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Home | Tag Archives: trump’s immigration

Tag Archives: trump’s immigration

Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz – Remarks on the Suspension of Due Process at the Border

On Thursday, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso was in Ciudad Juárez to inaugurate a project supported by the Border Refugee Assistance Fund that will aid pregnant migrant women in Juárez.

Bishop Seitz also sat down with expectant migrant mothers to hear their stories. The bishop offered the following remarks on Title 42 expulsions and the suspension of due process at the border:

I’m very happy to be with you all this afternoon.

Today I was able to visit with my brother, Mons. José Guadalupe Torres Campos, the bishop of Ciudad Juárez, and thank him for the efforts of the church here on behalf of human dignity and all those who are migrating. It is very humbling to see the breadth of the work of the faith community and community organizations here in Ciudad Juárez even in very difficult circumstances.

Are there risks to me leaving the security of my home to come here during this time of pandemic? Of course there are, but whatever risks I have taken today are nothing in comparison to the suffering being faced by those who are leaving home and family because this is the only hope they have for themselves and their children.

The situation here at the border has challenged all of us to work more closely together and in a graced way, has bridged gaps between Catholics, Protestants and other faith communities and also brought us to work even more closely across borders. Even in the midst of all the inhumanity, the Lord is writing a very amazing chapter in the history of the US-Mexico border and in the building of the beloved community here. The current crisis is bringing out the very best of us and the grace of the Holy Spirit here, is almost palpable.

Today, I was also able to meet with some organizations on the front lines of the current migration crisis that we have been able to support financially through our Border Refugee Assistance Fund. I’m very inspired by their work and I want to thank Blanca Navarrete Garcia in particular, who has organized a maternity support program for expecting moms.

I also want to thank all those who have, and continue to contribute to, the Border Refugee Assistance Fund, which is an expression of the church in El Paso’s solidarity with migrants and refugees who find themselves trapped in Ciudad Juárez as a result of policies such as Remain in Mexico.

This morning, I crossed the US-Mexico border to come here to Ciudad Juárez. I was able to drive across unimpeded. I hope to be able to return later this afternoon unimpeded. But I came from a country where the moral fabric is literally fraying, exposed and naked before the Lord. And the racism which we are again forced to confront in the United States, is not disconnected from the reality here. Racism enables us to look away from the mass of black and brown people huddled at our gates in this city, kept at arm ‘s length, denied due process, denied equal protection and denied a gaze or glance of love.

The attention of the national news cycle has moved on from the border. There are times when change comes as quickly and fantastically as a flash of lightning and then there are times when it happens as the result of persistent erosion. And even though many of us cannot see it, we may be living, right now, in the exact moment, when the American commitment to asylum seekers and refugees has eroded away. Eroded is too deceptive a word. It obscures agency and responsibility. And we are all responsible. A future generation may look back and hang its head in shame that in this moment we did not act.

Respect for the truth demands that I speak up to say that this fundamental right to asylum here at the border really is effectively over.

During World War II, the United States thought it had learned after we felt the guilt of having returned a boat filled with Jewish refugees back to the extermination camps of Nazi Germany. But today we send those who have escaped back into the hands of narco-trafficking gangs, ignoring the very laws we had written.

It’s been just over a year since the dramatic expansion of the Remain in Mexico policy at the border. While the United States government has denied that it places migrants in danger, according to Human Rights First, there have been over 1,000 publicly reported cases of rape, murder, kidnapping and torture of migrants in the Remain in Mexico program.

The COVID-19 crisis has served as cover for the government to turn the screw even more tightly on migrants at the border and I want to speak right now very specifically to the administration’s invocation of Title 42, or the administration’s health orders, to justify the near total suspension of due process.

Yesterday, before Title 42, immigration judges adjudicated asylum claims. Today, Border Patrol agents and CBP officers on the line make that decision and without a second thought every day forcibly return migrants, brutally stripped of the protections of the law, including women and children, to this, now the second most dangerous city in the world.

Yesterday, asylum seekers could be safely paroled into our El Paso community. Today, those who are able to get over the ‘demilitarized zone’ that our border has become, go from being trapped in Ciudad Juárez to being trapped in detention centers which have become petri dishes for COVID-19. There is currently a major and dangerous outbreak of COVID-19 in the detention centers in El Paso as well as throughout the country. Unseen. Unheeded. Who will pay attention?  The threat here is not from the refugees themselves but from our insistence as a government that those who have fled here from places where there is a lower incidence of the virus and who are not accused of a violent crime must be detained in unsafe conditions.

And this poison of indifference is exported back to Central America. In Guatemala, some 20pc of coronavirus cases have been traced to irresponsible and reckless deportations of infected migrants back to that country.

Yesterday, we valued the life of babies, toddlers and youth. Today, we run roughshod over the law and forcibly return unaccompanied children, putting them at risk of exploitation, trafficking and coronavirus. I’m filled with fear and horror that with hardly a qualm of conscience we are returning these children back to the very threats from which they’ve fled. How long, O Lord?

The administration’s new proposed asylum regulations, posted on June 15, would mainstream many of these abuses and add others. Anna Gallagher, the executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, has said that these regulations violate U.S. and international law and will eviscerate the asylum process.

Today I raise my voice as a Christan, a pastor, and as an American bishop who has crossed this ‘demilitarized zone’ to kneel before and learn from Christ in the suffering. And I have learned that it is we who are causing him to suffer.

If I may, I want to tell the story of one woman that I met earlier today, let’s call her Clara. She is a mother of two beautiful children, one of them recently born, and I can tell you she’s looking forward to the baptism. The circumstances of her story are truly frightening and to protect her I can’t even tell you what country she’s come from to seek asylum or what forced her to flee. Her children were conceived in the most brutal of ways. But that is not what I want to emphasize.

What I want to say about Clara is this. Hers is a story of hope. In spite of everything that she endured and everything that she is enduring and everything that she will endure if she gets to the United States. Clara is an inspiring sign of strength, resilience and hope. Just like each one of the moms with us today.

That hope shows me that the machinery of darkness which our immigration enforcement has become is not permanent. There will be a day when all of this pain will be no more, when the walls of hatred come tumbling down and when grace will transform the dark present into something better. But it is ours to undo. The Lord entrusts the present moment to our freedom and responsibility. To transform racism and hatred into repentance and reconciliation. To transform divisions ancient and modern into occasions for encounter and forgiveness. To transform the weight of the law into the sweetness of mercy. To stop the suffering.

I close with the words of Saint Paul to the Romans, who after concluding a reflection on how Christians should relate to the law says, ‘Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.’

Thank you.


Editor’s note: The comments were provided by Hope Border Institute, following the Bishop’s comments in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.


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President Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy blocked in federal court

A federal appeals court in California halted the Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” immigration policy on Friday, a blow to the president’s restrictive immigration agenda that cripples one of the government’s approaches to curbing migration across the U.S. southern border.

The program — officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP — called for pushing asylum seekers back into Mexico to await their U.S. asylum hearings, part of an effort to limit migrant access to U.S. soil and to lessen a record migration surge among Central American families. More than 470,000 parents and children crossed into the United States last fiscal year, and most were quickly freed into the country to await U.S. immigration court hearings after they claimed asylum.

The Trump administration has claimed that the migrant families have been exploiting loopholes in U.S. law to secure their release, knowing of the court-mandated 20-day limit for detaining children. The MPP program was designed to prevent families from entering the United States and later skipping their court hearings to avoid deportation; instead, families have been sitting on the Mexico side of the border.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to uphold a lower-court’s injunction on MPP, saying that the policy “is invalid in its entirety due to its inconsistency with” federal law, and “should be enjoined in its entirety.”

Judges Richard A. Paez and William A. Fletcher, both appointed by President Bill Clinton, voted to uphold the injunction, while Ferdinand F. Fernandez, a President George H.W. Bush appointee, disagreed.

The judges agreed with a lower-court judge that MPP likely violated federal immigration law by ousting undocumented asylum seekers who are supposed to be allowed to apply for protection inside the United States. The judges also said the program likely violated the United States’ “non-refoulement” obligations under international and domestic law, which prohibit the U.S. government from sending people to a country where they could face persecution. The 57-page ruling cited multiple examples of Central American asylum seekers who feared kidnapping, threats and violence in Mexico.

The administration has been working to cut down on its use of MPP in recent months by fast-tracking deportation hearings and sending migrants from Central America by airplane to Guatemala as part of an agreement that allows them to seek asylum there instead. The policies, working together, have been credited with slowing the flow of migrants northward. The number of people waiting in Mexican border cities for U.S. immigration court dates has dwindled, in part because migrants said they were not making the trek to the United States in the first place given how unlikely it would be that they would gain entry.

It is unclear what halting the policy might do to that mind-set, and whether its absence could spur another surge in immigration among Central Americans. It is likely that many of the people waiting in Mexico for U.S. court hearings could now try to re-enter the United States in coming days.

The ruling came on the same day Mexico announced its first coronavirus case, a traveler returning from Italy, raising potential fears about what a run on the U.S. border could mean.

Sanitary conditions are abysmal in the squalid border camps where thousands of would-be asylum seekers are camped out while awaiting a chance to appeal for humanitarian protection in the United States.

One former Department of Homeland Security official said the court decision could prompt the White House to invoke emergency executive powers to impose even tighter restrictions on asylum seekers at the border. One legal provision, known as “Return to Territory,” gives U.S. border officials broad powers to compel a foreign national to go back to Mexico or Canada if that person is deemed inadmissible.

“This ruling couldn’t come at a worse time,” said the former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to maintain ties to the administration.

The same three-judge panel issued a separate 3-0 ruling blocking Trump’s first so-called asylum ban, which aimed to bar immigrants who crossed the border illegally from seeking asylum. The policy was temporarily halted in 2018. Trump blasted the lower-court judge in the case for being an “Obama judge,” prompting a public rebuke from Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who sided with the court’s four liberal justices months later to let the injunction stand.

Roberts and other conservative justices have since allowed other Trump policies to unfold despite pending lawsuits against them, including one policy that decrees migrants ineligible for asylum if they passed through another country where they could have sought refuge on their way to the United States.

The American Civil Liberties Union cheered the decisions Friday.

“The two cases combined are an important step to restoring the United States’ long-standing commitment to protecting vulnerable people fleeing persecution,” said ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt.

After MPP officially began in January 2019, it quickly became a central aspect of the Trump administration’s bulwark against immigration. It expanded significantly in June, when Mexico agreed to host thousands of migrants and to crack down on smugglers after Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Mexico’s exports to the United States.

Approximately 59,000 migrants from countries including Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Venezuela have been sent back to Mexico to wait until their asylum cases could be heard in the United States. U.S. officials said the program had a powerful deterrent effect at the border.

Homeland Security officials have credited MPP and other policies with a 71% drop in the number of migrants taken into custody at the border since the peak of 144,000 in May.

Federal officials had blamed the surge of migrant families on smugglers who were exploiting U.S. law and were persuading Central Americans to sell their houses, take out loans, and travel with a child to the United States with promises that families could speed through the immigration bureaucracy.

Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan blamed smugglers for enticing migrants to pay exorbitant fees for the trip to the United States and exposing children to the dangerous journey because they were more likely to be released to await a court hearing. But he said the MPP program was “telling the cartels and this vulnerable population the game has changed.”

“It used to be, you come here with a kid, that was your passport into the United States,” he told reporters at a Sept. 9 White House briefing. “MPP is saying, ‘That’s done. That’s a lie now. You can’t. You’re not going to be allowed into this country even if you bring a kid.’ So don’t mortgage your home. Don’t pay the cartels. Don’t risk your life. Don’t risk the life of your family. When you get in here, don’t allow yourself to continue to get exploited. That’s what MPP is doing.”

Though the Ninth Circuit’s decision almost certainly will be appealed, for now it stops the policy nationwide. The Trump administration had been declaring near-victory in stemming immigration just weeks ago, in part because of MPP’s success.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of DHS, said last month that attempting to cross into the United States is “essentially futile at this point” and that “illegal migrants are going to be promptly returned.”

But thousands are still trying, and more might follow as temperatures warm in the coming months.

“We are not unmindful of the possibility that while the flows have gone down for seven months, they can go back up, and we’re preparing to handle that as well,” Cuccinelli said at a media briefing.

MPP and other measures are “critical to averting a further crisis” on the border, he said. The Trump administration also has brokered agreements with countries in Central America to absorb people the United States rejects and has accelerated plans to add hundreds of miles of new fencing along the nearly 2,000-mile border.

Advocates for immigrants say MPP and other enforcement measures forced families with young children to await their hearings in crime-ridden Mexican border cities where their lives are in danger.

Human Rights First, an advocacy group, said it has documented more than 800 reports of rape, kidnapping, and other violent attacks against asylum seekers forced to return to Mexico under MPP.

Justice Department lawyers have called those claims “speculative” and have said the program is “one of the few congressionally authorized measures available” to control the border.

But Morgan, who initially said that Mexico had not advised the U.S. government of any attacks, acknowledged in December that some reports of violence were true. He said migrants would not be at risk if they stayed inside the “shelter environment.” Human Rights First said migrants also have been targeted in shelters.

Morgan said U.S. policy is not to blame for the attacks, “if there’s an act of violence in Mexico, there’s only one person to blame. And that’s the individuals who committed that act of violence.”

But federal judges have expressed deep concerns about whether the U.S. government is violating the internationally agreed upon principle of “non-refoulement,” which says nations will not send foreign nationals to countries where they could face persecution.

A federal judge in California initially halted MPP, but in May a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit allowed the program to resume until another set of judges could hear arguments over its legality.

Two of the three judges on that earlier panel expressed concern about migrants’ safety in Mexico. One judge said it seemed “irrational” to send migrants to Mexico without asking them whether they were afraid to return there, while another said the government is “clearly and flagrantly wrong.”

During a hearing on Oct. 1, some judges on a separate panel questioned Justice Department lawyers about the administration having sent migrants into Mexico without asking them if they fear for their safety.

Judge William Fletcher said the U.S. government is doing little to protect migrants at the border, saying “you’re giving them nothing.”

“You’re not even asking the key question with respect to refoulement, that is to say, ‘Are you afraid?’” he told Justice Department lawyer Scott Stewart during the hearing.


Program offering legal help to asylum seekers stuck in Mexico launches in El Paso and Juárez

CIUDAD JUÁREZ – Nicolas Palazzo can’t clone himself. And even if he could, it would still be impossible for the El Paso-based immigration attorney to provide legal services to the thousands of migrants waiting in the border city for their asylum hearings in the United States.

“Each time I travel to Juárez and cross the bridge, every day I am asked ‘Mr. attorney can you help me? Can you help me?’” he said in Spanish. “And I don’t have the ability to be able to offer [all] of them legal services.”

Palazzo and his team at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center hope that’s about to change with the launch of a pilot program that seeks to provide asylum seekers access to legal counsel via teleconferencing.

The project, called Puentes Libres, will offer asylum seekers access to computers at the municipal offices in Ciudad Juárez where they will be able to submit information about their cases, which will be reviewed by attorneys in the United States.

The project is part of what Palazzo described as a team effort between Las Americas, the Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Ciudad Juárez Mayor Armando Cabada and state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso.

Since last year, after the launch of the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, also called Remain in Mexico, more than 16,000 asylum seekers have been sent back to Ciudad Juárez while they wait for their court hearings. Palazzo said fewer than 2% of those migrants have access to an attorney.

“The idea of using technology is critical,” he said. “I hope that the idea isn’t just to offer legal service to the people who need it. The idea is also to give a voice to people who are under this program.”

The computers, 50 in total, were donated by the New York-based Hispanic Federation, which has donated more than $300,000 to efforts aiding migrants so far.

“Because of the MPP. We had to do something different to help serve the legal needs of the migrant communities,” said Brent A. Wilkes, the federation’s senior vice president for institutional development. “We said all right that’s something we can take on.”

The program’s proponents know they won’t see a sea change overnight — lawyers need to be recruited and many of them will need to be given a crash course on immigration law if it’s not already their specialty.

“It’s definitely not easy and it’s something we’ve given a lot of thought to,” said Linda Rivas, managing attorney at Las Americas. “The ideal pro bono volunteer is someone with immigration experience and it’s somebody bilingual or that can provide their own interpreter.”

But the benefits outweigh the challenges, Rivas added. Even if volunteer attorneys need training, they’ll still be able to make some progress in a system where asylum seekers’ chances of obtaining protections increase exponentially if they have representation. In fiscal year 2017, the chances of obtaining asylum were five times greater for those who had an attorney, according to the National Immigration Forum.

The program will also offer migrants a chance to describe what it’s like to be in the MPP program, Rivas and Palazzo said. Lawyers and human rights groups have documented the alleged crimes committed against migrants, which attorneys say are downplayed by American immigration officials.

Last summer, Human Rights Watch documented firsthand accounts of violence experienced by asylum seekers in Mexico, including the rape of a 20-year old Honduran woman who was told her 4-year old son would be killed if she screamed for help and a 21-year old Salvadoran man who was stabbed and told local police would not help him because he wasn’t a Mexican citizen.

“The people in the United States, the attorneys, the students, they want to offer help but they also want to know what’s going on and my hope is that creating these sources, these bridges, they’ll also learn about their situations,” Palazzo said.

Rodríguez, who is a former county attorney and is not running for reelection in the state Senate, said he’s going to sign up for the program. He hopes to see the program expand past the Ciudad Juárez – El Paso area.

“We aim, once again, to find a local solution to a draconian federal regime that insists on punishing migrants, including those fleeing persecution and violence, at every opportunity,” he said.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

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.


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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