An army of activists fighting for immigrants

resistencia frazier

Photo by Joe Frazier, used under Creative Commons license

Minnesota attorney Veronica Walther joined a nationwide movement of volunteers heading to the border to represent separated families, asylum seekers and other immigrants. Veronica Walther spent July 4 at ICE’s Karnes County detention center. She paid her own way, and brought her mom who volunteered as an interpreter for other attorneys who didn’t speak Spanish.

Everyone from church congregations to United Airlines has stepped up to help reunified families. ICE often releases the families in parking lots or bus stations, leaving them to find their own way to family members spread out across the country, and to make check-in dates with ICE while their cases are pending.

“The American public is going to step in where the government has failed,” said Alida Garcia, the coalitions and policy director for, on a press call Tuesday. “It’s going to provide comfort and love and care to these families.”

Two retired federal judges proposed a step toward reducing the 700,000+ backlog in immigration courts. They say the government could ask retired federal judges to serve:

“We certainly have the expertise. We’ve handled heavy dockets of cases and we’re accustomed with having to get up to speed very quickly in various areas of the law,” retired US District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel said.

Across the country, help, donations, and ideas come from almost all directions—except the Trump administration, which clings to its ineffective “zero tolerance” policy.  A recent study confirms that such crackdowns on families crossing the border didn’t work under President Obama in 2014, and are not working now. The main reason: Central American families aren’t abandoning their home countries to take advantage of supposedly lax US immigration policy — they’re choosing between a homeland where they worry their family has no chance at survival and the US, where they just might.”

“Zero tolerance” also fails at an operational level, with numbers showing that only about 30% of border crossers who are apprehended are being prosecuted.

Zero tolerance may fail, but the “zero humanity” of Trump’s policies continues. Two examples: the “ineligible parent” classification of separated families and the impending deportation of military spouse Alejandra Juarez.

The New Yorker digs into the numbers of “ineligible parents” and finds that the category includes 463 people who have been deported; 127 who supposedly waived their right to reunification; 64 people with some criminal record—including being charged but not convicted, or having a DUI conviction, or merely being “wanted by El Salvador;” and 260 people who fall under a vague category called “further evaluation.” When asked by the judge, a government attorney couldn’t explain what that meant.

Lest anyone forget, family separation includes deportation of immigrants who have lived in the United States for years. Alejandra Juarez, who has been in the United States for 20 years, is married to a U.S. citizen for 18, and is the mother of two U.S. citizen children, is scheduled for deportation on August 3.

“Juarez is married to former Marine Sgt. Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Juarez, an infantryman who served in the Marines from 1995 to 1999, first with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. He took part in Operation Silver Wake, the evacuation of non-combatants from Albania in 1997. He served in Africa in the Democratic Republic of Congo and then deployed with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines throughout South America. After his contract was complete, he joined the 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment of the Army National Guard in Orlando.”

The last line of defense against Trump’s policies is in the courts:

“US civil society groups are holding back a tidal wave of change, one lawsuit at a time. Some of those fights, like the ACLU’s lawsuit against family separation, have been become national news. So far, the ACLU is winning: after ordering that all the children be returned to their parents by July 26, the federal judge overseeing the case also temporarily barred the administration from immediately deporting the reunited families last week.

“There are many other cases that have potential to shape Trump’s immigration policy through the push-and-pull happening in the courts. These legal fights have not only forced the administration to return immigrant children to their parents, but influenced the wording of Trump’s travel ban, and kept the Department of Homeland Security from breaking its own rules. In some areas the administration’s campaign to close off immigration has been rebuffed entirely, in others, it has been stalled.”

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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