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Home | Tag Archives: trump immigration

Tag Archives: trump immigration

Statement: Bishop of El Paso on expansion of Remain in Mexico to include Brazilians

A year of Remain in Mexico has damaged enough human lives, hurt enough families and chipped away far too much at our country’s commitment to life, dignity and the protections that should be afforded to asylum seekers and refugees.

It is unfortunate that on this sad anniversary the government should expand this indefensible program to Brazilians, who cannot speak Spanish and are thus made even more vulnerable to criminal predation and exploitation.

Remain in Mexico unnecessarily puts Border Patrol agents and Customs officers in the pews of our churches in the lamentable position of having to choose between following the laws of conscience or the morally bankrupt dictates of man when they encounter human beings in need, who represent for us Christ, hidden beneath the guise of misery, fear and desperation.

May our consciences not be dulled and may those with the power to end Remain in Mexico, and every inhumane action against the one human family, hear our voices shouting out in the desert for compassion and for justice.

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Migrants, advocates mark the anniversary of “remain in Mexico” with fear, anger and trepidation

Oscar, who was living in Ciudad Juárez after fleeing Honduras, said he was badly beaten in September on his way to find work simply for being Central American. His teeth were knocked out and he was repeatedly clubbed in the head.

In July, Luis Emilio, a 22-year old Ecuadoran migrant, was sent back to Mexico after spending everything he had to make the trek to Ciudad Juárez in hopes of seeking asylum in the United States. He has since given up and tried to go back to his home country.

And just last month, Sofia, who fled Central America with her husband and two children, was told by Juárez shelter officials to consider taking her young daughter out of school because increasing violence made walking to the campus too dangerous, her attorney said.

Those are just a few of the stories collected from people waiting on the south side of the Texas-Mexico border since the Trump administration implemented its Migrant Protection Protocols, a program that forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their immigration hearings in American courts. (The migrants asked their last names not be revealed for fear of reprisals in Mexico and the United States.)

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the program that has so far sent more than 60,000 migrants back across the border since it was first implemented in California and Baja California. The program then expanded to the Texas border and the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Chihuahua and Coahuila.

“As of today, approximately 60,000 asylum seekers are unable to reach safety because of the Trump Administration’s policies,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio said in a statement on behalf of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “While waiting, these families are vulnerable to kidnapping, assault, rape, extortion, and murder. They cannot access legal counsel, and then do not receive due process at the immigration tent courts across the border.”

As of December, about 17,500 people had been returned to Ciudad Juárez alone, making the gritty border city the epicenter of the program. A report published earlier this week by the HOPE Border Institute puts the figure closer to 20,000.

Enrique Valenzuela, the director of Ciudad Juárez’s Centro de Atención a Migrantes, a migrant transition facility operated by the Chihuahua state government, said it’s difficult to determine how accurate the counts are or how many migrants are still waiting in Mexico. That’s because many of them have either grown frustrated with the program and decided to try crossing the Rio Grande illegally, or they have simply given up and returned home.

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to a request for comment. But acting Customs and Border Protection Secretary Mark Morgan has said the program has had the intended effect: slowing unauthorized crossings.

In December, federal agents apprehended or turned away 40,620 migrants at the southwest border. That marked the eighth monthly decrease since the number hit 144,116 in May, according to CBP statistics.

Morgan added that reports of violence in Mexico are overblown.

“The individuals that leave that shelter environment and re-engage with the cartels to potentially be re-smuggled in the United States … that’s where we’re seeing and we’re hearing some of the anecdotal stories,” he said last month.

The rollout of the program last year came as violence in Mexican border cities continued to climb. Ciudad Juárez recorded about 1,500 homicides in 2019, the highest yearly total since 2011, the last year of a drug war that claimed more than 10,000 people in the border city. Last weekend, 20 people were murdered in 24 hours in Ciuadad Juárez.

And in a New Year’s Day Facebook post, Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar asked Laredoans not to travel to their sister city.

“Please avoid these areas and do not cross over to Nuevo Laredo. It’s been said that high-caliber machine guns and explosives are being utilized. They are highjacking vehicles and disturbing the peace. Our prayers go out to the citizens of Nuevo Laredo,” he wrote.

For migrants choosing to tough it out, the chances of receiving asylum are slim. Of the estimated 7,500 cases that immigration judges have decided in the El Paso immigration court system, asylum or another form of relief was granted in only 15 instances, according to the report by the HOPE Border Institute.

“With a near 90 percent denial rate, El Paso immigration courts routinely deny asylum significantly above the national average; migrants are thereby disadvantaged by a program which forces them to remain within the El Paso jurisdiction,” the report states.

For now, opponents of the Migrant Protection Protocols are waiting on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to make a decision on the program; the court allowed it to continue until it can complete a review of the merits of a lawsuit that claimed the policy should have gone through a public comment period under the Administrative Procedure Act.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, has filed the Asylum Seeker Protection Act to defund the program — but to become law, it would have to get approval from the Republican-controlled Senate and President Trump. Meanwhile, the federal government continues to expand the program: Late Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that MPP will also apply to Brazilians seeking asylum in the United States.

“MPP remains a cornerstone of the Department’s efforts to restore integrity to the U.S. immigration system and relieve the crushing backlog of pending asylum cases. Our nation is more secure because of the program,” a statement from DHS said.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Federal judge issues partial block of Trump administration’s third-country asylum rule

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that asylum seekers who presented themselves at ports of entry before mid-July won’t be affected by the Trump administration’s ban on people who didn’t seek asylum in another country before arriving in the United States.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled the administration’s third-country rule, doesn’t apply to people who applied for asylum before July 16.

The news was first reported by the Associated Press, which quoted Bashant as claiming the White House did an “immoral bait-and-switch” after it told would-be asylum seekers to wait before they applied in the United States. The administration’s metering policy, implemented last year, requires the majority of asylum seekers to wait in Mexico — sometimes for several months — before they apply for asylum.

The judge ordered a temporary halt to the policy as it affects all “non-Mexican asylum seekers who were unable to make a direct asylum claim at the U.S. [port of entry] before July 16, 2019 because of the U.S. Government’s metering policy.”

The case, Al Otro Lado v. Wolf, was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Center for Constitutional Rights, and the American Immigration Council.

In a statement issued after the ruling, Melissa Crow, the senior supervising attorney for the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project said, “While there is still a long road ahead, today’s ruling is an important one for the thousands of asylum seekers who followed the ‘rules’ and waited their turn, only to be told they were out of luck once the new ban was announced.”

Disclosure: The Southern Poverty Law Center has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Border Patrol apprehensions dipped last month, but 2019 saw a dramatic increase from 2018

EL PASO — The number of people who were apprehended by or surrendered to federal immigration officials on the U.S.-Mexico border dipped by nearly 20% last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday. After totaling about 64,000 apprehensions in August, the agency reported a September total of about 52,500 apprehensions — a decrease of about 18%.

The September total is about 40% of July’s estimated 82,000 and the lowest monthly total of the 2019 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics.

Despite the months-long trend downward, the entire 2019 fiscal year’s total represents nearly a 90% increase over 2018. In 2019 about 977,500 people were apprehended or presented themselves at the ports of entry without proper paperwork, compared to 521,000 during the 2018 fiscal year.

“CBP has faced unprecedented and staggering levels of illegal crossings,” Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said during a news conference from Washington Tuesday.

Morgan credited the Trump administration’s polices for the latest dip in numbers and mentioned the Migrant Protection Protocols, which requires most asylum seekers from Central America, Cuba and other countries to wait for their U.S. court hearings in Mexico. The policy is designed as a deterrent to convince people in those countries not to make the trip north. Since its inception in late 2018, more than 51,000 people have been sent back to Mexico, Morgan said.

“While Congress has failed to put forth a single piece of legislation — even be able to introduce it to the floor to address this crisis — we have addressed this crisis,” Morgan said.

Morgan also lauded the Mexican government’s efforts to stem the flow of migrants. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador deployed thousands of federal troops to that country’s southern border to slow the number of people arriving from Central America. The order came after Trump threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25% on Mexican imports if the flow of migrants continued in nearly record numbers.

Morgan also said on Tuesday that the Trump administration is moving forward with another controversial asylum policy. In July, the administration announced that most migrants who passed through another country on their route to the United States would be ineligible for asylum protections if they didn’t apply for asylum in another country.

After a court challenge to the policy in a California federal court, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that the policy could be implemented while the case plays out in lower courts.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR The Texas Tribune

Read related Tribune coverage

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 

Tornillo will re-open as a migrant detention center, this time for up to 2,500 adults

The Trump administration is opening a new 2,500-bed holding facility for adult migrants here, constructing a large soft-sided structure close to the U.S.-Mexico border on the former site of a controversial shelter for migrant children, officials said Friday.

Roger Maier, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, confirmed that work to build the facility began this week. He said it will be designed to hold single adults who have crossed the border and have been taken into custody — it will not hold family units or unaccompanied children — and that it will “provide relief for overcrowded Border Patrol” stations as the agency awaits transferring the migrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

“CBP anticipates populating the facility in late July or early August,” Maier said.

The new adult holding facility is being built at the Marcelino Serna Port of Entry, about 30 miles southeast of El Paso. The port is named after Serna, a Mexican immigrant who lived in El Paso and as a U.S. Army soldier became a decorated World War I hero.

That port was the home of a temporary shelter for unaccompanied migrant children from June 2018 to January 2019. It held more than 2,700 children at its peak in December, drawing repeated protests and becoming a focal point for critics of the administration’s border policies.

The child shelter closed in January after the Trump administration loosened some requirements it had created for potential sponsors offering to care for unaccompanied migrant children. A short time later, a large surge of Central American children began arriving at the border, and the administration expanded a temporary child facility in Homestead, Fla., and opened a new one recently in Carrizo Springs.

CBP officials said single adults at the new facility will be provided three daily meals, showers, medical services, laundry, custodial services and temperature controls.

Such CBP facilities in the past have been used to house migrants for less than 72 hours, but that has changed in recent months as the number of families crossing the border grew. Migrants have been held for weeks or months in facilities not designed to hold them that long, drawing increasing criticism from congressional Democrats.

Vice President Pence visited such a facility in McAllen on Friday, seeing hundreds of migrants crammed behind caged fences, some who said they were hungry, thirsty or were in need of a shower. Some said they had been there a month or longer. Squalid conditions at border facilities have drawn widespread concern as the migrant flow across the border has surged to more 100,000 per month this year, at times overwhelming the U.S. immigration system.

The new holding facility in Tornillo came as a surprise to Georgina Pérez, a member of the State Board of Education who lives here. She said residents had not been notified that the facility was under construction and was staffing up.

“It’s 2019, and we’re still treating some people as less than human,” said Pérez, a Democrat who was a critic of the child detention facility.

Border crossings fell 28 percent from May to June, something the Trump administration attributes to increased Mexican immigration enforcement and U.S. policies aimed at deterring migration. It is unclear whether that decline will be part of a trend, and with construction of new facilities, it appears the U.S. government is preparing for the influx to continue.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author: ROBERT MOORE, THE WASHINGTON POST

Analysis: Why fix immigration when you can campaign off the mess?

Our elected class — federal division — is spending more time arguing about the mess on the border than fixing the mess on the border.

They have been able to solve other problems. The response to Hurricane Harvey was bipartisan and, as these things go, fairly smooth. And even within the gridlocked debates over immigration policy and enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border, lawmakers were able to pass a $4.6 billion aid package as stories of horrible treatment of migrant children and families came to light this spring.

Overall, though, the political class hasn’t had the chops to address the border at all — except as a platform for rhetoric, fundraising and posturing.

If results are the measure, there’s not much to measure.

A devoted observer might get a bellyful of this and become a cynic — or go the other way and try to figure out why the pinheads in Washington, D.C., are doing what they’re doing.

But even a cursory glance at the polling in Texas shows Republican and Democratic voters deeply divided in a way that makes it difficult for the people they elect. If the partisan voters don’t overlap much, their representatives can get into political danger by entertaining certain ideas, or anything that even looks like negotiating, with the other side.

Or so it seems if you look at poll results and then watch how the people in Congress have acted — and not acted — on immigration problems that have compounded for years.

In the most recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, completed last month, 28% of Texas voters said that either border security or immigration is the most important problem facing the country. But look inside the numbers: Among Republicans, 46% put those two problems at the top. Among Democrats, only 7% did.

Those two problems top most important issues facing the state, too, with 37% of voters picking one or the other. But among Democrats, 12% chose border security/immigration (14% chose health care and 13% chose political corruption/leadership); among Republicans, 59% said border security and immigration are problems No. 1 and No. 2.

It goes on like that.

Remember President Donald Trump’s proposal to impose tariffs on imports from Mexico if that country didn’t crack down on migrants bound for the U.S.? Among Democrats, 76% opposed that, and among Republicans, 74% were in favor of it — even though Republicans were split evenly on whether that policy would help or hurt the Texas economy. Would a policy like that curb immigration to the U.S.? While 70% of Republicans said it would be effective, 79% of Democrats said it would not.

It’s not a shocker that Republicans and Democrats disagree. But suppose you were an elected official, one who wanted to find a solution that both your opponents and your supporters could agree upon. Hard to find the overlap, except when children and families are in the center ring.

A year ago, when family separations dominated the news and the administration was trying to squeeze off the stream of asylum seekers on the border, voters weren’t willing to support taking kids away from families — particularly when the government agencies splitting families were unable to say which children had been separated from which adults. Trump backed down, signing an executive order halting those separations.

A year later, the country’s immigration enforcement apparatus faces government reports of terrible conditions where migrants are being detained, and the current policy has forced Mexico to hold asylum seekers in camps that almost make the U.S. facilities look good.

Look at the practice, and look at the political conversation. The first is a gnarly and messy problem, but a solvable one. The second has become a way for each set of elected officials — and the people who would like to become elected officials — to appeal to partisan voters on both sides.

It looks like everyone thinks the political gains come from their opposition to their hated opponents — and not from their ability to attack and solve a complicated and frustrating problem plaguing the U.S. and Mexico, not to mention other countries all over the planet.

The leaders are waiting for their followers to tell them what to do, instead of the other way around. While they wait, they’re playing political games.

Disclosure: The University of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author: ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

Read related Tribune coverage

Statement from Borderplex Alliance CEO Barela on President Trump’s Tariffs on Goods from Mexico

President Trump’s misguided plan to impose tariffs on goods from Mexico is a consumer tax on Americans that will lead to job losses in the Borderplex region and throughout America.

Uncertainty is the enemy of job creation, private investment and economic growth. The President’s comments create great uncertainty and businesses are looking to Washington for solutions, not counterproductive threats. President Trump’s actions also undercut his own efforts to ratify the USMCA at a critical time in its attempted passage.

Mexico is an economic and strategic ally of the United States. It is not a foe. Mexico is now America’s largest trading partner and between 5 to 6 million U.S. jobs rely directly on trade with our southern neighbor.

The Borderplex region is the fourth largest manufacturing hub in North America and the President’s actions will have a devastating impact on our local economy.  This action will also have dire consequences for jobs in the sophisticated supply chain between the U.S. and Mexico.  Jobs in states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania will especially be at risk.

Every minute, there is $1 million in trade conducted between our two countries. If Mexico retaliates with its own tariffs on U.S. goods, the resulting trade war would not only have a chilling effect on our bilateral relationship, it will open the door for investment from other countries like China into Mexico.

Rather than threatening a close ally, President Trump should be working, in a bilateral fashion, to solve the migrant crisis while at the same time creating jobs, opportunity, and a more secure border.

Therefore, the Borderplex Alliance will continue to work with our elected officials to promote border security and cross-national commerce. We call on all sides to work toward a long-term solution that will stem unlawful crossings and bolster the economy on both sides of the border.

Author: Borderplex Alliance CEO Jon Barela 

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Video+Info: President Trump Announces Temporary Deal to Reopen Government

On Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump announced a temporary deal to reopen the United States Government, at least until February 15.

Via a televised speech from the White House Rose Garden, President Trump said, “I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government.”

As part of the deal, federal workers would return to their jobs, while lawmakers return to the table to negotiate further. The new deal would not include any funding for the wall that the President had promised.

The deal would run for the next three weeks, or until the President and congress could hammer out a permanent deal.  President Trump hinted that if a deal is not reached in that time, he could declare a National Emergency.

“As everyone knows I have a very powerful alternative but I’m not going to use it at this time.”

Also during the speech, President Trump thanked the federal workers who had been furloughed or working without pay.

“In many cases you encouraged me to keep going because you care so much about our country and our border security,” Trump said. The President added that federal workers would receive back pay “very quickly.”

As the shutdown reached it’s 35th day, approximately 800,000 federal workers missed their second paycheck, with roughly half of them working without pay.

For more coverage, please visit:  USAToday   |  CNN   |   FoxNews   |   MSNBC   |   NPR

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Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) issued the following statement on President Trump and Republicans’ decision to temporarily reopen the federal government:

“For 35 days, President Trump and Republicans in Congress have senselessly held the American people hostage by endangering our nation’s safety and inflicting pain on hundreds of thousands of hard-working federal employees and contractors who have struggled to feed their families and pay their bills. I’m grateful for their patriotism and commend the generosity shown by the El Paso community for helping and supporting them during this troubling and difficult period.

“As Congress comes together to determine a path forward beyond February 15th, we must recognize that over the past decade, border security funding has grown to more than $8 billion without any meaningful increase in oversight, accountability or transparency. Furthermore, as we address the challenge of thousands of Central Americans fleeing their countries and arriving at our border each month, we must address the root causes and ensure that our government effectively develops a plan to deal with the changing patterns of migration in a smart, humanitarian way.”

 

Trump Says He Could Declare National Emergency to Build Border Wall

President Trump on Friday threatened to use emergency powers to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a move that would defy a Congress that — amid Democratic opposition — has thus far refused to allocate any new money for a border wall.

Asked Friday if he would declare a national emergency to get the wall built, Trump responded: “We can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it.”

The government has been partially shut down since Dec. 22, as Trump has demanded any budget deal include more than $5 billion in wall funding.

Trump told congressional leaders Friday he would keep the federal government closed for “months or even years” amid a dispute over border wall funding, as the White House scrambled to unify the GOP behind Trump while some Republicans showed impatience with the now two-week old shutdown.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that during a contentious and nearly two-hour meeting inside the White House situation room, Democrats told Trump: “We needed the government open.”

“He resisted,” Schumer said. “In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”

Addressing reporters a short time later in the Rose Garden, Trump confirmed that he’d suggested the shutdown could last for years — although he said he hoped it wouldn’t.

Trump said that, despite the Democrats’ characterization of the meeting as contentious, in his view it had been productive. “I thought it was really a very, very good meeting,” Trump said. “We’re all on the same path in terms of wanting to get government open.”

But Trump strengthened his rhetoric in his demands for more than $5 billion to build a wall along the southern border, saying it must be built out of concrete or steel. Democrats have rejected providing any new funding for a border wall.

“The southern border is a dangerous horrible disaster,” Trump said. And contrary to Democrats’ demands, he said the government would stay shut down until the issue was resolved.

“We won’t be opening it until it’s solved,” Trump said.

Trump promised during his campaign and earlier in his presidency that Mexico would pay for the wall. That has not happened.

Trump said he’d designated a working group led by Vice President Pence that would be meeting with congressional staff over the weekend to come up with a solution to the impasse.

The developments came as the administration worked behind the scenes to shore up support for Trump’s wall demand.

Pence called about a half-dozen House Republicans late Thursday to urge them to vote against measures that would reopen the government without new wall funding, amid White House worries that broad GOP defections would give the Democratic effort bipartisan backing.

Two Republican officials confirmed the calls, speaking on the condition of anonymity to divulge the private communications.

Ultimately, just five House GOP lawmakers voted with Democrats on a spending bill that would operate the Department of Homeland Security until Feb. 8, and seven Republicans supported separate legislation that would reopen the rest of the federal government through Sept. 30. GOP officials feared the defections could have been much higher had the administration not gotten directly involved.

Pence’s efforts reflect a growing anxiety among congressional Republicans over the two-week shutdown that has halted paychecks for 800,000 federal workers but shown no signs of ending anytime soon — trapping GOP lawmakers between the president’s push to fund his signature campaign promise and the shutdown’s spreading consequences.

Congress also adjourned until Tuesday, making Wednesday the earliest the federal government can reopen — barring a major breakthrough between the administration and Congress. At that point, the partial shutdown would have lasted 18 days, which would make it the second-longest shutdown in history.

Pence’s outreach centered primarily on moderate members and those who hail from the northeast — some who ended up voting for the bills, and others who didn’t. The vice president’s pitch to Republicans centered on two main points: The country needs funding for a wall, and Congress shouldn’t kick the can to February, when the stopgap funding for DHS would have expired under the Democratic strategy.

The vice president also pointed to language in the funding bill passed late Thursday that would reverse the so-called Mexico City policy, which denies U.S. assistance to foreign groups that offer or promote abortions. That provision was included in the version of the spending bill passed unanimously by the Republican-led Senate Appropriations Committee last year, which Democrats are now using to try to end the partial shutdown.

Before the leadership arrived at the White House, Trump sent a letter to all members of Congress urging them to pass not just legislation funding a border wall — or a “physical barrier” — but revisions to statutes and legal settlements that restrict detention of migrant children.

“Americans have endured decades of broken promises on illegal immigration,” Trump wrote in the letter to lawmakers. “Now, is the time for both parties to rise above the partisan discord, to set aside political convenience, and to put the national interest first.”

Yet Republicans have struggled to stay unified in the face of the shutdown, provoked by a clash between Trump and congressional Democrats over the amount of border wall funding the president has demanded from Congress.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who is up for reelection next year in a state Hillary Clinton won in 2016, has called on Congress to pass spending bills to reopen the government, even if they don’t contain Trump’s desired level of border wall money. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate who herself is on the ballot in November 2020 in a blue state, has also argued that legislation that would fund other parts of the government such as the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development shouldn’t be held hostage to disputes over the wall.

Meanwhile, their leader, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has largely stayed on the sidelines, leaving it to Pelosi and Schumer to resolve the wall dispute with Trump.

McConnell was not present when Trump and other Republican lawmakers appeared outside the White House following Friday’s meeting. Aides to McConnell insisted they were not aware of the news conference.

McConnell was frustrated about Trump reversing himself on a short-term funding bill last month — legislation Republicans thought the president would sign — that would have kept the government open. And the top Senate Republican complained to allies about how unreliable the president was to negotiate with, as well as how the president listened to what McConnell deemed as unproductive forces.

Schumer has sought to involve McConnell more, telling White House senior adviser Jared Kushner in a recent meeting that McConnell needed to be a more active participant. But McConnell has told advisers and other senators that he does not feel the pressure or the heat to get more involved, and that his members are not currently itching for the shutdown to end.

“He’s the leader of the Senate. Part of this shutdown,” Schumer told The Washington Post in a brief interview Thursday. “When he just tosses the ball over to Trump, he’s somewhat complicit in the shutdown because Trump is organizing it, Trump is the impetus for it and McConnell is going along.”

Josh Holmes, a McConnell adviser, said he saw his main role as keeping the caucus together.

“He knows exactly where the leverage points are on negotiations like this. He’s certainly not going to provide Democrats with an opportunity to exploit Republican divisions,” Holmes said. “So he’s going to provide a unified front here to get the president the best deal he can.”

Authors: BY ERICA WERNER, JOSH DAWSEY AND SEUNG MIN KIM, THE WASHINGTON POST / The Texas Tribune

Trump Administration: Deal Reached to Force Asylum Seekers to Wait in Mexico as Cases Processed

The Department of Homeland Security announced a new policy Thursday that will require asylum seekers who enter the United States illegally to return to Mexico and wait while their claims are processed, possibly for months or years, describing the plan as a “historic” measure.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen prepared to outlined the plan during an oversight hearing by members of the House Judiciary committee, telling lawmakers in prepared remarks that the administration is preparing to implement an accord with Mexico’s new leftist government that will allow the United States to send asylum seekers who cross illegally back to Mexico.

Citing emergency powers allowed under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Nielsen said the measures were needed to “bring under control” a surge of unmerited asylum claims by Central Americans that have overloaded U.S. immigration courts.

“Once implemented, individuals arriving in or entering the United States from Mexico — illegally or without proper documentation — may be returned to Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings,” she said.

“They will not be able to disappear into the United States. They will have to wait for approval to come into the United States. If they are granted asylum by a U.S. judge, they will be welcomed into America. If they are not, they will be removed to their home countries,” Nielsen said.

The United States has been in negotiations with Mexico for weeks to reach such an accord, which had been referred to as “Remain in Mexico,” believing that illegal crossings will decline if Central Americans believe the asylum system will no longer offer them a way to avoid deportation.

Top officials from the government of Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador have said they would accept such measures as part of a broader development and aid package aimed at creating jobs in Central America to reduce the need to emigrate.

In a statement, Mexico’s foreign ministry said Thursday it “will authorize, for humanitarian reasons and temporarily, the entry of certain foreign persons from the United States who have entered the country through a port of entry or who have been apprehended between ports of entry, have been interviewed by the authorities of migratory control of that country, and have received a summons to appear before an immigration judge.”

They will be allowed “to our country so that they can wait here for the development of their immigration process in the United States,” the statement read.

“They will be entitled to equal treatment without any discrimination and with due respect to their human rights, as well as the opportunity to apply for a work permit so they can find paid jobs, which will allow them to meet their basic needs,” it continued.

Nielsen faces lawmakers Thursday almost two weeks after the disclosure of a 7-year-old migrant girl’s death after she and her father entered the United States illegally and were taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Homeland Security officials did not notify lawmakers of the child’s death, which happened Dec. 8. DHS officials have not said when Nielsen was informed of the incident.

This week, lawmakers also reached a tentative accord to avert a government shutdown that would not give President Donald Trump the border wall funding he has demanded.

In a tweet Thursday morning, Trump praised Border Patrol agents, military personnel and others for their efforts to stop caravans of Central American migrants from crossing the border. “Border is tight,” the president wrote.

But the latest border enforcement statistics show the opposite. Last month arrests along the border reached their highest levels since Trump took office, as record numbers of family groups entered illegally seeking asylum.

Homeland Security officials say they are facing “a crisis” and have urged lawmakers to act.

Authors: NICK MIROFF AND KEVIN SIEFF, THE WASHINGTON POST  | The Texas Tribune

U.S. House Democrats Call for Congressional Investigation into Guatemalan Child’s Death

LORDSBURG, N.M. — Current and incoming Democratic members of Congress said Tuesday they had more questions than answers after touring U.S. Border Patrol facilities where a 7-year old Guatemalan girl was taken before dying earlier this month.

One member did leave the facilities certain of one thing – that the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection should step down from his post following the tragedy.

“Based on my conversations with him, based on his conduct, I believe that [Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan] should step down,” said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, the chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Castro said McAleenan told him he didn’t want to politicize the death in front of Congress, which is why the commissioner didn’t make members aware of the death immediately. Castro said CBP officials are required by law to inform members of Congress about the girl’s death within 24 hours but failed to do so.

“But because it’s such a rare occurrence, that makes it arguably the most significant thing that could have been discussed,” Castro said.

The child, Jakelin Caal Maquin, and her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz, were apprehended with a large group of undocumented immigrants near Antelope Wells, N.M., shortly after 9 p.m. on Dec. 6. About eight hours later, Caal Cuz told agents his daughter was vomiting while the pair was on a Border Patrol transit bus. Agents alerted the station to prepare to administer care, but her condition worsened and her temperature eventually reached about 105 degrees.

She was flown to a hospital in El Paso, where she died at about 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 8, according to a statement from Customs and Border Protection.

Castro led the delegation, which included U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, and congresswomen-elect Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, to New Mexico. He added afterward that he wants to know when Department of Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Michele Nielsen was made aware of the death and called for an independent congressional investigation into the matter.

Several members said they were disturbed by what they saw on the tour of the facilities.

“No running water, no area to bathe, no water to cook,” said U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM. “We found out that the food provided both a Antelope Wells and here in Lordsburg to the asylum seekers is granola bars, small juice boxes, and frozen burritos. And what I would describe as inhumane holding cells where we saw children with adults, and overcrowded facilities with a shared toilet.”

Green said what he saw on the tour “is unbelievable and unconscionable. The [ASPCA] would not allow animals to be treated the way human beings are being treated in this facility,” he added. “To tolerate what I have seen is unthinkable. We as members of Congress have got to do more to make sure that this kind of facility is either shut down or we have got to do more to make it a lot better than it is.”

Last week, attorneys for Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz, Jakelin’s father, disputed reports that she had gone for days without food or water before entering federal custody and added that they are conducting a separate investigation. According to the CBP statement, agents conducted an initial screening of Jakelin that “revealed no evidence of health issues. Additionally, the father claimed that the child was in good health,” the statement reads.

After the tour, Garcia said she’s concerned that isn’t necessarily true.

“There’s a lot of inconsistencies. They said the father had told him that she had not eaten for three days because she would vomit,” she said. “And then they turn back around and say the father said the little girl was fine and they talked to him about it. Which one is it? I find it incredible that they say they saw no signs or symptoms.”

Garcia said she would support an investigation immediately after the new Congress is sworn in next month and that it could focus first on Jakelin’s case, then expand from there.

A CBP spokesperson in El Paso forwarded requests for comment about the lawmakers’ remarks to the agency’s main headquarters. That office did not immediately respond.

U.S. Rep. Dr. Raul Ruiz, a California Democrat and former emergency room physician, said the tour brought to light questions about whether agents are equipped to handle emergencies like the one that led to Jakelin’s death.

“There are some really serious systemic obstacles and problems and failures in the system,” he said, adding that immigrant children a complete vital sign check and a physical examination when they come into contact with Border Patrol.

The issue has again called into question President Donald Trump’s immigration policies — critics have argued that his crackdown on undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers has led to more people avoiding ports of entry and instead traversing rough terrain to turn themselves into Border Patrol.

Escobar said those policies include the administration’s practice of turning away asylum seekers at the ports of entry and forcing them to wait in Mexico before making a formal asylum claim.

“These are legitimate challenges, but this administration is addressing these challenges in the cruelest way, in a way that in fact makes things much worse,” she said.

As Democrats prepare to assume the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, Green said it would be one of his priorities to launch an investigation immediately.

“I can’t tell you how long it will take to put the investigation together or how long it will last, but I do believe it will take place,” he said.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

State Senator José Rodríguez Coordinating “Gifts for Good” for Children at Tornillo Camp

With the migrant children’s camp just outside of Tornillo still holding scores of kids, and the approach of the holidays, State Senator José Rodríguez is working with officials to make their time there a bit brighter.

As many from the community have asked how they can help, Rodríguez and his office are coordinating a “Gifts for Good” drive for the youth in the Tornillo detention center, which currently holds 2,400 children.

“The holidays are a time of the year where most people enjoy spending time with their families. These youth have been away from their families for who knows how long. We hope these gifts bring some holiday cheer,” said Rodríguez.

According to a news release from  Senator Rodríguez’s office adds”the children are not allowed visitors, gifts of any kind, or even hugs.”

However, for this holiday season, the Rodríguez has received permission to provide a gift of a soccer ball. Join the Senator’s office to bring a smile to a child by ordering from a pre-selected wish list of soccer balls, which can be found via this link.

Officials say there is no limit to the number of gifts that a person can sponsor.

All gifts must be shipped to the District Office, which is at 100 North Ochoa Street, Suite A, El Paso, TX 79901, by December 13, 2018.

With Federal Agents Redeployed to Manage Migrant Caravan, Texas Border-Crossers Expect Long Holiday Waits

Keep calm and come on over.

That’s the holiday message city and business officials here are sending to their neighbors directly across the Texas-Mexico border.

Given that local Customs and Border Protection Agents have been redeployed to California and Arizona ahead of the anticipated arrival of a caravan of Central American migrants to those border states, wait times are likely to spike at Texas’ key ports of entry — ahead of the busiest international shopping season of the year.

“This is historically a very busy period,” Hector Mancha, Customs and Border Protection’s director of field operations in El Paso, said in a statement. “Border-crossers should take steps to help themselves and also plan to build extra time into their schedules to accommodate what will be longer-than-normal processing times.”

Federal officials argue the redeployment is necessary to ensure the southwest border remains safe from the migrant caravan, which has been a subject of consternation and outrage from Republicans nationally, particularly in the run-up to the November election.

Local Democrats, meanwhile, have blasted the move as political theater, and said the effects of border-processing delays on commerce will hit El Paso and neighboring Ciudad Juárez particularly hard.

“We have a very strong economic relationship with Mexico that goes in both directions, and benefits us locally, statewide and nationally,” state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said in a statement.

Those charged with promoting El Paso’s downtown tourism and shopping districts say there will be an economic toll, but acknowledge city leaders and the people who live along this stretch of border have been down this road before.

“The concerns are valid,” said Rudy Vasquez, the marketing communications manager for El Paso’s Downtown Management District. “But one thing I can say for sure is that concerns about the impact to retail and downtown business [aren’t] new in that respect.”

It’s unclear how many agents from the El Paso area have been reassigned to California and Arizona. Local news reports put the number at more than 100. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who represents the country’s busiest inland port, said the total number of agents sent from Texas is 575, though his office didn’t detail how many were deployed from each field office. A Customs and Border Protection spokesman declined to confirm a number for “operational security reasons.” The spokesman also declined to say how long the agents would be away.

Rodriguez, citing a report from the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, said Mexican shoppers accounted for more than $4 billion in retail sales in Texas cities in 2012, up from $2 billion in 2006.

“Now, faced with a refugee pilgrimage to safety in the U.S. during a holiday season that celebrates the traditions of sanctuary, the administration not only is preparing to meet them with force, it is apparently willing to choke commerce in so doing,” the state senator added.

But some other border residents say the Trump administration has the right to do what it needs to ensure America is only letting in immigrants who don’t pose a threat.

As she sat in Ciudad Juárez’s Mariachi Bar on Tuesday afternoon, Brianna Puckett, a 25-year-old American citizen, said she was worried she’d get trapped in cross-border gridlock on her way home to El Paso. But she said it’d be worth it.

“I think the U.S. is doing what it needs to do,” she said, conceding that her political opinions aren’t too popular in a part of Texas that regularly supports Democrats.

Puckett added that her Salvadoran grandmother is a legal immigrant to the U.S. Of the would-be asylum-seekers in the migrant caravan, she said, “I feel like there is a process, but a lot of people aren’t going through the process.”

Gracie Viramontes, a marketing specialist who was in downtown El Paso on Tuesday promoting the city’s upcoming Small Business Saturday, said she isn’t too worried about some delays on the bridges.

El Paso and Ciudad Juárez have withstood drug wars, divisive elections, peso devaluations and economic downturns, she said. The politics of the day doesn’t stand a chance against holiday traditions that have guided border communities for decades.

“You know what, we’re fronterizos, this is the way life is. Business will continue as usual,” she said. “Either way, family is family. If they have to wait 10 hours to [cross] and see their family, then they’re going to wait 10 hours.”

Federal Judge Blocks Trump’s Asylum Ban for Migrants who Enter Illegally from Mexico

A federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration from denying asylum to migrants who illegally cross the southern border into the United States, saying the policy likely violated federal law on asylum eligibility.

In a ruling late Monday, Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco issued a temporary nationwide restraining order barring enforcement of the policy. President Donald Trump’s action was announced on Nov. 9, though the White House had as early as last month floated drastic changes to the way the United States affords sanctuary to people fleeing persecution in their home countries.

The judge’s order remains in effect until Dec. 19, at which point the court will consider arguments for a permanent order. The administration offered no immediate comment overnight but has routinely appealed adverse decisions.

The president’s decree, now blocked, came just after the midterm election campaign, in which Trump made immigration and national security the GOP’s closing argument. He and his allies spread fear about the “Caravan heading to the Southern Border,” which, as he asserted without evidence in one pre-election tweet, included “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners.” In another, he warned of “some very bad thugs and gang members.” Labeling the movements of Central American migrants a “national emergency,” Trump last month deployed active-duty troops to the border.

But the federal judge said the president could not shift asylum policy on his own.

“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” wrote the judge, nominated to the federal bench in 2012 by President Barack Obama. He reasoned that the “failure to comply with entry requirements such as arriving at a designated port of entry should bear little, if any, weight in the asylum process.”

The ruling was the latest in a string of court decisions blocking the administration’s hard-line immigration policies, including its efforts to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities and to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that affords legal protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. The net effect, barring Supreme Court reversals, has been to substantially weaken the hand of presidents in an area where their authority has in the past been expansive.

Still, the administration has not been without victories. In June, the Supreme Court, by a 5-to-4 vote, upheld a revised version of the travel ban that aimed to keep foreigners from several Muslim-majority nations from entering the country.

The asylum case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups on behalf of East Bay Sanctuary Covenant. The order reflects the judge’s view that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits, and would suffer irreparable injury from the executive action.

The rule pursued by the Trump administration would allow only people who cross at legal checkpoints on the southern border to request asylum, while those entering elsewhere would be able to seek a temporary form of protection that is harder to win and doesn’t yield full citizenship. The changes would amount to a transformation of long-established asylum procedures, codified both at the international level and by Congress.

In his proclamation, Trump said the changes were necessary to prepare for the caravan’s arrival, arguing that asylum seekers had no “lawful basis for admission into our country.” In justifying the policy, the administration relied on the same emergency authority invoked as grounds for the “travel ban.”

In a hearing Monday, Scott Stewart, a lawyer for the Justice Department, spoke of a “crushing strain” of migrants attempting to cross the border illegally. He alleged that most asylum claims were “ultimately meritless.”

But the judge seemed skeptical, observing that border apprehensions are near historic lows and that, regardless, federal law says all people on U.S. soil can apply for asylum, no matter how they arrived.

“If this rule stays in effect, people are going to die,” Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said after the hearing. “There are going to be people who fall through the cracks in our system.”

Tigar voiced concern for the fate of asylum seekers under the changes. The administration’s rule, he observed, would force individuals “to choose between violence at the border, violence at home, or giving up a pathway to refugee status.”

And in his decision, he wrote that the government’s argument that the manner of entry can be the lone factor rendering a migrant ineligible for asylum “strains credulity.”

“To say that one may apply for something that one has no right to receive is to render the right to apply a dead letter,” he argued. “There simply is no reasonable way to harmonize the two.”

The judge pointedly denied the claim that the president, by fiat, could give the manner of entry added legal weight as a determinant of asylum. He reasoned that the “interpretive guide” of United Nations compacts on asylum lent extra force to congressional requirements. The intent of Congress, Tigar wrote, was “unambiguous.”

“And if what Defendants intend to say is that the President by proclamation can override Congress’s clearly expressed legislative intent, simply because a statute conflicts with the President’s policy goals, the Court rejects that argument also,” the judge found.

Lee Gelernt, the ACLU attorney who argued the case, welcomed the ruling in a news release.

“This ban is illegal, will put people’s lives in danger, and raises the alarm about President Trump’s disregard for separation of powers,” he said. “There is no justifiable reason to flatly deny people the right to apply for asylum, and we cannot send them back to danger based on the manner of their entry. Congress has been clear on this point for decades.”

Elise Ackerman contributed to this report from San Francisco.

Authors: ISAAC STANLEY-BECKER AND MARIA SACCHETTI, THE WASHINGTON POST

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