It’s time you meet them. It’s time to put a face to the crisis. It’s time to get to know the thousands of kids and young adults from Central America seeking refuge. We’ve read their stories about their journey and their struggle, both at home and in the detention centers. But we haven’t heard the story directly from them…until now.
Photographer Oliver Contreras and CARECEN, the Central American Resource Center, want to change that with the project “Unaccompanied.” They’re giving a platform to share to girls like Erminia, who at 15 traveled across the desert into the United States barefoot after her shoes fell apart. Also hear from Marvin, who spent four weeks sleeping on a prison floor after he was caught by Mexican immigration when he was 14. Both of these teenagers decided this was better than staying in their home country with no hope for the future.
A recent article in the Washington Post says this project “seeks to demonstrate the realities that youth immigrants face: the doubts, aspirations, complexity and humanity of their experience.”
Read more about their stories and the full article here.
Donald Trump ran on a campaign pledge to severely limit the rights of migrants and refugees attempting to reach the United States. In office, he wasted no time restricting authorized and unauthorized immigration, with travel bans for citizens of a number of Muslim-majority nations, cutting the numbers of refugees the U.S. accepts, and pushing ahead with plans to build a wall on the southern border.
Now amid a global health pandemic, the president is looking to scapegoat migrant and refugee communities by banning all applications for immigration to the U.S. The move is largely seen as symbolic, however, since the U.S. has already largely stopped processing immigration applications due to reduced capacity.
The White House on Monday announced that President Trump would be signing an executive order to temporarily ban all immigration to the U.S.
President Trump tweeted on Monday that he will pass an executive order to suspend immigration to the United States, claiming that he is seeking to protect jobs in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. Democrats were quick to criticize it as a “dumb move” and pointed to testing as a safe way to reopen the economy. Not to mention that the U.S. is already home to the largest number of cases around the globe.
Trump tweeted: “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”
Obviously, since he made the major announcement over Twitter, there is very little clarity over what immigration programs might be impacted. And the White House still hasn’t offered any guidance on what Trump meant by the tweet.
Trump has taken credit for his restrictions on travel to the U.S. from China and hard-hit European countries, arguing it contributed to slowing the spread of the virus in the U.S. But he has yet to extend those restrictions to other nations now experiencing virus outbreaks.
Although the announcement has left many in shock, the U.S. was already severely limiting immigration due to the pandemic.
Already, much of the immigration flow into the country has been paused during the coronavirus pandemic, as the government has temporarily stopped processing all non-worker visas. And, the executive order in its current form will exempt seasonal foreign farm worker visas, one of the largest sources of immigration at the moment.
The administration has already restricted foreign visitors from China, Europe, Canada and Mexico, and has paused processing for immigrants trying to come into the U.S. on non-worker visas because of office closures.
But given the usual chaotic roll out of Trump Administration directives, we still don’t know how long this suspension will last nor what will happen with the applicants already being processed.
Thomas Homan, Trump’s former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told Reuters: “It’s really not about immigration. It’s about the pandemic and keeping our country safer while protecting opportunities for unemployed Americans.”
And it seems the fact that the U.S. already has the largest number of cases on Earth is completely lost on the president.
As of early April, the United States is now home to the largest number of confirmed Covid-19 infections on the planet. There are more than 800,000 cases confirmed by testing and more than 44,000 deaths associated with the virus. In fact, the U.S. now makes up for nearly a third of all Covid-19 infections and a quarter of all deaths.
If Trump wants to make an impact and help flatten the curve in the United States, he should stop promoting the anti-lockdown protests instead of scapegoating immigrant and refugee communities.
Democrats and migrant right’s groups quickly slammed the president’s proposal as xenophobic and counter-productive.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California, also a former 2020 presidential candidate, responded to Trump’s tweet as well, saying the move was “shamelessly politicizing this pandemic to double down on his anti-immigrant agenda.”
“Trump failed to take this crisis seriously from day 1,” she wrote. “His abandonment of his role as president has cost lives. And now, he’s shamelessly politicizing this pandemic to double down on his anti-immigrant agenda. Enough, Mr. President. The American people are fed up.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, a Democrat who ran for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, said in response, “We don’t need to protect America from immigrants. We need to protect her from you.” Now that’s a pretty legit clapback.
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People who have spent nearly their entire lives in the United States – are not immune to the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies. Even if you show up every month and check-in for your routine meetings with ICE officers, you’re still subject to the whims of an ever-changing legal scene and moody ICE officers with too much power.
That was the case for Lisandro Claros Saravia – who after having spend the past 11 years in the U.S. was deported back to his native El Salvador.
Lisandro was a rising star in the soccer world and had received an athletic scholarship in North Carolina.
If things had gone as they had for more than 10 years, Lisandro would still be with his family in the United States. His former coaches in the U.S. think he would likely have been drafted by a Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit.
For more than a decade, Lisandro had routine check-ins with ICE officers. But in the summer of 2017, everything changed.
Instead, Lizandro and Diego were deported seven months after President Trump took office and implemented a new immigration enforcement regime that did not exempt any undocumented immigrant from the threat of deportation, not even a college-bound teenager with a clean record and a soccer scholarship.
The two brothers had been in the U.S. for more than a decade and had big dreams.
Lizandro and his brother Diego arrived in the U.S. in 2009. They were just 11 and 14-years-old respectively and came into the country on visas that weren’t theres. Their parents and two siblings were already living in the U.S. at the time – so they came to be reunited with their family.
It was in 2012 when the two brothers had been ordered removed. But they received a temporary order granting them safety from deportation. When that protection expired, ICE didn’t deport them, but instead required them to check-in periodically.
Then, years later, the two brothers hoped to take advantage of an expanded DACA program. But the expansion was blocked by a federal judge after several Republican states sued, a decision affirmed by a 4-4 deadlock in the Supreme Court in 2016.
Having been deported from the home they knew for more than a decade, forced the brothers to rebuilt their lives in a country they left as children.
Despite the huge challenges these two brothers have faced, they’re not letting it stop them from chasing their dreams – even when they’re thousands of miles away from their family.
“Deportation really made me strong. It taught me to keep moving forward in life and to keep going because things will get better in the end,” Lizandro told CBS News.
Less than three years after his deportation, Lizandro has earned a starting position in Independiente F.C., a team in El Salvador’s top professional soccer league. He is now one of the most promising soccer talents in El Salvador and part of a young generation of players many expect will ultimately bolster the ranks of the national team.
Although he wants to be with his family in Maryland, Lizandro relishes his new responsibilities as a role model for the children in his hometown of Jucuapa, which used to be known for a booming coffin-making business.
Lizandro’s uncle, Romeo Mejicanos, said his nephew’s success has challenged the stereotypes associated with young, working-class Salvadoran men, who are often recruited by the country’s warring gangs. Lizandro is a beacon for the entire municipality of Jucuapa, which used to be known for its thriving coffin-making business, fueled by El Salvador’s extremely high murder rates.
“That stigma that you have to turn to violence if you are young has been eroding. We can no longer say that the local youths are heading down the wrong path,” Mejicanos, a longtime Jucuapa resident, told CBS News in Spanish. “Jucuapa now has a new face, and it is that of Lizandro and of Diego, who are both excelling and have humbly demonstrated that things can be accomplished the right way.”
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