Things That Matter

Customs And Border Protections Chief Mark Morgan Defended The Mississippi Raids Despite Children Left Without Parents

The video of Magdalena Gomez Gregorio, 11, weeping as she’s seen being interviewed pleading for the return of her father, went viral last week. It captured the heartbreak and outrage many felt when news broke that the Justice Department and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency apprehended over 680 people in a joint operation at several food processing plans in Mississippi. The raid was the largest single-state arrest in U.S. history with efforts to crack down on illegal immigration and left many children like Gomez without their parents.

“Government, please put your heart — let my parents be free with everybody else, please,” Gomez says as she weeps in front of reporters. “I need my dad … mommy,” the girl cries as she speaks with a local television station outside a gym. “My dad didn’t do nothing. He’s not a criminal.”

On Sunday, acting CBP commissioner Mark Morgan was put on the spot when he was interviewed by CNN anchor Jake Tapper. It was then that Morgan downplayed the emotional video of Gomez crying.

Customs and Border Protections (CBP) Chief Mark Morgan downplayed the video of a young child grieving her father's detention claiming he did break laws.
Credit: @CNNpolitics / Twitter

Tapper pressed Morgan on the issue of immigration and the outrage that has followed since news of the raids broke last Wednesday. The acting CBP commissioner said during the interview that he understands much of the anger and sorrow that people are feeling after watching the video but defended the agency’s work. 

“I understand that the girl is upset and I get that. But her father committed a crime,” Morgan told Tapper on “State of the Union.” Morgan then went on to say that the girl would be reunited with her mother shortly after the video was shot. “I know it’s emotional and I know it’s done on purpose to show a picture like that.”

Morgan noted that employment of undocumented people is not a victimless crime. He mentioned that many of them illegal citizens take part in unlawful practices such as social security and other identity fraud.

“Her father committed a crime, and just so the American people know also is that girl — her mother was home and she was reunited with her mother within a few hours that night,” Morgan said. “How about interview the people that — because a majority of time in the cases, these individuals that are here illegally, they also steal identities of US citizens, they get fraudulent documents, social security cards, and et cetera and so it is not just a victimless crime that’s going on here.”

Morgan was also pressed on the question of why ICE hadn’t conducted any raids or investigations into President Trump’s eight properties given reports that the clubs and hotels employ undocumented people.

Credit: @Vox / Twitter

The Washington Post reported last Friday that a Trump-owned construction company has been employing undocumented immigrants for a number of years. In return, this has raised questions about how the Trump Organization has followed in its own steps and on its pledge to more carefully scrutinize the legal status of its workers. Tapper asked Morgan about the report but failed to give any solid details on the investigation. 

“This is just one of many headlines about undocumented immigrants working for President Trump’s properties—whether it’s his construction crews, [people] working at his properties [or people] working at his golf clubs. There have been zero raids on any of these companies despite headline after headline after headline,” Tapper asked Morgan.

“You really can’t say that for sure,” Morgan responded. “There are investigations going on all the time that you’re unaware of. … Of course, it’s going to jeopardize the investigation if I come on here and I talk to you about an investigation that’s going on.”

The employment of workers without legal status is an issue that the Trump administration has attempted to take on. The hiring of undocumented workers gives a company a competitive advantage, industry officials told the Washington Post. they note that undocumented laborers are less likely to complain if they’re being mistreated at work or take on employers for malpractice. 

Former Trump Organization employee Jorge Castro, 55,  told the Washington Post that he left the company in April after nine years. He said that while Trump has rallied against illegal immigration he has often been the one employing them. 

“If you’re a good worker, papers don’t matter,” Castro said. Trump “doesn’t want undocumented people in the country but at his properties, he still has them.”

READ: A Man In Mexico City Was Recorded Knocking Down A Trompo After Attacking A Taquero And Tears Are Flowing

Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

Things That Matter

Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

dr.giammattei / Instagram

Tuesday marked a new era of leadership in Guatemala as the Latin country swore in Alejandro Giammattei, a conservative doctor and former prison system director from the right-wing Vamos party. The 63-year-old won the presidency on his fourth attempt back in August with bold promises of changing a corrupt government and restoring the rule-of-law in city streets. 

“Today, we are putting a full stop on corrupt practices so they disappear from the face of this country,” Giammattei said at his swearing-in ceremony that had a five-hour delay.

His ceremony somewhat overshadowed by delays and protests against ex-President Jimmy Morales, who for four years dodged accusations of corruption. The scene of protestors throwing eggs and voicing anger at the outgoing administration was a reminder of the displeasure against the country’s deep-seated political corruption. It’s also a key reason why many are looking to Giammattei to bring change to the struggling country. 

As Giammattei takes office, there are questions on what his presidency will mean to Guatemala in the short and long term as issues over the future of an asylum deal with the United States comes into focus. 

One of the biggest issues confronting Guatemala and one that Giammattei will have to address early is the Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA) that was signed by Morales last July with the U.S. government. The agreement, which was highly opposed in Guatemala, lets U.S. immigration officials send Honduran and Salvadoran migrants that are requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border to apply for protection here instead. There is now increasing skepticism as reports say that the U.S. wants to expand the deal to include Mexican asylum seekers as well.

Last year, there were many Guatemalans that were part of a 3,000 migrant caravan that made its way up from Latin America to the U.S. The caravan consisted of people that were looking to claim asylum and became a symbol of the growing migration crisis at the southern border. President Trump frequently attacked the caravan and eventually threatened to impose tariffs on Guatemala if it didn’t agree to the asylum deal.

According to the Guatemalan Migration Institute, “as of Friday, 128 Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers had been sent as part of the agreement,” with only a limited number actually applying for asylum there and others returning home. Giammattei has previously said that he’s willing to make changes to the agreement but on Tuesday said he would revisit details later. 

The country, one of Latin America’s poorest nations, is a key part of President Trump’s plan to curb illegal immigration and asylum claims. mostly from those coming to the U.S. Southern border. The issue for many living in Guatemala is how to let those seeking asylum when itself has become a major source of U.S. bound migrants. 

Poverty levels have only grown in the last 20 years and income inequality levels continue to be a big problem in the country. 

One of the big platform issues that Giammattei ran his campaign on was helping the shorten income inequality gap and poverty levels that have only grown in the last 20 years. Fifty-nine percent of Guatemalan citizens live below the poverty line and almost 1 million children under the age of 5 are believed to live with chronic malnutrition, according to the AP. 

There is also the rampant problem of street violence and cartel gangs that have had a major effect on the daily lives of many in the country. Giammattei plans to address this with reforms that include designating “street gangs as terrorist groups.”

“This is the moment to rescue Guatemala from the absurd. It is the moment to combat corruption and malnutrition,” Giammattei said on Tuesday in his first address to the country as president. “There is no peace without security, I will present a law that aims to declare street gangs for what they are – terrorist groups.”

There is hope that Giammattei will turn a new page in Guatemala that will see change come to all in the country that has faced uncertainty for years. But only time will tell if this is indeed new leadership or business as usual.

“We will bring back the peace this country so dearly needs,” Giammattei said. “We will govern with decency, with honourability, and with ethical values.”

READ: In Efforts To Double Latino Representation In Hollywood, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Unveils New Historic Initiative

Despite Trump’s False Claims, Facts Are Facts: More Than 99% Of Asylum Seekers Show Up To Their Court Dates

Things That Matter

Despite Trump’s False Claims, Facts Are Facts: More Than 99% Of Asylum Seekers Show Up To Their Court Dates

Jorge Benez-Ramon / Getty

One of the biggest myths that the Trump administration has perpetuated is that asylum seekers do not conform to the legal requirements and processes required to guarantee their cases are being heard in court. The Trump administration has claimed that the only way to guarantee that asylum seekers’ cases will reach the court is to keep them in detention centers (yes, you read that right).

This seems a bit counterintuitive: if they are seeking asylum it is because they have a cause they find justifiable for entering the United States undocumented in the first place. A recent study sheds light on the fallacy of “missed court appointments” and reveals that if not in detention, a vast majority (let’s just say the totality) of asylum seekers do show up for their hearings.  

Numeritos hablan: 99% of who were not detained or who were released from immigration custody show up to their hearings.

Credit: AZFamily / Instagram

New data from Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC, a think tank that tracks data in the immigration courts) at Syracuse University reveals that most of asylum seekers who are not detained do attend their court hearings.

This finding basically trumps Trump’s assertion that they do not, which misrepresents them as individuals who prefer to live in the shadows and at the risk of being deported rather than doing due legal diligence. On average, migrants who are caught at the border or who hand themselves in have to wait for more than two years before their cases are dealt with in court.

But there are some others who have to wait even longer, as the TRAC report tells us: “Overall, asylum applicants waited on average 1,030 days – or nearly three years – for their cases to be decided. But many asylum applicants waited even longer: a quarter of applicants waited 1,421 days, or nearly four years, for their asylum decision.” Four years is a long, long time… wouldn’t anyone want the wait to be over?

Other previous research also disregards the idea that migrants want to live in the United States illegally rather than seeing their cases go through.

For those who have been lucky enough to never have to flee their home country or live in constant fear of being deported, it might feel like migrants would rather hide than face the law. This is also the driving rationale behind the Trump administration’s move to send asylum seekers to Mexico and wait there until their cases go through court. However, studies have shown that they want their migratory status to be cleared so they can go on with their lives, free of worries of being deported at any time. 

When in doubt, use science! 

As Vox reports, the numbers gathered by TRAC are pretty definitive: “The latest data from TRAC shows that nearly every migrant who applied for asylum and whose case was completed in 2019 showed up for all of their court hearings”. Boom! However, the Department of Justice has raised concerns about the accuracy of TRAC’s data analysis. TRAC does not disclose its methodology but uses information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. 

The Department of Justice claims numbers are much lower.

FILE PHOTO: Children walk inside an enclosure, where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, U.S., March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Data from the Department of Justice contradicts the stunning 99% published by TRAC. According to 2018 numbers, the government says actually 75% of asylum seekers show up to their court hearings, a significant drop compared to TRAC’s analysis. And Trump’s numbers are even lower… yes, really.

He has said: “Tell me, what percentage of people come back? Would you say 100 percent? No, you’re a little off. Like, how about 2 percent? And those people, you almost don’t want, because they cannot be very smart… Those two percent are not going to make America great again, that I can tell you”. Wow, can you imagine a more deceitful way of framing reality?

TRAC’s report also reveals that more asylum seeker cases were decided in 2019 than in any other year… 46,735 people were denied asylum.

Yes, the courts are being busy. As the report reads, in 2019 “judges decided 67,406 asylum cases, nearly two-and-a-half times the number from five years ago when judges decided 19,779 asylum cases. The number of immigrants who have been granted asylum more than doubled from 9,684 in FY 2014 to 19,831 in FY 2019.”

But it is not all good news, as “the number of immigrants who have been denied asylum or other relief grew even faster from 9,716 immigrants to 46,735 over the same time period.” The three countries of origin that top the charts of successful asylum seekers are China, El Salvador and India.