Things That Matter

The ACLU Is Challenging The Trump Administration’s Attempts To Block People Seeking Asylum

Less than 24 hours after President Trump ordered suspending granting of asylum to migrants crossing the U.S. border, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is seeking to block these new restrictions. The order would ban migrants from applying for asylum outside of U.S. official ports of entry. It would also suspend the granting of asylum to migrants who cross the U.S. border with Mexico illegally for up to 90 days. The proclamation will stand for 90 days or until the U.S. reaches an agreement with Mexico concerning asylum seekers.

The ACLU says the “new asylum ban is illegal” and “neither the president nor his cabinet secretaries can override the clear commands of U.S. law.”

The ACLU, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed the lawsuit on behalf of several immigrant advocacy groups in federal court Nov. 9. The advocacy groups are seeking a court order that would temporarily prevent the government from restricting asylum applications as restrictions have gone into effect. The ACLU released a statement challenging President Trump’s new asylum ban.

“President Trump’s new asylum ban is illegal. Neither the president nor his cabinet secretaries can override the clear commands of U.S. law, but that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. This action undermines the rule of law and is a great moral failure because it tries to take away protections from individuals facing persecution — it’s the opposite of what America should stand for,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a press release.

The Immigration and Nationality Act says that people may apply for asylum “whether or not” they enter the U.S. at a port of entry. The Trump administration wants  to change that “or not” part.

There has been a massive backlog in recent months at border crossings in California, Arizona and Texas. In some cases some people are waiting five weeks to try to claim asylum at San Diego’s main crossing. When someone enters the U.S. without papers they are subject to deportation without a court hearing, unless they say they want to claim asylum or fear persecution in their home country. In those cases, they’re entitled to an interview with an asylum officer. It’s there where the person makes their claim for asylum and the officer determines if there is “credible fear”.

Yet this new rule in place would change the way an individual would claim asylum. A person who enters the U.S. from Mexico without papers between ports of entry would still get an interview with an asylum officer. But the asylum officer is required to check not for a “credible fear of persecution” but instead a “reasonable fear,” which is a higher standard. It requires not just a significant chance of persecution but a determination that persecution is more likely than not. The “reasonable fear” screening has historically been used for immigrants who’ve already been ordered deported and returned to the US, and immigrants who have crime records.

The ratio of both interviews shows huge contrasts with one another. About 75 percent of all asylum seekers pass when it comes to credible fear interviews and a little more than 25 percent pass reasonable fear interviews.

This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has tried to change immigration polices.

The Trump administration has tried to change immigration policies before and most have been put on hold or taken down by federal judges. The first travel ban back in January 2017, the family separation policy in June 2018 and the administrations continued efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, have all been met with legal roadblocks.

President Trump’s plan to change border laws might have bigger implications when it comes to all that seek asylum.

Although the rule change was aimed at the caravan of families from Central America moving slowly toward the U.S. border, it will have huge implications for asylum seekers of all kinds. The U.S. rules for asylum seekers were designed in cooperation with the United Nations and are protected by federal law. If President Trump is allowed to change the rules for one group of asylum-seekers, he may try to do that for all of them.


READ: More Than 200 Migrant Children Are Still Separated From Their Families Awaiting Asylum Requests

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Another Member Of The US Military Has Been Arrested For Smuggling Undocumented People Across The Border

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Another Member Of The US Military Has Been Arrested For Smuggling Undocumented People Across The Border

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The U.S. military is going through a serious rough patch. Not only are they have issues recruiting new service members, but they’re also having problems retaining mental health workers, which is a really big deal because they help the people already inlisted. Now we’re seeing the ramifications of that.  Just this week a U.S. Navy sailor shot and killed two people at Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor military installation. The Navy sailor went on to kill himself. It all happened in the same week as the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which the celebration is supposed to take place this Saturday. The issues the military is facing is not combatting depression and other mental health problems within their units, but some ethical ones that go completely against what the country stands for. 

On December 2, U.S. marine was charged for smuggling undocumented people across the border near San Diego, California.

Credit: Unsplash

“On December 2, 2019, at approximately 1:30 a.m., a junior-enlisted Marine with Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel for allegedly bringing in undocumented immigrants at the San Ysidro port of entry,” the Marine Corps said in a statement, according to ABC News. “The Marine is currently being held in civilian custody. The determination as to the adjudicating authority has not yet been made.”

The 20-year-old Marine has not been publically named, but the news station adds that they were not part of the “Trump administration’s southwest border support mission.”

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Additional reports say the Marine was pulled over in a 2007 Ford Mustang for “additional screening.” That is when border officials found two Chinese women in his trunk. 

“The Marine is currently being held in civilian custody,” Marine spokesman Lt. Cameron Edinburgh said in a statement to Fox News. “The determination as to the adjudicating authority has not yet been made.”

This latest charge comes on the heels of a slew of other military officials who have also arrested on similar smuggling charges.

Credit: Unsplash

Just this summer, 19 Marines were arrested for various offenses. ABC News reports that the Marines were allegedly involved “in activities ranging from human smuggling to drug-related offenses.” All of the Marines involved in this case were stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. The number of marines involved in this case gradually increased from 16 to 19.

“1st Marine Division is committed to justice and the rule of law, and we will continue to fully cooperate with NCIS on this matter,” the statement said, according to the network. “Any Marines found to be in connection with these alleged activities will be questioned and handled accordingly with respect to due process.”

According to Stripes.com, the Marines were all arrested in front of their peers during their morning formation and that was done purposely to make an example out of them. 

“It was a public display for the entire unit to see,” 1st Marine Division Spokesman 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh told the online news site. 

As for the reason to not disclose the names of the Marines arrested, Marine Maj. Kendra Motz said that is because “Out of respect for the privacy of the implicated Marines,” and added, “we will not release names or other identifying information until charges are announced.” Six out of those marines arrested have already pleaded guilty to human trafficking and drug charges. 

In related news, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that detainments at the border continue to decrease.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Mark Morgan said last month that in October, the trend of a decline of detainments at the border continues to show a decline. 

“The numbers show this administration has and continues to take bold action to address this crisis,” Morgan said, according to The Texan news. 

In May, however, it was a whole different story.  Back then, border officials said they saw 144,000 detainments in one month alone. From then until October, there has been a 70 percent. 

It’s certainly an odd predicament that the government and the military are facing because on the one hand detainments at the border are going down, which speaks positively of their security tactics. Yet, on the other hand, their own military workforce looks to be in quite the dilemma going against their own principals. 

READ: CBP Arrests A 16-Year-Old After Catching Them Using A Remote Control Car To Smuggling Drugs Across The Border

A Group Of Doctors Offered To Provide Detained Migrants Free Flu Shots But The US Government Said No

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A Group Of Doctors Offered To Provide Detained Migrants Free Flu Shots But The US Government Said No

The weather is growing colder, the days are growing shorter, and flu season has started to rear its ugly head. As usual, the government is encouraging anyone older than six months to get the vaccine, but one population is actually being denied flu shots.

Thousands of people are still detained at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities for undocumented entry, and so far, none of them have had access to the influenza vaccine.

Credit: Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office / Flickr

A few months ago, CBP camps were dismally overcrowded—they are still seeing an average of 3,500 people in custody each day, but that number has decreased substantially from a daily average of 20,000 migrants earlier this year (from January through July, over 600,000 migrants were detained after attempting to cross the border). Nevertheless, the conditions of the CBP sites (cramped quarters, limited access to hygienic facilities, etc.) make a perfect breeding ground for viruses, yet CBP officials have claimed that it would be too difficult to implement a vaccine program within their current infrastructure, which includes a staff of more than 250 medical personnel.

“To try and layer a comprehensive vaccinations system on to that would be logistically very challenging for a number of reasons. There’s a system and process for implementing vaccines—for supply chains, for quality control, for documentation, for informed consent, for adverse reactions,” the CBP said in a statement. They also said that this policy has been in place for some time, largely due to the fact that their “typical” processing time of 72 hours doesn’t warrant the need for interventions like vaccination. Of course, most of the people being held at CBP facilities have been there much longer than three days.

On top of not vaccinating the thousands of people in their custody, CBP does not require their staff to get a flu shot—a policy that could not only perpetuate the virus in CBP facilities but could also put their own families at risk.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

“CBP officers could be shedding the virus. You are adding a whole other layer to what is basic medical neglect,” said Dr. Bonnie Arzuaga, a pediatrician based in Boston who also founded Doctors for Camp Closure. “In every other institutionalized setting—hospitals, schools, long term healthcare facilities—staff are required to get the flu shot.” The influenza vaccine is essential in institutionalized settings because of its incredibly high contagion rate. According to the CDC, the flu is contagious up to 24 hours before someone develops symptoms and up to a week afterward.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University and a longtime adviser to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged that this year, the flu has started early and is already wreaking havoc all over the country. Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta-based pediatrician, noted that many of her patients hadn’t even had a chance to get their flu shots before getting infected. “This year, I had children testing positive for the flu in early October,” said Shu. “We don’t usually see flu that early in the year.” So far, of the main circulating strains is Influenza B, which has a propensity to hit children especially hard.

As many as 61,200 adults and 143 children died from complications of the flu illness in the 2018-2019 flu season. Three of those children died of the flu while in CBP custody.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

To combat CBP’s negligence and prevent further deaths of the individuals in their care, Arzuaga’s Doctors for Camp Closure volunteered to provide free vaccinations to people in CBP’s care. The group formed in August of this year and is comprised of around 2,000 physician members, many of whom signed a letter to federal officials offering this vaccination service. The physicians stated that they initially planned to vaccinate 100 migrants, ultimately hoping to vaccinate the majority of the people currently detained.

The doctors with Doctors for Camp Closure confirmed that of 200,000 children in federal custody last year, the three deaths mentioned above, which were attributed to complications from influenza, are nine times higher than the expected child death rate from the flu. “In our professional medical opinion, this alarming mortality rate constitutes an emergency which threatens the safety of human lives, particularly children,” says the Doctors for Camp Closure letter.

The CBP ultimately dismissed this letter and the physicians’ offer to administer free vaccines. Kelly Cahalan, CBP spokesperson, told The Post that her agency has never provided immunizations for detained migrants and has no plans to do so. And a representative told CNN, “We haven’t responded [to the letter], but it’s not likely to happen.”

READ: Three Migrants Kids Died Of Flu-Related Illness, Now The Trump Administration Is Refusing To Administer The Vaccine