Things That Matter

ICE Is Taking Advantage Of Migrants Who Can’t Read Or Write In Their Court Proceedings

Last summer, images of undocumented immigrant children went viral. These images didn’t show them crying, or being taken away from their parents. These children were pictured alone in court. The nameless children had no one by their side, no one to represent them, and had no clue what was going on, despite the fact that they were there trying to seek asylum. In some cases, these children wore headphones as a means to translate what the judge was saying. However, given that they were just children, the translation was almost useless. Reports are now servicing that immigration officials are using the language barrier as a means to keep them out of the U.S. 

An op-ed, written by a volunteer at the border, states that asylum-seeking immigrants cannot read or write in English or in their native tongue and immigration officials are taking advantage of that.

Emily Reed, a recent grad student from Barnard University, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post that stated she witnessed this manipulation from immigration officials against illiterate undocumented people. Reed was at the border in Texas volunteering with classmates at the South Texas Family Residential Center volunteering with the Dilley Pro Bono Project when she witnessed this manipulation. 

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection often conveniently exploit asylum seekers who cannot read. Along with an unfamiliarity with our deliberately complex immigration system, the illiteracy of Central American migrants, especially women, facilitates the deportation of parents and separation of families,” Reed wrote. She added, “By manipulating illiterate refugees who often unwittingly sign away their rights, the U.S. government is violating the basic tenets of the internationally recognized and protected right to seek asylum.” 

Reed added that her volunteer program with the legal center provided Spanish documents to the migrant families, but they couldn’t under that either.

“Simple translation is not enough,” she wrote. “The Dilley Pro Bono Project provides documents in Spanish, but even this paperwork was difficult for many migrant women to understand. Many women I helped to fill out paperwork struggled simply to write their children’s birth dates.”

The migrant families are being rushed within the court and legal process, which in turn, is causing deportation to happen a lot faster.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported that the haste paperwork at the border made it possible for immigration officials to rush and deport undocumented immigrants. The ACLU stated this process should not be rushed because people need to take their time and understand what is going on and what it is that they’re signing. 

“This waiting period is crucial to ensure that parents have an opportunity to make an informed decision about whether to fight their own removal cases, leave their children (who may have their own asylum claims) behind in the United States, or make some other decision,” the ACLU stated lasted year. “In short, families will be making life-altering decisions after months of traumatic separation — and the fact that the government is trying to shortchange them a matter of days to do so is galling.”

A New York Times report showed that 58,000 asylum seekers are currently stuck in Mexico under Trump’s policy because they’re awaiting asylum hearings.

The backlog for these asylum hearings is up to six to eight months, and when they’re ready for their hearing the majority of them won’t understand what needs to be done. This is why they need proper representation, and a patient legal system so they comprehend what is being asked of them and what the next steps are. 

What makes this matter even worse is that there’s not enough legal representation for each family unit, or individual, at the border. 

Last year, it was very apparent that there were not enough lawyers or legal help for undocumented immigrants at the border, and this year there’s even more undocumented people awaiting help and attempting to seek asylum. There people like Reed who want to help asylum seekers, but it’s not as easy as they might think. 

“People see the crisis happening, and they want to do something right now, which is great. But when we explain that this is a long-term fight, and we need your long-term commitment. That’s when people sort of back off.” Zenén Jaimes Pérez, the communications director at the Texas Civil Rights Project, told Huffington Post last year. 

If, however, you are willing to put in the time, or you’re interested in learning more about how you can provide legal help, or assist legal teams at the border, please reach out to: the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (“ProBAR”); the Immigration Justice Project (“IJP”); the ACLU of Texas; and RAICES.

READ: Selena Gomez Announces New Netflix Series ‘Living Undocumented’

Trump Is Dismantling Obama-Era Rules Prohibiting Discrimination In Federal Housing Policy

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Trump Is Dismantling Obama-Era Rules Prohibiting Discrimination In Federal Housing Policy

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There have been a few constants in Donald Trump’s administration that will always be remembered with fear and an uncanny feeling of uneasiness by Latino communities and by immigrants in general. The travel ban imposed on citizens from countries of Muslim majority, the constant raids that ICE has been involved in, family separations at the border, the famous Wall, the pressure that the White House has put on Mexico to stop Central American migrant caravans at the Guatemala-Mexico border… the list is painfully long.

Another constant regarding immigration and the Trump years is POTUS’ seemingly unmovable desire to reverse Barack Obama’s major changes to immigrant rights. Well now, a mere few months from the 2020 presidential campaign, the Trump administration is taking a step that will make Brown and Black populations feel even more vulnerable. 

Trump intends to reverse Barack Obama’s anti-discrimination housing rules.

Credit: Unsplash

This would be a terrible blow for diversity. Obama’s rules blocked banks from denying loans based on race or ethnicity, and cities from segregating people experiencing financial hardship. 

But what are the changes being made by the Trump administration exactly?

Credit: Don Freidberg / Flickr

The changes are being spearheaded by Ben Carson, Housing Secretary and former presidential hopeful. As Politico reports, Carson is “ moving to scrap an Obama policy withholding federal funds from cities if they don’t address segregation”. Politico also emphasized that, additionally, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “has proposed cutting back on collecting data that helps track discrimination in the mortgage market.”

This basically means that speculators and city planners would have free reign on how neighbourhoods are laid out in terms of racial, financial and cultural background. Investors can benefit projects that cater for outsiders instead of local populations, further contributing to gentrification. Carson has said that Obama’s strengthening of the Fair Housing Law ended up “actually suffocating investment in some of our most distressed neighborhoods.”

The problem is the nature of said investment and whether it forces underprivileged communities out due to escalating prices in real estate, rent and basic commodities. Shaun Donovan, who worked on the Obama administration’s approach to housing, wrote in a New York Times editorial that“housing plays a key role in advancing economic opportunity and closing the wealth gap between people of color and white Americans. African-Americans and Latinos have less than one-tenth and one-eighth, respectively, of the household wealth of white Americans, and homeownership remains the largest source of wealth-building for most families”. Taking this into account, it is fair to say that any changes to how discrimination of prevented will have a considerable impact on the true inclusion of Black and Brown communities and individuals in the American economy. 

Trump officials say these measures are an intention to cut red tape, but they could spell doom for diversity.

Credit: The Bronx Beat

The administration argues that these changes are meant to facilitate a swifter process for developers and for cities, who would be able to bypass obstacles for construction projects. But these obstacles are there for a reason! And this reason is diversity. Democrats and activists are getting up in arms. Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, has said: “They’re trying to eliminate the ability to enforce fair housing. They do not want to promote fair housing. They do not want to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination.”

Historically, U.S. cities have been ghettoized and during the Obama administration some of the policies that allowed this system to be perpetuated were given a second look, and in some cases reversed. 

Changes to Fair Housing Laws could spell even lower levels of homeownership among minorities.

Credit: Pixabay

Activists say that the Trump Administration is ignoring the fact that there is discimination in real estate and housing, and that pretending that race has nothing to do with this is dangerous and irresponsible. And the levels of home ownership among historically vulnerable communities is presenting a downhill trend. As Politico reports:“The white rate [of home ownership] is about 73 percent, compared with a little under 43 percent among black people.”

Legal experts think that the changes proposed by Trump and Carson are undermining the capacity of minorities to actually be able to afford places in their own neighborhoods. Thomas Silverstein of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law,Y told Politico: “I think there’s an effort by this administration to narrow the scope and the sort of meaning of civil rights protections so there’s just a hollowed-out husk of what’s actually protected”. 

Mexico Is Doing Trump’s Dirty Work: More Than 800 Migrants Are Detained, Most Of Whom Could Be Deported

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Mexico Is Doing Trump’s Dirty Work: More Than 800 Migrants Are Detained, Most Of Whom Could Be Deported

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Mexico’s immigration policy is coming under increased scrutiny as another caravan of Central American migrants cross into the country. Mexico’s response has been condemned by many international migrant right’s organizations, as the country has come down hard on people attempting to seek asylum in the United States.

Mexico’s response included the use of tear gas and pepper spray to repel migrants who had attempted cross several bridges from Guatemala. The response left parents scrambling to find their terrified children, many of whom were lost in the crowds.

Mexico’s hardline approach is blamed on Trump’s pressure of Mexico to enact immigration policies that will prevent asylum seekers from ever reaching the US-Mexico border. Many are accusing Mexico’s President AMLO of being a coward as he bows to pressure from the United States.

Its been reported that more than 800 people from the migrant caravan have been detained by Mexican immigration authorities.

Credit: Alfredo Estrella / Getty

Immigration authorities have taken a tough stance against Central American migrants as they attempt to enter the country on their journey to the United States. So far, the country says that it has detained more than 800 migrants who have entered the country illegally from Guatemala.

The National Migration Institute (INM) said it had transferred 800 migrants, some of them unaccompanied minors, to immigration centers where they would be given food, medical attention and shelter. If their legal status cannot be resolved, they will be returned to their home countries.

Mexico is under intense pressure from President Donald Trump to contain migrants before they reach the border.

Credit: Salvador Herrera / Flickr

Trump has threatened to punish Mexico and Central American countries economically if they fail to rein in migrant flows. Tariffs and other economic penalties could be used according to Trump.

The current caravan is the largest surge of people to cross into Mexico since its president reached agreements with Trump and some central American governments to reduce pressure on the US border. It’s also the first group to test the new ‘Safe Third Country’ agreements that the US has signed with several Central American countries. So far, it’s not sure how those agreements will affect asylum claims by migrants.

Mexico says all detentions and deportations are being done according to law and with full respect for human rights, but many organizations disagree.

Credit: Alfredo Estrella / Getty

Migrant advocates dispute the government’s claims and say they’re worried about Mexico’s new hardline policies. However, the toughness of these new immigration policies aren’t always reflected in the language used by government officials, many of whom use sugarcoated language to describe the policies.

In his daily morning press conferences, the president describes the mass deportations of Central Americans as “assisted returns.” 

While last week, just one day after troops had arrested more than 800 migrants who crossed a river into Mexico, the country’s Foreign Minster interrupted a reporter who asked how many migrants had been detained, saying “They are not detained,” Ebrard insisted. “They are in migration stations.” That’s the euphemism the government uses to refer to migrant detention centers.

According to Ebrard and the National Migration Institute, migrants are not arrested or detained — they are “rescued.” Deportations are “assisted returns,” which most of the time — officials say — are voluntary.

Meanwhile, the mass detentions come amid news that nonprofit groups and advocate organizations are being denied access to detained migrants.

Credit: Gobierno de Mexico

Mexico’s immigration agency announced Tuesday that it has temporarily suspended visits by civic, activist and religious groups to migrant detention centers.

Such visits have long served as a safeguard to check on the treatment of migrants, some of whom have complained in the past of crowding, prolonged detention and unsatisfactory conditions. The National Immigration Institute did not give a reason for suspending visits, saying only that “rescheduling the visits will depend on the work load of each migrant center, with the goal of providing services to the migrants to continue without interruption.”

Even Mexico’s President, came out against the announcement made by his own government saying that it’s not the right move and that he would look into the reason for the policy change.