Tweets, threats, suicides and family separations

Trump caricature

Caricature used under Creative Commons license

If you took a vacation from the news this weekend, start the week with three good news stories:

First, there’s the story of Minnesota attorney Veronica Walther and other volunteers working to help immigrants on the border.

Second, A federal judge in Chicago reiterated and broadened his order to the feds to stop trying to take funding away from so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

Third, Mexican reporter Emilio Gutiérrez Soto and his son, who have lived and worked legally in the United States for a decade, have been released from seven months in federal immigration detention on July 26. Their asylum battle continues, and so does the effort of the National Press Club for the release of internal government documents explaining why they were detained. The suspicion: this was retaliation for Emilio Gutiérrez’s criticism of the asylum process.

And now back to our regularly-scheduled, federally-provided bad news: making immigration policy by threat and tweet, immigration-related suicides, and continuing family separation developments,

Trump’s weekend tweets threatened a government shutdown if Congress doesn’t fund his border wall, increase enforcement and deportation powers, and make major cuts to legal immigration—all by the September budget deadline. Republicans in Congress are not happy.

The literally deadly effect of Trump’s policies was dramatically shown when Mahmood Salem killed himself in his Louisiana home on July 18. He did so after saying a telephone goodbye to his wife and children, stranded in Djibouti by Trump’s travel ban. The Yemeni-American father and his youngest three children are U.S. citizens, but his Yemeni wife and two oldest children were denied visas to reunite the family here in the United States.

Earlier this month, Efraín Romero killed himself in ICE’s Stewart detention center, after being held in solitary confinement for 21 days. It is not clear why Romero, who had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, was in solitary. The United Nations has said that length of time in solitary could be considered torture. A little more than a year ago, another immigrant detainee with a mental health diagnosis killed himself at Stewart after 19 days in solitary confinement.

Today’s family separation stories start with the Washington Post’s coverage of hundreds of still-separated families, many missing from the government’s records and unlocatable, and classified by immigration authorities as “deleted family units.

Angelina and her six-year-old son were detained for two months at the Artesia “refugee camp” in New Mexico by the Obama administration. In a Rewire story, she describes what it means to hold parents and children in ICE detention camps, a situation so crushing and depressing that many people choose to escape by agreeing to deportation. The separation, she says, affects the entire family:

“[E]ven when one person, like my husband, is detained, it’s like the whole family is there. Our heart is there. We experience the stress and fear of not knowing,” Angelina said. “Being in detention doesn’t just affect the person in detention; it affects the whole family. And when one family member is detained, that too is family separation.”

Separation is only the beginning of detention center problems: Both The Nation and Pro Publica have stories of sexual and physical abuse in detention centers holding immigrant children.

The Atlantic recounts a dramatic story of an attorney and helper trying to locate a separated father who was deported to Honduras:

Access roads were too risky to attempt, given the criminal syndicates who ran the area, so the group connected with the local police, one of whom—purely by coincidence—knew the mayor of the tiny town where Miguel lived. He, in turn, knew Miguel. By luck or divine providence, Long and her associates were able to get a message to Miguel, and paid for a motorcycle to bring him on a two-hour ride to their location. “Finally, and sort of miraculously, he arrived,” Long said.

“But the hour was growing late: Once night fell, the roads would soon become too dangerous for safe passage. So the team quickly took Miguel’s testimony, bribed the local internet café to stay open, printed the document, and had Miguel sign it, just as the sun began to set. Then they all went on their way—a happy outcome that required impossible serendipity and unusual tenacity, simply to begin turning the wheels of justice for one father and one son. As Long finished telling me the story, she said, “And now multiply that by 463.”…

“While the 463 children of deported parents (or 431, depending on which statistics the government is using) would seem to represent the toughest challenge for this government—the most troublesome examples of its controversial policy—the administration, it seems, has effectively washed its hands of them: No plan is in place to assist these reunifications, no specific resources allocated.”

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, www.tcdailyplanet.net, 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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