Things That Matter

Immigration Officials Deported Undocumented Father Of Three Because Of His HIV Status

Last summer, U.S. District Attorney Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to stop separating children from their parents under their “zero-tolerance” policy that had begun a few months prior. However, that order did not prevent immigration officials from separating children from their parents for myriad reasons. The reasoning for continuing to separate kids from their parents (or excuse is more like it) is because officials claimed the parent was unfit to parent, they were denied asylum, or they had prior charges in their native country. Since then, more than 900 families have been affected by Trump’s anti-immigration policy, which has caused more separations between child and parent. One such case is heartbreakingly tragic because it’s a violation on multiple levels. 

Three young girls were separated from their father without an explanation. However, their dad said it’s because immigration officials found out that he is HIV-positive.

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In November 2018,  Andrea, 14, Leiliana, 13, and Sofia, 11, and their dad crossed the U.S. border in El Paso, Texas from Honduras. They, like many undocumented immigrants, were held in cold detention centers that many refer to as iceboxes. In an interview with Public Radio International, the family said that they were held in the icebox for three days, all of them together until their dad was abruptly taken away without an explanation. The dad, Jose, said he is sure that he was separated from his daughters because of his HIV-positive status. 

The father said that he brought with him two bottles of his HIV medication. When officials asked him what it was, he initially lied because “the less people know, the better.”

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Immigration officials tested the medicine and found out it was to treat people with HIV. That gave Jose the inclination to believe they deported him because of that. “It has to be that because there’s no other reason,” he told PRI. His assumption was correct. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found out the reason why Jose was taken away from his daughters, and it did have to do with his HIV status. 

Immigration officials told the ACLU that Jose’s HIV is a communicable disease and cannot be allowed in the country.

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By definition communicable disease is an” illnesses caused by viruses or bacteria that people spread to one another through contact with contaminated surfaces, bodily fluids, blood products, insect bites, or through the air.” 

Before 2010, undocumented people with HIV could not enter the U.S. but because HIV is now treatable with medication the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has removed the HIV infection from the definition of communicable disease of public health significance. Therefore immigration officials cannot use the excuse that undocumented people with HIV cannot be allowed in the U.S

The daughters said that their father is fine because he takes his medication, so why would his HIV status prevent him from entering the country? Jose also happened to fail his credible fear interview.

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Each undocumented person that enters the country and is seeking asylum status has to undergo a credible fear interview to discuss why they’re afraid to return to their country. Many undocumented people who flee Central America report they fear for their lives due to violence and persecution. Jose said police in his homeland of Honduras threatened to kill his family, but immigration officials didn’t believe him, so he was denied and deported. 

Even though Jose is back in Honduras, he could still possibly be allowed to re-enter the U.S. and see his family.

Credit: @NYCLU / Twitter

Jose’s kids are part of a class-action lawsuit by the ACLU that includes more than 900 other families that have been deported after a judge had already prohibited the separation of families. 

“It is shocking that the Trump administration continues to take babies from their parents,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project said according to NPR. “The administration must not be allowed to circumvent the court order over infractions like minor traffic violations.”

Just today, the same judge that forced the Trump Administration to end family separation last year ruled that 11 parents who were deported without their children can come back into the U.S. Judge Dana Sabraw said those parents were wrongfully denied asylum. According to CBS News, “The judge found that some of the migrants were probably coerced into authorizing their deportation and were given inaccurate or misleading information by immigration authorities.”

It is unclear if Jose is one of the eleven parents told they could come back and reunite with his three daughters, but we’re hoping he is. 

READ: Customs And Border Protections Chief Mark Morgan Defended The Mississippi Raids Despite Children Left Without Parents

Recreational Marijuana Will Soon Be Legal In Illinois But Immigrants Are Being Warned To Keep Away From It

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Recreational Marijuana Will Soon Be Legal In Illinois But Immigrants Are Being Warned To Keep Away From It

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This summer, Illinois became the first state to legalize recreational cannabis use through a state legislator when the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act was passed by Governor J.B. Pritzker in May. However, not everyone will be able to benefit from the new law. Advocates are warning immigrants to stay away from consuming or working in the marijuana industry because of small legality that could reflect poorly on their cases.

While states have been legalizing marijuana, it is still illegal federally. An immigrant, undocumented or otherwise, can freely use the herb in Illinois, but should they own up to it, they would be admitting to breaking federal law. Illinois is the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana use and the new law will go into effect in January. 

Advocates want to protect immigrants from hurting their cases — as fair as the situation is.

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“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know about these consequences,” Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of PASO West Suburban Action Project told the Chicago Tribune. “Just admitting use makes you a potential target for deportation. So you don’t have to have a criminal arrest or conviction, you just have to admit to use.” 

Ruis-Velasco is also warning immigrants who live in mixed-status households to stay away from the industry altogether. Even if a citizen in the household works in the industry, it could reflect poorly on an undocumented family member. 

The issue is not specific to Illinois immigrants either, states, where cannabis is legal, have been affected tremendously by the incompatibilities between the state and federal laws, along with the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies. 

Immigrants around the country in states where marijuana is legal are seeing threats to their status.

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“Even though the state legalizes it, under federal law, the immigration consequences of drug use (are) … extremely harsh,” Colorado attorney Aaron Hall said. “So we’ve seen people who purchase marijuana at the dispensary in good faith and later come back and it leads to the denial of permanent residency.”

Denver, Colorado mayor Michael Hancock even penned a letter pleading to U.S. Attorney General William Bar to ease the restrictions where state’s have legalized the substance.

“Denver understands the need for federal laws and regulations regarding citizenship and immigration, but we are seeing the heartbreaking effects that those federal laws and regulations are having on our residents,” Hancock wrote. “However, under current federal policy, lawful, permanent residents like Denver residents I have met with are being denied naturalization and may lose their legal status based on their lawful employment in the cannabis industry.”

ICE has remained strident about not making any concessions for immigrants caught in the unusual predicament. 

“ICE continues to pursue foreign-born nationals convicted of drug-related offenses by local and state law enforcement,” the agency told the Chicago Tribune

Kathleen Vannucci, an attorney who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she has already seen cases where immigrants were denied citizenship because they admitted to marijuana use or employment in the cannabis industry in states where it is legal. In Washington, immigrants have been denied on the basis that they have bad “moral character” which requires them to wait five years before applying for citizenship again. 

Some low-level cannabis workers can be accused of drug trafficking with the way the laws are written. ICE’s official marijuana policy, issued in April, makes its stance clear.

“The policy guidance also clarifies that an applicant (for citizenship) who is involved in certain marijuana-related activities may lack good moral character if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws,” the policy states. 

Advocates are trying to figure out the best course of action to protect immigrants, until then their advice is to stay away from the drug.

In April, when ICE’s marijuana policy was announced Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) began advising non-citizens to, “never leave the house carrying marijuana or paraphernalia, a medical marijuana card, or wearing clothing with marijuana imagery on it.” 

The organization also warned non-citizens to keep anything cannabis-related off of their phones and social media since those things might be monitored too. 

The legalization of marijuana is largely a way to resolve the criminal justice issues caused by the mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. Moreover, nonwhites and whites use marijuana at roughly the same rates while the former group is incarcerated for the behavior far more frequently. Legalization’s new industry has also been shown to stimulate local economies by hundreds of millions of dollars. 

“I think that this is a complicated area of law as we have explained,” Ruiz-Velasco said. “I do think that there wasn’t enough information out there (when the legalization bill was being considered in Illinois). But we are trying to work with legislatures now and the government to try to make sure there is something that can be done to reduce the harm that will come.”

People Are Torn On A California Church’s Political Nativity Scene Calling Attention To Immigration Crisis

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People Are Torn On A California Church’s Political Nativity Scene Calling Attention To Immigration Crisis

Claremont United Methodist Church

It is the holiday season so you know people and churches are getting their nativity scenes together. Most are just run-of-the-mill nativity scenes with the animals, wise men, baby Jesus, and his parents Mary and Joseph. However, one church in California used its nativity scene to call attention to the humanitarian crisis on the southern border with children in cages. Here’s how they did it and how people on social media are reacting.

Claremont United Methodist Church is using its nativity scene this year to highlight the immigration crisis on the southern border.

Credit: @LATBermudez / Instagram

The Methodist church has a statement on their website directly address the crisis of asylum-seeking children at the southern border. For months, we have seen images of children taken away from their parents at the border and put into cages.

Claremont United Methodist Church wants people to know that the asylum crisis is devastating innocent families.

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“We at Claremont United Methodist Church (CUMC) responded swiftly to the need of over 2,700 children of immigrants seeking asylum at the US/Mexican border. These children were forcibly taken from their parents and scattered throughout the United States in April and May of 2018,” reads a statement by Rose Schneeberger on the Claremont United Methodist Church website. “Our church raised over $10,000 to assist with the legal representation of separated children through Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON). The plight continues as more families have been detained in the last couple of months and the number of children separated from their family continues to grow.”

The church’s nativity scene is showing people what the fate of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph would have had to endure if they were migrants to the U.S. today.

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“In a time in our country when refugee families seek asylum at our border and are unwillingly separated from one another, we consider the most well-known refugee family in the world, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family,” reads a plaque in front of the nativity scene. “Shortly after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary were forced to flee with their young son from Nazareth to Egypt to escape King Herod, a tyrant. They feared persecution and death.”

“What if this family sought refuge in our country today?”

“Imagine Joseph and Mary separated at the border and Jesus, no older than two, taken from his mother and placed behind the fences of a Border Patrol detention center as more than 5,500 children have been the past three years.”

“Jesus grew up to teach us kindness and mercy and a radical welcome of all people.”

“He said: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’ – Matthew 25:35”

“In the Claremont United Methodist Church nativity scene this Christmas, the Holy Family takes the place of the thousands of nameless families separated at our border.”

“Inside the church, you will see this same family reunited, the Holy Family together, in a nativity that joins the angels in singing.”

“‘Glory to God in the highest on earth, peace and good will to all.’ – Luske 2:14.

People on social media are moved by the powerful image of the church’s nativity.

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It truly is a striking image to see the classic nativity scene turned into a powerful political statement about our immigration policy. Seeing baby Jesus in a manger separated from his parents into cages is something many people never thought they’d see.

People immediately saw the comparison of the nativity and our current immigration system.

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“In addition to the remaining separated children, there are over 15,000 youth and children at detention facilities throughout the United States,” reads a statement by Rose Schneeberger on the Claremont United Methodist Church website. “The CUMC Creative Peacemaking Committee has decided to keep our congregation aware of this urgent need and to encourage church members to continue to support the efforts of JFON by donating funds for the legal representation of separated children and asylum-seeking families currently in detention centers.”

Some people tried to argue with the church’s message to fit their political agendas.

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Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, according to the Bible, were forced to leave Nazareth and go to Egypt in order to avoid persecution. The family’s story of fleeing to a new country in search of safety and protection from a tyrant king seeking to persecute them is reminiscent of the families seeking asylum and peace in the U.S.

Others are showing the true conditions of the U.S. detention centers.

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The conditions along the southern border have been in the news for years. Reports of overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and multiple deaths have highlighted the dangers of those in detention centers. Many of the facilities are housing more people than physically possible after the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration.

Basically, people are upset that a church would use a nativity scene to get people talking about the immigration crisis because it worked.

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What do you think about the nativity scene at Claremont United Methodist Church?

READ: Mexican Government Makes It Illegal To Buy And Sell The Moss Families Use To Create Their Nacimientos