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Home | Tag Archives: trump’s immigration

Tag Archives: trump’s immigration

ACLU files suit to stop immigration pilot programs

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday to stop two U.S. immigration pilot programs that the group alleges strip asylum seekers of their legal rights and instead fast-track them for deportation back to violent countries.

The Prompt Asylum Claim Review and the Humanitarian Asylum Review Process, programs that began in El Paso, deny immigrants access to adequate counsel before their interviews with asylum officers, the ACLU of Texas; ACLU of Washington, D.C.; and ACLU national office allege in the filing. The PACR program generally applies to non-Mexicans, and HARP affects Mexican asylum seekers.

The ACLU offices filed the suit on behalf of Salvadorans and Mexicans who were ordered removed from the U.S. after being placed in the programs. El Paso-based Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center is also listed as a plaintiff. The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C.

The PACR and HARP programs require some asylum seekers be held in Customs and Border Protection facilities, where they are allowed only 30 minutes to contact attorneys or family members by phone.

Under previous practices, asylum seekers were transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, where they were given more time to seek out assistance and could meet with attorneys in person or over the phone before key interviews with asylum officers.

“By forcing asylum seekers to proceed through the credible fear process while essentially incommunicado in CBP custody, without access to counsel, in conditions that otherwise significantly interfere with their ability to have a meaningful credible fear interview, and on a rushed timeline, PACR and HARP result in the erroneous removal of people who are at risk of persecution, torture, and death,” the filing says. There is also no system in place for attorneys or family members to locate people in CBP custody.

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the filing.

“Regardless of what stage immigrants are at in their claims, they should know what their rights are, they should be well informed of the process, and advocates like us should always be available and accessible to them,” Linda Corchado, the director of legal services for Las Americas, said in a statement.

The ACLU offices said in a news release that 500 asylum seekers have already been deported under the programs.

In addition to the thousands of Central Americans and Cubans who have arrived to Mexican border cities in recent years, thousands of Mexicans from the southern part of that country began arriving in recent months. Many of them camp near the bridges in squalid tent facilities they’ve constructed while they wait to be processed by American immigration officials.

Attorney Linda Rivas, the executive director at Las Americas, told The Texas Tribune last week that it’s unclear what criteria CBP uses to decide who gets placed in the PACR or HARP programs, or released into the United States while waiting for court hearings.

“We believe that the people who are being subjected to this are the same people who are waiting in the tents, then get called in,” she said.

“Some will be put into this program, and some will be released into the interior of the United States, and some will be detained by ICE,” she added. “What fate you’re going to face is completely arbitrary.”

The ACLU is asking a judge to, among other things, declare the programs unlawful, vacate the removal orders issued for the plaintiffs named in the case, and put on hold the credible fear proceedings for those in the program until they are transferred to ICE custody or granted parole and allowed enough time to seek counsel.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Trump administration testing rapid asylum review, deportation process in Texas

The Trump administration has begun testing a secretive program here that aims to speed up the deportation of asylum-seeking migrants after they cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

The pilot program — known as Prompt Asylum Claim Review — streamlines the asylum process so that migrants who are seeking safe refuge in the United States will receive a decision in 10 days or less, rather than the months or years it currently takes, according to Customs and Border Protection officials. The reviews are largely to determine if Central American migrants can be sent back to their homelands.

The accelerated reviews seek to accomplish two Trump administration goals: deterring migrants from attempting to cross the U.S. border and pushing asylum seekers out of the United States. El Paso is the only place where the administration is testing the program, which started this month, according to U.S. officials.

Migrants apprehended in the El Paso area are taken to a 1,500-bed, soft-sided Border Patrol facility that opened in August and remains largely empty because the number of migrants taken into custody has plunged in recent months. They are given one day after arriving to call family or a lawyer, and then they have an interview with an asylum officer to determine whether they have a credible fear of persecution if returned to their home country, according to a CBP official who described the program on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about it publicly.

Immigration lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union said the administration’s pilot denies asylum seekers due process and highlights the limited role lawyers can play; lawyers are not allowed to meet with their clients in Border Patrol stations and are limited to brief conversations by phone.

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to questions about the program. Kathryn Mattingly, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which oversees the immigration court system, said the rights of migrants are respected.

“EOIR remains committed to ensuring that all who come before its courts will receive due process and a timely, fair adjudication, the outcome of which is based on the law,” Mattingly said.

New Trump administration policies make it difficult, if not impossible, for non-Mexican migrants to pass a credible-fear interview if they did not seek asylum in the first country they passed through after leaving their homeland. If an asylum officer finds migrants cannot meet the credible-fear standard, the migrants can ask to appear before an immigration judge via videoconferencing. The migrants are then processed for deportation or moved into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, depending on the interview finding and the judge’s ruling, according to immigration officials.

Immigration judges from New Mexico are reviewing the credible-fear findings via video hearings with migrants in the El Paso project, Mattingly said.

She said that while attorneys can be present at judicial review of fear findings, the law precludes them from representing their clients at the hearing.

In 2017, the Trump administration used El Paso as a pilot test for its controversial “zero tolerance” policy, which required prosecution of everyone arrested for entering the country illegally and separated children from arrested parents. The administration implemented that policy borderwide in spring 2018 but quickly abandoned it under heavy criticism.

A new rule implemented in July generally requires migrants to seek asylum in the first safe country they enter, part of an effort to reduce historically high migration flows. A California federal judge quickly blocked the rule from taking effect, but the U.S. Supreme Court last month ruled that the asylum limits could remain in place while federal courts weigh their legality.

Two sisters from Central America are among the first migrants to face expedited removal in the El Paso pilot test, according to their attorney, Mayra Rodriguez-Alvarez of Hammond, Indiana. She asked that her clients not be identified because they fled gang members in their home country who were extorting them.

The sisters crossed the border in El Paso on Oct. 8, surrendered to Border Patrol agents and asked for asylum, Rodriguez-Alvarez said. Each had an infant child, and one was accompanied by her husband.

They had notified the attorney of their plans before leaving their home country and signed forms authorizing Rodriguez-Alvarez to represent them.

The sisters called family members shortly after being taken into custody, but Rodriguez-Alvarez said she couldn’t find out where they were being held until last week. Family members said the sisters repeatedly asked Border Patrol agents to call the attorney, but Rodriguez-Alvarez said she never heard from them.

The second sister decided to abandon her asylum claim because her child has become ill in Border Patrol custody, Rodriguez-Alvarez said. She is still being held in El Paso.

“As an attorney, you’re supposed to be able to help these people, and you can’t,” she said. “It’s very horrible. It’s very terrifying.”

Taylor Levy, an El Paso immigration lawyer, tried to help Rodriguez-Alvarez’s clients. She went to El Paso Border Patrol Station 1 on Monday, where agents told her that they were conducting a new program and could not provide much guidance.

Author: ROBERT MOORE, THE WASHINGTON POST

Moore is a freelance journalist based in El Paso.

State Sen. Rodríguez releases statement on deployment of 1k additional Texas National Guard

On Friday, State Sen. José Rodríguez issued the following statement on the Governor’s decision to deploy an additional 1,000 Texas National Guard to the Texas-Mexico border:

Deploying more National Guard to the border is a fool’s errand and a waste of millions of taxpayer dollars, whether those dollars are federal or state. Neither the Texas National Guard nor DPS troopers who have been sent to the border have any enforcement authority when it comes to federal immigration laws.

This latest action will not help to alleviate the humanitarian crisis at our southern border. As has been well documented, the growing number of immigrants seeking asylum is primarily the result of people fleeing horrific violence and other atrocities in their countries of origin.

Instead of further militarizing our border communities, state leaders should allocate some of the $800 million appropriated by the Texas Legislature to provide resources to border communities like El Paso. In the absence of leadership both at the federal and state levels, our local communities have stepped up to care for these immigrants with basic decency and provide them with a modicum of dignity as they seek the opportunity for a safer, better life for their families. The taxpayer dollars that will be used to pay for the National Guard should instead be used to reimburse local governments and non-profits that have shouldered the burden of providing shelter, food, and coordinating transportation for asylum seekers.

The state should also focus on reimbursing cities like El Paso that use their local taxpayer dollars to pay for additional CBP agents at ports of entry. Increasing staffing at ports of entry and investing in infrastructure that will improve the movement of people and goods will do significantly more to improve border security than sending these troops, separating families, or building a wall.

***

José Rodríguez represents Texas Senate District 29, which includes the counties of El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, and Presidio. He represents both urban and rural constituencies, and more than 350 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. Senator Rodríguez currently serves as the Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and is a member of the Senate Committees on Agriculture (Vice Chair); Natural Resources and Economic Development; Transportation; and Water & Rural Affairs.

Report: Hundreds of migrant children held in Texas without proper food, water or medical attention

A group of 250 infants, children and teens has reportedly spent 27 days without adequate food, water and sanitation at a U.S. Border Patrol facility near El Paso, according to the Associated Press.

Several attorneys who visited the station said they found at least 15 children sick with the flu, some of whom were being kept in medical quarantine. They described seeing a sick and diaper-less 2-year-old boy whose “shirt was smeared in mucus.” Three girls, from the ages of 10 to 15, were taking turns watching him.

The allegedly dangerous and unsanitary conditions reported from inside the El Paso-area shelter are just some of the many accusations that have surfaced from detention facilities in recent months.

In June, the Office of Inspector General released a report detailing concerns about detainee treatment at four Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities across the country.

Inspectors found nooses in cells, expired food and inadequate medical care in California, New Jersey, Louisiana and Colorado.

“These are not independent, isolated incidents,” Fernando Garcia, the executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, told The Texas Tribune late Thursday. “These are part of a major strategy that is violating the rights of children and families.”

Author: RIANE ROLDAN –  The Texas Tribune

Read related Tribune coverage

Ted Cruz Introduces Legislation to Keep Immigrant Families Together After They Cross the Border

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz announced emergency legislation Monday evening to keep immigrant families together after they cross the border into the United States.

The legislation follows comments Cruz made on Saturday that essentially called for more resources to adjudicate asylum claims. He also called for keeping immigrant kids with their parents as long as those adults are not associated with criminal activity.

“All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers,” Cruz wrote in a release. “This must stop. Now. We can end this crisis by passing the legislation I am introducing this week.”

The provisions of the legislation, according to the news release, include:

  • Doubling the number of federal immigration judges, from roughly 375 to 750.
  • Authorizing new temporary shelters with accommodations to keep families together.
  • Mandating that immigrant families be kept together, absent aggravated criminal conduct or threat of harm to children.
  • Providing for expedited processing and review of asylum cases so that — within 14 days — those who meet the legal standards will be granted asylum and those who do not will be immediately returned to their home countries.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas’ senior senator and the second-ranking Senate Republican, said on the chamber floor earlier Monday that he, too, would introduce legislation on this front.

“It will include provisions that mitigate the problem of family separation while improving the immigration court process for unaccompanied children and families apprehended at the border,” he said. “To the greatest extent possible, families presenting at ports of entry or apprehended crossing the border illegally will be kept together while waiting for their court hearings, which will be expedited.”

Cruz and Cornyn are part of a growing number of Republican federal lawmakers who are pushing back against the Trump Administration’s recently implemented “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has so far led to the separation of about 2,000 children from their parents at the border. House Republicans are currently reworking a compromise immigration bill that would modify — but not end — the “zero tolerance” policy, NPR reported Monday.

Cruz’s Democratic rival in his fall re-election bid, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, spent part of the weekend demonstrating near a tent city in Tornillo, outside of El Paso.

Author: ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

Grandmother Seeking Asylum Separated From her Disabled Grandson at the Border. It’s been 10 Months.

Ten months ago, Maria Vandelice de Bastos and her 16-year-old grandson arrived at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in nearby New Mexico. The pair told federal agents they were seeking asylum.

Though Vandelice de Bastos passed a standard screening for such claims, known as a credible fear interview, she and her grandson were soon separated and she hasn’t seen him since, according to her attorney.

While she sits in a federal detention center in El Paso, Matheus da Silva Bastos, who has severe epilepsy and autism, is more than 2,000 miles away at a state-run center in Connecticut.

Despite claims from the Trump administration that it is only separating families seeking asylum who cross the border illegally in between ports of entry and only began doing so recently, Vandelice de Bastos’s case appears to prove the exact opposite.

What’s more, caretakers of Matheus in two different states have urged federal officials to reunite him with his grandmother, records show.

De Bastos’ attorney, Eduardo Beckett, said his client told authorities during her credible fear interview that she and her grandson fled Brazil after off-duty cops threatened her for exposing what she said were the horrible conditions in the school her grandson attended.

“She made noise, she went to police and to the prosecutor, and then to the press. The principal got fired and the principal happened to have a brother who’s a cop,” Beckett said. “So, the cop went and paid her a visit and said, ‘We’ll see what happens to you.’ That’s the case in a nutshell.”

Soon after arriving, Vandelice de Bastos and Matheus were separated, and ever since, he’s been in the custody of different organizations that care for immigrant children. Though she had papers from Brazil that identified her as Matheus’ legal guardian, he was classified as an unaccompanied minor because his grandmother was deemed an inadmissible alien by Customs and Border Protection officers, according to a copy of the Department of Homeland Security report completed last August.

“She never lied”

Beckett said his client once had a visa to legally visit the United States. For years, she was allowed to go back and forth from her home country and did so freely until she was stopped by CBP officials at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in 2007. That’s when Beckett said she admitted to doing what thousands of visa holders do every year: working in the underground cash economy. According to her paperwork, she worked as a babysitter for $300 a week, triggering her deportation. But the only thing unusual about what she did was admitting to it, Beckett added.

“She never lied, she always told the truth and she never tried to sneak into the country,” he said.

Even still, the Department of Homeland Security makes clear that entering the United States is a “privilege, not a right.

“The most obvious reasons for denied entry include if a person has previously worked illegally in the U.S., is suspected of being an intended immigrant (i.e. planning on staying in the U.S. past the terms of their admission), or of having ties to terrorist or criminal organizations,” a CBP web page reads.

After Vandelice de Bastos was denied re-entry, she signed a notice that she was prohibited from “entering, attempting to enter or being in the United States” for five years.

“She did her time and she waited almost 10 years before coming back,” Beckett said. “The only way they can reinstate a removal order is if she came illegally, but she wasn’t trying to come in between the ports,” he said.

The DHS report from last August states she had no known criminal history in the United States at the time she and her grandson sought asylum, and the only length of her time in the country illegally was “at entry.”

But even if she had an existing deportation order, Beckett said her asylum claim would supersede that under federal law.

“That’s the whole point,” he said. “They should not have been separated.”

Both the the El Paso and San Antonio offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to requests for comments about the case.

A CBP spokesperson in Washington, D.C., said that it’s not current policy to separate families unless they enter without inspection between the ports of entry. When told about Beckett’s clients, she referred the Tribune back to the regional ICE offices in Texas. The spokesperson added that the agency complies with all applicable Americans with Disabilities Act policies when it processes persons with disabilities.

Round-the-clock care

During her time in Brazil, Beckett said, his client took custody of her grandson after his parents abandoned him and moved to the United States, where where the boy’s mother currently lives legally. According to the state-run center in Connecticut, his parents are unable to care for him because they work full-time and can’t give him the round-the-clock care he needs.

In a copy of the judgement from the state of Goías in Brazil, Vandelice de Bastos’ petition states that Matheus has “a serious disease, [uses] continuous medication and needs special care.” It adds that his parents “do not contribute for the child’s support” or “telephone to hear about their child.”

Officials in the state-run facility that now care for Matheus have pushed for his release.

“Matheus was raised and cared for by his grandmother while in Brazil and is now having a lot of difficulties in his new environment,” reads a letter from the state Department of Children and Families in Connecticut. “Having his grandmother present would be beneficial.”

The government-funded organization that took custody of Matheus before he was transferred to Connecticut has also urged for his grandmother’s release.

“While minor was in our care and even upon minor’s release, his overall well-being has significantly suffered due to be separated from his grandmother,” Yunuen Rodriguez, a family reunification specialist with the Heartland Alliance in Chicago, wrote in November 2017. That group is funded through the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Beckett has since filed more paperwork with the immigration court to prove his client should not be deported. But he knows it’s a challenging case because the judge has already cast doubts that Vandelice de Bastos has a legitimate asylum claim.

Asylum seekers must prove they face persecution in their home country due to their “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Beckett said the fact that Vandelice de Bastos spoke out against her grandson’s school and outed the administration could be an act of political expression, and he said the fact that she was threatened by police means they aren’t capable of or willing to protecting her.

But in an audio recording of the immigration proceedings from earlier this year, Judge William Abbott said the cops weren’t acting in their official capacity.

“You’re not going to be able to show the government acquiesced,” he said. “It does not meet the requirements for either one of the applications [for asylum]. The fact is that the individuals that seek to harm her are two private individuals who are mad at her and want to retaliate. An act of persecution cannot form the basis for membership [of a social group].”

According to federal statistics, asylum seekers from Brazil traditionally have a low rate of success. In 2016, 366 Brazilians applied for asylum. That same year, only seven application were granted while 36 were denied. Several more were either denied, abandoned or withdrawn.

Asked what would happen to Matheus if his grandmother is deported, Beckett said the government would have custody of him until he’s 21.

“After that, who knows,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Matheus da Silva Bastos’ parents live in the U.S. legally. His mother currently lives in the U.S. legally. 

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

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