“In the fifth episode of the last season of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” the character Maritza, who has been languishing in an immigrant detention center, finds out about a toll-free hotline she can call to get a free lawyer. As she’s rejoicing, another character, Gloria, cuts her off.
“Gloria warns Maritza: “You have to be careful, though. Apparently if they figure out that you’re using the hotline, Big Brother shuts it down.”
“That’s exactly what happened, advocates say. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shut down a real hotline for detained immigrants run by the California group Freedom for Immigrants less than two weeks after it was prominently featured on the show.”
On Friday, the Trump administration published a long-threatened regulation eliminating most protections for child migrants. The regulation supposedly replaces the Flores settlement, though it’s likely that Judge Dolly Gee, who must review the regulation, will reject it. In addition to allowing DHS to self-license facilities and to hold children for an indeterminate period of time, the new rule eliminates oversight access to facilities.
The latest refugee news comes from Germany, where an Iraqi man who was an interpreter for U.S. troops faces threats and danger. Protection for Iraqis who help keep U.S. troops safe seems like a no-brainer, but the Trump administration has cut the already-paltry approval rate of 325 in 2016 to just 2 last year. The wait list: tens of thousands, despite legislation that was supposed to facilitate their refugee applications.
Inside the United States, the wait for asylum continues to grow. In Boston, an estimated three to six year wait time for a hearing will grow even longer, as asylum hearing officers are being sent to the southern border. No new hearings are being scheduled in Boston until further notice. A similar report comes from Texas, where attorneys point out that these extended delays mean that evidence grows old and cases become more difficult to prove with the passage of time. In addition to the evidentiary problems, the rules change frequently under the Trump administration and someone who is eligible for asylum today may be deemed ineligible under the next rule change—and then eligible again after a judge strikes down the latest rule.
A new edict from the attorney general says that the director of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) can take cases away from the immigration judges who are hearing evidence and issue rulings on their own. That comes at the same time as the appointment of six new immigraiton judges. Tal Kopan at the San Francisco Chronicle reports:
“The Trump administration has promoted six judges to the immigration appeals court that sets binding policy for deportation cases — all of whom have high rates of denying immigrants’ asylum claims.
“The six come from courts that have higher asylum-denial rates than the national average, including two from a court that has drawn complaints of unfair proceedings from immigration attorneys and advocates. A third has a long history of denying asylum to domestic violence victims, something the Justice Department has also sought to do.”
(Note: If you are on Twitter, follow Tal Kopan—she’s one of the outstanding immigration reporters in the country.)
Even citizens are not safe. The ACLU went to bat for Ramon Torres after he was put on an immigration hold:
“Torres, a naturalized U.S. citizen since 2009, was carrying multiple forms of identification, including his driver’s license and other security credentials. Torres was booked at the Ascension Parish Jail, and the next day the Parish Court ordered his release.
“But Torres wasn’t released. Instead, the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office placed an “immigration hold” on Torres on the suspicion that he was unlawfully present in the United States.
“The basis for this suspicion? He had a Latinx name and brown skin. Staff at the sheriff’s office explained that they had a policy of detaining all Latinx people for immigration review.”