Things That Matter

One Woman’s Investigation Revealed That Hundreds Of Migrant Teens Are Being Held In Prison-Like Conditions

One of the most criticized government agencies during the Trump presidency has been the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, which is in charge of putting immigration laws into practice. With the current administration’s hard stance on undocumented migrants, ICE has terrorized (believe us, we don’t use this word lightly) hundreds of undocumented migrants and their families with protocols that are veiled in secrecy and that seem to be punitive. From families being separated to migrant women being transferred to undisclosed facilities, ICE’s policies seem to want to set an example and trigger discouragement in migrants and those who want to escape perilous and life-threatening conditions in their home countries. 

Angelina Godoy, a human rights researcher, was about to find a VERY uncomfortable truth: why young undocumented migrants are being sent to facilities run like jails.

CNN revealed that Godoy, , director of the Center for Human Rights at the University of Washington,  dug deep into the ICE system to find out the location of young migrants who had been detained. She had heard that the authorities had been conducting raids where they swept up kids and took them to juvenile detention facilities. According to government documents accessed by CNN, the facilities were the government is authorized to detain a minor for more than 72 hours are: the Cowlitz County Youth Services Center in Washington state, Abraxas Academy in Pennsylvania (managed by GEO Group, a private company), and the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility’s juvenile division (NORCOR).  One of these facilities was close to Godoy’s home in Seattle, so she filed a public record request to understand why young people were being sent to this jail-like places and not to detention centers for migrant children. The facility was being cooperative, but then something happened. 

But ICE blocked her access to information.

Credit: Instagram. @amrsweetpea77

Yes, como lo leen, when Godoy was about to find the truth the facility withheld the info, directed by ICE. The county determined that Godoy and her team had the right to access that information, but the powers that be determined the opposite. Yes, like in a Hollywood movie where the protagonists gets dangerously close to la puritita verdad. The federal government went as far as going to court to keep the information from Godoy. 

This is why this is a thorny issue for the authorities: young migrants can basically be sent to jail.

Credit: Anderson Cooper Full Circle / CNN

Godoy found out that ICE has been taking minors who they deem as dangerous away from their families. The practice has been going on for about a decade. In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Godoy said: “I may not object to the fact they are being held. But I object to the fact that nobody can even know who they are (and) why”. There is a loophole in the system whereby youth who are detained when already living in United States territory can be put in facilities with other US youth. This means they can basically be put in juvenile detention centers that ICE has a contract with. 

There is basically zero information about these facilities, and families are left in the shadows regarding their loved ones’ fate.

Credit: Anderson Cooper Full Circle / CNN

Godoy revealed that there is a total lack of transparency surrounding these centers. They don’t show on the map of facilities provided by ICE, the agency does not provide information or reports on the condition of the facilities and families cannot find their loved ones through a detainee search because the database only accounts for adults. Once a young person is sent to these centers, it is como si la Tierra se los hubiera tragado. The detainees have limited access to lawyers who could help them understand immigration law and make a case for themselves. ICE says that the youth detained under these circumstances have “a serious criminal history” and it would be irresponsible to  but did not disclose what the parameters to determine the status are. 

Imagine being a mother and not knowing where your child is… quite traumatic right?

Credit: Anderson Cooper Full Circle / CNN

Stories are surfacing about mothers whose kids were taken by ICE to an undisclosed location. CNN reports, for example, on the case of an Honduran woman who escaped violence in her home country and established in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her son was taken to a private detention center in Pennsylvania. He was 16-years-old but looked younger, and had no criminal record. The mother is a cancer patient and the stress of ignoring her child’s whereabouts has worsened her health. The legal basis on which ICE is enforcing these detentions remains a mystery. 

These Are The Changes Likely Coming To Immigration Policy In 2020

Things That Matter

These Are The Changes Likely Coming To Immigration Policy In 2020

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Unless you’ve been completely disconnected from reality, you likely know that this year is a presidential election year. Both Donald Trump and candidates for the Democratic primary have been touring their policy positions ahead of the election and regardless of who ends up in the White House, there will be serious changes to the United States’ immigration policies.

Even before the November election, we can expect major policy changes under the Trump Administration. And given the president’s previous stance on immigration, we shouldn’t expect him to stand before the Statue Of Liberty and tout the USA as a beacon of hope for migrants and its tradition as a nation of migrants. But here’s what we should expect in the new year:

DACA

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which currently grants work authorization and administrative relief from deportation for up to 700,000 individuals who came to America before the age of 16. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the administration, then talk of a legislative compromise will increase. However, the closer it gets to the November 2020 presidential election, the less likely a deal may become.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

A November 1, 2019, Federal Register notice automatically extended “the validity of TPS-related documentation for beneficiaries under the TPS designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador through Jan. 4, 2021.” However, a decision in the case of Ramos v. Nielsen, which blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to rescind Temporary Protected Status for several countries, could end long-term stays in the United States for approximately 300,000 people.

Refugee and Asylum Policies

SYDNEY TOWN HALL, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – 2016/02/08: Protesters at Town Hall Square gathered to demonstrate against offshore detention. With mounting public and political pressure against the Australian Federal Government an estimated 4000 protesters rallied at Sydney Town Hall to demonstrate their opposition to the deportation and detention of asylum seeker children to the offshore processing centers of Manus Island and Nauru. The protesters called for the abandonment of all offshore detention with the vocal message of ‘let them stay’. (Photo by Richard Ashen/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In September 2019, the Trump administration announced a historically low annual refugee admission ceiling of 18,000 for FY 2020, a reduction of 84% from the 110,000-limit set during the last year of the Obama administration. “The administration betrays our national commitment to offering refuge and religious freedom to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities,” said World Relief in a statement. There is no reason to anticipate the administration will raise the refugee ceiling for FY 2021. 

In response to an executive order mandating consent from state and local authorities to resettle refugees, more than 30 governors have written letters to the State Department pledging their states will continue to resettle refugees. Three organizations have filed a lawsuit over the executive order.

Numerous lawsuits have challenged the administration’s asylum policies toward Central Americans. In one respect, the administration has already “won” on asylum, since the policies to block most asylum seekers and send them to Mexico and other countries have been allowed to remain in place while litigation has continued.

The Wall

Credit: US DHS / CBP

Donald Trump is determined to build as much of a “wall” as possible before the November 2020 election. Anticipate stepped-up seizures of private landand fights with judges and environmental groups.

The Public Charge Rule

On October 4, 2019, a presidential proclamation used Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to bar new immigrants from entering the United States without health insurance, potentially reducing legal immigration by hundreds of thousands of people per year. A similar reduction in legal immigration could result if the administration’s rule on Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds goes into effect. 

Judges have blocked both measures, at least temporarily, but if a court clears either for use, then it could be the Trump administration’s most far-reaching immigration measure. A permanent reduction in the flow of legal immigrants would reduce the long-term rate of economic growth in America, making these actions potentially the most significant policies to affect the U.S. economy under the Trump presidency.

Workplace Enforcement Rules

Since Donald Trump took office, investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened about four times the number of workplace investigations as compared to the Obama administration. That trend is likely to continue in 2020. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kansas v. Garcia may represent a more significant immigration enforcement threat for companies. Paul Hughes, who represented Garcia, said in an interview if the court rules in favor of Kansas, then “local city and county prosecutors could engage in mass prosecutions of employees and employers” for “the employment of immigrants who lack work authorization.”

Decriminalizing Illegal Border Crossings

If a Democrat wins the White House come November, we can expect increased conversations on decriminalizing illegal border crossings. Julian Castro first floated the idea during a Democratic debate and since then the idea has been picked up by other candidates as well. This would be a major shift in US policy but one that could bring immense change to migrant communities.

The Trump Administration Has Made Dozens Of Chilling Changes To Immigration That Haven’t Made The Headlines

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The Trump Administration Has Made Dozens Of Chilling Changes To Immigration That Haven’t Made The Headlines

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QZ has compiled a list of all the ways the Trump administration has quietly and secretly dismantled protections for immigrants. These efforts include revoking citizenship, alleged covert policies, and making it more difficult for poorer migrants and refugees to enter the U.S.

Trump’s anti-immigrant bigotry was always just anti-immigrant bigotry,” Catherine Rampell wrote in the Washington Post. “Trump’s rhetoric may focus on ‘llegals,’ but recent data releases suggest this administration has been blocking off every available avenue for legal immigration, too.”

Denaturalizing citizens.

In one of its most unusually cruel moves, the Trump administration has sought ways to undermine the citizenship of naturalized Americans. The ongoing project since 2017 has wielded little results despite being costly and using questionable methods.

“The Trump Administration has launched a denaturalization operation—a project to strip a large number of Americans of their citizenship. Denaturalization is a drastic measure that should only be taken in the most extreme circumstances. But the administration is dramatically expanding denaturalization, using questionable standards and proceedings,” the ACLU said in a statement.

The efforts required $200 million in funds to investigate naturalized citizens for irregularities. Fewer than 100 citizens were found to have such irregularities between 2017 and 2018.

“In its 2019 budget request, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed its intention to review the files of 700,000 U.S. citizens, putting even more individuals into the denaturalization pipeline,” the ACLU wrote. “Despite the administration’s statements minimizing their denaturalization efforts, their own numbers indicate a dramatic shift from the last several decades—throwing away standards, due process, and fairness, and devaluing the sanctity of American citizenship.”

Credible Fear Interviews

“Credible Fear Interviews” are preliminary interviews to determine if an asylum seeker has a legitimate threat back home. Since July, something strange has happened with these interviews. Before the summer, “experts” who conducted the interviews found that 97 percent of asylum seekers were credible since then only 10 percent have been found credible.

“This administration is trying to end asylum in the United States,” Elora Mukherjee, an attorney who worked on the lawsuit, told the Guardian. “What we’re seeing in the credible fear process is one part of a systemic effort by this administration to end asylum.”

QZ found three factors contributed to this massive drop: the Migrant Protocols Protection requires asylum seekers to apply in any country they pass through to get to the United States, credible fear interviews are being conducted by Border Patrol officers instead of asylum specialists, and according to a September lawsuit the administration is not publishing these new policies.

“This seems to be based on secret policies and procedures that have not been made public by the administration,” said Mukherjee. 

Because the Trump administration is not transparent about their new regulations, if they have modified the credible fear policies in any way, according to the lawsuit, the Trump administration would have circumvented Congress illegally. 

Attorneys believe Donald Trump’s administration made secret changes to the credible fear process at the same time it announced it would force people to seek asylum outside the US before they can seek it at the southern border,” according to the Guardian

Social media tracking of migrants.

In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security implemented a policy that required migrants list their social media handles on forms. The intention is to monitor the applicant’s activity, any of which can be interpreted to deny the migrant legal entry to the U.S.

Even after a migrant becomes naturalized, the social media records are kept. According to QZ, “That detail is worrisome in light of the administration’s push to denaturalize citizens, which includes investigating old records in search of inconsistencies on applications the government could interpret as fraud.”

Denying Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

The Trump administration has attempted to revoke TPS from countries like the Sudan, Nicaragua, Nepal, Honduras, Haiti, and El Salvador and has only been thwarted by various court rulings. Most notably, this September TPS was not granted to the Bahamian victims of hurricane Dorian.

The public charge rule.

The new October rule was designated to hurt the poorest migrants the most. If a migrant will require financial assistance or public services from the government for 12 months out of 36, they can be denied legal entry. The system is particularly cruel, if two different benefits are used in the same month that counts as two months of benefits rather than one. This means migrants would have to prove they won’t use Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps or housing support.

Domestic violence no longer qualifies for asylum.

Despite international asylum law, migrants fleeing domestic violence, largely women and LGBTQ people, no longer qualify as refugees. Attorney general Jeff Sessions claimed it wasn’t the United States’ job to provide refuge for those whose countries didn’t protect them — a so-called point that literally contradicts the entire purpose of a refugee program in the first place.