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.

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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. 

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ICE Illegally Arrested A Man On Church Grounds After Allegedly Lying To Him To Coax Him Out

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ICE Illegally Arrested A Man On Church Grounds After Allegedly Lying To Him To Coax Him Out

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Across the country, dozens of undocumented immigrants have sought refuge at churches, where they are typically safe from immigration enforcement.

However, as ICE escalates its attacks on the immigrant community, churches and other sensitive places of refuge may no longer be the ‘safe spaces’ they once were.

ICE has allegedly arrested a man who was inside of a church and they lied to get him out.

Last week, six ICE agents entered an undocumented migrant’s home (located on church property) and now that man is in a Georgia detention center. Binsar Siahaan, 52 (from Indonesia), was told that there was a problem with the GPS monitor he had to wear and that they needed to take him to an ICE office in Silver Springs, MD.

“As soon as he stepped outside, they handcuffed him,” taking him first to Baltimore and then to Georgia. He was not given anything to eat for two days, Rev. Scroggins said through tears. She said, “He is being abused. He is not well,” adding, “The way he is being treated is absolutely appalling.”

Siahaan currently is being held in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. and may be deported to his native Indonesia. He has been in the United States since 1989, coming here on a visa to work as a driver for the Indonesian Embassy. He overstayed the terms of the visa and then was denied asylum, because he did not apply on time.

But in Siahaan’s case, at the time they moved into the house on church grounds in January, they had no reason to fear ICE would come after them. They moved in to help take care of the church, which they have been attending for about six years.

Siahaan’s attorney and clergy at Glenmont United Methodist are rallying to stop Siahaan’s deportation, accusing ICE of breaching its own protocol by arresting him on church property under false pretenses and while his appeals are still pending.

The church where it happened is urging ICE to release the man – who is still in custody.

Leaders of the United Methodist Church – where the arrest occurred – have called for ICE to release Siahaan. They also called on ICE to state publically that it will uphold its policy of not entering sensitive locations, which includes “churches, synagogues, mosques or other institutions of worship, such as buildings rented for the purpose of religious services,” according to an ICE 2011 memorandum

“We are gravely concerned,” said Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary of the general board of the Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. “Church grounds are sacred.” She said the government was “in complicity to sin” if it won’t protect immigrants.

Rev. Kara Scroggins, pastor of the Glenmont church where Binsar has been a member for six years, called Siahaan “one of the most devoted, loyal and generous persons I know.” He helps out at the church constantly and usually is the first to arrive and the last to leave, she said.

This is hardly the first time ICE has conducted similar operations.

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An immigrant who sought refuge from deportation in a North Carolina church, staying there for 11 months, was arrested in 2018 after arriving at an appointment with immigration officials.

The arrest led to protests and the arrest of some supporters of Samuel Oliver-Bruno, the 47-year-old Mexican national who, according to an ICE news release, was detained at a Raleigh-area immigration office.

An advocacy group, Alerta Migratoria NC, said in a statement Oliver-Bruno went to have fingerprints taken so he could apply to stay in North Carolina with his wife and son. This is when ICE stopped in to make the arrest.

He had been living in CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham since late 2017, to avoid the reach of immigration officers, who generally avoid making arrests at churches and other sensitive locations.

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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In what many are calling a landmark decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just handed a major victory to migrant’s rights advocates. Although the major ruling seems simple on paper, it has major legal implications and could truly change the way that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrest undocumented immigrants.

However, the decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court – where it would face an uncertain legal future given the possible future makeup of the nation’s highest court.

The 9th Circuit Court just issued a landmark legal decision that could greatly affect ICE arrests.

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Long-standing rules for arresting migrants may soon need to change, thanks to a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court says that ICE needs to align its arresting and detention procedures with those of all other law enforcement agencies in the country, which are guided by rules within the U.S. constitution. When police arrest people for suspected crimes, the constitution requires them to show probable cause to a judge within 48 hours. But ICE does not do that. When ICE arrests people, it typically holds them for weeks before any judge evaluates whether ICE had a valid legal basis to make the arrest.

But ICE’s policies may no longer be legal.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the usual constitutional rules that apply to normal police all over the country also apply to ICE. “The Fourth Amendment requires a prompt probable cause determination by a neutral and detached magistrate,” the court said. This really shouldn’t be a big deal. Prompt independent review by a judge of whether the government has a legal basis to take away a person’s freedom is an essential safeguard against tyranny.

ICE’s arrest and detention policies have long come under scrutiny for seemingly skirting constitutional rules.

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For almost 200 years, immigration enforcement has existed in a sort of grey area, where the usual rules never applied. For example, when ICE arrests people, individual officers have much more legal discretion than other law enforcement authorities. Detainees may be held for weeks or months before going to a judge who will ask the person how they plead to ICE’s allegations against them.

Only then, long after the initial arrest, might ICE actually be required to show a judge any evidence to back up its case. The person would have spent all of that time detained, likely at a private detention center in a remote area.

For any other person in the U.S., this procedure goes against every legal protection in the constitution. But ICE has gotten away with treating immigrants this way for generations.

The ruling comes as other courts are making it easier for ICE to abuse migrant’s constitutional rights.

The ruling by the 9th Circuit comes less than a week after the 1st Circuit overturned a ban prohibiting ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants at courthouses in Massachusetts.

In 2018, ICE created a policy of attempting to arrest undocumented immigrants when they appeared at state courthouses for judicial proceedings. However, a district court granted an injunction against the policy after migrant advocates filed a lawsuit against ICE. They claimed that ICE was in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and lacked authority to make civil arrests at courts.

Meanwhile, ICE has resumed large-scale enforcement operations, announcing roughly 2,000 arrests over several weeks amid the Coronavirus pandemic. The 9th Circuit’s decision raises an obvious question: How many of those people were detained for more than 48 hours without a review by a judge?

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