re a Mexican, you don’t need to be here,” Orozco said. “They told me, ‘This paper the judge gave you isn’t valid. He doesn’t know the laws.’”
Becket said Orozco is exactly the type of immigrant who should receive administrative closure: Beckett said Orozco has never been in trouble with local police or charged with a state crime, and he’s the primary caretaker for his wife, a U.S. citizen battling fibromyalgia and other medical issues. He also posted a $5,000 bond when he was released that hasn’t been revoked.
“He hasn’t violated any law, he hasn’t violated any of the conditions of his court-ordered administrative closure,” which could lead to his case being reopened and brought back before a judge, Beckett said. “But more importantly he has not violated any terms or conditions of the bond.”
Lisa R. Donaldson, an attorney for the El Paso office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, didn’t respond to requests for comment on Orozco’s case or respond to Beckett’s allegations. But she told Beckett in an email that Border Patrol considers Orozco’s case pending because a formal decision has not been rendered.
“Even if an alien’s removal proceedings have been administratively closed, [Border Patrol] will still apprehend, and then coordinate with ICE to determine if there is camp space and if ICE intends to file a motion to re-calendar the administratively closed case,” she said.
An administratively closed case can always be reopened, at the request of the immigrant — typically when they want to adjust their legal status — or by the Department of Homeland Securitywhen it seeks to remove a person from the country. Beckett said Border Patrol agents in the field aren’t authorized to make that decision.
“I think that the concept that a Border Patrol agent can by himself, without any authority, without going to a judge, just overturn an order, to me that goes against the rule of law, it goes against procedure,” Beckett said.
Orozco was released after four days in detention, ordered to wear an ankle monitor and told to report to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Midland on Oct. 10. Beckett said he fears his client’s case will be placed back on the immigration court docket and he could be deported.
As of August 2019, more than 1 million pending cases are sitting on immigration judges’ dockets, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
“The push is, or has been, through the Trump administration that they should proactively reopen all those cases so that they can bring them all to completion,” said Saenz-Rodriguez, the Dallas immigration attorney. “Which we see as the part of the big, mass-deportation machine.”
As Orozco awaits his fate, he says he worries about other people in a similar situation who have presented administrative clearance papers at checkpoints.
“My advice is, do not go through a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint because they are not respecting the rule of law,” he said.
Authors: JULIÁN AGUILAR, THE TEXAS TRIBUNE AND MALLORY FALK, KERA NEWS
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 decreaseof 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.
With the large surge of Central American families and unaccompanied children arriving in El Paso in the last year, officials with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have exceeded their capacity on numerous occasions.
In order to respond to the large number of families and unaccompanied children crossing illegally along the U.S./Mexico Border between Texas and New Mexico, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection opened two facilities, which are ready for use immediately.
Members of the media were given a tour of the facilities on Thursday.
One of the facilities is located in Northeast El Paso, behind the main headquarters of the El Paso sector, and the second is located in Donna, Texas which is near McAllen.
According to the U.S. Border Patrol, apprehensions for unauthorized immigrants in the El Paso sector have increased by more than 300 percent.
Additional complications occur when the CBP’s current holding facilities are primarily meant for unaccompanied men, not family units.
This has led to national attention and criticism regarding how and where CBP temporarily holds the Central American immigrants while they wait to be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the Department of Homeland Security if they are unaccompanied minors or Non-Governmental Organizations such as nonprofits such as churches and the Annunciation House of El Paso.
“There are not enough agents on the line,” Ramiro Cordero, Border Patrol Agent and Special Operations Supervisor said. “The agents are now processing aliens, processing families. Escorting individuals to hospitals, transporting, feeding, changing diapers – that is not the job of a Border Patrol agent. So, we are moving on – so we are building facilities such as what you see behind me to alleviate and help the process flow a little bit smoother and quicker.”
The facilities – known as “soft-sided temporary” facilities – are provided by Deployed Resources LLC of Rome, New York, according to the CBP. They are currently contracted for a cost of $36.9 million for a four-month base period; with an additional four months if needed.
Cordero said when an individual is taken to the facility, they will enter the small support soft-sided building first – which is approximately 12,300 square feet. There they will enter, and be medically screened upon arrival.
From there, they can use the shower facilities, which contain 32 stalls; which are divided into two separate sections for men and women.
If a family unit arrives and they need to bathe their children, CBP will not get involved in the process, but will allow the parent to decide how the child should be bathed.
Then they will be issued bracelets which will have designated colors. The colors will direct them to the temporary holding facility.
The holding facility is broken up into 4 sections and each section can hold up to 125 individuals.
Each section, or pod, contains 8 porta-potty toilets, with the ventilation leading outside. The toilets are going to be cleaned daily by outside contracted companies. Additionally, each facility has 4-hand washing stations; and 125 vinyl covered sleeping pads as well.
In the center of each pod stands a 7-foot guard tower which will be staffed 24-7.
Each pod will contain at least 1 medical technician, a doctor and a medical professional who will either be contracted or who will be a certified EMT or Medically licensed CBP officer or U.S. Coast Guard member.
The pods are air conditioned and each pod will have video surveillance. There are cameras on each corner of the pods.
There is also a laundry trailer with 40 washers and dryers; storage containers for detainee property; two 1,200 KVA generators for electrical services; and a refrigerated trailer for food storage and preparation.
According to the CBP agents, the El Paso sector alone has apprehended 94,000 individuals since October 1 of last year; compared to 13,000 individuals in the previous year during the same time frame. That’s an average of about 580 apprehensions a day Cordero said.
Roger Maier, spokesperson for the U.S. CBP, said on average they are processing 600 to 850 individuals per day.
On Wednesday alone, Border Patrol agents took custody of 243 immigranats, made up of family groups with small children and unaccompanied juveniles. This group was picked up at around 1:30 a.m. near the Antelope Wells port of entry in New Mexico.
Just 40 minutes later agents apprehended another group of 219 people at the border wall near downtown El Paso. Then on Thursday morning another 209 immigrants were apprehended yet again at Antelope Wells.
These facilities, Cordero said, will help. And, ideally – Maier said – an individual should be turned over to the appropriate agency within 72 hours.
“This is something we are doing because we have gotten to capacity,” Cordero said. “We have already exceeded our capacity and we need to have this in place so we can have people in humane places and we can transfer them in and out of the process. We at the border patrol are the first interaction – the first piece of the puzzle – our job is to enforce the law and our job is to process them and turn these individuals to someone else – in this case ICE enforcement removal operations.”
While the facility is currently meant to house family units, Cordero added that this could change in the future – depending on the situation and the circumstances.
Earlier this year the CPB and the U.S. General Services Administration had proposed to build a facility that would house as many as 800 people, which according to media reports, could have been the Hoover Manufacturing Facility.
But a group of business leaders in El Paso launched a campaign against the move under a Change.org petition, Action El Paso, asking the federal government to include city leaders in the conversation.
According to the petition business leaders are asking the following be adhered to before the GSA and CBP move forward with constructing the facility:
The community must be allowed to provide input on where the facility will be built. The federal government cannot come in and uproot El Pasoans’ quality of life, regional economy, and community cohesion for its own gains.
The community must have assurances regarding how this center will be staffed. We have seen too many instances where inadequate staffing has resulted in neglect and mistreatment of children and families.
The community must have assurances regarding how the health and well-being of families held in the processing center will be prioritized. It is a travesty that families are denied fundamental rights and basic dignities, such as a bed and access to health services, because processing facilities have been so poorly planned.
When asked about this, Maier said he wasn’t sure what the status of the facility was at the moment.
“That was a centralized processing center that we were looking to stand up – but that’s taking longer than expected for a number of reasons – so this (temporary soft sided shelter) is our quick response to that. But that’s still in the works – yes.”
Author: Alex Hinojosa | Gallery: Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald Post
El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley are less than two weeks away from the scheduled opening of temporary detention centers that will each house up to 500 migrants who have crossed the border to seek asylum.
The facilities, commonly referred to as a “tent cities,” are the federal government’s response to the ongoing crush of migrants, mainly from Central America, who continue to cross into Texas after traveling through Mexico.
“U.S. Customs & Border Protection urgently needs to provide for additional shelter capacity to accommodate individuals in CBP’s custody throughout the southwest border,” CBP said in a written statement. “The overwhelming number of individuals arriving daily to the U.S. has created an immediate need for additional processing space in El Paso, Texas and Donna, Texas.”
On Thursday, a U.S. Border Patrol official who asked not to be named said the facility would likely be at the agency’s station in northeast El Paso near U.S. Highway 54. Bulldozers and tractors with flattening rollers could be seen Thursday at the site, which also included five small, military-style tents used to house migrants. The CBP office in El Paso would not confirm that the station would be the location of the new facility.
The federal government’s solicitation for vendors names Deployed Resources of Rome, New York, as the company the government is in negotiations with to supply kitchen equipment, showers, laundries, bathrooms and office space. The solicitation says the government only plans to negotiate with one company “because the facilities need to be established by April 30, 2019.” The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the contract.
The two facilities will cost about $37.2 million through the end of the year, according to federal documents.
The opening of the new facilities would come just more than three months after the Trump administration shut down a similar facility in nearby Tornillo, about 20 miles east of the El Paso city limits. That facility was erected in June and housed hundreds of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border to seek asylum.
Temporary facilities have been used for years to house undocumented immigrants when U.S. Border Patrol facilities are beyond their capacity to shelter migrants. The Obama administration opened a temporary facility at San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force base in 2014 in response to a surge of unaccompanied minors who had crossed the border. And in 2016, a facility opened at the Tornillo site in response to another surge of unaccompanied minors and families crossing the border, the El Paso Times reported.
It’s unclear when the highway checkpoints in the El Paso sector of the U.S. Border Patrol will reopen after the agency closed them over the weekend and reassigned agents to help deal with an influx of undocumented immigrants.
The closure was first reported by Texas Monthly over the weekend. An agency spokesperson said Monday that the move is temporary.
“The United States Border Patrol (USBP) continues to apprehend illegal alien families and unaccompanied children in steadily increasing numbers. To process and ensure appropriate care for those in custody, resources including personnel have been diverted from other border security priorities,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “This is intended as a temporary measure. Checkpoints are integral to USBP’s border security mission.”
The El Paso sector covers more than 260 miles of the international boundary and includes El Paso and Hudspeth counties as well as all of New Mexico.
The spokesperson didn’t say how many agents have been reassigned or whether the sector has taken similar measures in the past.
The international borders in West Texas and New Mexico have seen a surge of unauthorized migration of mostly Central American families and unaccompanied minors seeking asylum after they are apprehended. In a statement released March 19, a sector spokesman said agents were apprehending on average 570 people per day, with about 90 percent of them coming from Central America.
That trend is part of an overall increase along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. From Oct. 1, when the federal government’s current fiscal year began, through February, about 136,150 family units were apprehended on the southwest border – an increase of about 340 percent from the same period in fiscal year 2018, when about 31,100 families were apprehended, according to CBP statistics.
The biggest spike occurred in the El Paso sector. During that time period about 36,300 family units were apprehended — a 1,689 percent increase from the same period last year, when 2,030 were apprehended.
It’s unclear whether other Border Patrol sectors in Texas are considering similar moves.
The Christmas week surge of migrants released by ICE into El Paso was somewhat to be expected. However, to understand what happened this week, you have to understand the process.
For the last three months, Annunciation House, the non-profit organization that houses migrants after their release from ICE custody as they work their way to their final destination, has seen a record number 2,000 releases a week.
Late on the night of December 22, ICE officials dropped off 211 immigrant families who had passed through custody at a Downtown Greyhound station without notifying Annunciation House, which is the procedure that has been honored in the past by the government.
Currently, asylum-seeking migrants are turning themselves in to Border Patrol in mass numbers. The San Diego Border Patrol sector is still holding a tight line on entries after the highly publicized “migrant caravan” made its way to Tijuana in early December.
In contrast, the El Paso Border Patrol sector has been allowing what they call ‘metered entry’ at local ports of entry.
Typically taking about 60 asylum seeking migrants into processing per day. Other migrants will turn themselves in to Border Patrol in desolate areas where ports are not accessible for hundreds of miles.
Once in custody, adults are vetted to ensure they have no prior removal orders from the U.S. Government, and have no known criminal ties to gangs in Central America. Those who are suspect because of tattoos or other markings are separated from the asylum-seekers and kept in long term detention at area prisons, jails or Border Patrol custody.
Single men are also separated and detained in this manner.
Those who are entering with children, whether they are men or women, are allowed to be released into the custody of a “sponsor” after they are fitted with ankle monitors. The sponsors are everywhere in the country and are typically family members or close friends.
On one recent visit to an Annunciation House shelter, the Herald Post met with Honduran and Guatemalan families who were heading to Nebraska, South Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, and other locations across Texas.
Typically, the asylum seekers are held in ICE detention for a maximum 72-hour period before being released to a local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO); in El Paso, that’s Annunciation House. In recent weeks, the population has surged in ICE detention centers and migrants are now being held anywhere between 4-8 days.
In the case of Felix Alonzo-Gomez, the 8-year-old Guatemalan child who died in ICE custody Christmas Eve in Alamogordo, the El Paso-area detention centers were so overpopulated that his family was moved to a Border Patrol Station outside of Alamogordo, NM.
Once released by ICE, the migrants are housed anywhere from 24-48 hours by Annunciation House in El Paso while their sponsors can secure bus or plane tickets to get them to their final destination. Once there, they will check in with a local office and await court proceedings. It acts as a sort of an underground railroad through the Sun City.
The hospitality sites are known to many, but revealed by few. Safety is a top concern to Annunciation House and their volunteers.
What became apparent in El Paso this week is the overwhelming number coming in to seek asylum is overwhelming ICE at their detention facilities and local NGO partners like Annunciation House, who are struggling to get migrants on to their final location before more are released the following day.
Ruben Garcia with Annunciation House said they received 522 migrants on December 26, an all-time record number for the center in his 40-plus year history with the organization. Thursday, Annunciation House received an additional 322.
In a statement to the El Paso Herald Post, ICE blamed inaction by Congress and attempts to stay in compliance with federal laws for detaining families as a reason for this sudden action.
“After decades of inaction by Congress, the government remains severely constrained in its ability to detain and promptly remove families with no legal basis to remain in the U.S. To mitigate the risk of holding family units past the timeframe allotted to the government, ICE has curtailed reviews of post-release plans from families apprehended at the southwest border. ICE is redoubling its efforts to work with local and state officials and NGO partners in the area so they are prepared to provide assistance with transportation and other services,” the statement read.
Congresswoman-elect Veronica Escobar has been in contact with ICE officials, including several phone calls on Christmas Eve to help coordinate transfers from ICE into Annunciation House custody. In the past, she said ICE worked to locate additional emergency detention space in order for NGOs to have room for the released family units. That practice is no longer an option, ICE told her.
As a result, more than 1,600 migrants have been released into the streets of El Paso since Sunday afternoon, with more expected in the coming days. Annunciation House has activated 15 hospitality sites including four hotels in El Paso and an additional 5 hospitality sites in Las Cruces, according to Garcia.
In an effort to mitigate the high population in detention holding cells by ICE, Garcia is working to increase capacity to 3,000 per week in El Paso. The increase represents a 50% increase in population housed by Annunciation House in the El Paso area.
During one of this week’s massive releases of migrants in Downtown El Paso, the Herald Post encountered many children who were battling colds or fevers. One child had pink-eye. Organizers on the ground tell us they have been seeing an increase in these sorts of illnesses when migrants are being released.
Most of the children had been in ICE custody for over a week before coming down with illnesses. Annunciation House is working with volunteer nurses and doctors to provide basic medical care and screening at each hospitality site.
Annunciation House operates 100% off of donations and is not funded by any government funding. Anyone wishing to make financial donations is asked to do so on their website.
At this time, Annunciation House is asking local organizations or church groups who are able to volunteer as a group to feed migrants at one of their hospitality sites contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An 8-year-old Guatemalan child detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection died at a hospital in New Mexico, the agency reported Tuesday, the second migrant child to die in government custody this month.
CBP initially said the child died shortly after midnight on Christmas Day. But early Wednesday, it issued a lengthy, revised version of events that put the boy’s time of death at 11:48 p.m. on Monday, Christmas Eve.
CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said the Border Patrol would conduct health checks of all children in its “care and custody,” whether they arrived in the United States as part of a family or were unaccompanied. The health reviews will focus on children under 10.
The new statement did not say how many children would be assessed, but they could number in the thousands.
CBP also said it was looking into a variety of options to relieve overcrowding in its facilities in the El Paso sector, which includes El Paso County in far western Texas and all of New Mexico.
The agency did not identify the boy, but in a statement, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, gave his name as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez. Castro, chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said that “many questions remain unanswered, including how many children have died in CBP custody.”
The child’s death came 17 days after 7-year-old Jakelin Caal, another Guatemalan national, died Dec. 8 of dehydration and shock less than 36 hours after she was apprehended by border agents.
The most recent death highlighted the stalemate over President Trump’s demand that Congress approve additional money for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, a standoff that has shut down parts of the federal government for four days. Trump said again Tuesday that there will be no change until his demands are met.
“I can’t tell you when the government is going to reopen,” he told reporters in an Oval Office appearance on Christmas morning. “I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it. I’ll call it whatever they want. But it’s all the same thing. It’s a barrier from people pouring into our country.”
About 25 percent of the government has been shut down since midnight Friday.
The president defended his call for $5 billion to construct a wall along the border with Mexico, saying that only an Olympic athlete would be able to scale such a structure. “If you don’t have that, then we’re just not opening,” Trump said.
All told, about 800,000 of the 2.1 million federal workers nationwide — or more than a third — are estimated to be affected in some way by the shutdown. Trump claimed that many government employees support the shutdown.
“Many of those workers have said to me, communicated — stay out until you get the funding for the wall,” Trump said. “These federal workers want the wall.”
But his claim conflicted with accounts from the workers’ union leaders.
“Federal employees should not have to pay the personal price for all of this dysfunction,” Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 members at 33 federal agencies and departments, said Monday. “This shutdown is a travesty. Congress and the White House have not done their fundamental jobs of keeping the government open.”
In its new timeline, issued at 12:37 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, CBP said the boy was apprehended with his father about 1 p.m. on Dec. 18, a little more than three miles west of the Paseo Del Norte port of entry. The agency said they were brought to the Paseo Del Norte processing center a little after 4:30 p.m., where they were given hot food, snacks, juice and water. Agents checked on their welfare six times, CBP said.
On Thursday, they were taken to the El Paso Border Patrol station, where they were held for two days and provided food, water and showers, CBP said. Agents checked on their welfare 17 times, the agency said. Shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday, they were taken to the Alamogordo Border Patrol station to “finalize processing,” CBP said.
The boy began to show signs of illness Monday morning and was taken to Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, N.M. He was tested for strep throat but prepared for release with a diagnosis of a common cold and given Tylenol.
But when caregivers noticed a fever of 103 degrees, he was held for more observation before being released with a prescription for an antibiotic and Ibuprofen.
The boy and his father were taken to a holding facility at the Highway 70 checkpoint, and the child was given the medications about 5 p.m. About 7 p.m., the boy vomited. His father declined further medical assistance, CBP said.
He became lethargic about 10 p.m. and was taken back to the hospital. On the way, he began to vomit again and lost consciousness. Doctors were unable to revive him at the hospital, and he was declared dead at 12 minutes to midnight. The cause of death is not known. An autopsy is planned.
“This is a tragic loss. On behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, our deepest sympathies go out to the family,” McAleenan said.
The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry called for an investigation “in accordance with due process.”
An investigation into CBP actions will be conducted by the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the CBP news release said. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general and Congress have been notified, it said.
The Guatemalan government was notified, and the father has met with consular officials at the Alamogordo station, CBP said. He also has spoken with his wife in Guatemala, the agency said.
The hospital said in a statement that “privacy regulations prevent us from sharing information about any individual patient. . . . Our thoughts and prayers are with this family during this very difficult time.”
Under guidelines established after the government waited several days to inform Congress about Jakelin Caal’s death, CBP agreed to notify lawmakers within 24 hours of a death of anyone in its custody and issue a media statement an hour after that. Notifications also must be issued to nongovernmental organizations that work with migrants and others.
U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee, said in an interview that “the reality is that a detention center is no place for a child, particularly a sick child. When that child was determined to be ill, had a 103-degree fever, why they would send that child back to a detention center, which is really not fit for even a well child?
“That’s something that we’re looking into, because that policy or whatever caused them to send that child back has to be changed.”
In a tweet directed at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Rep. J. Luis Correa, D-California, said: “This is the second child this month. What is going on at @DHS.gov? Does @HouseHomeland have to start subpoenaing you to get the truth?”
Ruby Powers, a Houston-based lawyer and member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the boy’s death is not unexpected given the difficult conditions that immigrants and their children face on the journey north to the United States and the way authorities shuttle families between facilities.
“There’s a lack of ownership of the detainee, thinking they won’t be in their hands very long, moving them along to the next location, and that is where the lack of care can occur,” she said. “I know I’m supposed to be shocked, but knowing everything I know, I’m not shocked.”
CBP said in its statement that it is developing “surge options” with Immigration and Customs Enforcement aimed at getting more families and children out of CBP custody in the El Paso Border Patrol sector. That includes working with nongovernmental organizations to house children and families.
The El Paso sector has seen a huge increase in the numbers of families arriving and seeking asylum. Annunciation House, a nonprofit that provides shelter and food for migrants after their release by ICE, has been overwhelmed in recent days.
ICE released more than 200 people at an El Paso bus station without warning on Sunday. Similar numbers were released Monday and Tuesday, and hundreds more are expected Wednesday and Thursday officials have said.
CBP also said it is seeking medical help from the Defense Department and other agencies for the large numbers of children and families in custody. The agency said it is reviewing its policies for caring for children under 10, including at intake and when they are held for more than 24 hours.
Court orders prevent CBP from holding children for more than 72 hours. But officials have acknowledged that they sometimes move children from one holding facility to another to avoid going over the 72-hour limit. The child who died in Alamogordo had been held by CBP for more than 130 hours before he died.
Jakelin’s family has disputed CBP reports that the child went several days without food and water before she died, saying she was healthy when she arrived in the United States. In a news conference earlier this month, a migrant advocate said the girl’s father, 29-year-old Nery Caal, had told him that Jakelin was healthy and had no preexisting conditions.
“He’s been very clear, very consistent that his daughter was healthy, and his daughter very much wanted to come with him,” said Ruben Garcia, founder and executive director of Annunciation House, an El Paso-based nonprofit that helps migrants.
The symptoms the 8-year-old boy exhibited are similar to the ones Jakelin showed before she died.
More than a day before she died, Jakelin, her father and 161 other Central American migrants crossed the U.S. border outside Antelope Wells, N.M., seeking to turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents.
The Department of Homeland Security has said that the girl did not show signs of health problems during a routine check conducted when she and her father were taken into custody.
“The initial screening revealed no evidence of health issues. During the screening, the father denied that either he or his daughter were ill. This denial was recorded on Form I-779 signed by the father,” the DHS account said. It added that they were offered food and water and had access to restrooms. The form was in English, but CBP officials said agents provided an oral translation.
The family’s attorneys have said that it was “unacceptable” to have Jakelin’s father sign a document in a language that he did not understand.
Jakelin’s body was returned to Guatemala on Monday.
Moore reported from El Paso. Paul Schwartzman and Elyse Samuels in Washington contributed to this report.
Authors: LENNY BERNSTEIN, PHILIP RUCKER AND ROBERT MOORE, THE WASHINGTON POST
Only a few days removed from the original scheduled date, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officials announced Thursday evening their ‘crowd control exercise’ would go on Friday morning in Chihuahuita, without press or the public present.
According to the email, officials said Friday’s exercise would again include Border Patrol ‘assets and participants,’ however the main difference would be that the exercise would be ‘closed to the public and media representatives,’ citing safety purposes.
The training, originally scheduled for Election Day, November 6th, was abruptly cancelled with out warning that same morning.
Armored vehicles, Border Patrol trucks with horse trailers in tow, as well as the familiar white and green clad trucks had all gathered within a few steps of one of the city’s oldest neighborhood, only to quickly be removed.
On Tuesday, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Officials filed an official complaint with the Department of Justice, alleging the
original date was a form of voter intimidation.
The area where the demonstration was slated to be held is in the heart of the Chihuahuita neighborhood in South El Paso. The
neighborhood is a historically poor, Hispanic community that winds along the Rio Grande River.
On Tuesday, when directly asked by the Herald Post why the exercise was canceled at the last minute, public affairs officers said they were not given a reason.
The construction of a $22 million Border Wall in Downtown El Paso will begin on Saturday, according to Border Patrol officials.
“This new wall will be far more durable and far more effective in deterring would-be illegal entrants,” El Paso Border Patrol Sector Chief Aaron Hull said.
Funding for the project was earmarked in the 2017 Appropriations Bill as part of the President’s Executive Order 13767
Construction on the 18-foot steel bollard wall will replace current chain-link fencing that is currently in place. One mile of the steel structure will be built west of the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry and the remaining three miles will be east of the PDN Bridge and will join with an existing 12-foot steel fence that begins on near Fonseca Road along the Border Highway.
The contract for the wall’s construction was awarded to West Point Contractors of Tucson, Arizona on June 1, 2018 but was not announced to the public until September 18.
Border Patrol maintains that the area is a hotspot for illegal entry into the U.S. When asked to provide specific numbers of illegal crossings in the area, officials with the Border Patrol were unable to give specifics. Instead, they say that their experience working in the area is all the evidence needed to show the four mile stretch is at a higher susceptibility for illegal border crossings.
The construction project came as a surprise to many in the Chihuahuita community, city leaders and immigration advocates.
Border Network for Human Rights called the announcement of the construction at the last minute “unacceptable.”
Fernando Garcia with BNHR organizes a bi-annual event called “Hugs Not Walls” which unites families separated by the Border in the arroyo near the PDN Bridge. On Monday, officials with the Border Patrol contacted Garcia to inform him that a previously approved permit for October 6, was being rescinded due to the wall’s construction.
Hull said the Border Patrol will continue to work with community stakeholders in the future, but said border security is their top priority. He declined to state whether Hugs Not Walls would be able to continue at the conclusion of the wall’s construction.
The El Paso Sector Border says apprehensions in the 2018 Fiscal Year were up 61% over 2017. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy in April, which was enacted in May. The policy resulted in controversial family separation and the creation of ‘tent cities’ which housed children separated from their parents.
In response to the wall’s construction, the Border Network for Human Rights and a number of community activists and elected officials joined together to announce a community action demonstration for Saturday, September 22 at 10 a.m. at Cleveland Square to protest the construction project.
The demonstration is expected to move toward the Paso Del Norte Bridge.
Thanks to the quick action of Border Patrol agents, a migrant from El Salvador safely delivered a baby shortly after crossing into the US.
According to U.S. Border Patrol officials, while patrolling the border earlier this month, agents from Ysleta observed 11 migrants cross the international boundary four miles west of the Ysleta Port of Entry. Agents captured the group and they were transported to the Ysleta station for processing.
After arriving at the station, a 34-year- old female from El Salvador informed Agents that she was in her third trimester of pregnancy. While in custody, she began to complain of stomach pain. A female Border Patrol Agent quickly recognized that she was in fact experiencing labor pains, and sprang into action.
The Agent immediately began to comfort the expectant mother through breathing and relaxation techniques and EMS was contacted. The Agent gathered towels to prepare for the birth. Minutes later, a baby boy was delivered with the assistance of El Paso Fire and EMS personnel, who had arrived to the scene.
Both mother and child were then transported to Sierra Providence East Hospital for further medical care and evaluation.
On December 6, the mother and newborn were discharged from the hospital, and transported to the Temporary Holding Facility in Tornillo-Texas pending an immigration determination. The following morning, the new mom alerted agents at the facility that her newborn child appeared to be ill, and required medical attention.
Agents summoned EMS and subsequently transported the mother and child to El Paso Children’s Hospital, where the infant was admitted. The infant was treated and was released by the attending physician and is currently doing well.
Officials with the Border Patrol add that once they were deemed fit for travel, the baby and her mother were released from U.S. Border Patrol custody, pending an immigration hearing.
TUCSON, Ariz. – The U.S. Border Patrol purposely drives migrants into remote desert areas, causing hundreds to get lost and disappear in 2015. That’s one finding in a new report by two Tucson-based immigrants’ rights groups.
Researchers combed through reports made to the Missing Migrant Hotline of the group La Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, or Human Rights Coalition. They also surveyed dozens of people deported from Arizona to Nogales, Mexico.
Geoffrey Boyce, with the group No More Deaths, which coauthored the report with La Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, said they found 460 cases of people who vanished last year alone, most while crossing the Sonoran Desert, the Arizona Uplands or the brushlands of South Texas.
“Oftentimes, what we see are small groups of agents encountering large groups of people and essentially, scattering the groups,” he said. “Folks disappear into remote mountains and canyons and are never heard from again.”
The report estimates that 8,600 people have died trying to cross the borderlands from Mexico into the United States since the 1990s. The Border Patrol said it will have apprehended 400,000 people in fiscal year 2016, the lowest level since the early 1970s.
Boyce said the “chase and scatter” tactics are part of a “prevention through deterrence” strategy put into place with Operation Gatekeeper in 1994.
“It expressly stated their intention to push crossing out into these remote and hostile areas, to use it as a barrier to unlawful crossings,” he explained. “This is pushing people out further into harm’s way.”
The report concluded that there is no safe way to catch people trying to cross in remote areas. The groups are calling on Congress to rewrite immigration policy to make it more humane, and to work to alleviate the violence and poverty that motivate people to try to emigrate to the U.S.
EL PASO, Texas – The ACLU is among the groups that have filed an administrative complaint against the Department of Homeland Security for confiscating money and property from individuals before deporting them.
The groups allege that immigration officials confiscated and failed to return personal belongings, exposing at least 26 people to greater risk of harm on their return to Mexico. Attorney Kristin Love with ACLU New Mexico said that without money or ID, people face extreme hardships in Mexico.
“People are deported to border cities far from where they are from without anything,” she said, “and have a very difficult time even paying for a place to stay when they’re on the border, or paying for food or getting a bus ticket home.”
Gillian Christensen, national press secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said her agency is investigating the complaints. She added that not returning belongings, money or identification prior to deportation is against agency policy.
During processing, Love said, ICE agents take a deportee’s belongings and put them in storage. It then becomes the deportee’s responsibility to claim those belongings or have a third party do so, something Love said is almost impossible when a person is in detention. She added that if the belongings are not claimed, they are destroyed.
“The Department of Homeland Security recently signed local repatriation arrangements with Mexico, saying that they would take all steps to ensure that belongings are back in the hands of their owners before their release from custody,” she said. “And yet, they haven’t taken even a reasonable step to ensure that this happened.”
Activists from Mexico and the United States jointly filed the complaint, Love said, adding that the majority of cases involved the El Paso Border Patrol Sector, which serves New Mexico and West Texas.
Some reports estimate that one in three people deported has his or her possessions confiscated and not returned.
The number of people apprehended by immigration agents while trying to enter Texas illegally dropped by more than 35 percent during the federal government’s 2015 fiscal year, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics released Tuesday.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents stopped some 210,470 people in Texas between October 2014 and September 2015, compared to 332,457 the previous year. On the entire southwestern border, 331,335 people were apprehended in the 2015 fiscal year, compared to 479,371 the year before.
Homeland security leaders attribute the dip to lower numbers of would-be illegal crossers and a ramped-up border security effort that has nearly doubled the number of agents on the southwestern border since 2001. The number of Mexican nationals apprehended decreased by 18 percent, they said; apprehensions of people from countries other than Mexico — mainly Central Americans — decreased by more than 65 percent.
The new data is not likely to allay the concerns of GOP state leaders, who argue the Obama administration is failing in its duty to secure the border and remove undocumented criminals already present in the country.
Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he’d be keeping National Guard troops on the state’s border with Mexico instead of sending them home as planned, the result of a spike in illegal crossings by minor children in the Rio Grande Valley in October and November of this year.
The Guard is deployed to assist federal agents and state troopers in surveillance and border crossings but has no arresting or removal powers.
The downward trend in federal apprehensions wasn’t just limited to the border; nationally, they decreased by about 30 percent between 2014 and 2015.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement also removed roughly 80,000 fewer undocumented people from the country — a total of 235,413 — in 2015 than the agency did the prior year.
During a conference call with reporters, homeland security officials said of Immigration and Customs Enforcement removals in 2015, about 86 percent were considered “Priority 1” — immigrants who pose a viable threat to national security, border security and public safety.
The 2015 totals also include roughly 40 percent fewer unaccompanied minors and family units.
Homeland security officials said their focus in 2016 would be “more interior enforcement” to return “convicted criminals” to their home countries.
SANTA TERESA, N.M – Border Patrol Agents intercepted another wanted sex offender trying to sneak back into the U.S on Monday, this time in Santa Teresa.
Agents on patrol near Sunland Park, New Mexico alertly located four men climbing through a hole in the international boundary fence in a notorious alien-smuggling area. Agents quickly responded and apprehended the group before they could reach the neighborhood.
Once in custody, all of the subjects admitted to being in the country illegally.
During processing it was discovered that 43-year-old from Mexico, Gilberto Izquierdo Ramirez had an active warrant for his arrest for failing to appear in court in regard to a charge of “Lewdness-with-a-Child Under-14”, which was filed back in September-2014.
Izquierdo Ramirez was transported to the Otero County Prison in New Mexico pending criminal prosecution and extradition to Reno Nevada, where the sex-offense charge had originally been filed. December 22, 2015.
Five suspected smugglers and over $250,000 in marijuana are off the streets this Thanksgiving Day Holiday thanks to the ongoing efforts by Border Patrol Agents.
On Monday night, shortly after 9:00 p.m., Border Patrol agents performing surveillance duties in Clint, discovered footprints of five subjects trespassing through a family-owned orchard. Agents tracked the footprints to a canal north of the international border where five persons were found lying on the ground.
Agents ordered the subjects to stand and discovered that each subject was trying to conceal a large bundle of what appeared to be illicit contraband. The five bundles contained a total of 319.5 pounds of marijuana, valued at $255,600.
The individuals were identified as 44-year-old Jose Eduardo Vasquez, 18-year-old Carlos Efren Cervantes-Delarosa, 21-year-old Hugo Chacon-Zapien, 19–year-old Christian Manuel Garcia-Valles and a juvenile, all from Mexico.
Records checks revealed that the fifth subject was identified a juvenile, and was voluntarily returned to Mexico.
The remaining four subjects and the illegal drugs were taken into custody by DEA, and are pending prosecution.