Things That Matter

One Los Angeles Activist Refuses To Stop Protesting Until All Migrant Families Are Reunited

For two months, Marco Flores has been helping to organize activists through Occupy ICE LA to protest the separation of migrant families. One way he organizes is holding weekly Friday vigils in remembrance of families who have been separated or are in the reunification process. On August 3, the vigil was to honor the memory of a migrant child who allegedly died after being released from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Dilley, Tex.

The 31-year-old activist, who identifies as indigenous by way of his Mixtec roots from Oaxaca, is both an organizer with AIM SoCal (American Indian Movement Southern California) and a backer of the Occupy ICE LA movement “since day one.” 

A typical week for L.A.-based organizer Marco Flores includes assembling nightly watch groups at a downtown L.A. detention facility. 

CREDIT: Courtesy of Marco Flores

“I’m usually there every night,” he said. 

The watch groups usually consist of 15 to 20 people who are ready to camp outside the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles, including blockading one of the driveways. The location was picked for a strategic reason. Flores noted the building next door has Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers inside.

According to Flores, the weekly vigil and protests are meant to bring awareness to both politicians and citizens to push against ICE and the Trump administration.

“We are trying to bring awareness to the issue that first started out with the separation of families,” Flores said. “The Trump administration was supposed to reunite the children with their families on July 26, but that didn’t happen. Nothing has been fixed. ICE is complicit in all of this. It’s wrong and we want our elected [leaders] to stand up against it.”

Every Friday night, the watch group starts with a candlelight vigil for the victims of Trump’s zero-tolerance family separations.

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As AIM celebrates its 50 year anniversary, it stands in solidarity with #OccupyICELA, which is honoring 50 days of occupation. Native Americans are no strangers to family separation. Beginning in the late 19th century, the U.S. government allowed missionary groups to enter reservations, seize Native children, and put them into boarding schools intended to destroy Native Indian tribal identity. They were forced to speak English, worship Christian gods, take Anglo-Saxon names, and adapt to the ways of the “civilized” world. “We as Native Americans have our worst memories resurrected when we see children torn from their parents at the hands of law enforcement, taken to unknown locations, and with an unknown path to reunification. Indigenous communities have historically suffered the consequences of such forceful removal of its children from parents and caretakers that created intergenerational harm that our communities still struggle to address” – AIM SoCal member AIM SoCal will lead this week’s vigil on Friday August 8, 2018 at 8 p.m. We will be at the Metropolitan Detention Center on Aliso between Alameda and Los Angeles (for Google Maps, use: 308 W. Aliso, Los Angeles, CA). Dee Dee Ybarra, a descendent of the Gabrieleño Kizh people, tribal chair of the Rumsen Ama Turataj Ohlone and a member of AIM will start the event with an opening prayer honoring the people of this land. Graywolf, AIM SoCal chapter director, will be one of the speakers as well as other AIM members. WHEN: Friday, August 10, 2018 from 8pm to 10PM WHERE: 308 Aliso St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 We will have candles, but please feel free to bring your own

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“Ultimately, we want to abolish ICE. ICE has become a tool for the Trump administration to perpetuate their hate, it’s pretty much become a terrorist organization,” Flores said. 

For the August 3 vigil, Flores said four or five speakers came out and were invited to share about themselves and how the death of the migrant toddler affected them.

Afterwards, those in attendance were asked to share their name and why they chose to attend the vigil. 

One of the speakers at the August 3 vigil was activist Tai Sunnanon, a native Texan with Thai and Ecuadorian roots who has had experience galvanizing community support for 22 years.

Could the process take in fact years to resolve, as Sunnanon claims? Technically, it can.

Niels Frenzen, a law professor at the USC Gould School of Law and the director of the school’s immigration clinic, explained once families are reunited, the “asylum process is incredibly complicated because there are so many different scenarios that people can find themselves in.”

“Most adults who have been subjected to the family separation process have been subjected to expedited removal, unless they can establish a ‘credible fear,'” Frenzen said. “If they pass the credible fear test, then they can start an asylum application before an immigration judge.”

If a person establishes a ‘credible fear’ in their home country that they are fleeing from, then they cannot be subjected to deportation from the United States until the person’s asylum case is processed.

The legal clinic heard about a couple of cases through the American Immigration Lawyers Association: AILA, particularly with community groups in El Paso, Texas and picked up two cases over two weeks ago.

He is keeping a close eye on the ACLU litigation in San Diego and elsewhere in the country, since they “might get some court orders that say something about what can happen to these parents of these children that have removal hearings that will take years,” Frenzen said. “ICE could ignore them and let them stay here as long as the kid has a removal process hearing that is pending. It’s unknown because things are happening so fast.”

Flores says he will continue his vigils until families are reunited and elected leaders stand up for human rights.

READ: Artists Constructed A Massive Cage At Burning Man To Protest ICE And Some Folks Got Upset On Social Media

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This Migrant Mother Spent Three Years In Church Sanctuary But Now She’s Free

Things That Matter

This Migrant Mother Spent Three Years In Church Sanctuary But Now She’s Free

Lawyers are working hard to get a deportation order removed against a woman who just left a church sanctuary after three years in the refuge. Although she was previously denied asylum in the U.S., advocates are hoping that under new direction from the Biden administration, her case will be reviewed and she’ll be able to stay with her family in Ohio – where she’s lived for more than twenty years.

A mother of three is back with her family after living three years inside a church.

A mother of three who sought refugee inside an Ohio church from immigration authorities has finally been able to leave three years later. Edith Espinal, who herself is an immigrant rights advocate, had been living at the Columbus Mennonite Church since October 2017 to avoid being deported to Mexico. She’s now out of the church and back with her family following a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, who have agreed that she’s not an immediate priority for deportation.

“Finally, I can go home,” Espinal told reporters after meeting with the officials. With tears of relief, she celebrated the small victory in the presence of dozens of supporters who accompanied her to the ICE building.

“But it is not the end of her case. We’re still going to have to fight,” her attorney Lizbeth Mateo said.

ICE has agreed to hold off on her deportation proceedings pending her asylum request.

Espinal was released under an order of supervision, meaning that while she’s not considered an immediate priority for deportation, she must periodically check in with ICE officials to inform them about her whereabouts.

She has lived in Columbus for more than two decades and had previously applied for asylum, citing rising violence in her home state of Michoacán. But she eventually was ordered to leave the country, which is when she sought refuge inside the Columbus, Ohio church.

“We’re going to continue pressing the Biden administration to do the right thing, and try to get rid of that order of deportation against Edith, so she can walk freely like everyone else does without fear,” Mateo said during the press conference.

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The Rio Grande Claims Life Of An 8-Year-Old Boy As Migrants Risk Arctic Conditions To Cross Into U.S.

Things That Matter

The Rio Grande Claims Life Of An 8-Year-Old Boy As Migrants Risk Arctic Conditions To Cross Into U.S.

Texas is seeing an unprecedented weather crisis as much of the state is plunged into bitterly cold conditions. But that hasn’t stopped many migrants and refugees from attempting to cross into the U.S. for protection.

Many migrants cross the Rio Grande (or Río Bravo en Mexico) between Texas and the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Crossing the Rio Grande is always a dangerous undertaking but now, thanks to the freezing weather, it’s an especially perilous journey and it’s claimed the life of another child.

An 8-year-old boy has drowned while crossing the river with his family.

Authorities have reported that an 8-year-old Honduran boy has become the latest victim in a string of drownings at the Rio Grande, between the the U.S. and Mexico. Despite the unprecedented weather, migrants continue to attempt to cross the dangerous river to reach the U.S.

The child was with his family attempting to cross the river when he drowned on Wednesday, just as Texas was gripped by Arctic conditions which have killed more than 30 people and left millions in Mexico and Texas without power, water and food. The boy’s parents and sister apparently made it to the U.S., but were returned to Mexico by U.S. Border Patrol.

According to Mexican immigration officials, the boy “couldn’t withstand the pounding water, which covered him and kept him submerged for several meters”. His body was recovered but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

The Rio Grande is notoriously dangerous for people attempting to cross the border.

The journey across the Rio Grande has always been a perilous one, with hundreds of people, many of whom could not swim, having drowned over the years after being caught by the deceptively deep waters and strong current.

Add in the current winter storm currently blanketing the entire state of Texas, has produced significant snow and prolonged freezing temperatures, has made the crossing even more dangerous.

In fact, earlier in the week, the river had claimed another victim. A woman from Venezuela died trying to cross the river in the same area after getting trapped in below-freezing currents. Three others suffered hypothermia: one was treated by the Red Cross in Mexico, while the other two made it the US border.

Drownings are just one of the dangers migrants face.

Apart from the potential for drownings, migrants face a wide range of dangerous while attempting to cross from Mexico into the U.S. In late January, 19 bodies were found shot and burned in a vehicle near the town of Camargo, also across the border from Texas.

There’s also the threat of violence from drug cartels and smugglers, corrupt officials, and other extreme elements, such as heat during the summer.

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