Things That Matter

A High School Student Is Being Detained By ICE But His School Is Rallying Support Behind Him

A New Haven, Connecticut school was rocked by the news that one of its students had been detained by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). The announcement by the principal came over Wilbur Cross High School’s PA system and sent shockwaves throughout classrooms.

Mario Aguilar was arrested by ICE when the 18-year-old attended a court hearing to handle charges over a traffic accident. Students and teachers were unsettled by his detention. They decided to support Aguilar through the immigration process and fight against his deportation. 

Teachers even tried to send him his homework — a symbolic gesture that they were still holding a space for him in their hearts, minds, and classrooms. ICE sent it back.

Teachers are heartbroken over Aguilar’s detention. 

Students and teachers orchestrated a coordinated effort to support Aguilar. They wrote letters to ICE to influence his release. They showed up to his court hearing. Students printed “Free Mario” posters and stickers to raise money for his commissary. They kept his desk empty in Spanish class believing if they did that maybe Aguilar would come home soon.  

Teachers sent him his homework and some books — but it was sent back, labeled return to sender. ICE asserts that if it is not related to his case, Aguilar can’t have it, according to CNN

“Mario was hundreds of miles away from his family, from his home. He got stability at school and security within this community, until he was taken from us,” Principal Edith Johnson, whose parents came to the mainland from Puerto Rico, said at a press conference. “Throughout my years as an educator, I’ve lost too many children to community violence, tragic accidents, medical conditions and significant trauma that keeps our students out of school — and now, another terrifying variable certain to take students off course, with ICE arrests.”

Aguilar’s Spanish teacher Mary Perez Estrada was there during his asylum hearing. She was one of the teachers who sent him books she hoped would comfort him. “As Mario spoke before the court, detailing how he’d fled persecution from gangs in Guatemala, Perez Estrada hoped the judge would see what she did in her student — someone who deserves a chance,” according to CNN. “The judge didn’t make a ruling that day. He told the court he’d announce his decision on December 12.”

Wilbur Cross students demand that ICE “Free Mario.”

Aguilar was detained by ICE while attending a court hearing related to his involvement in a car crash. When his cellphone slid off of his dashboard he accidentally hit a parked car when he attempted to retrieve the phone. No one was hurt and the vehicle was only minorly damaged. 

“I hope that he knows we’re fighting for him and I hope that helps, but that’s very minimal when you’re stripped away of your humanity,” said CT Students for a Dream organizer Anthony Barroso. “We’re here to also to show Mario if he can hear the news, that we are fighting for him, and many others in the same situation.”

Doing nothing, even if what is being done won’t change the result, did not feel like an option. For the students and teachers, for Aguilar’s community, they understood that being deported back to Guatemala could mean sending him back to his death. 

“The goal is to let everybody know what the situation is, spread the word, so we can be a bigger community,” junior Wilbur Cross High School student Stephanie Pawcar told NBC.“I don’t personally know Mario, but he is a student at Wilbur Cross and it’s really important because it’s something that needs to be talked about.”

According to Principal Johnson, students have written over 400 letters in support so far with more rallies and protests planned. 

Students and teachers are arguing that Aguilar has a right to fight his deportation.

Aguilar’s peers believe he should be able to stay in the United States and fight his case in the courts, rather than being sent back to the country he fled when he was 16. Gabriel Gonzalez is a senior at Aguilar’s school and a budding filmmaker. She is utilizing the medium to create a film to help her classmates understand why they should care about Aguilar’s case. “He wasn’t known before, but now literally there’s posters around the school with his face on it everywhere.

People didn’t know about him because he was just a regular student,” Gonzalez told CNN.

“But now the fact that just this ordinary student was taken, his whole life has been turned upside down because he happens to be from somewhere else, shows that this can happen to anyone. And it shouldn’t happen to anyone, because we’re all just trying to live our lives as teenagers or normal, everyday people walking around the street.”

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In Bombshell Report, ICE Agents Are Accused of ‘Torturing’ African Asylum-Seekers to Get Them to Sign Their Own Deportation Documents

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In Bombshell Report, ICE Agents Are Accused of ‘Torturing’ African Asylum-Seekers to Get Them to Sign Their Own Deportation Documents

Photo: Bryan Cox/Getty Images

A bombshell report published in The Guardian alleges that ICE officers are using torture to force Cameroonian asylum seekers to sign their own deportation orders. The report paints an even starker picture of Immigration and Customs Enforcement–an agency that is already widely criticized as corrupt and inhumane.

The deportation documents the immigrants have been forced to sign are called the Stipulated Orders of Removal. The documents waive asylum seekers’ rights to further immigration hearings and mean they consent to being deported.

The asylum seekers allege that the torture in ICE custody consisted of choking, beating, pepper-spraying, breaking fingers, and threats on their lives.

“I refused to sign,” recounted one Cameroonian asylum-seeker to The Guardian. “[The ICE officer] pressed my neck into the floor. I said, ‘Please, I can’t breathe.’ I lost my blood circulation. Then they took me inside with my hands at my back where there were no cameras.”

He continued: “They put me on my knees where they were torturing me and they said they were going to kill me. They took my arm and twisted it. They were putting their feet on my neck…They did get my fingerprint on my deportation document and took my picture.” Other witnesses recount similar violent experiences.

Experts believe that the escalation of deportations is directly related to the upcoming election and the possibility that ICE might soon be operated under a different administration. The theory is that ICE is coercively deporting “key witnesses” in order to “silence survivors and absolve ICE of legal liability.”

“In late September, early October of this year, we began to receive calls on our hotline from Cameroonian and Congolese immigrants detained in Ice prisons across the country. And they were being subjected to threats of deportation, often accompanied by physical abuse,” said Christina Fialho, executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, to The Guardian.

Many of the Cameroonians who are in the U.S. to seek asylum have legitimate claims to danger back in their home countries. Many of these Cameroonians come from an English-speaking minority in Cameroon that are violently target by the government there–some have died. The violence has been condemned by The United Nations and Amnesty International.

As with many immigrant stories of people who are seeking asylum, these immigrants’ lives are in danger in their home country. They are coming to the United States for a better life. But instead, they are faced with the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whom they claim brutally mistreat them.

According to report, the U.S. is deporting entire airplanes full of asylum-seekers back to their home countries–deportations that have not been given due process and have been authorized under duress.

An ICE spokesperson contacted by The Guardian called the reports “sensationalist” and “unsubstantiated” while roundly refuting the claims. “Ice is firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody. Ice provides safe, humane, and appropriate conditions of confinement for individuals detained in its custody,” she said.

Read the entire report here.

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A Group Of TPS Beneficiaries Are Touring The Country In A Bus To Save The Crucial Immigration Program

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A Group Of TPS Beneficiaries Are Touring The Country In A Bus To Save The Crucial Immigration Program

tps_alliance / Instagram

Updated September 23, 2020

A coalition of people is coming together to stand up for Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries. Federal judges recently gave the Trump administration the approval to end the status for 300,000 people in the U.S.

A group of Temporary Protect Status holders is on a road trip to save the program for 300,000 people.

The National TPS Alliance is driving across the country to engage voters about the need to protect the program. The “Road to Justice” road tour started in Los Angeles and will be stopping in 54 cities in 32 states. The tour ends in Washington, D.C. where the TPS holders will petition Congress directly to save the program.

The program was started in 1990 and offers safe refuge for people who’s countries have experienced disaster, civil unrest, or other extraordinary circumstances. Some people who have been granted TPS in the U.S. include Central Americans after Hurricane Mitch, the second-largest hurricane in the Atlantic, devastated large swaths of the region in 1998. Haitians were also given TPS after the earthquake that devastated Port Au Prince in 2010.

The organization is hoping to engage voters and get them to care about the immigration crisis facing the nation. Activists have already praised the group and pledged to support their cause at the ballot box.

“We are going to vote for justice, for the TPS community,” Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, told NBC News. “President (Trump) and his administration are racist and do not care about the damage they are causing to our community.”

Original: A federal court just handed a huge ‘victory’ to the Trump administration, which has been eager to restart mass deportations. Despite a global health pandemic, the administration has been pressing forward with plans to deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

Until now, many of these migrants were safe from deportation thanks to Temporary Protected Status, which shields some immigrants from deportation under humanitarian claims. However, the recent court decision – in San Francisco’s 9th Circuit – gives Trump exactly what he wants right before the elections.

But how will it affect immigrant communities across the country? Here’s everything you need to know about this major decision.

The 9th Circuit Court just ended TPS for more than 300,000 undocumented immigrants.

A California appeals court on Monday gave the Trump Administration permission to end Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan, clearing the way for officials to force more than 300,000 immigrants out of the country.

The decision affects people from all walks of life, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades, have U.S.-born children and have been considered essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

This week’s ruling from the circuit court comes after a district court (also in California) temporarily halted Trump’s plan to end TPS in late 2018 after a group of lawyers sued, arguing that Trump was motivated by racial discrimination.

“The president’s vile statements about TPS holders made perfectly clear that his administration acted out of racial animus,”Ahilan Arulanantham, a lawyer for the ACLU of Southern California, wrote in a statement. “The Constitution does not permit policy to be driven by racism. We will seek further review of the court’s decision.”

But today’s 2-1 decision reversed the district court’s temporary order and allowed the federal government to take away TPS protections while the court case continues.

ICE and DHS has promised to wait several months before taking away TPS status if the agency won in court. As a result, the ACLU told NPR that it expects the protections to start ending no sooner than March, meaning that Joe Biden could reverse the administration’s decision if he wins in November, though the organization plans to fight back in the meantime.

Temporary Protected Status was created to protect people in the U.S. from being sent back to dangerous places – and it’s saved lives.

Credit: Daniel Ortega / Getty Images

The TPS program was first introduced in 1990, and it has protected immigrants from more than 20 countries at various points since then. More than 300,000 people from 10 different nations currently use the program, some of whom have lived and worked in the United States for decades.

Trump has sharply criticized the program, sometimes along racial lines, and in one infamous and widely criticized incident two years ago, the president reportedly referred to the program’s beneficiaries as “people from shithole countries.”

TPS provides protection for short periods of up to 18 months, but the federal government has continuously extended it for the countries mentioned in the lawsuit “based on repeated findings that it remains unsafe to return.” 

As a result, it said, most TPS holders have been living in the U.S. for more than a decade, contributing to their communities and raising their families. Many of the more than 200,000 U.S.-citizen children of TPS holders have never been to the country their parents are from and would have to choose between their families and their homes.

The ruling will have a major impact on migrant families and communities across the U.S.

Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Immigration advocacy groups are slamming the court’s ruling, noting it will impact hundreds of thousands of TPS holders as well as their families and communities. In a statement, Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said the decision will “plunge their lives into further turmoil at a time when we all need greater certainty.” 

As the global pandemic stretches on, immigrants with protected status make up a large portion of the country’s front-line workers. More than 130,000 TPS recipients are essential workers, according to the Center for American Progress. 

“TPS recipients have deep economic and social roots in communities across the nation,” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum. “And, as the U.S. responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, TPS recipients are standing shoulder to shoulder with Americans and doing essential work.”

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