Things That Matter

The Homestead Detention Center Just Transferred Out All Migrants Kids But May Welcome New Ones As Soon As October

You’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe the Trump administration was reconsidering the way it was treating migrant children who are crossing the boarder. Especially since earlier this month, we’d reported that the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Miami, Florida, was to close. However, it looks like Homestead is set to reopen again – as soon as this October.

Well, that didn’t last long.

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The beginning of the month saw the last of the children, who were detained at the facility, removed. While it’s difficult to say exactly how many children were originally housed at the detention center due to the overcrowding that’s taken place across holding facilities nationwide, it’s thought that there were between 2700 to 3000 children staying at Homestead. Part of the reason why Caliburn International, the company that runs Homestead, was instructed to reduce its detainees in the first place was due to government compliance issues. That is, the government had introduced new standards in preparation for hurricane season.

We still don’t know where the previous group of children went after leaving Homestead.

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Even though the children were removed, it’s not clear what happened to the children once they’d left Homestead. The fact Caliburn International is a for-profit company and still required staff to show up for work, despite there being no detainees, has also clouded the issue. At the time of writing, reports say that while 1,700 employees had been dismissed due to the center officially closing, more than 2,500 kept their jobs. It’s not clear what they’re doing at Homestead while they await new inmates.

And because Homestead is an influx center, it doesn’t require a state license. 

Twitter / @marwilliamson

Typically speaking, influx centers are essentially designed to house a large number of inmates, in case the government suddenly finds itself inundated by asylum seekers. These centers are only intended for short stays, which is why they can legally hold a larger number of detainees. Otherwise, Homestead’s population would be capped at 500 children. And while we’re on the subject of numbers – temporary facilities like Homestead are actually more expensive, in the long run. They cost the government around $775 a day per child, while permanent shelters run at about $250 per day per child. Nice to know everyone’s tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Is this all starting to should kinda familiar to you? Yea, us too.

Pinterest / PolitcusUSA

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, it should. The US government recently argued in federal court that it shouldn’t have to provide things like toothbrushes and soap to detainees, since they were only being temporarily housed in the facility in Clint, Texas. Spoiler alert: the judges didn’t buy that argument, since inmates are being held for months at a time at these facilities. Again, these places that don’t provide basic necessities for inmates are more expensive to run than a more permanent facilities. 

But, we digress.

Pinterest / Chance Vintage

Oddly enough, even though Homestead is set to open again in October, Caliburn’s contract expires November 30. At this stage, it’s unclear whether the company will see the contract renewed, or whether a new contract will be opened up to competitive bidding. Apparently the original contract with Caliburn was awarded without competition, which was done so around the same time John Kelly, Trump’s ex-chief of staff, joined the company’s board of advisers. Bueno.

All of this shows that it’s still business as usual.

Pinterest / V kilpatrick

At the same time, even if the contract for Homestead was open to competitive bidding, it’s unlikely that much would change at the facility for the children who will be staying there. Companies and non-profits that promote asylum seeker’s rights and would likely provide safe and comfortable facilities have little interest in bidding for such contracts, since the very policies motivating them are diametrically opposed to the espoused values of these organizations. 

At the end of the day, this is all semantics. Because while it’s definitely important that we examine the ways that we detain migrants, and ensure that everyone receives due process, we’re not asking the most important question of all: should we even be detaining children for seeking asylum?

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With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

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With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

Damen Wood / Getty Images

Becoming a U.S. resident or citizen has never been an easy process. The country’s immigration system is a convoluted mess that sharply leans in favor of high-wealth individuals and under the Trump administration that is becoming more apparent than ever.

But 2020 has been an especially challenging year for immigrants seeking to complete their citizenship process.

Although it’s common for interest in naturalization to spike in the months leading up to presidential elections, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the citizenship process to a grinding halt in March. The outbreak shut offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) all across the country. And although many of these offices reopened in July, there is a widening backlog of applications.

Meanwhile, on October 2, looming fee increases could leave applications and citizenship out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants, as the process becomes significantly more costly.

Many migrant advocacy groups are hosting events meant to help immigrants complete their applications before prices are set to rise.

In South Florida, the Office of New Americans (ONA) — a public-private partnership between Miami-Dade County and non-profit legal service providers — launched its second Miami Citizenship Week on Sept. 11. This 10-day event is designed to help immigrants with free legal support so participants can beat the October 2 deadline.

In addition, the event will host a mix of celebrations meant to highlight the social and economic contributions of South Florida’s large immigrant communities.

“I think in Miami we talk about how we are diverse and how we are adjacent to Latin America, but we never take a moment to celebrate immigrants and the amazing work that they do whether it’s the nurses in our hospitals, the drivers that drive our buses, small business owners,” said Krystina François, ONA’s executive director. “We need to reclaim the narrative around immigrants and around our communities because it’s what makes us great.”

However, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, the events will all be hosted online.

Much like any other event, Covid-19 has greatly impacted this year’s “Citizenship Week.” Therefore, the event will be hosted virtually. That includes the Mega Citizenship Clinic, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16-20. At the event, pro-bono lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Americans for Immigrant Justice and other groups will connect with attendees one-on-one on Zoom and walk them through the process of filling out the 20-page citizenship application form. 

The clinic is open to immigrants eligible to become naturalized citizens, meaning permanent residents who have had a green card for at least five years.

Cities like Dallas are also getting in on similar events, meant to welcome new residents and citizens into the city.

Dallas’ Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs is hosting a series of virtual events from Sept. 12 to Sept. 20 in honor of Welcoming Week. The virtual events aim to promote Dallas’ diverse communities and to unite all residents, including immigrants and refugees.

According to the City of Dallas, this year’s theme is Creating Home Together, and it emphasizes the importance of coming together as a community to build a more inclusive city for everyone.

Participants will be able to learn about the voting process and what will be on the next ballot during the “Vontando Por Mi Familia: Enterate para que vas a votar” event. The event, hosted in partnership with Mi Familia, will be presented in Spanish.

A Council Member, Jaime Resendez, will host a virtual program on Tuesday at 11 a.m. that celebrates Latinx art and culture. The event will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Mayor Eric Johnson will read the Welcoming Week Proclamation, and the event will feature art exhibitions and performances showcasing the talents of performers and artists across Dallas.

Attendees will also have a chance to learn more about the availability of DACA and a citizenship workshop will take place where articipants will learn how to complete their N-400 application for citizenship. Volunteer immigration attorneys and accredited representatives from the Department of Justice will be there for assistance.

The events come as fees for several immigration proceedings are set to rise by dramatic amounts come October 1.

Starting on October 2, the financial barrier will grow even taller for many immigrants as fees are set to increase. The fee to apply for U.S. citizenship will increase from $640 to $1,160 if filed online, or $ 1,170 in paper filing, a more than 80% increase in cost. 

“In the middle of an economic downturn, an increase of $520 is a really big amount,” François told the Miami-Herald.

Aside from the fee increase, many non-citizen immigrants never truly felt the need to become citizens. That was until the Coronavirus pandemic hit and had many questioning their status in the country.

“There are people who up until this COVID crisis, their status as a permanent resident didn’t impact their day-to-day life … but then the pandemic has given them another reason of why it’s important to take that extra step and become a citizen, because of the additional rights and protections that are afforded to you, but also to just have a sense of security and stability in a crisis.”

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Nearly 9,000 Unaccompanied Child Migrants Have Been Expelled From the U.S. Under Trump’s COVID-19 Restrictions

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Nearly 9,000 Unaccompanied Child Migrants Have Been Expelled From the U.S. Under Trump’s COVID-19 Restrictions

On Friday, previously undisclosed court documents revealed that almost 9,000 unaccompanied migrant children seeking refuge were denied access to the U.S. and subsequently expelled from U.S. soil. None of these children were given a chance in court.

According to reporting done by CBS News, U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials have “suspended humanitarian protections” for most migrants crossing the border, on the grounds that “public health law overrides asylum, immigration and anti-trafficking safeguards” in the era of COVID-19.

CBS news made the shocking discovery when investigating the problematic and increased practice of holding and detaining minors in unregulated, privately contracted hotel rooms.

The government is arguing that the practice is keeping the American public safe from possibly COVID-19 exposure from unauthorized migrants.

“What we’re trying to do…is remove all individuals, regardless of whether they’re children — minors — or they’re adults,” Customs and Border Patrol official Mark Morgan said in an August media briefing.

He continued: “We’re trying to remove [the migrants] as fast as we can, to not put them in our congregate settings, to not put them into our system, to not have them remain in the United States for a long period of time, therefore increasing the exposure risk of everybody they come in contact with.”

via Getty Images

But critics are claiming that the Trump Administration is using COVID-19 as an excuse to unlawfully expel as many migrants as possible–regardless of their age.

On Friday, federal Judge Dolly M. Gee ordered the administration to put an end to the practice of detaining children in hotel rooms, saying that hotels do not “adequately account for the vulnerability of unaccompanied minors in detention”. She asked the government to put an end to the practice by September 15th.

It is in the court documents regarding the above case that 8,800 expelled migrant children number was revealed.

“The numbers are stunning,” said executive director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, Lindsay Toczylowski, to CBS News. “…To find out that our government has literally taken children who are seeking protection and sent them back to the very places they fled in such high numbers really took my breath away.”

via Getty Images

US Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz has defended the unsafe hotel detainment and speedy expulsion of migrant children, saying that stopping the practice would increase risk of exposure to health and customs officials alike.

But even if the practice comes to an end, the staggering number of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children left to their own devices is sitting heavy on the soul of advocates and activists.

“It’s just completely contrary, not only to all child protection norms and standards, but also just completely contrary to our values as a nation around protecting the most vulnerable,” said vice president for international programs at Kids in Need of Defense Lisa Frydman to CNN. “Because we are just wholesale shipping them out without making sure that it’s safe for them to go.”

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