Immigration News: September 20, 2022

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar making public statement
Bexar County Sheriff statement on video

Bexar County, Texas Sheriff Javier Salazar will investigate the DeSantis-arranged flights of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. He says there is reason to believe that a crime was committed. The migrants, who are seeking asylum, have a legal right to remain in the United States while their applications are processed. 

[New York Times] “Sheriff Javier Salazar of Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, said that he had enlisted agents from his office’s organized crime task force and that it was too early to determine which laws might have been broken. But he said it was clear that many of the migrants had been misled and lured away from Texas to score political points.

“’They had a right to walk around the streets just like you and me, and they had a right not to be preyed on and played for a fool and transported halfway across the country, just for the sake of a media event or a video opportunity,’ Sheriff Salazar, a Democrat, said. ‘That’s a tragedy.’” 

Besides the Texas sheriff’s investigation, some of the Venezuelan immigrants are suing DeSantis and company. Here’s an excerpt from the complaint in their class action lawsuit: 

[Alianza Americas, et al v. DeSantis, et al] “3. In or around September 2022, Defendants and their unidentified accomplices designed and executed a premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme centered on exploiting this vulnerability for the sole purpose of advancing their own personal, financial and political interests. This scheme involved the unidentified Doe Defendants, acting in concert with the named Defendants, identifying and targeting class members by trolling streets outside of a migrant shelter in Texas and other similar locales, pretending to be good Samaritans offering humanitarian assistance.

“4. To gain the Plaintiffs’ trust, and to induce unwitting cooperation with Defendants’ scheme, the Doe Defendants provided items such as $10 McDonalds gift certificates to class members suffering from chronic food insecurity. After luring Plaintiffs by exploiting their most basic needs, the Doe Defendants then made false promises and false representations that if Plaintiffs and class members were willing to board airplanes to other states, they would receive employment, housing, educational opportunities, and other like assistance upon their arrival. Next, the Defendants put class members up for free in hotels, sequestered away from the migrant center, and from the possibility of actual good Samaritans finding out how the class members were being abused.

“5. On information and belief, the Defendants procured and paid $615,000 for private chartered planes ($12,300 per passenger), transported class members to the aircrafts, and told them they were flying to Boston or Washington, D.C., which was completely false. Instead, the chartered airplanes dropped Plaintiffs off on Martha’s Vineyard in the evening, with no food, water or shelter. No one on Martha’s Vineyard—or, on information and belief—anywhere in Massachusetts—knew they were coming. The Doe Defendants disappeared and did not answer alarmed calls from the class members to get information about what had gone wrong after they landed.” 

And in other news

It’s unclear who paid for flights of Venezuelan migrants to California, and migrants say they had no choice in where they were sent. This could be part of a political stunt, or simply a mistake by ICE or CBP. In any event, Californians were ready and willing to help the migrants when they arrived.

[CBS] “‘The first was a group of three, and when we met them they had just gotten to the food bank. They walked from Sacramento International Airport into town, which is about a 20 mile walk on I-5, so pretty dangerous,’ [NorCal Resist volunteer Autumn Gonzalez]  said. ‘And they were given shoes and something to eat. And then we picked up them up, and basically they were exhausted.’ 

“Gonzalez said two groups landed at the Sacramento International Airport after getting released for a detention center in Laredo, Texas. They were given detention papers that sent them to what was supposed to be a shelter, but turned out to be an office building for Catholic Charities of California. 

“‘Luckily, the security guard there has been very nice and points them to the food bank. But the second group that came in on the evening flight, obviously the food bank is not open 24/7, so it was closed at that time and they ended up sleeping in a park,’ said Gonzalez. ‘And we met them the next day when they got to the food bank and again, we put them in a hotel.'” 

ICE can’t get its numbers straight. That means it is propagating misinformation about immigration, over and over. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Syracuse University’s TRAC data research center for its ongoing, painstaking work in gathering, analyzing, fact-checking, and reporting immigration data. 

[TRAC] “ICE’s latest release of detention data is, once again, riddled with errors. ICE’s data on Alternatives to Detention wrongly reports enrollments of 96,574 people, because the agency mistakenly released data from May 2021 rather than September 2022. (The actual number is closer to 300,000.) ICE’s reported data on immigrant detention facilities shows a similar but even more egregious error: the recently released data is, in fact, for February of Fiscal Year 2020—over two years old. As this report shows, these errors are now too frequent to be ignored and raise concerns that the agency is contributing to, rather than alleviating, misinformation about the immigration system. …

“Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s posture of sloppiness and indifference towards Congress’s transparency requirements, as well as the agency’s recalcitrance towards its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act, are cause for significant concern. In light of the ongoing divisive politics surrounding immigration, data transparency may not seem like a top priority. But it is because of these divisive politics that accurate, reliable, and timely data are more crucial to the public than ever. The public should be able to trust that ICE is able and willing to produce a clear, accurate picture of immigration enforcement that will help address misinformation rather than produce the kind of consistently inaccurate data that contributes to misinformation.”  

Walter Cruz-Zavala is in one of the most dangerous and repressive prisons in El Salvador. He is one of tens of thousands of men imprisoned in a heavy-handed crackdown to bolster the tough-on-crime reputation of El Salvador’s president. Cruz-Zavala  came to the United States at the age of 14. He was deported in 2021, at the age of 31. Two immigration court rulings said he faced torture or persecution if returned to El Salvador, but U.S. officials kept prolonging the process, preventing his release. 

[The Intercept] “The reason, U.S. officials argued, was that Cruz-Zavala was a dangerous man. The purported evidence was tattooed across his chest in two large letters: “M” and “S.”

The assertion belied a more complicated reality. As a 2021 Intercept investigation revealed, Cruz-Zavala’s tattoo was given to him shortly after his 18th birthday by a confessed murderer, a man whom U.S. law enforcement had paid thousands to infiltrate Cruz-Zavala’s crew of friends. …

“Counselors, human rights experts, and even his probation officer argued that Cruz-Zavala had reckoned with the mistakes of his youth. He was working to understand the relationship between those mistakes and his own trauma, they said, and exiling him to El Salvador would expose him to extraordinary danger, including torture or murder at the hands of gangs or the Salvadoran state. In the end, none of it was enough: Cruz-Zavala was deported in May 2021. …

“Until his arrest, Cruz-Zavala’s bucolic life attracted little attention in El Salvador. He worked on his family farm, helped raise cattle, and harvested small plots of corn and other vegetables. He played soccer and went to church on Sundays but otherwise stayed at home.

“’They know it, they know he didn’t do anything bad, nothing,’ his father said. ‘The police never even stopped him for a ticket, never stopped to even talk to him. The only charge are the letters. The Bukele regime is looking for anyone with letters or anyone with any tattoo — they say you’re a terrorist.’

“His father was careful about what he would share with The Intercept, worried that police were listening in on the calls or that he would be ‘put on a list.’ Cruz-Zavala’s brother, who lives with the family in El Salvador, similarly declined to comment for this story due to fear of retaliation from the police.” 

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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