Immigration News from June 9, 2021

Emely’s mother left her in her grandmother’s care when she went to the United States. Then her father took the little girl away, and eventually sent her to the border alone. Sobbing, thirsty, having only one shoe, nine-year-old Emely was picked up by the Border Patrol on May 13. (AP News)

“Six years had passed since Glenda Valdez kissed her toddler goodbye and left for the United States — six years since she held Emely in her arms.

“But here she was, at Texas’ Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, tearfully embracing the little girl she left behind. And it happened only because she had glimpsed a televised photo of Emely, part of an Associated Press story on young people crossing the Mexican border alone….

“When the agents found her, she said she had lost her mother’s number, and did not know where her mother lived. Desperate, she gave reporters details she thought might identify her mom: “Her hair is curly, but sometimes she straightens it. And she has a lip ring.”

“Her mother was expecting her, she said. But Valdez said Sunday she had no idea her child had been sent to cross the border.

“Valdez was at her home in Austin, watching a Univision newscast one afternoon in May, when she saw the picture of Emely in a red hoodie. She knew at once that it was her daughter. Desperate, she immediately began making calls to U.S. authorities, the network and refugee agencies.”

Visiting Guatemala and Mexico, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke like an immigration hard-liner, telling people not to come to the United States and emphasizing border enforcement and economic aid to Central America. (New York Times)

“Ms. Harris came to Central America with a blunt response: The administration’s focus would be asserting control over its borders, even if that meant turning away, for now, those fleeing persecution and poverty whom the vice president has promised to help in the long run. 

“Ms. Harris was similarly candid about the need to address the root causes prompting migrants to make the long, dangerous trek north from Central America, despite the hundreds of millions spent by the United Statesto improve prospects in the region. In Guatemala, she announced that the United States will assist an anti-corruption panel that has been denounced by President Alejandro Giammattei — even as the Guatemalan leader stood watching.

“But it was her comments on migration — telling migrants in Guatemala, “do not come” — that prompted a new round of criticism. Immigration advocates accused the vice president of undermining immigration law and Mr. Biden’s pledge to restore an asylum-processing system at the southwest border.”

“Sending messages” to stop desperate people from immigrating just doesn’t work. Also—though this does not seem to matter at all to most Republicans or Democrats—coming to the United States and asking for asylum IS LEGAL UNDER U.S. LAW.  (Vice)

“The Guatemalan human smuggler didn’t hear Vice President Kamala Harris tell migrants they aren’t welcome in the U.S during her visit to his country. He was too busy ferrying a group of six Hondurans from Guatemala City to the Mexican border, en route to the U.S. 

“A taxi driver in an industrial Guatemala city bordering Mexico also missed Harris’ speech. But his takeaway from commentators on the radio was that she had refused to say whether the U.S. would grant special legal protections to Guatemalans who fled their homes following devastating back-to-back hurricanes last year. 

“Harris’ stern message that Guatemalan migrants aren’t welcome in the U.S. received widespread coverage in American media outlets. But her plea fell on deaf ears or was dismissed by the very people it was aimed at: Central Americans thinking about migrating to the U.S….

“‘First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival,’ retorted Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter. ‘Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.’”

As the United States begins pulling out of Afghanistan, Afghans who worked with U.S. forces face a dangerous future. The application process for special immigrant visas typically takes three years. That’s not quick enough to save them. (NY1 Spectrum News)

 “Omid stopped working as an interpreter for the U.S. military last year, but he says the Taliban still search for him. For safety, he rarely leaves the house after dark, if at all.

“’After the sunset, it’s difficult for all interpreters to go outside,’ he said, going by his first name for this story since he fears his life — and his family’s lives — are at risk. 

“Taliban members recently stopped his dad on the street to ask: ‘Where’s your son?’

“’If the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan even for a minute, I cannot guarantee I can be alive,’ Omid added.” 

One refugee’s story: Ovie triumphed over the odds, got DACA status, graduated from high school, and is headed for college in the fall. “I’m going to spread my wings and fly,” she says.  (Traverse City Record-Eagle)

“Blessing Ovie’s wings weren’t just clipped. They weren’t just broken….

“The world took Ovie’s wings from her. The world convinced her that she didn’t have wings, that she never had wings — that she never would….

“She left Nigeria at 9 years old, bound for Morocco with no parents to look after her. Life was no easier there. It was worse, and Ovie numbed herself to the pain to survive each day.

“She doesn’t talk publicly about the details of her ordeal between the ages of 10 and 17, but to hear her speak in generalities of the damage done spares the listener from the brutality Ovie faced.” 

From migrant shelters to water jugs to crosses to commemorate those who have died, faith-based activism on the border serves those who cross into the United States. Activists continue in the tradition of the sanctuary movement that began here in 1981. (AP News)
“Alvaro Enciso plants three or four crosses each week in Arizona’s desert borderlands, amid the yellow-blossomed prickly pear and whip-like ocotillo, in honor of migrants who died on the northbound trek. 

“Each colorful wooden memorial denotes where a set of bones or a decomposing body was found. Over eight years, the artist has marked more than 1,000 locations across public lands dotted with empty black plastic water jugs and camouflage backpacks beneath circling turkey vultures. …

“Protecting migrants and honoring the humanity of those who died on the perilous trail is a kind of religion in southern Arizona where spiritual leaders four decades ago founded the Sanctuary Movement to shelter Central Americans fleeing civil war, and scores of volunteers carry on their legacy today.” 

If the Biden administration really supports trans rights, they need to listen to trans asylum seekers pleas for protection instead of jailing them. (The Guardian)

“’I am a human being. I’m just asking for an opportunity to stay in the United States and to be free and be safe,’ said Maura Martinez, a 41-year-old trans woman from Nicaragua, in a recent call from inside a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jail in San Diego. She has been held in ICE detention for more than two years….

“One report found that trans detainees were held in Ice for 99 days on average, twice as long as the overall average length of detention. In recent years, two trans women who had HIV and were seeking asylum in the US died after they were, according to legal complaints, denied medical care.”

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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