Things That Matter

Trump Targeted Migrants With Fines Of Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars But Now Those Fines Have Been Reversed

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have canceled fines received by undocumented immigrants living in sanctuary conditions, ranging from $300,000 to $500,000. According to NPR, the fine withdrawals are a turning point for the Trump Administration. 

In 2017, President Trump filed an executive order to begin fining undocumented immigrants, declaring “all fines and penalties that the Secretary is authorized under the law to assess and collect from aliens unlawfully present in the United States,” should be retrieved. 

ICE claims that under the Immigration and Nationality Act the agency has the right to collect “civil fines on aliens who have been ordered removed or granted voluntary departure and fail to depart the United States.”

Trump Administration withdraws fines up to $500,000 for at least five undocumented immigrants. 

The Natural Sanctuary Collective, which works with undocumented families, says that five undocumented immigrants living in sanctuary conditions have received notices that they no longer owe hefty fines. Edith Espinal Moreno has been living in an Ohio church for over two years and received a letter from ICE in June claiming she owed $497,000 for “failing to depart the U.S. as previously agreed.” However, last week Espinal received another notice withdrawing that same fine. 

“Following consideration of matters you forwarded for ICE review, and in the exercise of its discretion under applicable regulations, ICE hereby withdraws the Notice of Intention to Fine,” Lisa Hoechst, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, wrote in the letter to Espinal. 

The Immigration and Nationality Act allows fines of no more than $500 a day for undocumented immigrants who have been ordered removed or granted voluntary to departure but fail to leave the U.S. 

This is a small victory for undocumented immigrants. 

“This is a victory,” Espinal told NPR. She expressed that she found it unbelievable that the U.S. government thought she would be able to pay a fine of nearly half a million dollars. Espinal came to the United States from Mexico with her father when she was 16. Today she has three children, two of whom are United States citizens.

“They want to scare me,” Espinal told NPR. “Because they know I am in sanctuary. And they know I don’t have this amount of money.”

The mother believes her life belongs in the United States and says she cannot go back to Mexico. Rightfully, Espinal has had the support of the congregation at the church she lives in along with the community. 

“For almost three years now these women in sanctuary have been on the front lines of taking on the Trump administration,” Mohammad Abdollahi, advocate with the National Sanctuary Collective, said. “This victory shows that the women in sanctuary are not only fighting for themselves but everybody. Others should stand up with them.”

Immigrant advocates believe the tactic is used to instill fear. 

The fines target immigrants who have “overstayed” in the United States, thus immigrant advocates believe the fines are used to instill fear and paranoia in immigrant communities that will eventually drive them out. 

“ICE is committed to using various enforcement methods — including arrest, detention, technological monitoring and financial penalties — to enforce U.S. immigration law and maintain the integrity of legal orders issued by judges,” ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke told NPR in July.

Former deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Immigration Litigation Leon Fresco said he could not think of another time when ICE issued such high fines under the Obama administration when he worked there. 

“It’s a vivid illustration of the lengths the Trump administration will go to use any available authority to try to enforce immigration law,” Fresco said. “I have not seen a $300,000 fine for failing to facilitate one’s own removal.”

Espinal’s attorney continues to advocate for her. 

Lizbeth Mateo, Espinal’s attorney believes the fine is exorbitant and even laughed when she first saw the fee. 

“It’s almost half a million dollars. Are they for real? Do they really think that she’s going to pay this?” Mateo said. “I laughed, because there has to be someone in some basement in D.C. thinking, ‘Oh, what else can I do to mess with immigrants? What else can I do to hurt them?’ “

Mateo suspects the fines are not only intended to cause “self-deportation” by scaring immigrants, but that ICE may also belaying the foundation for future criminal penalties. ICE did not give a clear reason as to why fines were dropped for some but not for others, only that they were reviewing individuals on a case by case basis to see if they’ve fulfilled court orders. 

“We know we have strong legal arguments and ICE recognizes that, even if they claim that this decision was based only on discretion,” Mateo said in a statement. “But even if that were the case, ICE has demonstrated with this that they have the power to exercise discretion — the same way they can use discretion to drop these fines, they can use it to release the sanctuary families.”

Hundreds Of Migrants Are Attempting To Form Another Caravan To The United States But Here’s Why Mexico Won’t Let Them Pass

Things That Matter

Hundreds Of Migrants Are Attempting To Form Another Caravan To The United States But Here’s Why Mexico Won’t Let Them Pass

@Delmar_Martinez / Twitter

Migrants often group together to form large groups for reasons of safety, child care, and increased presence during confrontations with police, gangs, and immigration agents. It’s these reasons that helped spur the large caravans of migrants that traveled from Central Mexico to the United States in 2018.

In 2018, the migrant caravans were a major talking point for conservative politicians who used them to instill fear in voters. However, few migrants actually made it to the US-Mexico border and those that did were turned away to await their asylum claims in Mexico. Now, thanks to new immigration agreements and unilateral pressure by the US, most migrants realize that their journey across Central American and Mexico won’t likely result in them successfully making it to the United States.

Hundreds of mostly Honduran migrants grouped together to try and form a caravan to help aide passage to the United States.

Credit: @Delmer_Martinez / Twitter

So far, according to reports, about 1,300 Honduran migrants have successfully crossed the border into Guatemala.

Guatemalan police officers were accompanied at the checkpoint by four agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Agent Alex Suárez told the AFP that ICE was there to train Guatemalan authorities in immigration control.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Homeland Security personnel — ICE as well as Customs and Border Protection — are in Guatemala “providing advisory and capacity building support” to deal with irregular migration.

According to Guatemala’s new president, Mexico plans to contain the caravan before it’s able to make it to the US.

Credit: EqualityNow / Instagram

Mexico’s government is bracing for the arrival of hundreds of Central Americans on its southern border in coming days, an event likely to be closely monitored by the U.S. government, which has made curbing illegal immigration a priority.

Guatemala’s president said he had met with Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who had told him that Mexico would not allow the caravan to advance into its territory.

“The Mexican government advised us that it is not going to let them pass … that it is going to use everything in its hands to keep them from passing,” Giammattei said. 

“We will warn those in the caravan that they are probably going to be able to arrive to the border (with Mexico), but from there on they are going to collide with a wall that they will not be able to penetrate and we believe many of them are going to give up.” 

Later, Mexico Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero, said Mexico would welcome those seeking asylum or protection and offer opportunities for those who wanted to enter legally and seek permission to work or study.

Giammattei said travel agreements between Central American nations required Guatemala to grant the migrants passage.

Credit: ZaraConZ / Instagram

In his first full day in office, Guatemala’s new president, Alejandro Giammattei, said the Hondurans would be allowed to enter Guatemala, which they must cross to reach Mexico and the United States.

“We cannot prevent people who have identification” from entering, Giammattei said. “We are going to ask for their papers from the parents of guardians in the caravan, and if they don’t have them they will be returned to Honduras. We have to protect the rights of children.”

Arriving in Guatemala chiefly via crossings on its northern border with Honduras, around 1,350 migrants had been registered entering legally by late morning, said Alejandra Mena, a spokeswoman for Guatemala’s National Migration Institute.

The US has put Mexico and Central American nations under pressure to accept a series of migration agreements that aim to shift the burden of dealing with asylum-seekers on to them, and away from the United States.

Credit: Department of Homeland Security

Most attempts at forming caravans in 2019 were broken up by police and the national guard in Mexico, which has come under increased U.S. pressure to prevent migrants from arriving at the U.S. border.

The prospects for any kind of caravan like the one in 2018, which involved thousands of people, appear remote. Many of the migrants from the 2018 caravan applied for asylum, something that is now difficult or impossible.

The U.S. has used a carrot-and-stick approach in bilateral agreements struck since July with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to deny people an opportunity to apply for asylum in the U.S. They are instead to be sent to Central America with an opportunity to ask for protection there.

“The truth is, it is going to be impossible for them to reach the United States,” said human rights activist Itsmania Platero. “The Mexican police have a large contingent and they are going to catch all the migrants without documents and they will be detained and returned to their home countries.”

Leaked Emails Show Stephen Miller Believed DREAMERs Would Replace White Americans

Things That Matter

Leaked Emails Show Stephen Miller Believed DREAMERs Would Replace White Americans

Win McNamee / Getty

White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller is still in office, despite mounting proof that he harbors white supremacist’s beliefs and numerous politicians and activists calling for his resignation. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hatewatch” vertical published a series of Miller’s emails leaked by an ex-Breitbart news editor. 

In the emails, Miller expressed fear that DREAMERs would replace white Americans and suggested deporting immigrants on trains to scare them. SPLC’s Michael Hayden says Miller is a supporter of the “great replacement theory” championed by white supremacists who fear white people will become a racial minority. The theory has been echoed in the manifestos of mass shooters and prominent white supremacist leaders. 

Miller believes his fellow Republicans aren’t hard enough on immigrants. 

“Demanding DREAMers be given citizenship because they ‘know no other home.’ That principle is an endorsement of perpetual birthright citizenship for the foreign-born,” Miller wrote in an email.  “Not only will the U.S.-born children of future illegal immigrants and guest workers be made automatic U.S. citizens, but their foreign-born children will too because, as [former Republican House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor said, ‘Our country was founded on the principle.’”

Miller praised Florida’s very own former governor Jeb Bush for his use of moderate rhetoric to push extreme policies. The emails leaked are from around 2015, when Miller was an aide to Senator Jeff Sessions before being selected by Trump.

 “Jeb [Bush] has mastered the art of using immigration rhetoric to sound ‘moderate’ while pushing the most extremist policies,” Miller wrote in an email. 

Former Breitbart editor Katie McHugh provided over 900 emails to SPLC in which Miller expressed disdain for non-white immigrants. McHugh says she leaked the emails addressed to her from Miller to expose the hidden “evil” of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. 

“In a November 2015 email that Hatewatch has not previously published, Miller forwarded an interview with Phyllis Schlafly from far-right conspiracy website WorldNetDaily that argued undocumented immigrants should be shipped out on trains to ‘scare out the people who want to undo our country,’” according to SPLC. 

25 interfaith groups call for the resignation of Stephen Miller. 

Yesterday, 25 faith groups, among them many prominent Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders including the Anti-Defamation League, The Nation’s Mosque, and African American Ministers in Action, signed a letter calling for Miller’s resignation. 

“Stephen Miller authored many of these destructive policies and helped ensure their enactment via his network of anti-immigrant officials throughout the federal government. Further, these policies have been paired with heightened and unrelenting anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric coming from the White House,” the organizations said. 

The group also called out the Trump administration for allowing white supremacist views in the White House. 

“At one point in history, harboring a white supremacist in the White House could harm an administration. Today, President Trump appears unbothered by his close official’s ties to white supremacy. This cannot stand. As organizations of many faiths, who feel love and respect where Miller advances disdain and hate, we call for his resignation immediately,” the letter stated

Last November 100 lawmakers demanded Stephen Miller resign. 

Miller has been in the hot seat for a while. Last year 100 lawmakers demanded the advisor’s resignation, a couple of weeks ago 25 Jewish members of congress joined that call following Rolling Stone’spublication of a different set of leaked emails that further establish his support of xenophobic ideas. 

“A documented white nationalist has no place in any presidential administration, and especially not in such an influential position,” the 100 representatives wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump. “Miller’s white supremacist influence on your immigration policy, and it seems like that his perfidious adherence to extremist ideology has shaped your administration in ways that are not yet public.”

In the Rolling Stone emails, Miller called refugees “foreign-born terrorists” and expressed a fondness for a book called “Camp of Saints” which is a favorite of neo-Nazis.

“The dystopian 1973 novel is widely regarded as racist and traffics in fear-mongering about immigrant invasions. It is popular among white nationalist circles and has been invoked by former White House aide Steve Bannon and Iowa Congressman Steve King,” according to Newsweek

Other emails show Miller is using his influence in the White House to coordinate anti-immigration policies that reflect his views. 

“In the emails, [senior advisor at ICE Jon] Feere strategizes with Miller about how to use the federal government to amplify their anti-immigration message; tees up potential attacks on prominent Democratic politicians; directly briefs Miller in great detail about upcoming enforcement actions and policy changes in the works; and recommends to Miller people the administration should hire to expedite its immigration agenda,” according to Rolling Stone

While Miller has still not resigned, the pressure is continuing to mount in Congress and among activists.