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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This Migrant Mother Spent Three Years In Church Sanctuary But Now She’s Free

Things That Matter

This Migrant Mother Spent Three Years In Church Sanctuary But Now She’s Free

Lawyers are working hard to get a deportation order removed against a woman who just left a church sanctuary after three years in the refuge. Although she was previously denied asylum in the U.S., advocates are hoping that under new direction from the Biden administration, her case will be reviewed and she’ll be able to stay with her family in Ohio – where she’s lived for more than twenty years.

A mother of three is back with her family after living three years inside a church.

A mother of three who sought refugee inside an Ohio church from immigration authorities has finally been able to leave three years later. Edith Espinal, who herself is an immigrant rights advocate, had been living at the Columbus Mennonite Church since October 2017 to avoid being deported to Mexico. She’s now out of the church and back with her family following a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, who have agreed that she’s not an immediate priority for deportation.

“Finally, I can go home,” Espinal told reporters after meeting with the officials. With tears of relief, she celebrated the small victory in the presence of dozens of supporters who accompanied her to the ICE building.

“But it is not the end of her case. We’re still going to have to fight,” her attorney Lizbeth Mateo said.

ICE has agreed to hold off on her deportation proceedings pending her asylum request.

Espinal was released under an order of supervision, meaning that while she’s not considered an immediate priority for deportation, she must periodically check in with ICE officials to inform them about her whereabouts.

She has lived in Columbus for more than two decades and had previously applied for asylum, citing rising violence in her home state of Michoacán. But she eventually was ordered to leave the country, which is when she sought refuge inside the Columbus, Ohio church.

“We’re going to continue pressing the Biden administration to do the right thing, and try to get rid of that order of deportation against Edith, so she can walk freely like everyone else does without fear,” Mateo said during the press conference.

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The Rio Grande Claims Life Of An 8-Year-Old Boy As Migrants Risk Arctic Conditions To Cross Into U.S.

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The Rio Grande Claims Life Of An 8-Year-Old Boy As Migrants Risk Arctic Conditions To Cross Into U.S.

Texas is seeing an unprecedented weather crisis as much of the state is plunged into bitterly cold conditions. But that hasn’t stopped many migrants and refugees from attempting to cross into the U.S. for protection.

Many migrants cross the Rio Grande (or Río Bravo en Mexico) between Texas and the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Crossing the Rio Grande is always a dangerous undertaking but now, thanks to the freezing weather, it’s an especially perilous journey and it’s claimed the life of another child.

An 8-year-old boy has drowned while crossing the river with his family.

Authorities have reported that an 8-year-old Honduran boy has become the latest victim in a string of drownings at the Rio Grande, between the the U.S. and Mexico. Despite the unprecedented weather, migrants continue to attempt to cross the dangerous river to reach the U.S.

The child was with his family attempting to cross the river when he drowned on Wednesday, just as Texas was gripped by Arctic conditions which have killed more than 30 people and left millions in Mexico and Texas without power, water and food. The boy’s parents and sister apparently made it to the U.S., but were returned to Mexico by U.S. Border Patrol.

According to Mexican immigration officials, the boy “couldn’t withstand the pounding water, which covered him and kept him submerged for several meters”. His body was recovered but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

The Rio Grande is notoriously dangerous for people attempting to cross the border.

The journey across the Rio Grande has always been a perilous one, with hundreds of people, many of whom could not swim, having drowned over the years after being caught by the deceptively deep waters and strong current.

Add in the current winter storm currently blanketing the entire state of Texas, has produced significant snow and prolonged freezing temperatures, has made the crossing even more dangerous.

In fact, earlier in the week, the river had claimed another victim. A woman from Venezuela died trying to cross the river in the same area after getting trapped in below-freezing currents. Three others suffered hypothermia: one was treated by the Red Cross in Mexico, while the other two made it the US border.

Drownings are just one of the dangers migrants face.

Apart from the potential for drownings, migrants face a wide range of dangerous while attempting to cross from Mexico into the U.S. In late January, 19 bodies were found shot and burned in a vehicle near the town of Camargo, also across the border from Texas.

There’s also the threat of violence from drug cartels and smugglers, corrupt officials, and other extreme elements, such as heat during the summer.

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