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.”

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Recreational Marijuana Will Soon Be Legal In Illinois But Immigrants Are Being Warned To Keep Away From It

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Recreational Marijuana Will Soon Be Legal In Illinois But Immigrants Are Being Warned To Keep Away From It

Unsplash

This summer, Illinois became the first state to legalize recreational cannabis use through a state legislator when the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act was passed by Governor J.B. Pritzker in May. However, not everyone will be able to benefit from the new law. Advocates are warning immigrants to stay away from consuming or working in the marijuana industry because of small legality that could reflect poorly on their cases.

While states have been legalizing marijuana, it is still illegal federally. An immigrant, undocumented or otherwise, can freely use the herb in Illinois, but should they own up to it, they would be admitting to breaking federal law. Illinois is the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana use and the new law will go into effect in January. 

Advocates want to protect immigrants from hurting their cases — as fair as the situation is.

Credit: Pixabay

“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know about these consequences,” Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of PASO West Suburban Action Project told the Chicago Tribune. “Just admitting use makes you a potential target for deportation. So you don’t have to have a criminal arrest or conviction, you just have to admit to use.” 

Ruis-Velasco is also warning immigrants who live in mixed-status households to stay away from the industry altogether. Even if a citizen in the household works in the industry, it could reflect poorly on an undocumented family member. 

The issue is not specific to Illinois immigrants either, states, where cannabis is legal, have been affected tremendously by the incompatibilities between the state and federal laws, along with the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies. 

Immigrants around the country in states where marijuana is legal are seeing threats to their status.

Credit: Pixabay

“Even though the state legalizes it, under federal law, the immigration consequences of drug use (are) … extremely harsh,” Colorado attorney Aaron Hall said. “So we’ve seen people who purchase marijuana at the dispensary in good faith and later come back and it leads to the denial of permanent residency.”

Denver, Colorado mayor Michael Hancock even penned a letter pleading to U.S. Attorney General William Bar to ease the restrictions where state’s have legalized the substance.

“Denver understands the need for federal laws and regulations regarding citizenship and immigration, but we are seeing the heartbreaking effects that those federal laws and regulations are having on our residents,” Hancock wrote. “However, under current federal policy, lawful, permanent residents like Denver residents I have met with are being denied naturalization and may lose their legal status based on their lawful employment in the cannabis industry.”

ICE has remained strident about not making any concessions for immigrants caught in the unusual predicament. 

“ICE continues to pursue foreign-born nationals convicted of drug-related offenses by local and state law enforcement,” the agency told the Chicago Tribune

Kathleen Vannucci, an attorney who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she has already seen cases where immigrants were denied citizenship because they admitted to marijuana use or employment in the cannabis industry in states where it is legal. In Washington, immigrants have been denied on the basis that they have bad “moral character” which requires them to wait five years before applying for citizenship again. 

Some low-level cannabis workers can be accused of drug trafficking with the way the laws are written. ICE’s official marijuana policy, issued in April, makes its stance clear.

“The policy guidance also clarifies that an applicant (for citizenship) who is involved in certain marijuana-related activities may lack good moral character if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws,” the policy states. 

Advocates are trying to figure out the best course of action to protect immigrants, until then their advice is to stay away from the drug.

In April, when ICE’s marijuana policy was announced Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) began advising non-citizens to, “never leave the house carrying marijuana or paraphernalia, a medical marijuana card, or wearing clothing with marijuana imagery on it.” 

The organization also warned non-citizens to keep anything cannabis-related off of their phones and social media since those things might be monitored too. 

The legalization of marijuana is largely a way to resolve the criminal justice issues caused by the mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. Moreover, nonwhites and whites use marijuana at roughly the same rates while the former group is incarcerated for the behavior far more frequently. Legalization’s new industry has also been shown to stimulate local economies by hundreds of millions of dollars. 

“I think that this is a complicated area of law as we have explained,” Ruiz-Velasco said. “I do think that there wasn’t enough information out there (when the legalization bill was being considered in Illinois). But we are trying to work with legislatures now and the government to try to make sure there is something that can be done to reduce the harm that will come.”

People Are Torn On A California Church’s Political Nativity Scene Calling Attention To Immigration Crisis

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People Are Torn On A California Church’s Political Nativity Scene Calling Attention To Immigration Crisis

Claremont United Methodist Church

It is the holiday season so you know people and churches are getting their nativity scenes together. Most are just run-of-the-mill nativity scenes with the animals, wise men, baby Jesus, and his parents Mary and Joseph. However, one church in California used its nativity scene to call attention to the humanitarian crisis on the southern border with children in cages. Here’s how they did it and how people on social media are reacting.

Claremont United Methodist Church is using its nativity scene this year to highlight the immigration crisis on the southern border.

Credit: @LATBermudez / Instagram

The Methodist church has a statement on their website directly address the crisis of asylum-seeking children at the southern border. For months, we have seen images of children taken away from their parents at the border and put into cages.

Claremont United Methodist Church wants people to know that the asylum crisis is devastating innocent families.

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“We at Claremont United Methodist Church (CUMC) responded swiftly to the need of over 2,700 children of immigrants seeking asylum at the US/Mexican border. These children were forcibly taken from their parents and scattered throughout the United States in April and May of 2018,” reads a statement by Rose Schneeberger on the Claremont United Methodist Church website. “Our church raised over $10,000 to assist with the legal representation of separated children through Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON). The plight continues as more families have been detained in the last couple of months and the number of children separated from their family continues to grow.”

The church’s nativity scene is showing people what the fate of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph would have had to endure if they were migrants to the U.S. today.

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“In a time in our country when refugee families seek asylum at our border and are unwillingly separated from one another, we consider the most well-known refugee family in the world, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family,” reads a plaque in front of the nativity scene. “Shortly after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary were forced to flee with their young son from Nazareth to Egypt to escape King Herod, a tyrant. They feared persecution and death.”

“What if this family sought refuge in our country today?”

“Imagine Joseph and Mary separated at the border and Jesus, no older than two, taken from his mother and placed behind the fences of a Border Patrol detention center as more than 5,500 children have been the past three years.”

“Jesus grew up to teach us kindness and mercy and a radical welcome of all people.”

“He said: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’ – Matthew 25:35”

“In the Claremont United Methodist Church nativity scene this Christmas, the Holy Family takes the place of the thousands of nameless families separated at our border.”

“Inside the church, you will see this same family reunited, the Holy Family together, in a nativity that joins the angels in singing.”

“‘Glory to God in the highest on earth, peace and good will to all.’ – Luske 2:14.

People on social media are moved by the powerful image of the church’s nativity.

Credit: @thugbro_s / Instagram

It truly is a striking image to see the classic nativity scene turned into a powerful political statement about our immigration policy. Seeing baby Jesus in a manger separated from his parents into cages is something many people never thought they’d see.

People immediately saw the comparison of the nativity and our current immigration system.

Credit: @universalceo0 / Twitter

“In addition to the remaining separated children, there are over 15,000 youth and children at detention facilities throughout the United States,” reads a statement by Rose Schneeberger on the Claremont United Methodist Church website. “The CUMC Creative Peacemaking Committee has decided to keep our congregation aware of this urgent need and to encourage church members to continue to support the efforts of JFON by donating funds for the legal representation of separated children and asylum-seeking families currently in detention centers.”

Some people tried to argue with the church’s message to fit their political agendas.

Credit: @isooner / Twitter

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, according to the Bible, were forced to leave Nazareth and go to Egypt in order to avoid persecution. The family’s story of fleeing to a new country in search of safety and protection from a tyrant king seeking to persecute them is reminiscent of the families seeking asylum and peace in the U.S.

Others are showing the true conditions of the U.S. detention centers.

Credit: @ElSrdelTaco / Twitter

The conditions along the southern border have been in the news for years. Reports of overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and multiple deaths have highlighted the dangers of those in detention centers. Many of the facilities are housing more people than physically possible after the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration.

Basically, people are upset that a church would use a nativity scene to get people talking about the immigration crisis because it worked.

Credit: @1600PAave / Twitter

What do you think about the nativity scene at Claremont United Methodist Church?

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