Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is stepping down in a move that signals the end of a controversial tenure. During her short time as secretary, Nielsen oversaw the “zero tolerance” policy in 2018 that resulted in the separation of thousands of families attempting to cross at the US-Mexico border. President Trump tweeted about Nielsen stepping down amidst reports that he wasn’t satisfied with her performance. This comes as the number of Central American people illegally entering the country has surged, which was a big factor in Nielsen’s resignation. While Nielsen might be leaving, the damage to the U.S. immigration system is done and the victims of the cruel policies are forever changed by the experience. Here’s Nielsen’s legacy at DHS.
More than 2,700 families were separated, two children died, and troops were deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border during Kirstjen Nielsen’s leadership.
Nielsen will be remembered for overseeing the widespread separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border last year. More than 2,500 children were separated from their parents, including families legally presenting themselves at the border for asylum. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the program in May 2018. President Trump later folded and rescinded the policy after pressure from both parties.
As the number of asylum seekers grew and caravans headed to the U.S-Mexico border, Nielsen requested more help.
Last October, 5,200 troops were deployed to support 16,500 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers along the southern border to help with the incoming caravan. Many called the move an election-year ploy to incite hatred and fear.
It was the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, who died under CBP custody on Dec. 8 that got people talking. Maquin’s death occurred just days after she was apprehended and reignited the emotional debate over immigration in Congress.
Nielsen oversaw a huge increase in immigration detention that has been widely criticized for inhumane conditions.
Nielsen has presided over a record number in immigration detentions due to controversial policies. The number of detained immigrants had grown from slightly over 40,000 in fall 2018 to 50,000 in early 2019. Images of children in chain link cages where a common sight in many of these facilities and caused an uproar with many immigration rights groups.
She was also behind the Migrant Protection Protocols where hundreds of Central American asylum seekers have been sent back to Mexico to wait for their U.S. immigration court dates. The policy, which was announced in January, was struck down by a federal judge on Monday.
The resignation also comes days after the U.S. government said it could take up to two years to reunite migrant children separated at the border with their parents due to poor record keeping prior to April 2018.
The resignation got a reaction from many in Congress who are hopeful to see change in the department.
Senator Kamala Harris tweeted that Nielsen’s resignation was “long overdue” and wouldn’t support a new nominee that “does not forcefully denounce this administration’s policy of separating families at the border.
Hilary Clinton chimed in as well saying even after the resignation, nothing much has changed. “Let’s be clear: This administration’s dehumanization and cruelty toward migrants will not stop after Kirstjen Nielsen leaves office. It is their principal policy,” Clinton tweeted.
What’s next for the Department of Homeland Security and will anything change after Nielsen’s resignation?
According the NY Times, President Trump had requested that Nielsen close ports of entry along the border and to stop accepting asylum seekers, which she didn’t agree with. Nielsen cited federal laws and international commitments that made closing ports of entry and rejecting asylum seekers illegal. This fueled Nielsen’s resignation and is a signal that the administration is looking to push tougher border policies.
In her resignation letter, Nielsen said it was the right time for her to step down. She also noted that her successor would need to make changes to existing immigration laws before the border could be secured.
It was announced less than a day later that Kevin McAleenan, the head of Customs and Border Protection, will serve as acting DHS secretary until a formal successor is nominated.
While Nielsen’s tenure was marked with controversy, it was also fueled by an administration determined to make a statement with it’s policies at the border. With a growing number of asylum requests and overcrowded detention centers, Nielsen’s departure was expected.
While Trump could nominate someone who is “more aggressive” when it comes to border policy, he’s going to have to get through the U.S. Senate. If the Trump administration has proven anything is it doesn’t matter who leaves their position because they’ll find someone who will satisfy their demands.
Selene Saavedra Roman, 28, a Mesa Airlines flight attendant, was released from immigration detention last week after being taken into custody when she returned to the U.S. on a flight from Mexico she was working. Saavedra Roman, who as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient is banned from traveling outside the U.S. under Trump administration’s rules, had been detained for the past six weeks. This all happened despite reassurance from her employer that she would not have problems re-entering the U.S. after working the international route. All of this had caused an uproar online about her rights and correct protocol for immigration officials to follow.
Two years ago,the Trump administration reversed the ability of DACA recipients to leave the U.S.
Saavedra Roman came to the U.S. with her parents from Peru when she was three and had been enrolled in the DACA program since 2012. She is also married to David Watkins, an American citizen, and had already received approval from Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for a green card as the wife of an American citizen.
The 28-year-old has lived in the U.S. for past 25 years, growing up in Dallas, Texas. It was there where she graduated from Texas A&M in 2014 and been working to complete the process to obtain permanent status. She had previously worked as a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teacher before starting pursuing a career as a flight attendant. She has no criminal record.
Despite all this, Saavedra Roman was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and was threatened to lose her DACA protections because she left the country without first applying for “advance parole” (which requires a fee of over $500).
“I got the call. She was crying and she said, ‘Please come get me. They are going to release me,'” Watkins told NBC News.
She specifically requested Mexico and Canada on her “no fly” list upon being hired.
Saavedra Roman had informed Mesa Airlines upon being hired about her DACA status, according to her attorney, Belinda Arroyo, who told NBC News. When she found out she was going to be assigned the Mexico flight, she sent several emails to her job questioning whether she could work the flight due to her status.
The airline told her it would be allowed, Arroyo said. After being hired in January, she was still on probation with the airline and was concerned about losing her job if she rejected the assignment.
Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, told NBC News it’s common practice for flight attendants to request to be excluded from certain flight routes.
“She was a brand-new flight attendant. She asked her company for guidance and raised concerns. This was an administrative error, and justice takes into consideration the realities of the situation,” Nelson told NBC News. “There is no one looking at this with a reasonable lens.”
In a joint statement with the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), Mesa Airlines chief executive Jonathan Ornstein issued an apology to Saavedra Roman and asked ICE to release her. They argued that it’s wrong to continually detain someone “over something that is nothing more than an administrative error and a misunderstanding.”
Her story captured the attention of many across the country that led to a petition asking for her release.
Following her arrest and detention, Mesa Airlines and the AFA asked that the Trump administration and the DHS release Saavedra Roman. The detention even caught the attention of Hillary Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro.
Shortly after a MoveOn.org petition was launched calling for her freedom, Saavedra Roman was released from ICE detention.
“Being released is an indescribable feeling. I cried and hugged my husband and never wanted to let go,” said Saavedra Roman in a statement. “I am thankful and grateful for the amazing people that came to fight for me, and it fills my heart. Thank you to everyone that has supported. I am just so happy to have my freedom back.”
Saavedra Roman is scheduled to appear before an immigration judge in April.
We’re not even three months into 2019 and we’ve already seen multiple examples of racism against Latinos go viral. Latinos continue to be fired from their jobs or harassed in public simply for speaking Spanish. The first ICE raid of a large employer in over ten years forever changed 100 immigrant lives. Despite Democratic control of the House, the federal government continues to expand ICE’s reach.
The 2020 presidential campaign season is underway. So many of us are looking to our politicians to change their rhetoric and put the safety of all Americans are the forefront. Here are the examples of racism our community has already experienced this year.
The latest example is that of a woman being harassed at a Walmart for speaking Spanish.
According to the video, Nereyda was at Walmart and was speaking Spanish with her mother. That’s when this man spoke up and told her that she needed to stop speaking Spanish because she was in the U.S. Newsflash, viejito, English is not the official language of this country and, in fact, English is the language forced on the country by European colonizers. If you really want to show respect to this country, maybe start by learning it’s history before you tell people you can’t wait for Trump to use your tax dollars to build the border wall.
This lady swore at a manager at a Mexican restaurant in West Virginia for speaking Spanish.
On February 16, a woman identified as Jill was recorded yelling at the manager of the Mexican restaurant she was patroning, saying, “English is our first language, so you need to speak English. Get the f*ck out of my country.” Several people came to the defense of the manager, who offered to pay for their food if they would leave. On her way out, Jill threw something at him and kept repeating, “illegal aliens raped me.”
POTUS giving the locos good material since 2016 apparently.
This line cook was fired after ten years of service for speaking Spanish.
Argentine Francisca Pérez was just telling (in Spanish) recently hired waitress Janet Ruelas-Nava that a dish was ready at Osteria Fasula in Davis, California, when the owner, Leonardo Fasula, fired her. Fasula became incensed when she accused him of discriminating against Mexicans and asked her if she wanted him to put burritos on the menu. “This is America. We speak English here,” he said.
This all happened in front of her son, who was just dropped off after the end of her shift.
Later on, she said that he cried and told her, “I don’t know if he was saying that to you or to me.” The Center for Workers’ Rights in Sacramento has filed a complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing on Pérez’ behalf.
Oh, and Donald Trump demanded FEMA give tornado victims in Alabama “A Plus treatment,” but Puerto Rico heard something different.
Meanwhile, while Puerto Rico was literally under water, he explicitly compared the territory to other states, “We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!”
Yeah, you got an F on that one.
His favoritism for a red state over fire-ravaged California and brown Puerto Rico didn’t go unnoticed.
Puerto Rico means nothing to him since the U.S. takes Puerto Rican money without offering the right to vote in federal elections. People were also out here tweeting that Alabama should stop “mismanaging their air,” as a jab to Trump’s ignorance around the California wildfires.
Trump declared a national emergency in February to divert tax dollars from different departments to fund his useless border wall.
Trump himself admitted, “I didn’t need to do this,” but that it would build his wall faster. This is a POTUS subverting American tax dollars and his own power to propel his 2020 campaign. Basura. He’s creating all the crises at the border and we know it.
In March, the GOP and 26 Democrats voted to expand Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) reach.
AOC’s fury is all to relatable in this tweet: “Where was the concern last week when 26 Dems voted for a GOP amendment to expand ICE powers rooted in the racist + false trope that Latino immigrants are more dangerous than US born citizens?”
Which means more money and second chances for North Carolina Sheriff Terry Johnson to harass Latino residents.
In 2012, The U.S. Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against Johnson for systematically and unlawfully targeting Latino residents at traffic stops, interrogation and seizures. ICE cut ties with him for discriminatory policing.
In January, ICE approved $2.8 million budget increase for staffing and upgrades at Sheriff Johnson’s county detention facilit to hold immigrants for ICE. This is a disaster waiting to happen.
The New York Times revealed systemic shortfalls in health care provided by Border Patrol.
After two children died in Border Patrol custody in December 2018, The New York Times did a deep dive into negligence by Border Patrol. Migrants are often arriving with serious injuries and BP is not equipped to handle the crises coming in. Instead of funding medical care to save lives, the GOP wants to fund a wall.
This ICE facility detained a 24-year-old pregnant woman and four days later she prematurely gave birth to her stillborn baby.
ICE isn’t even reporting it as an “in-custody death” because the baby was stillborn. Last year, Trump announced it would change the release policy for pregnant women and instead detain them, knowing the detention centers don’t have proper medical resources to care for expectant mothers.
This same facility is now holding this 72-year-old abuelito with Alzheimer’s in solitary confinement.
The family says that every time they speak with Noe, he’s even more confused, and keeps thinking he’s getting out the next day. The family petitioned to have him fight the case outside of the detention center. They offered to put him in solitary confinement. He also has cancer and diabetes. Basta.
You can call 956-547-1700 right now and demand they release Noe De La Cruz.
RAICES Texas is petitioning us all to fight for Noe.
Caption: “Stay on the line and tell the operator we are calling to demand that Noe De La Cruz (A035302758) gets released!
Solitary confinement is not a substitute for true medical care.”
As of March 6, 200 people detained in Texas immigration centers have the mumps.
Why? Because as The New York Times reported, migrants are not being given even the basic medical care as they arrive. Migrants have said they were left alone in concrete cells with broken bones. Mumps is a highly contagious virus when not vaccinated against and the booming immigrant detention industry maximizes profit by sardining the tired and weary.
Four U.S. women were sentenced to 15 months probation for leaving food and water for migrants walking through the desert.
If you try to do America’s job and keep people on our soil alive, you get a record. If the migrants were Canadians or Israelis, these women would have received an award. Nope. Morality doesn’t lie in the laws.
The U.S. is now forcing asylum seekers in lethal danger to wait out their court hearings on Mexican soil, further endangering their lives.
The ACLU reports that one Honduran woman who fled after her suegro threatened to kill her for being a lesbian is forced to wait her claim in Mexico, without any assistance. Honduras offers no LGBT protections. She’ll have to show up to the border on days of her court hearings, be granted no interpreter, lawyer, or opportunity to appeal.
After North Carolinians voted to end ICE cooperation, ICE retaliated with a 5 day spree.
North Carolina recently held local elections that put new Sheriffs on the maps—Sheriffs that publicly vowed to end ICE cooperation. Starting February 5, ICE targeted those specific three counties and detained more than 200 immigrants. The ICE Field Office Director even went on to say that if local police cooperated with ICE, you would have less people getting detained.
An advocacy group filed suit against ICE for their raid of a Tennessee meat processing factory.
In April 2018, ICE raided and detained 100 Latino workers, while dismissing the white workers without question. Six workers were deported, twelve left the country voluntarily, five are still in custody and forty have been released on bond. We’re rooting for The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and the law firm of Sherrard, Roe, Voigt & Harbison.
In mildly brighter news, this woman was finally sentenced for attacking this 91 year old abuelito.
Remember this 91 year old abuelito who was just visiting his family from Michoacán, Mexico? His attacker, Laquisha Jones, has been sentenced to 15 years for elder abuse.
Remember this U.S. Border Patrol Agent who detained these two moms for speaking Spanish in Montana last year?
Martha Hernandez and Ana Suda were detained for 40 minutes on May 16, 2018 simply for speaking Spanish. They were both born in the U.S. and are citizens.
The ACLU has since filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Government and the Agent O’Neal for detaining them on the basis of race.
The ACLU’s statement reveals that, even though the women have lived in Montana for years, they’ve since been “shunned and harassed by other town residents.” Suda has even said now her own hija is afraid to speak Spanish.