It’s been quite evident that U.S. government agencies such as ICE and the Border Patrol have been following President Donald Trump’s orders to ramp up deportations of undocumented immigrants. But just because there’s a surge in detainments and more emphasis on “securing” U.S. borders, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the agencies have the manpower to keep up.
According to two reports released this week, one from the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security and another from the Government Accountability Office, the Border Patrol is losing agents faster than it can hire new ones. Between 2013 and 2016, the Border Patrol hired an average of 523 agents each year while losing 904 agents.
The Washington Times reports that the problem stems from “remote working conditions, competition with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, difficulty in filling out ranks, and, also, applicants are having problems passing the polygraph test.”
The reports also show that as of May, only 19,500 border patrol agents were on the job despite laws requiring the Border Patrol to have 21,370 agents on staff.
This news comes during the same week that ICE announced they’re on a hiring spree. The agency said they wanted to double their size by hiring an additional 25,700 staff members by 2023. But with so many government workers quitting their job, it looks like it may be a difficult mission to accomplish.
A mural showing the Statue of Liberty being handcuffed by immigration enforcement officers has been unveiled in Las Vegas, amid rancour and anger over Donald Trump’sharsh immigration policies.
The mural, titled “Chained Migration,” was unveiled late last month in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Since then, it has caused a lot of dialogue between those who support it and those who don’t.
The mural is a 20×50 art installation that depicts the Statue of Liberty handcuffed and bet over the hood of an ICE patrol car. It was created by Izaac Zevalking, also known as Recycled Propaganda, a political artist that aims to create art influenced by history and current events. Zevalking himself is an immigrant from the UK. Zevalking is using the Statue of Liberty, who is considered a beacon of hope for immigrants, to demonstrate how the harmful rhetoric used against them is harming the American Dream.
In an interview with KTNV Las Vegas, Zevalking explains that the goal of the mural is to create a conversation about immigration in the United States. “I want people just to think about the issue. Wherever that thought leaves you. Wherever that conversation with someone else leaves you. I think it needs to be discussed more in human terms.”
Although some came to the internet to praise Zevalking for his mural, others were quick to disagree with his artwork.
This Twitter user used the infamous MS13 gang as her reasoning for this mural being shameful. Her comment imitates the language that Trump uses in his statements referring to those who migrate into the United States. She plays into the stereotype that all people who are immigrating to the U.S are dangerous gang members.
Some on Twitter were quick to claim they’d happily paint it over.
In the replies, a Twitter user suggested they paint over the mural in protest.
However, Recycled Propaganda clapped back, suggesting that if it gets painted over they keep on bringing it back.
The art piece could not have been more timely given the recent comments made by Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
After being asked in an interview with NPR if the words of Emma Lazarus are part of the American ethos, Cuccinelli replied, adding a line to the poem, “They certainly are – give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”
The original reads as, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
Recently, the Trump administration decided to make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain a Green Card if they receive government aid, such as food stamps or Medicaid. Cuccinelli is a big defender of this policy, so it is not surprising that these comments about Lazarus’ sonnet were made.
When immigrants are being discussed in politics, it is usually done so in ways that strips them of their humanity.
When folks migrate to the United States, it is often done so out of desperation and necessity. Immigrants come with nothing but a backpack filled with the essentials. They come to work low-paying jobs and because of their status, it is difficult for them to get the assistance they need for issues like healthcare and food assistance. To ask immigrants to come to the United States and to be self-sufficient only treat them with very little dignity is unfair.
When describing this policy, Cuccinelli uses words like a burden when describing immigrants who need public assistance. After his initial remarks about the poem, Cuccinelli said on CNN that the poem was originally referring to Europeans who migrated to the United States.
The artist, who is an immigrant from the UK points out that America is a very different place for white immigrants.
“I personally wasn’t born in America. I was born in the UK and I don’t ever feel attacked as an immigrant and I think that’s cause my skin is white,” Zevalking says.
There is a stark difference between the ways European immigrants and Latin American immigrants are treated in the United States and Zevalking is tapping into that notion with his mural, “Chained Migration.” He is acknowledging his privilege as a European immigrant and using it to shed light on how criminalizing it is for non-white immigrants living in the United States.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe the Trump administration was reconsidering the way it was treating migrant children who are crossing the boarder. Especially since earlier this month, we’d reported that the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Miami, Florida, was to close. However, it looks like Homestead is set to reopen again – as soon as this October.
The beginning of the month saw the last of the children, who were detained at the facility, removed. While it’s difficult to say exactly how many children were originally housed at the detention center due to the overcrowding that’s taken place across holding facilities nationwide, it’s thought that there were between 2700 to 3000 children staying at Homestead. Part of the reason why Caliburn International, the company that runs Homestead, was instructed to reduce its detainees in the first place was due to government compliance issues. That is, the government had introduced new standards in preparation for hurricane season.
We still don’t know where the previous group of children went after leaving Homestead.
Even though the children were removed, it’s not clear what happened to the children once they’d left Homestead. The fact Caliburn International is a for-profit company and still required staff to show up for work, despite there being no detainees, has also clouded the issue. At the time of writing, reports say that while 1,700 employees had been dismissed due to the center officially closing, more than 2,500 kept their jobs. It’s not clear what they’re doing at Homestead while they await new inmates.
And because Homestead is an influx center, it doesn’t require a state license.
Typically speaking, influx centers are essentially designed to house a large number of inmates, in case the government suddenly finds itself inundated by asylum seekers. These centers are only intended for short stays, which is why they can legally hold a larger number of detainees. Otherwise, Homestead’s population would be capped at 500 children. And while we’re on the subject of numbers – temporary facilities like Homestead are actually more expensive, in the long run. They cost the government around $775 a day per child, while permanent shelters run at about $250 per day per child. Nice to know everyone’s tax dollars are being spent wisely.
Is this all starting to should kinda familiar to you? Yea, us too.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news, it should. The US government recently argued in federal court that it shouldn’t have to provide things like toothbrushes and soap to detainees, since they were only being temporarily housed in the facility in Clint, Texas. Spoiler alert: the judges didn’t buy that argument, since inmates are being held for months at a time at these facilities. Again, these places that don’t provide basic necessities for inmates are more expensive to run than a more permanent facilities.
Oddly enough, even though Homestead is set to open again in October, Caliburn’s contract expires November 30. At this stage, it’s unclear whether the company will see the contract renewed, or whether a new contract will be opened up to competitive bidding. Apparently the original contract with Caliburn was awarded without competition, which was done so around the same time John Kelly, Trump’s ex-chief of staff, joined the company’s board of advisers. Bueno.
All of this shows that it’s still business as usual.
At the same time, even if the contract for Homestead was open to competitive bidding, it’s unlikely that much would change at the facility for the children who will be staying there. Companies and non-profits that promote asylum seeker’s rights and would likely provide safe and comfortable facilities have little interest in bidding for such contracts, since the very policies motivating them are diametrically opposed to the espoused values of these organizations.
At the end of the day, this is all semantics. Because while it’s definitely important that we examine the ways that we detain migrants, and ensure that everyone receives due process, we’re not asking the most important question of all: should we even be detaining children for seeking asylum?
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