It has been almost a year since a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to end their “zero-tolerance” policy. The administration was instructed to reunite all families within a month, yeat hundreds of families remain separated. We know that some forms of separation between child and parent are still happening at the border and we are now learning that the government needs more time to reunite families cruelly separated.
The government says they didn’t keep track of the thousands of families that were separated before their “zero-tolerance” policy began in early 2018.
According to The New York Times, officials have to sort through an estimated 47,000 children “who were referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and subsequently discharged.”
However, the main issue is that because so many undocumented children have gone through the system, the kids before Trump’s policy and after are all mixed up. It is hard to tell whether they’re in foster care or shelters as they await reunification. Officials have to go through each case and see which children were part of the 2018 separated families policy, and make them first priority.
Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told The NYTimes that if the government really wanted to, they could reunite these families faster than they’re claiming.
“If the government believed finding these children was a priority, they could do it quicker than two years,” Gelernt told The NYTimes.
Gelernt went on to say that “the administration refuses to treat the family separation crisis it created with urgency. We strongly oppose any plan that gives the government up to two years to find kids. The government swiftly gathered resources to tear families apart. It must do the same to fix the damage.”
“When a government agency takes custody of a child, it should always be looking out for the child’s best interests. But the Trump Administration has instead seen children as a way to go after their parents or relatives,” Jorge Baron, Executive Director for theNorthwest Immigrant Rights Project, said in a press release. “We hope this court case will lead to families being reunified as soon as possible.”
Trump has a long history of treating Mexico as a political punching bag. He literally launched his campaign for president by demonizing Mexicans. BUt despite this, Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has said the U.S. president has always treated him with respect. After threatening Mexico with tariffs last year, AMLO deployed troops to deter migration by Central Americans across Mexico to the U.S. – in a move many saw as an act of obedience to Trump.
But Trump’s own rhetoric has also changed. During a visit to Arizona last week, he said that it was Mexico who has helped drive down border crossings.
“If you look at so many of the different crimes that come through the border, they’re stopped. We’ve implemented groundbreaking agreements with Mexico,” Trump said during a round table on border security. “I want to thank the President of Mexico. He’s really a great guy. I think he’ll be coming into Washington pretty soon.”
So the two leaders seem to be on good terms. But a meeting with Trump could backfire.
President Trump and Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador are planning their first personal meeting for July.
In what would be their first head-to-head meeting, Mexican President AMLO and Trump are likely to meet in the beginning half of July, according to officials. It’s a politically risky move for Mexico’s AMLO, who is already being attacked from across the political spectrum for appearing to appease Donald Trump.
AMLO said that in his meeting with Trump he intends to promote their new trade deal (the USMCA), as well as to thank him for sending medical ventilators to Mexico to help with the growing Coronavirus pandemic in the country. The date of the visit though is still not set in stone, since the pair would also want to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – since his country is also a signatory to the trade deal.
“It is very important for us participate in the beginning of this historical agreement, which is very timely because it will help us in the recovery of our economy and the creation of jobs,” Lopez Obrador said during his daily press conference.
Mexico’s economy has been battererd by the Coroanvirus and AMLO is betting its recovery is tied to the U.S., since both countries are facing their deepest recessions since the Great Depression.
Many are speculating about the what the meeting could focus on – with there being so many hard pressing issues between the two countries.
AMLO has made it clear that his stated goal of the visit would be to promote the renegotiated trade deal known as the USMCA, formerly NAFTA. However, the Coronavirus pandemic is still raging across the two countries and it’s likely it will be play a major part in discussions as well.
Apart from these two timely topics, both countries are speculating as to what else the two leaders could discuss – especially since Trump has so often spoken poorly of Mexico and issued sweeping demands in the past.
Will the pair discuss immigration, asylum and the border wall?
For AMLO, this would be his first trip out of Mexico since assuming the presidency in 2018.
AMLO assumed the presidency in December 2018, and since then he hasn’t left the country once. He has sent surrogates to attend globally important meetings, including to the U.N. Security Council election and several major economic forums. Instead, AMLO has preferred to stay in Mexico, traveling from state to state promoting his domestic agenda.
Even though AMLO’s critics have encouraged him to take international trips in the interest of Mexico, this is one that most experts agree is a mistake. They’re skeptical that the meeting will be beneficial at all to Mexico.
In a tweet, the former Mexican ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhán, called the potential visit “a big blunder and a mistake,” saying that Trump would only use the Mexican president as an electoral prop. He also called such a visit “suicidal for Mexico’s long-term and strategic relationship with the United States.”
Former foreign minister Jorge Castañeda told Reuters he thought a visit was “a dumb idea” considering it is an election year in the United States.
Complicating matters, AMLO will fly to the U.S. on commercial flights amid a global pandemic.
AMLO is well-known as being frugal. He turned the palatial Los Pinos (the formal home of the Mexican President) into a cultural center and instead lives in his own apartment. He drives his own Volkswagen Jetta. And he always flies commercial, wherever he goes. And, apparently, that’s still the plan for his trip to Washington despite a global health crisis.
“I am going to travel on a commercial aircraft,” López Obrador told reporters during his morning news conference. “There is no direct trip from Mexico City to Washington, but you can make a stop. I will arrive a day before the meeting that we will have.”
And for Trump, the meeting would be high stakes given the concessions his supporters will want from Mexico.
Trump literally launched his presidential campaign by demonizing Mexicans. Since then, he’s made several swipes at the country and its people and has pursued inhumane immigration policies that have broken families and likely resulted in the deaths of many. Yet to his supporters, he hasn’t done nearly enough on immigration.
Therefore, it’s widely accepted that Trump will use the meeting as a way to advance his political standing with his core supporters and talk up his ‘achievements’ on border security.
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In what many are calling the most sweeping changes to asylum law ever, the Trump administration has proposed new rules regarding how migrants and refugees qualify for asylum protection in the U.S.
The rules would have a major impact on the ability of people with a legitimate fear for their safety – or that of their family – to prove their case before U.S. asylum courts. In some cases, asylum seekers may not even be given a chance to pleas their cases before an immigration court as the rules could leave some decisions in the hands of front line screeners, such as Border Patrol agents.
Trump administration unveils sweeping plan to limit asylum claims.
The Trump administration has released its furthest-reaching plant yet when it comes to trying to change asylum law in the U.S. The administration is trying to change the meaning of “persecution” to make it harder for migrants and refugees, with legitimate fears of persecution and danger, to be able to secure asylum in the U.S.
The 161-page proposal, officially posted Monday in the Federal Register, would also streamline the asylum-approval process, letting immigration judges rather than immigration courts make rulings in asylum cases and redefining the definition of a frivolous application.
“Essentially, this rule tries, in a way that hasn’t been done before, to define what can be grounds for asylum,” said Jessica Bolter, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.
The rule change could potentially bar relief to anyone who has passed through two countries before reaching the U.S. or who spent 14 days or more in one other country prior to arriving here. The administration also wants to bar asylum to anyone who has failed to timely pay U.S. taxes or who has been unlawfully present in the U.S. for a year or more.
It wants immigration judges to weigh someone’s illegal presence in the U.S. against them even though federal law specifically says people can seek asylum by crossing any part of the border and asking for it. And in addition to making fewer people eligible for asylum, it would give officers more power to deny initial asylum claims preemptively, with no need of a court hearing.
Critics of measure say the proposed changes would ‘represent the end of the asylum system as we know it.’
The new rules were quickly condemned to advocates like Families Belong Together, which called the proposed rule change “an assault on the fundamental right to seek asylum.”
“If fully implemented, they will gut years of progress in the U.S. to create bridges to safety for so many whose governments could not and would not protect them from severe harm and even death,” said a statement from Tahirih, which advocates for immigrants escaping gender-based violence.
The rule change would also put some of the most vulnerable people at increased risk of persecution.
For several years, the Trump administration has been working hard to keep asylum seekers from even reaching the U.S. border. As part of the government’s plan, the administration has signed ‘safe third country’ agreements with several Central American country’s – but several of these deals have shown to leave asylum seekers in increased danger.
In its deal with Guatemala, hundreds of non-Guatemalans have been sent to the country to apply for asylum there – predominantly women with young children, who may have well-founded fears of persecution. And the system has become so convoluted that many migrants and refugees were effectively compelled to abandon their asylum claims and return to the places they had fled in fear.
Meanwhile, at the U.S.-Mexico border, asylum seekers have been denied the most basic procedural safeguards, including the opportunity to present evidence or acquire a lawyer. Many had endured demeaning and coercive treatment by Border Patrol.
One Salvadoran woman told KITV that she was coerced into signing her “voluntary deportation” form at 2 a.m., believing it to be an asylum application. Soon afterward, officials chained her around her waist, ankles and wrists and sent her to Guatemala. “To them we are like bugs,” she said.
The new rules on asylum come just as the U.S. Supreme Court has said that Trump acted illegally in trying to end DACA.
In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled the Department of Homeland Security – and the Trump administration – had violated a federal administrative law with its policy ending DACA. DACA is the Obama-era program allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children to live and work legally in the US.
The decision came as a bit of a surprise as many expected the court’s conservative majority to strike down the program in favor of Trump. However, the ruling effectively leaves the program in place until Congress a can take up the legislative process behind immigration and get something done for the benefit of DACA recipients and the nation.
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