Things That Matter

More Migrant Children Were Separated From Their Families Than The US Government Admitted To

The Trump administration likely separated more children from their families than the original 2,737 than the government previously acknowledged. According to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), thousands more migrant children were separated from their parents than originally stated. While the exact numbers are still uncertain, the original count from last year did not include the thousands more who officials say may have been separated from their families starting in 2017. As of now, the government does not know if these families have been reunified.

It’s likely impossible to see the full scope of how many migrant kids the Trump administration has taken away from their parents.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which runs the government shelters for unaccompanied migrant children, saw a “steep increase” in the number of separated children in 2017. Even before The Trump administration announced their “zero tolerance” policy at the border, “HHS faced significant challenges identifying which children in its care had been separated by” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Amid fears of widespread loss or trafficking of immigrant children, the report’s evidence suggests most separated children (like children who arrive unaccompanied without parents) were placed with close relatives within the US. This startling report is the first U.S official acknowledgment that the Trump administration was using family separation as a tool to stop illegal immigration almost a year before it became actual policy.

According to the report, the spike in young children resulted in a shortage of beds for children in the agency’s care.

“More children over a longer period of time were separated by immigration authorities and were referred to HHS for care than is commonly discussed in the public debate,” Ann Maxwell, Assistant Inspector General for Evaluation and Inspections, told CNN. “How many more children were separated is unknown.”

There were some clues that this practice was being conducted prior to 2017. Then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly told CNN that the Trump administration conducted a “pilot program” from July 2017 to October 2017 to test the “zero tolerance” policy in El Paso.

Allegedly, there haven’t been efforts made by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to find the exact number of children separated by DHS.

According to Reuters, the practice of separating minors from adults has been standard practice “for more than a decade.” From October 2016 through February 2018, before the ‘zero tolerance’ was put in place, almost 1,800 immigrant families were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The ORR has stated that the agency “has only limited resources,” and tracking previous DHS separations would deter them from their main focus of caring for children under government custody. They now have changed its tracking procedures to better flag and account for all children at intake.

While the “zero tolerance” policy came to an end last June, the report shows that children were still being separated. One hundred eighteen children were separated between July 1 and Nov. 7, 2018. Eighty-two of the children are under the age of 13 and 27 of them are under the age of 5. The DHS provided the ORR with limited information about the reasons for these separations.

HHS has now reunited nearly all of the 2,737 children with parents or released them to relatives living in the US. The prior separated children were all released before “zero tolerance.”

Last year, Customs and Border Protection apprehended about 50,000 unaccompanied children during the fiscal year which was up from 41,435 in 2017. Prior to the “zero tolerance” policy, children were separated from parents if they had a criminal history.

Lee Gelernt, the ACLU attorney who successfully led the court challenge that ended the Trump administration’s separation policy, said in a statement the he will return to court to take up the findings raised in the report.

“This policy was a cruel disaster from the start. This report reaffirms that the government never had a clear picture of how many children it ripped from their parents. We will be back in court over this latest revelation.”


READ: Here’s What We Know So Far About The New Refugee Caravan That Just Left Honduras

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A Colorado Church Has Provided Sanctuary To This Woman And Now She Just Gave Birth There To Avoid ICE

Things That Matter

A Colorado Church Has Provided Sanctuary To This Woman And Now She Just Gave Birth There To Avoid ICE

Denver Post

The humanitarian crisis product of the influx of undocumented migrants to the United States and the Trump administration’s tough policies and law enforcement techniques have resulted in stories of survival that are almost hard to believe. ICE raids all over the country have torn communities and families apart. But for all the bigotry there are some stories that reveal that there are still some good people out there and that human kindness and perseverance count for something. 

The recent tribulation of a 36-year-old Peruvian woman is one of such cases. 

Ingrid Encalada Latorre gave birth to a baby girl at a church in Boulder, Colorado

Credit: Twitter. @UUSC

She has been living at the Unitarian Universalist Church since 2017 with her two sons, after she moved from another religious site. Places of worship have a de facto status as a sanctuary and there is an unwritten agreement between law enforcers and religious organizations that dictates that once in a sacred building, migrants and refugees are safe from arrest. She has become an immigrant rights advocate based on her own traumatic experiences.  

The authorities have been persistent in their punitive actions against this outspoken woman.

As U-Wire reported in August, “In July, Encalada Latorre was fined nearly $5,000 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for not leaving the country”. The bill just keeps adding up. And this is an strategy that is increasingly being used by the current administration as U-Wire reported in July: “The Trump administration threatened to impose these fines on immigrants who seek sanctuary in locations where ICE does not conduct enforcement operations, such as churches. Although the penalties are not new, imposing the financial penalties has been rare, according to reporting by the Washington Post”.

Damn. Some migrants have been fined for more than $400,000. Of course, almost no one is able to pay that kind of money. 

Ingrid declined to go to hospital to give birth, and for a very good reason.

She feared that she would become a target for ICE if she left the place of worship. She had a 15-hour natural birth and she delivered her baby with the help of a midwife. Ingrid kept her birthing plans under wraps until the last minute because any information leak could very well put her at risk of deportation.

She told The Daily Beast: “Having a baby is always a light of life. I am excited to have my beautiful baby girl and my two sons, who I love very much. My life continues, and this broken system will not stop my fight to keep my family together.”

She moved into the church after a court appearance where she pleaded guilty.

Her crime: trying to buy a Social Security number so she could work and provide for her kids. She got bad legal advice and pleaded guilty to a felony, which is much worse than the correct category of a misdemeanor. The church has been more than accomodating, and a shower and proper living quarters have been provided for Ingrid and her children. 

The church’s reverend, Eric Posa, is like the coolest man of the robe ever.

Credit: Twitter. @TheLeftRev

Eric Posa has a long history of fighting for the dispossessed and the vulnerable, and his stern defence of Ingrid is proof of that. He told The Daily Beast, which first broke the story: “We talk about the joy of new life at the church, but I’ve got to say, in my career, it’s never been as literally true about new life being added to the church as happened here”.

And Posa also served some truths to the system: “In a system that would tell people that they are less human than those who are native-born citizens—and especially those of us with white skin—and in a system that would actively discourage the rest of us as treating Ingrid and others like her as fully human, she decided not to limit and pare down her life, but to expand her family”.

Some might get judgemental about Ingrid’s decision to have a baby under such circumstances, but bringing life is a way of resisting a bleak future. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about Ingrid’s case to highlight the faults in the system.

Ingrid ended up in this legal mess because she had to resort to a misdemeanor because even though she is part of the community in Colorado, she has lived under the shadows and in fear for too long, just like millions of migrants who are hard working and bring a sense of solidarity to social life in the United States. AOC also visited Ingrid and offered her support as part of a trip to Boulder, where she also spoke at a dinner.  

A City Claims A Family Can’t Sue Over A Wrongful Death Because Undocumented People Don’t Have Rights Under Constitution

Things That Matter

A City Claims A Family Can’t Sue Over A Wrongful Death Because Undocumented People Don’t Have Rights Under Constitution

The original wording of the Fourth Amendment in the Constitution stated, that “‘each man’s home is his castle,’ secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government. It protects against arbitrary arrests, and is the basis of the law regarding search warrants, stop-and-frisk, safety inspections, wiretaps, and other forms of surveillance, as well as being central to many other criminal law topics and to privacy law.” A revised version states, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” In other words, authorities cannot probe into people’s private information, home or belongings, without probable cause. Those laws apply to everyone, right? That’s not what some officials in one city in the United States believe. They’re claiming those laws do not apply to undocumented immigrants. 

In 2017, police were called to check on a domestic abuse suspect in Southaven, Mississippi. They went to the wrong house and shot and killed Ismael Lopez. 

Credit: Local 24 Memphis / YouTube

On a late Sunday evening, in July of 2017, police were called to serve a warrant for the arrest of a suspected domestic abuser named Samuel Pearman. His address was 5878 Surrey Lane, CNN reported, and police ended up going to a mobile home across the street where Ismael Lopez lived with his wife. Police entered Lopez’s home and ended up shooting him in the back of the head. He died on the scene. 

“It is so troubling to learn that not only this man died but that this man died running away from people who were trespassing on his premises after he was in bed lawfully,” Murray Wells, an attorney representing the Lopez’s family, told reporters, according to CNN

The Lopez family filed a $20 million lawsuit for his death after a jury failed to indict the police officers on the scene. The City of Southaven fired back with their own lawsuit saying Lopez has no rights under the constitution because he was an undocumented immigrant.

Credit: Local 24 Memphis / YouTube

This case is like most cases involving the police, the investigation had conflicting reports. Lopez’s wife claims the police came in unannounced, and the lawyer says bullet holes outside of the home support her story. The police say that Lopez pointed a gun at them. However, Lopez’s wife said that wasn’t the case. The police also shot and killed their dog. City attorneys are also questioning the credibility of Lopez’s widow, with claims they were never married, and that she was married to multiple men. Lopez’s attorney showed the documents to prove they were legally married in 2003. 

“It’s a real shame that they have to use these tactics to soil someone’s name when she lost her partner, the love of her life, in a tragic accident,” attorney Aaron Neglia said according to the Washington Post

So, does the constitution protect undocumented immigrants? The answer is a resounding yes even though the matter is still taken up in courts all the time.

Credit: Local 24 Memphis / YouTube

“Yes, without question,” Cristina Rodriguez, a professor at Yale Law School told PBS. “Most of the provisions of the Constitution apply on the basis of personhood and jurisdiction in the United States.”

Undocumented immigrants have the right to legal counsel, under the Sixth Amendment, they also have the right to due process under the Fifth Amendment. So, if the courts are already practicing the law under the constitution when it applies to undocumented immigrants, then the Fourth Amendment and all of them for that matter apply to them as well. 

Southaven attorneys have a different point of view. According to the Washington Post, attorney Katherine S. Kerby wrote, “If he ever had Fourth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment civil rights, they were lost by his own conduct and misconduct. Ismael Lopez may have been a person on American soil but he was not one of the ‘We, the People of the United States’ entitled to the civil rights invoked in this lawsuit.”

We shall see how this case plays out in court.

Watch the full news report below.

READ: Advocacy Groups Suing ICE For Mass Raid In Tennessee, Claiming They Violated Workers’ Constitutional Rights