The union that represents government workers that process asylum claims just made a groundbreaking decision. They are sticking to their morals and good judgment to speak out against the cruel immigration policies of the Trump administration. They say that the government’s immigration policy violates international law and they want the courts to put an end to the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
Yup, Trump’s own employees, those of the federal government, are speaking out against the dangerous policy in court.
A union representing federal asylum officers said in a court filing Wednesday that the Trump administration’s policy forcing migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum cases are decided risks violating international treaty obligations and “abandons our tradition of providing a safe haven to the persecuted.”
The union, which represents 2,500 Department of Homeland Security employees, including the asylum officers, said in its filing that the policy puts migrants in danger because they could face persecution while being forced to wait in Mexico, undermining the purpose of asylum.
Migrants who are forced to return to Mexico are facing violence, sexual violence, discrimination, and persecution.
“Asylum officers are duty bound to protect vulnerable asylum seekers from persecution,” the union said. “They should not be forced to honor departmental directives that are fundamentally contrary to the moral fabric of our nation and our international and domestic legal obligations.”
The Mexican government said that as of this week, more than 15,000 people had been sent back to the country under Trump’s policy. The White House has moved to aggressively combat the number of people seeking refuge in the United States, and critics say the revamped “remain in Mexico” policy was meant to deter potential asylum-seekers.
Members of the union pointed out that the asylum process has always been a bedrock of US policy.
The letter points to previous policies that allowed asylum-seekers to wait in the United States while their applications were pending, noting: “The system has been tested time and again, and it is fully capable…of efficiently processing asylum claims.”
And the people on Twitter were here for this sliver of good news, of people standing up against a cruel and dangerous policy.
Some people thought it was very brave of these union members to speak up and fight for what’s right – especially considering they work for a government led by a man who is all too quick to fire people who upset him.
While many pointed out just how correct this union was.
I mean Mexico is in the midst of its most violent year yet, fighting a war against drug cartels. The country isn’t exactly well equipped to care for and protect an influx of tens of thousands of migrants.
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The deaths of migrants in US government custody have sparked outrage and cast a spotlight on the treatment of immigrants detained by authorities. But, despite the outrage and grief, little seems to be being done to improve the conditions immigrants are being held in.
In fact, recent reports indicate that the Trump administration is actually moving to make life for migrants even more miserable (and dangerous) while in government custody. From not providing for basic sanitary needs to withholding critical vaccinations and even deporting migrants in need of life-saving medical care, this administration is putting countless lives at risk.
Given the administration’s contempt of migrants coming to the US to seek asylum or simply better opportunities, the deaths of migrants are not at all surprising. Although they’re largely an avoidable tragedy — until Trump took office deaths of migrants in US custody were exceedingly rare — the situation in detention centers is likely to get worse before it improves.
At least eight people have died in ICE custody at adult detention centers this year, according to information released by ICE and compiled by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Here are those who we’ve lost since January 2019:
Abel Reyes-Clemente, 54, Mexico
While in ICE custody at an Arizona corrections center, Reyes-Clemente displayed signs of the flu and was “placed into medical observation” on April 1, ICE said. Two days later, facility personnel found him around 6 a.m., unresponsive and not breathing.
This case is a particular reminder of the cruelty of the administration’s policies. Reyes-Clemente likely died of complications related to the flu yet it was just recently announced that the government will not provide flu vaccines to migrants for the upcoming flu season.
Simratpal Singh, 21, India
The Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner listed suicide as the manner of death and hanging as the primary cause of death on its website. Autopsy results have not yet been released.
Unidentified Man, 40, Mexico
The man died at Las Palmas Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, after being apprehended by CBP agents for illegal re-entry early Sunday morning, according to a CBP news release. Hours after being apprehended, the unnamed man was evaluated by medical personnel at the Border Patrol’s processing facility near Paso Del Norte Port of Entry.
CBP said the man was transported to the medical center after being diagnosed with flu-like symptoms, liver failure and renal failure. He died later that day.
Johana Medina Leon, 25, El Salvador
The cause of death for Medina Leon, the asylum seeker who died on June 1, remains unclear. Like Roxana Hernandez, a transgender woman who died in ICE custody last summer, Medina Leon was diagnosed with HIV while she was detained.
Medina Leon, known to her friends as “Joa,” became ill while detained at the Otero County Processing Center, a private detention center in New Mexico where the ACLU and the Santa Fe Dreamer Project recently alleged poor treatment of, and “unconscionable conditions,” for LGBTQ immigrants.
Unidentified Woman, 40, Honduras
The woman, who was not identified, died shortly after being apprehended after crossing the border.
The woman, who crossed the border without authorization in Eagle Pass, Texas, at about 6:20 a.m., collapsed about 25 minutes later at the Eagle Pass South Station. In a statement, Border Patrol said agents and officers administered medical care until emergency medical services arrived at 6:55 a.m. She was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.
The tragedy marked the second time in less than 36 hours that a person had died immediately following their perilous migration from their home in Central America, through Mexico and across the southwest border.
Yimi Alexis Balderramos-Torres, 30, Honduras
Balderramos-Torres had previously been apprehended by immigration officials in El Paso, Texas, on May 17, according to a statement released by ICE. The man was accompanied by his son when he was encountered by Border Patrol on May 17, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
Balderramos-Torres had been sent back to Mexico under a Trump administration program that requires Central American immigrants to wait outside the US as their asylum cases make their way through the immigration courts. On May 27, Balderramos-Torres again crossed the border without authorization and was picked up by local police in the US during a traffic stop.
On June 30, Balderramos-Torres was found “unresponsive,” and medical officials at the facility were unable to revive him. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead Sunday morning. A cause of death is pending as officials conduct an autopsy.
Pedro Arriago-Santoya, 44, Mexico
Pedro Arriago-Santoya was awaiting deportation at the Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin prior to his death at an area hospital.
Medical staff at a hospital in Columbus determined the man’s preliminary cause of death as cardiopulmonary arrest, followed by multi-organ system failure; endocarditis, an infection in the heart’s inner lining; dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease; and respiratory failure, ICE said in a statement.
In custody since April, Arriago-Santoya told immigration authorities he felt stomach pain on July 20, leading a nurse practitioner to send him via ambulance to a hospital in Cuthbert. Medical staff suspected he had gall bladder disease, ICE said, and, the next day, sent him to the hospital where he died waiting for surgery consultation.
Marvin Antonio González, 32, El Salvador
Like many Salvadoran migrants before them, Marvin Gonzalez and his eight-year-old daughter Joselyn set off from their farm surrounded by corn and sugarcane one morning in early July with dreams of better lives in the United States.
Gonzalez, 32, planned to reunite the girl with her mother in North Carolina, and later send for his current wife from El Salvador.
The two made it across the U.S. border in late July. Then their luck turned. After they were detained in El Paso, Gonzalez died from heart-related causes that seemed to have flared up suddenly.
Norma Palacios, 23, the wife of the younger Gonzalez, said she had planned to eventually join her husband in the United States, bringing along their daughter Tifany, but had changed her mind.
“Our dream was to be together there, but now with what happened, I don’t have the courage to go alone,” she said in an interview with Reuters.
Roberto Rodriguez-Espinoza, 37, Mexico
Staff at the jail saw Rodriguez-Espinoza “acting confused” on Sept. 7 and transferred him to Northwestern Medicine Woodstock Hospital in Woodstock for evaluation, ICE said. He was transferred to Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital the next day, where he was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage.
He was transferred to Central DuPage for a neurosurgery consultation and became unresponsive during a neurological exam, ICE said.
Many of these deaths were likely preventable. Human Rights Watch asked for an independent medical analysis of 15 recent deaths in immigration detention; in eight cases, subpar medical care contributed or led to the fatalities. The same is true for 23 of the 52 deaths in immigration detention for which we have such analysis since 2010.
ICE has dramatically expanded the number of people in its dangerous system, including particularly vulnerable people like children and pregnant women.
By locking up people who aren’t a flight risk or a threat to public safety, the US guarantees a ballooning, abusive, and expensive system, despite the existence of more cost-effective and humane alternatives to detention.
Judge V. Stuart Couch was placed on the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals last month, but his record shows that he once threatened a toddler in court that a dog would bite him if he didn’t behave.
This story at first sounds hilarious and unbelievable, but it’s actually quite disturbing and very real. According to a Mother Jones report in 2016, Couch told a Guatemalan toddler who was in court for an asylum hearing to stop making noise or else he would get a dog to attack him. The boy was in a courtroom in Charlotte, North Carolina with his mother. The pair were in a hearing in Couch’s courtroom where he would decide their fate over whether they would get asylum or not.
The judge told the 2-year-old: “I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you!”
The entire exchange between the heated judge and the toddler was witnessed by Kathryn Coiner-Collier, a then a coordinator for a project run by the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. Coiner-Collier recounted her story to Mother Jones and said that she, along with the boy, and his mother, experienced trauma unlike ever before. She said that Couch scolded this young boy to behave and made a Spanish translator tell the boy exactly what he was saying.
“Want me to go get the dog? If you don’t stop talking, I will bring the dog out. Do you want him to bite you?” Coiner-Collier recalled to the publication. For anyone wondering how she could remember what Couch said in 2016, Coiner-Collier wrote down every single work the judge said because not only was it incredibly terrible but she needed a record of what happened that day. Coiner-Collier also believed Couch would possibly bring the dog in the courtroom because it’s very typical for police dogs to be sniffing around.
The boy was eventually removed from the courtroom and the entire family was left traumatized by the judge’s outburst. Coiner-Collier said that she has witnessed Couch be a “fair and thorough” judge in previous cases, but that he definitely has a temper.
Couch ended up removing himself from the case. The following judge who heard the asylum case on this young boy and his mother from Guatemala ended up rejecting their case. The mom has now filed an appeal. But here’s the ironic twist.
Now that her asylum case is headed to the appeals court, and the new judge could be…you guessed it: Judge V. Stuart Couch.
Couch was one of six new hires on the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals and his record for rejecting asylum cases is just what you would expect. This tidbit of facts by Mother Jones is especially interesting:
“All six judges reject asylum requests at a far higher rate than the national average; Couch granted just 7.9 percent of asylum claims between 2013 and 2018, compared to the national average of about 45 percent. (Before becoming an immigration judge, Couch served as a military prosecutor and attracted widespread attention for refusing to prosecute a Guantanamo detainee because he had been tortured.).”
People on Twitter were livid, though not surprised, to find out that a judge like Couch would now be calling the shots in immigration appeals court.
Laila L. Hlass, a law professor tweeted, “Is #immigrationtwitter surprised Judge Couch, known for trying to end refugee protections for domestic violence survivors also threatened a 2 yr old child in court with a dog attack? Or that he was recently promoted? In a word, no. #immigrationlaw.”
It’s almost as if Trump hired this judge for the very reason that he threatened a 2-year-old.