Things That Matter

A New Investigation Uncovered Another 1500 Children Separated By Trump Zero Tolerance Policy

During two months in 2018, the Trump Administration inflicted the separation of undocumented families at the border who were seeking asylum or attempting to cross the southern country line. The policy was called “zero-tolerance,” and at the time of the announcement, former General Jeff Sessions firmly stated at the border that “If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple.” He also added, “If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.” That’s exactly what they did. When all was said in done, after the uproar of seeing crying children being taken away from their families and placed in cages, federal courts ordered the Trump Administration to end the policy. The government initially admitted that they had separated almost 3,000 kids from their parents. It turns out they were way, way off. 

A new report shows that the Trump Administration separated 1,556 more children on top of the 2,737 children they previously had admitted to releasing.

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On Oct. 24, after a federal judge ordered the government to release data about the children that were separated in 2018 in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) finally got the figures after six months. 

“The Trump administration admitted to a federal court that it ripped an additional 1,556 parents and children from each other under its illegal family separation policy,” the ACLU said in a statement. 

The court order came after the ACLU sued the government for information on the children after an earlier report in which the government admitted they didn’t know exactly how many children were separated, but it was probably “thousands.”

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In January, the Department of Health and Human Services and the inspector general said they couldn’t know for sure how many children were separated because they didn’t have proper records

“The total number and current status of all children separated from their parents or guardians by United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and referred to Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) care is unknown,” the report states. That report is what prompted the lawsuit from the ACLU demanding a thorough investigation to find those children. 

Lee Gelernt, lead attorney in the family separation lawsuit and deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, had this reaction to the final figures: “It is shocking that 1,556 more families — including babies and toddlers — join the thousands of others already torn apart by this inhumane and illegal policy. Families have suffered tremendously, and some may never recover. The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated.”

The ACLU has been diligently working hard on finding the children and also suing the government for the trauma they caused the separated families.

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The ACLU filed the class action lawsuit — Ms. L v. ICE — against the government for illegally separating families and instilling lifelong trauma on the victims. 

“The suffering and trauma inflicted on these little children and parents is horrific,” Gelernt said in a statement. “Tragically, it could take years for these families to heal. Some may never recover, but we are fighting to give them a chance.”

The “Zero-Tolerance” Policy began in April 2018 and was forced to end in June 2018. In just that short time, so much damage was caused on vulnerable people seeking asylum. 

While the policy was supposed to end in June of 2018, it was reported that families were still being separated long after that. A New York Times article said that at least 900 families were separated after June 2018.

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“The administration is still doing family separation under the guise that they are protecting children from their parents, even though the criminal history they are citing is either wrong or shockingly minor,” Gelernt told the New York Times in July. “This is just circumventing the court’s order.”

During a panel at a Forbes event, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was in charge during this period, said she had no regrets over making sure the “zero-tolerance” policy was being enforced because she was doing her job. The only reason she left her post was that she was saying “no” too much. 

“I don’t regret enforcing the law, because I took an oath to do that,” Nielsen said, according to CNN. She added that she was there to “enforce the law, not to separate families.”

READ: Government Officials Report That Reuniting Separated Families Will Take Two Years

Mexico Pushes Back Against Migrant Caravan: Children Are Missing And Families Separated

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Mexico Pushes Back Against Migrant Caravan: Children Are Missing And Families Separated

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Last week news broke that another migrant caravan was forming in Honduras, in an attempt to safely cross Guatemala and Mexico on the way to the United States. Immediately, the reports were met with a mix of panic and indignity among Central American leaders who vowed to stop the caravan before reaching the US-Mexican border.

And it looks like that plan has been put into motion. Although Guatemala allowed many migrants through its territory, upon reaching the border with Mexico, many migrants were turned away, or worse.

A caravan of nearly 3,000 people has been met with force as they’ve tried to cross into Mexico from Guatemala.

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According to Guatemala, at least 4,000 people entered from Honduras since Wednesday, making for one of the biggest surges since three Central American governments signed agreements with the Trump administration giving them more of the responsibility for dealing with migrants. Even though these exact same countries are ill-equipped to handle the influx of migrants – let alone fight back against their country’s own poverty, violence, and corruption that force many migrants to flee in the first place.

Mexican government officials ordered them to block entry into the country. 

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute issued a statement saying it would detain any migrants without legal status, and deport them if they couldn’t legalize their status. 

Video footage showed scattered groups of migrants throwing rocks at a few members of the National Guard militarized police who were on the banks of the river attempting to thwart illegal crossings, while hundreds of others ran past into Mexico.

Hopes were raised on Friday after Mexican President AMLO announced that there were 4,000 jobs along the southern border available to migrants.

The day after AMLO’s statement regarding possible job opportunities, more than 1,000 migrants attempted to cross into Mexico. According to the country’s National Institute of Migration (INM), each migrant was interviewed and told about opportunities with two government development programs. which will be implemented along the southern border and in both El Salvador and Honduras.

Meanwhile, as migrants waited to be processed for entry into Mexico, a loudspeakers warned migrants against applying for asylum in the US. However, many migrants are doubtful when it comes to Mexico’s offer of work.

“I don’t believe that. It is a lie,” one migrant told Al Jazeera. “They are just trying to find a means trap us and to debilitate the caravan.”

The violence at the Mexico-Guatemala border has left children separated from their families as crowds were sent fleeing from pepper spray.

Credit: Jeff Abbott / Flickr

As Mexican security forces launched tear gas and pepper spray into a crowd of migrants attempting to enter the country – hundreds were forced to flee. The ensuing chaos left children lost without their parents and mothers and fathers desperately searching for their children.

A Reuters witness spoke to at least two mothers said their children went missing amid the chaos, as the migrants on Mexican soil scattered in an attempt to avoid being detained by Mexican officials.

“We didn’t come to stay here. We just want to cross to the other side,” said Ingrid, 18, a Honduran migrant. “I don’t want to go back to my country because there is nothing there, just hunger.”

Many have harsh words for Mexico’s President AMLO – calling him a puppet and a coward.

Although most agree that every country has the right to enforce its own immigration laws, many are upset with AMLO for the way his administration has cracked down on Central American migrants. Many see the crackdown as little more than bowing to pressure from Trump – turning him into a puppet of the US.

So what should AMLO do when dealing with unauthorized migrants and pressure from a US President?

First, violence and attacks on migrants simply crossing territory should never be on the table. Second, AMLO’s administration should let the caravan reach the US-border and let the asylum process play out as it was meant to do under international law. Just because Trump wants AMLO to join him in breaking international norms, doesn’t mean he should.

But many doubt that will ever happen. Neither of these presidents, Trump nor AMLO, will change course to support legal asylum claims.

So what’s next? Will Mexico relent and agree to pay for Trump’s border wall? Don’t dismiss the idea, not when the Mexican president has so far carried out Trump’s every whim.

Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

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Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

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Tuesday marked a new era of leadership in Guatemala as the Latin country swore in Alejandro Giammattei, a conservative doctor and former prison system director from the right-wing Vamos party. The 63-year-old won the presidency on his fourth attempt back in August with bold promises of changing a corrupt government and restoring the rule-of-law in city streets. 

“Today, we are putting a full stop on corrupt practices so they disappear from the face of this country,” Giammattei said at his swearing-in ceremony that had a five-hour delay.

His ceremony somewhat overshadowed by delays and protests against ex-President Jimmy Morales, who for four years dodged accusations of corruption. The scene of protestors throwing eggs and voicing anger at the outgoing administration was a reminder of the displeasure against the country’s deep-seated political corruption. It’s also a key reason why many are looking to Giammattei to bring change to the struggling country. 

As Giammattei takes office, there are questions on what his presidency will mean to Guatemala in the short and long term as issues over the future of an asylum deal with the United States comes into focus. 

One of the biggest issues confronting Guatemala and one that Giammattei will have to address early is the Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA) that was signed by Morales last July with the U.S. government. The agreement, which was highly opposed in Guatemala, lets U.S. immigration officials send Honduran and Salvadoran migrants that are requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border to apply for protection here instead. There is now increasing skepticism as reports say that the U.S. wants to expand the deal to include Mexican asylum seekers as well.

Last year, there were many Guatemalans that were part of a 3,000 migrant caravan that made its way up from Latin America to the U.S. The caravan consisted of people that were looking to claim asylum and became a symbol of the growing migration crisis at the southern border. President Trump frequently attacked the caravan and eventually threatened to impose tariffs on Guatemala if it didn’t agree to the asylum deal.

According to the Guatemalan Migration Institute, “as of Friday, 128 Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers had been sent as part of the agreement,” with only a limited number actually applying for asylum there and others returning home. Giammattei has previously said that he’s willing to make changes to the agreement but on Tuesday said he would revisit details later. 

The country, one of Latin America’s poorest nations, is a key part of President Trump’s plan to curb illegal immigration and asylum claims. mostly from those coming to the U.S. Southern border. The issue for many living in Guatemala is how to let those seeking asylum when itself has become a major source of U.S. bound migrants. 

Poverty levels have only grown in the last 20 years and income inequality levels continue to be a big problem in the country. 

One of the big platform issues that Giammattei ran his campaign on was helping the shorten income inequality gap and poverty levels that have only grown in the last 20 years. Fifty-nine percent of Guatemalan citizens live below the poverty line and almost 1 million children under the age of 5 are believed to live with chronic malnutrition, according to the AP. 

There is also the rampant problem of street violence and cartel gangs that have had a major effect on the daily lives of many in the country. Giammattei plans to address this with reforms that include designating “street gangs as terrorist groups.”

“This is the moment to rescue Guatemala from the absurd. It is the moment to combat corruption and malnutrition,” Giammattei said on Tuesday in his first address to the country as president. “There is no peace without security, I will present a law that aims to declare street gangs for what they are – terrorist groups.”

There is hope that Giammattei will turn a new page in Guatemala that will see change come to all in the country that has faced uncertainty for years. But only time will tell if this is indeed new leadership or business as usual.

“We will bring back the peace this country so dearly needs,” Giammattei said. “We will govern with decency, with honourability, and with ethical values.”

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