Here’s some hope from the latest Gallup poll results: 60 percent oppose significant new construction on border walls and 81 percent support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States. Besides that news, take a minute for inspiration from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and from volunteers atf San Diego State University.
Becerra gave a stirring Spanish-language response to SOTU last week, delivering a message of hope and strength:
“Your vote in November changed the votes in Congress. And that has changed the politics of our nation.
“Now that you see your power, are you ready to open new doors? …
“Whether it’s with marches on the streets or marches to the polling booths, with fights in the court or through Congress, we will do what’s needed to ensure a strong and vibrant national Union.
“Friends, with faith and the strength of our labor, and respecting the diverse contributions of the American people, the United States will continue to be the home of the American Dream.”
At San Diego State University, professors and volunteers started a letter-writing project last summer, writing to asylum-seekers detained, sometimes for years, at Otay Mesa. “Whenever you reply my letters, it is a light for me in the darkness,” wrote one of the detainees. An archive of letters, with names deleted, has been opened at the university.
“Detainees began writing letters, many using stubby golf pencils purchased for 6 cents from the commissary. They pleaded for help while telling their stories of rape, murder and torture in their home countries, and of separation from their children at the border. Volunteers responded with shock and empathy, sending Christmas cards, poems, pictures and updates about their own families. They also sent small amounts of money to the detainees’ accounts for purchases of such things as extra food and drinks, toothbrushes and sneakers.
“For those awaiting imminent deportation, “all we could offer was commissary and moral support in the meantime — like the cup of coffee on the deck of a big ship that’s going to sink,” said Joanna Brooks, an associate vice president at the university who initiated the campaign, which has grown to 200 volunteers….
“The letter-writing project began when the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant parents from their children at the border was roiling the country last summer. Professor Brooks gathered similarly outraged friends and colleagues at her house; together, they found the names and alien registration numbers for 30 detainees at Otay Mesa who had been part of a migrant caravan held up at the border in Tijuana. The volunteers rented a post office box for the detainees’ responses.”
And now, back to your regularly scheduled news …
The Washington Post broke a carefully documented story of undocumented immigrants working to build and then to staff Trump’s Bedminster golf course. Their stories go back to 2002, with many coming from a single village in Costa Rica, and others from across Central America. The story includes accounts from some who have returned to Costa Rica, building homes with their Bedminster earnings.
U.S. and Mexican border authorities have a new target: journalists and immigration lawyers have been refused entry to Mexico, held for hours in cold cells, had their phones seized, and interrogated extensively by Mexican officials acting on supposed “Interpol holds” or “flags” on their passports. Officials won’t tell where the holds came from, but The Intercept’s report gathers evidence that points to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“Last week, two attorneys with a leading legal organization challenging the Trump administration’s border crackdown were denied entry into Mexico. In a press conference, the lawyers — Nora Phillips and Erika Pinheiro, senior litigators with the Los Angeles- and Tijuana-based organization Al Otro Lado — blamed the U.S. government for their removal. Pinheiro, a U.S. citizen living in Mexico, was heading home to her 10-month-old son. Phillips, Al Otro Lado’s legal director, was on her way to a long-planned vacation with her husband, her 7-year-old daughter, and her best friend when she was flagged by officials at the Guadalajara airport. She spent nine hours in detention without food or water….
“Through interviews with journalists and advocates who have worked in the Tijuana area recently, The Intercept has uncovered a pattern of heightened U.S. law enforcement scrutiny aimed at individuals with a proximity to the migrant caravans….
“The lawyers are already moving to launch inquiries in Congress, in the Mexican government, and with Interpol. “I think we’ll get to the bottom of it,” Pinheiro said. “In the meantime, I’m stuck here.” For an American attorney residing in Mexico, who represents 43 parents who were deported without their children during the Trump administration’s family separation campaign, an inability to cross borders is no small matter.”
The American Immigration Lawyers Association is calling for an immediate Congressional investigation and denouncing the targeting of volunteer attorneys.
“The hypocrisy here is that the Trump administration is falsely promising that asylum seekers will have a fair shot at asylum, even as it implements the “Remain in Mexico” plan. What happened to Nora and Erika looks like an attempt to subvert the work or deter the very people who can help ensure that due process is real….
“AILA stands with all of the courageous attorneys who are fighting for asylum seekers’ rights. We stand with our members. We stand with the vulnerable asylum seekers trying to find safety and refuge. We stand ready to fight.”