Immigration from Children to Congress


The weekend’s immigration news focused on children. I spent most of today working on blog posts to explain some of the complications of several intersecting but separate stories in a series of blog posts, all of which are linked through this one: #WhereAreTheChildren. Besides the facts of what is happening to immigrant children, the lies are important: Trump misrepresenting the law, the responsibility for his policies, the prevalence of gang membership, and on and on and on.

Meanwhile, Congress continues to perseverate on immigration, with June 7 talked about as the next date when something might actually happen.

And in other news:

  • CBP shoots and kills a Guatemalan woman at the border
  • Trump appoints anti-immigration figure to head refugee programs
  • And more

The Children

What the legal process looks like for an immigrant child taken away from his parents (Washington Post, 5/27/18)

“Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new policy in which families arriving at the border would be forcibly broken up, with children and parents separated from one another and detained separately. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes explored the practical ramifications of the policy: children as young as 1½, too young to form complete sentences, much less care for themselves, torn away from their parents and sent to government detention facilities….

“When the child is meeting with an attorney or appearing before a judge, their ability to explain why they are there and the reasons they might be seeking refuge are limited. There’s a parent who could potentially answer those questions — but that parent was moved by the Department of Homeland Security to another facility. The child, detained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, has probably had no contact with his or her parent.”

Crackdown on immigrants takes a toll on federal judge: ‘I have presided over a process that destroys families’ (Los Angeles Times, 5/24/18) The judge began writing to President Obama in 2010, explaining what immigration laws were doing to families, why the system is unjust. He wrote letter after letter. He never got an answer.

“In the five years through 2017, Brack ranked first among 680 judges nationwide for his caseload, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which tracks court data. He sentenced 6,858 offenders — 5,823 of them for felony immigration violations.

“It’s a dubious honor for a man who is a devout Catholic and makes plain his moral dilemma in public hearings. He takes seriously his oath to uphold the laws of the United States. But he is a cog in a system he believes is unjust.”

Immigrant families separated at border struggle to find each other (Houston Chronicle, 5/24/18)

“Esteban Pastor hoped U.S. Border Patrol agents would free him and his 18-month-old son after they were arrested for crossing the southern border illegally last summer.

“He had mortgaged his land in Guatemala to fund his sick toddler’s hospital stay, and needed to work in the United States to pay off the loan.

“Instead agents imprisoned the 28-year-old in July for coming back into the country after having been deported, a felony. They placed the toddler in a federal shelter, though where, Pastor didn’t know. Three months later, in October, the father was deported — alone. His child, he said agents told him, was “somewhere in Texas.”

Parents, children ensnared in ‘zero tolerance’ border prosecutions (Arizona Daily Star, 5/25/18)

“Alma Jacinto covered her eyes with her hands as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“The 36-year-old from Guatemala was led out of the federal courtroom without an answer to the question that brought her to tears: When would she see her boys again?…

“It is still unclear what happens to the children of parents who are prosecuted, said Laura St. John, legal director with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project based in Arizona. Technically, once the child is separated from the parent they are deemed an unaccompanied minor and their cases should be processed separately.”

ACLU Report: Records claim border agents abused, neglected kids (CBS, 5/25/18)

“The ACLU, which obtained the records through litigation under the Freedom of Information Act, says children in custody near the southern border have alleged everything from being run over by vehicles, to being threatened with rape, to being ordered to remove their clothes before questioning. Moreover, the civil rights group alleges, the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and DHS Office of Inspector general have “failed to fully investigate, much less rectify, egregious abuse and neglect of migrant children.” The records the ACLU obtained cover 2009 to 2014….

“The ACLU said the records reflect “rampant abuse.” Children desribe “being stomped on, punched, kicked, run over with vehicles, tased, and forced to maintain stress positions by CBP officials.” Minors also reported that they suffered verbal abuse by CBP officials, who called them names including “dog,” “piece of crap,” “son of a bitch,” and “prostitute,” as well as telling them they “contaminate this country.”

By painting asylum seekers as ‘violent animals,’ Trump unlocked a school-to-deportation pipeline (Rewire News, 5/24/18) Part 1 of 2

Stories from immigrant children and their lawyers suggest the administration is crying wolf. An internal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) review found that less than 2 percent of children in its care have direct gang ties. Many of the other children it appears have been falsely accused of gang ties for things as trivial as wearing shoelaces of a particular color, holding up a peace sign in a photo posted on their personal social media, or giving a classmate the finger….

“The teens caught in this cycle are mostly Central American boys, many of whom fled their native countries to the United States to escape the gang membership they are now accused of. The evidence used to allege their gang ties would be laughable if it didn’t have such dire consequences. In the case of David, a Central American teen highlighted in an Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) survey, a school safety officer accused the high school student of being in a gang because he stood next to another student at school believed to be in a gang and because one student reported they heard from another student that David was involved with a gang. With this information, an immigration judge eventually found that David was gang-involved, denied his lawful permanent resident application as well as an application for asylum, and ordered him deported to a country where he feared for his life. During the entirety of this ordeal, David was detained in ORR custody for a year and a half.”

With gang allegations, educators are funneling migrant teens into a school-to-deportation pipeline (Rewire, 5/24/18) Part 2 of 2

One year after a 17-year-old asylum seeker fled El Salvador to escape gang violence, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested the teen at his home on Long Island as part of a raid purportedly targeting MS-13 gang members. Known as LVM in court documents, the teen had no criminal record, no known gang affiliations or involvement, no history of disciplinary issues, and had never been arrested, or charged for a crime. He had, however, been suspended from school for flipping off a classmate, who he said reciprocated the gesture.

“A faculty member who witnessed the motion—LVM raising both middle fingers to a fellow student—claimed that the teen had flashed a gang sign, prompting his suspension. And because the school district cooperates with law enforcement, which shares information with immigration officials, ICE arrested him in July 2017 at his home as part of Operation Matador four months after his suspension.”

The Lies

Trump blames own border policy on Democrats (Fact Check, 5/22/18)

“President Donald Trump wrongly blamed Democrats for a Trump administration policy that will separate parents and their young children caught entering the U.S. illegally.

“We have to break up families,” Trump claimed, because of “bad laws that the Democrats gave us.” But there is no such law. Instead, it’s the administration’s decision to criminally prosecute all immigrants who cross the border illegally that will cause children to be separated from their parents.”

Trump is blaming Democrats for separating migrant families at the border. Here’s why this isn’t a surprise. (Washington Post, 5/27/18) He is using these children as hostages, pretending concern while removing all protections, just as he did with DACA.

“In one of several misleading tweets during the holiday weekend, Trump pushed Democrats to change a “horrible law” that the president said mandated separating children from parents who enter the country illegally. But there is no law specifically requiring the government to take such action, and it’s also the policies of his own administration that have caused the family separation that advocacy groups and Democrats say is a crisis.”

Trump blames own border policy on Democrats (AP, 5/22/18) Trump lied. This is an old story, but we need to keep repeating it. Every day, the lie is repeated, so every day it needs to be refuted.

“President Donald Trump wrongly blamed Democrats for a Trump administration policy that will separate parents and their young children caught entering the U.S. illegally.

“We have to break up families,” Trump claimed, because of “bad laws that the Democrats gave us.” But there is no such law. Instead, it’s the administration’s decision to criminally prosecute all immigrants who cross the border illegally that will cause children to be separated from their parents.”

Congress: On recess and still arguing

GOP leaders struggle to contain immigration rebellion (The Hill, 5/27/18)

“They are at the point where they are confident I’ve got more than 218 votes,” said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), one of the leading forces behind the discharge petition. “They want to get [a deal] done.”

The window for reaching such an agreement, though, is closing quickly. Republicans will huddle in the Capitol on June 7 for a two-hour meeting designed to reach a consensus. If none emerges, then more Republicans are expected to endorse the discharge petition, forcing votes on several immigration bills as early as June 25.”

How a Miami Republican is leading a last-gasp shot at an immigration vote in Congress (Miami Herald, 5/24/18)

“Curbelo and California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham have led an arm-twisting effort over the past two weeks to get more Republicans on board. To get the petition approved in a chamber controlled by conservative Republicans who don’t support his legislation, Curbelo needs the votes of 25 Republicans and every single Democrat in the House. On Thursday afternoon, they were two Republican signatures short of the 25 GOP votes they need.”

Three Texans are the only Democratic holdouts in push to force DACA vote (Dallas Morning News, 5/24/18)

“Reps. Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen and Filemon Vela Jr. of Brownsville, who each represent border communities, say they want a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Donald Trump moved to end last fall. But they can’t support the current effort to force the House to vote on several immigration bills because it could lead to funding for Trump’s border wall, which they vehemently oppose.”

And in other news

At the center of one Minnesota man’s fight to stay in the U.S.: a program to protect undocumented crime victims from deportation (MinnPost, 5/25/18) USCIS grants only 10,000 U-visas each year—so what happens while crime victims wait in line?

“Months months before ICE detained him, in February 2017, Avila celebrated his birthday by getting a drink with a friend. As the two walked back to Avila’s Richfield home, they were assaulted in an armed robbery. “They got badly beat up; they got pepper sprayed; they ended up in the hospital,” said Carolina.

“After the assault, Avila applied to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a U Nonimmigrant Status, or U-visa, which provides legal status to undocumented residents who have fallen victim to criminal violence, sexual assault or human trafficking, and — most importantly — are willing to fully cooperate with law enforcement in order to investigate and prosecute those who perpetrated the crimes….

“John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, said the deferred action on a U-visa is supposed to protect individuals from deportation, but — as with many aspects of the federal government — things at USCIS have “dramatically” changed during the Trump administration.

“If deferred action has to have any meaning in the world of immigration law, it has to be valid for deferring you from deportation,” said Keller, who isn’t involved in Avila’s case. “If [it’s] cheapened or becomes questionable or meaningless … that’s going to be a problem for regular ongoing interpretation and processing of these kinds of cases.”

Trump’s pick to run refugee program is a fellow at anti-immigrant group (New York magazine, 5/25/18)

“Frank Sharry, founder of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice, told ABC News that Mortensen’s appointment would be akin to putting white supremacist Richard Spencer in charge of the Department of Justice’s civil-rights unit. “It’s not the fox guarding the chicken coop,” Sharry said. “It’s a monster in charge of the chicken coop.”

“Ultimately though, it’s the opinions of the U.S. Senate that matter most here as Mortensen will need to be confirmed before he assumes a post at the State Department.”

Trump taps vocal anti-illegal immigration advocate for State Dept’s top refugee job (The Hill, 5/25/18)

“If confirmed by the Senate, Mortensen would lead the State Department bureau responsible for providing assistance to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, including refugees and asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America. …

“Mortensen has also written dozens of op-eds for publications, including The Hill, decrying illegal immigration and claiming that most undocumented immigrants commit crimes by using fraudulent documents in the U.S.

“He also vehemently opposed former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program…”

DHS to issues 15,000 more guest worker visas amid clamor over labor shortage (Washington Post, 5/25/18) Not skilled workers. Not scientists. Not agricultural workers. These visas are for seasonal jobs like the ones Trump hotels fill with immigrant workers.

“Trump has used the H-2B visa program to hire workers at his golf resorts in Palm Beach, Fla., and Jupiter, Fla., saying he “could not get help” during the tourist high season.”

The hostile border between Trump and the head of DHS (Washington Post, 5/25/18)

“Nielsen has complained that it is almost an impossible task working for Trump, according to administration officials and others familiar with her thinking, and that he doesn’t understand the nuances of immigration law.

“It remains unclear, according to several people familiar with the situation, how much longer the relationship can last, but the strains illustrate the difficulty faced by Trump subordinates who are tasked with delivering policy solutions to match his most soaring promises.”

Border Patrol changes story on killing undocumented Guatemalan woman (Fox News, 5/25/18) My headline, not Fox’s. Same story from CNN.

“After initially reporting the agent was attacked by migrants armed with “blunt objects,” the federal agency on Friday said only that the group “rushed” the officer after ignoring orders to get on the ground.

“But its latest version of events makes no mention of blunt objects described in an agency statement issued after Wednesday’s shooting in the border town of Rio Bravo.”

Austin takes ‘welcoming’ to the next level with immigrant entrepreneur program (Star Tribune, 5/27/18) The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota is a partner in the Austin Area Minority Business Project, which offers help to immigrant, refugee, and minority entrepreneurs in starting or growing their businesses.

Mordecai Apolo lost one leg and mangled the other when he stepped on a land mine as he fled Burma for the refugee camps in Thailand. His prosthesis hurts him if he stands for long periods, his wife said.

“We thought if we have a store, he could do that,” Maylary Apolo said. “It’s doing well.”


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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