Things That Matter

The US Government Is Trying To Restrict The Reasons People Can Seek Asylum, Starting With Domestic Violence

TIME / YouTube

Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week overturned asylum protections for domestic violence and gang violence victims. This announcement could potentially prevent thousands of immigrants from getting protection in the United States. The ruling overturned a grant of asylum to a Salvadoran woman whose former husband raped and beat her for 15 years. Sessions told immigration judges that the ruling “restores sound principles of asylum and long-standing principles of immigration law.” This overturns a precedent set during the President Obama administration that allowed women to claim credible fears of domestic violence but now will make it tougher for such arguments to succeed in immigration courts.

The number of people claiming a credible fear of persecution jumped from 5,000 in 2009 to 94,000 in 2016.

To qualify for asylum, an individual must establish that they have a fear of persecution in their homeland based on their race, religion, nationality or political opinion. Few asylum seekers are usually granted full permanent entry into the United States. The process can take months or years while the refugee lives freely in the US while their case is taken up the courts.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says those seeking entry to the US are claiming asylum or refugee status on too broad terms.

“Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” Sessions wrote in a statement to judges. “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes such as domestic violence or gang violence or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all people are allowed to seek refuge and asylum from persecution in their home countries.

Many on social media are angry at the ruling because it might set precedent on future immigration policies.

Monday’s ruling is the latest effort by the Trump administration to stop asylum protections for thousands of immigrants, particularly those fleeing rampant gang violence and high homicide rates in Central America.

The overturned policy means potentially thousands of victims of targeted violence will face tougher restrictions in the asylum request process.

Sessions said it’s still possible that crime victims could get asylum in the United States, but would have to pass a tougher test in the courts. This include showing that their country’s government is unable or unwilling to protect them and that they cannot safely relocate to another part of their country.


READ: Transgender Honduran Woman Died In ICE Custody, Weeks After Seeking Asylum

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Honduran Father Whose 13-Year-Old Daughter Committed Suicide After He Wasn’t Granted Asylum Wants Her To “Help Another Person Live”

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Honduran Father Whose 13-Year-Old Daughter Committed Suicide After He Wasn’t Granted Asylum Wants Her To “Help Another Person Live”

Twitter

Heydi Gámez García, 13, took her life on July 2nd after her father’s asylum request was denied for the third time. Heydi’s father, Manuel Gámez, sent her to the U.S. after his father was gunned down by MS-13 for refusing to pay a “war tax” to the gang. He didn’t expect that Heydi would be granted asylum, but that he would be deported.

Manuel certainly didn’t envision that his goodbye hug and kiss four years ago would be the last time he would hug and kiss his daughter while she was still alive.

The Gámaz family was broken by MS-13 and failed again by the U.S. immigration system.

Credit: @amy_baker22 / Twitter

Heydi’s mother walked out on her and her dad when she was less than two months old. By the time Heydi was a year old, Manuel left for New York as an undocumented immigrant to make money to send back home to his daughter. After his father was killed by MS-13, and his mother’s health started failing, he worried about who would care for Heydi and his younger sister, Zoila.

Manuel’s sister was granted asylum and cared for Heydi in his absence in New York.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

A year after his father’s death, he sent Heydi, Zoila and his brother to the U.S. Heydi and Zoila were granted asylum. Heydi learned English within a year and started teaching her father, via phone calls, how to correctly pronounce English words. They spoke every day, always asking when he’d come.

After two failed attempts to gain asylum, Heydi lost hope for being reunited and started cutting herself.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

He never wanted to make promises he couldn’t keep, like being there for her quinceañera. Heydi watched her classmates complain about their parents’ visiting their school and fell into a depression. In December, she was brought to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after cutting her wrist at school. She was seeing a therapist until two months before her suicide.

“Please forgive me for failing you,” Manuel wants to tell his daughter.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there… I never meant to leave you,” he says to her. Heydi was Manuel’s only child. Heydi’s aunt is coping with impossible guilt. She told CNN, “I was supposed to be protecting her. I would never send her to Honduras. But I never thought something bad would happen to her here.”

Manuel was released on a two week ‘humanitarian’ visit to release Heydi from life support.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

He finally got to hold her hand and comfort her as she left this life behind. “We love you,” he whispered to her. “Don’t leave us.”

The last thing Heydi told anyone was that she lost hope in being reunited with her father.

Credit: @MaryJaneKnows / Twitter

She was crying as she told her aunt that she feels hopeless and that one day, she’ll become a lawyer to help her dad’s case. She then said she wanted to be alone and was found two hours later in a closet. She didn’t leave a note.

She was declared brain dead a week later at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens.

Dr. Charles Schleien told CNN that she was in a “neurologically devastated state” upon arrival with “no hope for recovery.” He went on to disclose that the Gámaz family “chose to turn tragedy into the gift of life. Heydi is an organ donor and her final act will be to save others.”

The mental health impacts of family separation at our borders can only be told one story at a time.

Credit: @apbenven / Twitter

Every story is important. Every life lost to policies that don’t incorporate the most visceral human desires, like growing up with your father by your side, is one life too many. 

What on earth are we doing?

Credit: @JoeGould50 / Twitter

Update:

On July 18, Heydi was taken off life support. Her family told The New York Times they decided to donate her organs. “She was so young, so healthy, maybe she can live in another person, she can help another person live,” her father told The Times.

An Activist Read A Poem Criticizing Inhumane Immigration Policies And ICE Arrested Him Two Days Later Now His Community Is Standing Behind Him

Things That Matter

An Activist Read A Poem Criticizing Inhumane Immigration Policies And ICE Arrested Him Two Days Later Now His Community Is Standing Behind Him

ACLU of Southern California / YouTube / Free Jose Bello / Facebook

José Bello came to the U.S. when he was just three years old. In 2018, he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) only to be released on bond after his community raised $10,000 for his freedom. After his experience in an immigrant detention center, he wrote a poem critical of U.S. immigration policy, titled “Dear America.” Bello read that poem at a public forum at the Kern County Board of Supervisors in May. 

Less than 36 hours later, he was rearrested by ICE and taken back to the Mesa Verde detention center. THE ACLU has filed a petition in the San Francisco district court claiming his rearrest is a violation of first amendment rights. Two months later, he’s still in Mesa Verde detention center, and no decision has been made by his judge.

José Bello is a student at Bakersfield College, a farmer, and a father.

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

Here’s a taste of his poem:

“Dear America,

Our administration has failed.
They passed laws against our people,
Took away our rights and our freedom,
and still expect to be hailed?
Chaless!

Dear America,

You and your administration cause fear,
fear through Separation.
Instead of building trust with our people, do y’all prefer this racial tension?

Oppressed.”

A theme runs through his poem, touching on family separation.

Credit: @MVLiberation / Twitter

He speaks to all Americans when he says:

“Dear Americans,

You might be asking yourself, “What’s the whole point of repeating these facts?”
Well I am here to let you know, we want to feel safe, whether we’re Brown, Asian or Black.
We don’t want your jobs. We don’t want your money. Were here to work hard, pay taxes and study!”

Chillingly, two days before he was separated from his baby, he said, “We will never be apart, chiquito.”

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

“The fight has begun.
“We will never be apart chiquito,” is what I promised my son.
Y’all can try to justify your actions. Try to make excuses.
The bottom line here is that at the end, the people always triumph and the government loses.”

A GoFundMe set up for Bellos says that he received a DUI under “shady circumstances.”

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

He essentially forfeited his rights without knowing it, resulting in a no contest charge. He hasn’t had a drink since and has been doing community service work as part of his plea. Bello has been compliant in paying all his fines and attended all his hearings.

There is no other known reason to detain him except in retaliation to his public criticism of the system.

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

The ACLU’s filing is entirely predicated on the close succession of the two events being the reason for his arrest, saying it “strongly indicates that ICE acted in retaliation against Mr. Bello for his speech expressing views against the agency’s actions.”

The fear is that the move will chill immigrant activists from speaking out at a time when ICE’s unchecked power and aggression is escalating.

Credit: Free Jose Bello / Facebook

Still, Bello is writing poetry from the confines of Mesa Verde. This time, he’s simply asking, “why?”

Meanwhile, Judge Kim is weighing her decision after Bello finally had his court hearing July 15th.

Credit: Free Jose Bello / Facebook

That’s two whole months after he was arrested. Two months away from his child. Judge Kim could take anywhere from two days to a month to make her decision. 

There is a movement is in motion to #FreeJoseBello.

Credit: Free Jose Bello / Facebook

Jose Bello is a crucial member of the immigrant community in San Francisco. He’s organized a lobbying workshop for his college’s club Latinos Unidos Por Educación. He led and organized an immigrant caravan drive, to help ensure no child went without clean clothes or food. 

You can help by donating to Bello’s GoFundMe to help make his unjustly high $50,000 bond to be reunited with his son.

Credit: Free Jose Bello / Facebook

The ACLU has said the $50,000 bond is “hugely unjust” since Bello is a student who makes just $20,000 a year. The GoFundMe has only raised $2,375 at the time of this publication. #FreeJoseBello.

Watch his full poem below.

READ: A Honduran Teens Says An Officer Groped Her Breast And Touched Her Between Her Legs In Front Of Officers

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