World Refugee Day, protecting children, and other immigration news – June 21, 2017

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June 20 was World Refugee Day, in a year when the worldwide number of refugees and forcibly displaced people reached a record 65 million. More than half of the refugees are children, and on June 21 the U.S. House Judiciary Committee will mark up a bill called the “Protection of Children Act of 2017.”

What this bill does is the opposite of protection: It removes current protections for refugee children and makes it far more difficult for them to tell their stories, to get a hearing before an asylum officer, and to get legal representation. The “protection” includes lengthening the time that they can be held in immigration jails rather than being turned over to Health and Human Services for placement. Keep reading for World Refugee Day reporting, summaries of the “Protection of Children” legislation, and more. 

On World Refugee Day, 5 correspondents reveal what it’s like to cover the crisis (Washington Post, 6/2/0/17) Five journalists share their most memorable moments reporting on refugees.

“The young mother was crying, uncontrollably it seemed, as the rescue boat that had picked her up off the coast of Libya drifted in the sea.
“She and more than 600 others had piled into a smuggling vessel that was probably overloaded, unseaworthy or both. When the boat capsized, most of those onboard were rescued. At least 30 were not, including the woman’s baby.”

World Refugee Day: What You Should Know (CNN, 6/20/17)

“More than 65 MILLION people are now counted as forcibly displaced by the United Nations. That’s like the entire population of the UK or France, or about as many as everyone in New York state, Texas and Florida — all forced from their homes. Just over one-third are refugees, people forced to flee their countries because of persecution, war, or violence.”

America’s Role in the Refugee Crisis (U.S. News, 6/2017)

“This year’s [World Refugee Day] feels particularly poignant, as the Trump administration’s efforts to suspend the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program — and to ban virtually all migration from several Muslim-majority countries — remain tied up in the courts.

“Yet even as the administration rails against refugees, it continues to participate in the ongoing global warfare — much of it under the so-called “war on terror” — that perpetuates the refugee crisis. It’s long past time to critically examine our country’s role in forced migration.” 

Protection of Children Act of 2017: Bill Summary (Immigration Forum, 6/7/17) This legislation would remove many of the protections now legally required for Unaccompanied Children (UACs). Here’s a brief summary from the Immigration Forum:

What would the Protection of Children Act do?

  • Eliminate differences between UACs from contiguous and non-contiguous countries. The Protection of Children Act would allow Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to screen children from Central American countries and other non-contiguous countries for trafficking and fear of returning home within 48 hours, treating them in the same manner as children from Mexico and Canada.
    • A 48-hour window to screen and process a child is inadequate. Victims who face trauma —especially victims who are children — need more than a few hours to overcome the shock and horror of abuse, threats, sexual assault, and violence to disclose what they have experienced….
  • Move responsibility for initial asylum screening from trained asylum officers to CBP agents. … The current practice of an asylum officer performing the screening provides children opportunities to articulate better their fears of returning home
  • Weaken UACs’ access to counsel. …Access to counsel is critical for UACs, who are unable to navigate the complicated immigration system on their own.
  • Keep UACs in DHS custody for longer. The bill would permit DHS to hold a child for 30 days, instead of no more than 72 hours, before transferring the child to HHS custody.
  • Require the immigration status of a UAC’s family member. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) would need to collect an unaccompanied child’s caretaker’s immigration status and inform the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). If a caretaker is undocumented, DHS would be required to begin deportation proceedings. This change could force some parents to choose between leaving their children with strangers and placing themselves at risk of deportation.

Immigrant Legal Resource Center critical of the ‘Protection of Children Act,’ H.R. 496 (ImmigrationProf Blog, 6/13/17)

“All eyes are on members of the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow as they begin discussion on The Protection of Children Act, or H.R. 495, a bill that seeks to deny basic legal protections to refugee and migrant children fleeing persecution, child trafficking, or parental abuse, abandonment or neglect.”

And in other immigration news

Seven Sailors Emerged From Diverse Backgrounds to Serve a Common Cause (New York Times, 6/20/17) They were born in the Philippines, Guatemala, and Vietnam, as well as in the United States. Today, 40 percent of the U.S. military is from a racial or ethnic minority background and one in 13 sailors is foreign-born.

“Former sailors from the destroyer said the diverse ranks shared a common cause.

“You are crammed in with all sorts of cultures on the ship,” said Corey Bell, 23, of Wynne, Ark., who served on the destroyer with six of the sailors who died. “But when you are on the Fitzgerald, you’re family. There was no racism or nothing.”…

“We just felt so proud that one of our own was living this life,” [Gunner’s Mate Second Class Noe Hernandez’s] cousin Aly Hernandez-Singer said. She added, “To me, he represents — I’ll be honest, I have to say it — what Trump says we are not. He represents the good side of the Latino community. He was a proud American. He was a good citizen, and he was Latino and proud of his roots.”

She was taken to Mexico and fought to come back. How this homeless teen made her way to UC Berkeley (Sacramento Bee, 6/12/17) She came back to the United States at the age of 15, went to school every day with her pillow and suitcase, and returned to a homeless shelter at night.

“In one form or another, Romero has been homeless since she was 3. She remembered her father, Jesus, was reading her a bedtime story. A sudden pounding on their apartment door caused him to rise suddenly and say, “I’ll be right back.”

“Those were the first of many hopeful words from adults that Romero clung to until they were proved to be false.

“Her biological father was undocumented. Federal agents took Jesus Romero away that night.

“I ran down the stairs toward him and kicked the officers,” she said last week, on the day before she graduated.

“My mother grabbed me. I never saw my dad again,” she said. She said he was killed a few weeks later in the Mexican state of Jalisco.”

Nearly $50 million in the California state budget will got to expanded legal services for immigrants (Los Angeles Times, 6/13/17)

“The $30-million legal assistance program, run by the state Department of Social Services, was first assembled to help thousands of immigrants apply for naturalization and former President Obama’s deferred action programs. With the additional money, providers will now also be able to help immigrants fighting deportation or removal proceedings.”

Border Patrol Raids Humanitarian Aid Camp in Targeted Attack (No More Deaths via ImmigrationProf blog, 6/16/17)

“Thursday, June 15th, 6:00 pm, Arivaca, Arizona: In temperatures surging over 100℉, US Border Patrol raided the medical aid camp of humanitarian organization No More Deaths, and detained four individuals receiving medical care. Obstruction of humanitarian aid is an egregious abuse by the law enforcement agency, a clear violation of international humanitarian law and a violation of the organization’s written agreement with the Tucson Sector Border Patrol.”

Man Wearing ICE Jacket in Hispanic Community Church Causes a Stir (CBS, 6/13/17) A man wearing a jacket that looked like the ones worn by immigration agents went to a Spanish-speaking church service and took photos and videos of people attending and their cars in the parking lot. He was not employed by ICE or any other law enforcement agency.  He could not explain to police what he was doing, but he had apparently not broken any laws.

“But the man is a San Francisco city employee and was placed on leave after he showed up wearing the jacket during the Spanish-language service at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection.

“The man was driving a government vehicle registered to the city of San Francisco when he showed up at the church. The vehicle belongs to the San Francisco International Airport, city officials confirmed.”

Supreme Court Rules Former Detainees Cannot Sue Bush Administration Officials (NPR, 6/19/17) CNN had an initial report on the decision in Ziglar v. Abbasi yesterday. Here’s a longer look from NPR’s Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg, including this:

University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck says this opinion cements “far greater limits on damage suits unless they are explicitly authorized by Congress.”

Here’s more from Vladeck:

“What’s so surprising and alarming about this ruling is its breadth, not just to be limited to the special and specific context of the post-9/11 counter terrorism response, but actually to make it harder for just about everybody to sue the federal government for damages when our constitutional rights are violated.”

“Plaintiff Benamar Benatta, who flew in from Canada to witness the case being argued, said in a statement from his lawyers that he was “very disappointed” in the court’s ruling. He added: “Being labeled a terrorist and sitting there in your small cell without any distraction or reading material, not knowing what will happen to you or where you will end up is the worst thing that can ever happen to a human being.”

Two Vermont Dairy Workers Arrested And Handed Over To Immigration (WNPU, 6/19/17) The two were on their way home from a Migrant Justice protest when they were stopped and arrested by Border Patrol officers.

“Brant says Yesenia Hernández, 19, and her partner, Esau Peche, 26, were stopped in a routine patrol check on a road near East Franklin, Vermont, only a few miles from the U.S.-Canada border. The couple was about 10 minutes away from their home at the farm where they work, according to Migrant Justice.

“Brant says the officer pulled over the car to check the occupants’ immigration status. …

“The Saturday arrests come after several other high-profile arrests of Migrant Justice leaders, including Enrique Balcazar and Zully Palacios. The couple was arrested in March and released on bail a few weeks later.”

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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