Immigration News for July 27, 2021

Watch Sgt. Aquilino Gonnell’s testimony on YouTube

The Congressional investigation of the January 6 insurrection began today, with dramatic testimony about the events we all watched unfold in real time, and then saw over and over in video after video. What does that have to do with immigration?

Sgt. Aquilino Gonnell, the first witness in the hearings on the January 6 insurrection, is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. He described his pride in being the first in his family to graduate from college and the first to serve in the U.S. military, coming under fire many times during his service in Iraq. He then went on to serve in the Capitol Police. He said he took an oath to defend the Constitution when he started basic training, when he became a U.S. citizen, when he was promoted within the military, when he joined the Capitol Police, and when he was promoted. His love and loyalty shine through all of his testimony. (NPR)

“‘For the first time, I was more afraid to work at the Capitol than during my entire Army deployment to Iraq,’ he said. ‘In Iraq, we expected armed violence, because we were in a war zone. But nothing in my experience in the Army, or as a law enforcement officer, prepared me for what we confronted on Jan. 6.’…

“‘As an immigrant to the United States, I am especially proud to have defended the U.S. Constitution and our democracy on Jan. 6,’ he said. ‘I hope that everyone in a position of authority in our country has the courage and conviction to do their part by investigating what happened on that terrible day and why.'” 

And in other news:

Luis Grijalva is a DACA recipient who has lived in the United States since he was one year old. He qualified to represent his birth country, Guatemala, at the Tokyo Olympics. But if he left the United States to go to Tokyo, he might not be allowed to return. After weeks of trying for “advance parole,”on Monday, he finally received this legal permission to go to Tokyo and return. (New York Times)

“In Fairfield, Grijalva discovered that he loved to run — and he excelled at it. At Fairfield’s Armijo High School, he won state championships in cross-country and track and field, obliterating school records and attracting attention from college coaches. But despite being ‘pretty quick’ in high school, Grijalva said he never thought qualifying for the Olympics was more than a fanciful dream. 

“Grijalva got a full-ride scholarship to Northern Arizona, where he is a senior, and helped the Lumberjacks win three N.C.A.A. cross-country championships in four years. After his big race in June, he turned professional, signing a contract with the shoe company Hoka One One.

“’The opportunities I had coming to the United States provided me with so much more than I could ask for,’ Grijalva said. Getting a degree and being paid to run are ‘probably things I never would have gotten if I had stayed in Guatemala.’” 

A 13-word denial of asylum is not enough—lives are at stake. (Reuters)

“A U.S. appeals court has ruled that an immigration judge’s two-sentence decision denying asylum to an Ecuadorean man was insufficient, and it warned that busy dockets are not an excuse for judges to summarily dispose of cases….

“Valarezo’s lawyer, Robert Helfand, said the ruling was important not only for his client but for other refugees.

“‘Families like Mr. Valarezo’s who turn to our country for help are in peril for their lives,’ Helfand said. ‘This decision recognizes that our government must treat them that way.'”

The Biden administration ordered prosecutors to postpone or drop deportation proceedings against immigrants who pose no threat to public safety. They are ignoring the order. (Pro Publica)

“In New Jersey, an 18-year-old from Honduras with no criminal convictions was ordered deported the day after the memo was issued. In Chicago, officials have said they aren’t using the email address posted on their office’s website to receive requests for reconsideration under the new approach. And no prosecutor’s office has agreed to review its cases to identify and contact immigrants who could be helped by the new policy — despite the May memo saying they had an ‘affirmative duty’ to find such cases….

“Even if an immigrant or lawyer files an extensively argued and well-documented request, ICE may reject it without further explanation. (In one case in New York, ICE responded to a 600-page filing with a single-paragraph denial.) None of the ICE field offices ProPublica examined have a way to appeal an ICE prosecutor’s decision; in Memphis, lawyers were told that there would not be any official process to request a second opinion or appeal a decision, but that lawyers were free to unofficially approach a senior attorney at the office if they had a complaint.”  

The Biden administration is allowing some families with children to appl for asylum within the United States, rather than expelling them within hours. Now it plans to use “expedited removal” to deport them without full hearings and due process. (CBS)

“‘The expedited removal system routinely leads to errors and it is not a system that should not be used when people’s lives are at stake,’ Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, told CBS News. ‘We are extremely disappointed that the Biden administration is considering placing vulnerable asylum-seeking families in a system that lacks basic due process protections.’

“Representatives for DHS did not say what, if any, policy changes the Biden administration will make to the expedited removal process to ensure families are afforded due process. …

“It is unclear if the Biden administration will seek to detain families while asylum officers determine whether they should be allowed to request U.S. protection. To date, it has been releasing most migrant families with notices to appear in immigration court and discontinued long-term family detention, using hotels to briefly hold parents and children.”

The West Virginia farmworker lived in the United States for more than 15 years, married a U.S. citizen, had children, and was so good at his job that his employers tried to help him get citizenship for himself. He was deported instead. Now, after more than two years, he’s home again. (Winchester Star)

“Miguel Angel Valdivia-Vera landed at Dulles International Airport at 6:42 p.m. Monday and was picked up by his mother-in-law. A few hours later, he was reunited with his wife and three children.

“It signaled the end of a nightmare that began seven years earlier with the Mexican immigrant’s attempt to become a U.S. citizen….

“Beth Nowak said Valdivia-Vera still has some significant obstacles between him and U.S. citizenship, but at least he’ll be able to fight the rest of his battles here.

“The Nowaks always assured Valdivia-Vera his job would be waiting for him. True to their word, he was back at Mayfair Farm tending crops at 8 a.m. Wednesday.” 

Grit, compassion, and unflagging commitment: a Guatemalan lawyer is doing everything he can to find parents who were separated from their children during the Trump-era family separations. (Washington Post)

“He had spent eight hours in a car and several more on a motorcycle to get to this remote area in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Now he looked up at the muddy slope rising before him, the road disappearing into the hillside. This last stretch he would have to do on foot.

“He stuffed the U.S. government records in his backpack. There was a note printed at the bottom of the first page, a dispatch from the Biden era that had made its way here:

‘Do whatever you can to find the family.’…

“Pop is paid an hourly rate for the work. He often sleeps on the floors of schoolhouses. His motorcycle has been swept away by flooding rivers….

“Even before the Biden push, Pop had been doing this work, and by this spring, after more than a year of searching, Pop had found 80 parents. In Chicamán, he was searching for the father who might be his 81st.” 

With deaths on the border increasing, the Border Patrol is stepping up efforts to find and rescue—or find and identify—migrants who are in trouble. (Los Angeles Times)

“Brooks County — about 75 miles north of the Rio Grande Valley — has become the Border Patrol’s laboratory, a place to test approaches they’re already extending across the border. A three-person missing-migrant team trained in forensics is working with an intelligence officer to help identify migrant remains. 

“The agency also added equipment and technology to help locate stranded migrants faster. It installed more than 1,400 rescue signs across the region labeled with GPS coordinates. Agents obtained GPS coordinates for more than 22,000 landmarks that can be referenced during a migrant’s 911 call — from power poles to windmills, pipelines and cattle guards. And they positioned 30 mobile, solar-powered rescue beacons in remote areas with little to no cellphone reception. The beacons are equipped with cameras that have already led to the rescue of a migrant….

“‘Never thought I’d be doing this, the forensic side of it, the compassion,’ said Agent Jerry Passement while searching for Nieto’s body. ‘It’s a puzzle we’ve got to try to put together.'” 

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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