Things That Matter

An Ex-ICE Attorney Is Calling Out The Agency For Using False Evidence To Deport And Detain Innocent Migrants

A former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lawyer has revealed that in several cases ICE agents corroborated against immigrants in order to achieve their deportation. In an in-depth interview with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates those on power, Laura Peña revealed many of the behind the scenes details of the how the government agency pursued the deportation of migrants and asylum seekers. The investigative piece highlights some of the trials and tribulations that Peña has lived through as a legal assistant to the agency where, in different cases, there was a common factor: lack of evidence to accuse immigrants of any fault that prompts their deportation.

Now she’s getting to tell her side of the story. 

Who is Laura Peña and how did she end up working for ICE?

Credit: @ProPublica / Twitter

Growing up in Harlingen, Texas, which is close to Mexico, Peña was immersed in the migrant community. Living so close to the U.S-Mexico border gave her a unique perspective on what many Latino migrants endured. She went to school with friends who were undocumented and friends whose parents also worked for the Border Patrol. After graduating high school she left the area and would get a job in the State Department. 

She would eventually take her career path in the same footsteps as her father to become a lawyer. After graduating from Georgetown Law, she saw that ICE was looking for trial attorneys but the opportunity wasn’t as easy as it seemed. Peña wasn’t sold on the concept of helping see migrants get deported, especially growing up in a migrant community herself. Family and friends were in disagreement with the thought of her working on behalf of ICE. 

 But her father, who himself was a struggling attorney, consoled her and reassured her not to pass up an opportunity like this. “Do what you need to do,” he counseled her. “Don’t worry about what others think.”

 A fellow mentor, who was also an immigration attorney, also encouraged her to take the position. He said this could be an opportunity to take the job and try to make the government agency more humane. “We need people of your mindset working on the government’s side,” she told Peña.

Peña was hired in 2014 as an ICE attorney which would be the start of a turbulent and controversial time working on behalf of the agency. These are some of the stories she told ProPublica about her experiences. 

Credit: @HispanicCaucus / Twitter

One of the mentioned cases in the investigative piece was that of Carlos, a migrant who applied for political asylum. As soon as he made his request, border and immigration agents accused him of being a member of the notoriously famous MS-13 gang in El Salvador, so this made Carlos not eligible to enter to the United States. 

This is where Peña, who followed the case, started to see the ugly true side of ICE. She did not find any semblance of a connection between Carlos and the gang, not even tattoos, that are a key part of the gang’s look or even criminal record in his own country. To the contrary, Carlos even carried an official letter from the Ministry of Justice of El Salvador certifying and clearing him of ever setting foot in a jail cell. Peña demanded proof from immigration agents that he was connected to the gang but did not obtain any. Despite the lack of any evidence of his gang affiliation, Carlos did not obtain his asylum.

Another case she revealed was that of a 6-month-old baby who was scheduled to be deported because he had been separated from his mother. Peña would eventually reunite the child with his mother but the woman was accused of carrying a false document. The immigration judge used that against her and would then order her child’s removal from the country.

This would all lead to Peña taking a step back from the agency. She now works pro bono with clients seeking asylum at the border. 

Credit: @bykenarmstrong / Twitter

All of this immigration work would overwhelm Peña over time, especially during the Trump administration’s family separation policy went into effect in Spring 2018. “Everything was stacked against the immigrants. Most couldn’t afford to hire an attorney. Few would ever win their cases.”

Peña would go on to acknowledge that the immigration system refuses to provide due process to an immigrant. but also realizes that there’s not much that could be done there. She is now working pro bono as a visiting attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, helping migrants with asylum cases. She now hopes she can properly bring justice to the countless of people that have been wrongly deported or separated at the hands of ICE. 

READ: This New Border Wall Mural Features QR Codes That You Can Scan To Hear Emotional Stories Of Deported Migrants

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Here Are The Executive Actions That President Biden Is Signing His First Day In Office

Things That Matter

Here Are The Executive Actions That President Biden Is Signing His First Day In Office

Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool / Getty Images

President Joe Biden has a lot of work ahead of him and he is hitting the ground running. On his first day in office, President Biden has a series of executive actions he is signing to reverse a lot of the damage created by the Trump administration. Here are some of the things President Biden will do with these actions.

The border wall on the southern border is done, y’all.

President Biden is saving the taxpayers billions of dollars by halting the construction of President Trump’s border wall. The border wall is one of former President Trump’s several unfulfilled promises at the expense of the taxpayers.

Despite his unrelenting campaign, Mexico never paid a dime to the wall. President Biden’s action to halt the border wall is a humanitarian and conservationist move that will save billions of tax dollars. According to estimates, there would be $3.3 billion in unused funds in the projects accounts.

The emotionally devastating Muslim ban will finally come to an end.

Former President Trump famously put an end to travel from predominantly Muslim countries. The order arbitrarily excluded a group of people based on their religion. The order that has kept families apart for years is finally coming to an end thanks to President Biden.

President Biden’s ation will bring families together and safeguards the rights of religious freedom. The ban has kept spouses separated, children apart from parents, and caused real damage. There is more to be done to make up for the stain on American history and the action is the first step.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is toast.

We all remember the terrifying scenes of Native people being brutalized by federal officials under Trump’s command. President Biden will make sure that the permit for the pipeline is revoked and put an end to a project that has been devastating the Native community. Activists have been fighting for years to get this done.

Undocumented people will have to be included in census counts.

President Biden is getting rid of the Trump administration’s terrible policy of ignoring undocumented people in the census. There have been several arguments by officials that the move would work to undermine certain states. The policy would take federal money away from states that did not support the former president and have high undocumented populations.

President Biden is going to preserve DACA.

More than 600,000 people benefit from the Obama-era program. Former President Trump waged a war against DACA and Dreamers for political points. Most Americans support DACA and a pathway to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries. With the new executive action, President Biden will instruct the federal government to restore the program to its fullest.

There is still a lawsuit the Biden administration will have to fight. The lawsuit challenging DACA’s legality was filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

In total, President Biden will sign 17 executive actions that will roll back several issues created by the previous administration.

“Today, hours after taking the oath of office, President-elect Biden will take a historic number of actions to deliver immediate relief for families across America that are struggling in the face of converging crises. He will sign a combination of executive orders, memoranda, directives, and letters to take initial steps to address these crises, including by changing the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing economic relief, tackling climate change, and advancing racial equity,” reads a statement from the Biden-Harris Transition Team. “President-elect Biden will take action — not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration — but also to start moving our country forward. These actions are bold, begin the work of following through on President-elect Biden’s promises to the American people, and, importantly, fall within the constitutional role for the president.”

READ: President Joe Biden’s And Vice President Kamala Harris’ Inauguration Represented America

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Google Is Pledging $250K To Help With DACA Applications And Renewals

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Google Is Pledging $250K To Help With DACA Applications And Renewals

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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is not a contentious topic among Americans. The program offers young adults who entered the U.S. as children relief from deportation and a chance to live out of the shadows. Now that it has been reinstated, Google wants to help some people achieve the dream of being a DACA recipient.

Google is pledging a quarter of a million dollars to help people apply for DACA.

The Trump administration did everything in their power to end DACA. The constant uncertainty has left hundreds of thousands of young people in limbo. The war waged against Dreamers by the Trump administration came to a temporary end when a federal judge ruled that Chad Wolf was illegally installed as the head of the Department of Homeland Security. It invalidated a member from Wolf stating that no new DACA applications would be approved.

Kent Walker, the SVP of Global Affairs, laid out the case for DACA in an essay.

Walker discusses the uncertainty the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients currently face after the tumultuous time for the program. He also touches on the economic hardships that has befallen so many because of the pandemic. With so many people out of work, some Dreamers do not have the money to apply or renew their DACA due to a lack of financial resources. For that reason, Google is getting involved.

“We want to do our part, so Google.org is making a $250,000 grant to United We Dream to cover the DACA application fees of over 500 Dreamers,” writes Walker. “This grant builds on over $35 million in support that Google.org and Google employees have contributed over the years to support immigrants and refugees worldwide, including more than $1 million from Googlers and Google.org specifically supporting DACA and domestic immigration efforts through employee giving campaigns led by HOLA (Google’s Latino Employee Resource Group).”

People are celebrating Google for their decision but are calling on Congress to do more.

Congress will ultimately have to decide on what to do for the Dreamers. There has been growing pressure from both sides of the aisle calling on Congress to work towards granting them citizenship. DACA is a risk of being dismantled at any moment. It is up to Congress to come through and deliver a bill to fix the issue once and for all.

“We know this is only a temporary solution. We need legislation that not only protects Dreamers, but also delivers other much-needed reforms,” writes Walker. “We will support efforts by the new Congress and incoming Administration to pass comprehensive immigration reform that improves employment-based visa programs that enhance American competitiveness, gives greater assurance to immigrant workers and employers, and promotes better and more humane immigration processing and border security practices.”

READ: New DACA Applications Were Processed At The End Of 2020 For The First Time In Years

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