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

Sonia Sotomayor Calls The Case On DACA’s Fate One Of The Justices Deciding Whether To Destroy Lives

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Sonia Sotomayor Calls The Case On DACA’s Fate One Of The Justices Deciding Whether To Destroy Lives

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While the US Supreme Court’s conservative-majority justices are seemingly ready to allow Trump to rescind Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Justice Sonia Sotomayor clearly stated her opinion that the court’s decision, “is not about the law; this is about our choice to destroy lives.” The 2012 policy shields immigrants, who were brought to the United States as children without documentation, from deportation and allows them to work for up to two years at a time. Research shows that DACA has reduced the number of undocumented immigrants living in poverty, and has improved mental health status for DACA participants and their children. The Trump administration rescinded DACA protections for nearly 700,000 recipients in 2017. 

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments to end DACA and is expected to deliver a decision by Spring 2020.

Two memos lie at the heart of the decision.

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The first memo was begrudgingly given by then Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine C. Duke. Duke’s volunteer history included offering legal aid to immigrants. During a White House meeting with Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, she was pressured to issue a memo that would end DACA. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Duke that DACA was illegal, on the grounds of it exceeding presidential power. Duke issued a bare-bones memo that offered no policy reason for the end of DACA, except that it was unlawful. She later resigned.

Her replacement, Kirstjen Nielsen, retroactively justified the decision with a second memo, which included a new reason to end DACA: to project a message of consistency of enforcement of all immigration laws.

Now, US solicitor general Noel Francisco is arguing that Obama’s decision to introduce DACA exceeded presidential power.

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“Basic administrative law is you look at what’s first given to you,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor told Francisco, not “what you add later.” Still, she said that even if “you ignore that and even look at the Nielsen memo, I think my colleagues have rightly pointed there’s a whole lot of reliance interests that weren’t looked at.” What’s crucial to this decision, according to Sotomayor, is that President Trump had told “DACA-eligible people that they were safe under him and that he would find a way to keep them here. And so he hasn’t and, instead, he’s done this.” 

In 2017, Trump tweeted, in reference to DACA recipients, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?”

Trump tweeted Tuesday that DACA recipients are “far from angels.”

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“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels,'” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “Some are very tough, hardened criminals. President Obama said he had no legal right to sign order, but would anyway. If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!”

A major requirement for DACA recipients is that they have no criminal record. “Trump is fear-mongering and falsely accusing people of color,” Dr. Eugene Gu tweeted. “Many DACA recipients are doctors, lawyers, professors, scientists, teachers, and integral members of society. Many have never set foot in their original countries for their whole lives and speak mainly English. Threatening to deport them through racist fear-mongering is evil.”

The events leading up to the memo led Sotomayor to believe “that this is not about the law; this is about our choice to destroy lives.”

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Trump’s promise to protect DACA recipients during his campaign and his about-face is “something to be considered before you rescind a policy. Not just say I’ll give you six months to do it – to destroy your lives.” At the end of the day, Sotomayor is pointing out that Francisco’s argument is not evident in the memos. “Where is all of this in the memo? Where is all of this really considered and weighed? And where is the political decision made clearly,” she asked. Sotomayor concluded, “that this is not about the law; this is about our choice to destroy lives.”

Sotomayor also argued that DACA simply allows law enforcement agencies to prioritize its use of its limited resources.

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“I have always had some difficulty in understanding the illegality of DACA,” Sotomayor offered her opinion. “We all know [ICE] has limited resources. It can’t, even when it wants to remove the vast majority of aliens we have here. And so I’ve always had some difficulty in understanding what’s wrong with an agency saying, we’re going to prioritize our removals, and for those people, like the DACA people who haven’t committed crimes, who are lawfully employed, who are paying taxes, who pose no threat to our security, and there’s a whole list of prerequisites, we’re not going to exercise our limited resources to try to get rid of those people. I — I still have an impossible time.”

Oh, and Sotomayor was interrupted numerous times by Francisco and her male peers.

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A 2017 Northwestern Pritzker School of Law study found that male justices interrupt female justices three times as often as each other during oral arguments. The study also found that conservative justices were twice as likely to interrupt liberal justices than liberal justices were to interrupt their conservative peers. According to Supreme Court transcripts, Justice Sotomayor was interrupted by Justice Neil Gorsuch. The two both awkwardly apologized to each other when Sotomayor graciously told Gorsuch, “No, no, continue.”

When Justice Sotomayor was in the middle of her arguments, General Francisco interrupted her, saying, “So I guess I have three responses, Your Honor.” Sotomayor bluntly said, “All right. But let me just finish my question.” Francisco casually said, “Oh, sure,” to which Sotomayor incredulously asked, “Okay?” “Yeah,” Francisco responded to the Justice.

A decision is expected to be made public by Spring 2020.

READ: Justice Sonia Sotomayor Breaks New Two-Minute Rule By Interrupting Lawyer During Immigration Case

Supreme Court Hearing Arguments For DACA, Leaning Towards Elimination

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Supreme Court Hearing Arguments For DACA, Leaning Towards Elimination

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The United States Supreme Court heard over an hour and a half of arguments Tuesday on whether or not the Trump administration can end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The case has been brewing since the Trump administration first announced plans to end the Obama-era program in 2017. As of early reporting, it seems the justices are pretty closely split with the conservative members of the court seemingly leaning towards ending the program.

The Supreme Court heard more than an hour and a half of oral arguments in favor and against the preservation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The Obama-era program gave deportation relief, driver’s licenses, work permits, and access to student loans for hundreds of thousands of young people in the U.S. Despite Trump consistently telling the media that the issue of DACA will be handled with heart, the president’s former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced the end of the program in 2017.

According to The New York Times, Trump moved to end the program because of “the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system.” Sessions stated that the program had “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”

Plaintiffs and attorneys for DACA left the Supreme Court today and chanted with thousands of protesters demanding the preservation of the program.

“Home is here! Home is here,” the crowd can be heard chanting as the plaintiffs all left the Supreme Court. The arguments helped determine where certain justices fall on the issue of preserving DACA and protecting hundreds of thousands of young people from being deported from the only home they know.

NBC News reports that the nine justices are closely divided on the issue with all of the conservative justices seemingly leaning against it. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh asking questions that seemed to confirm their alignment with the Trump administration’s decision. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer appear to be in favor of preserving the program. The deciding vote might come from Justice John Roberts, who in the court’s last term ruled against the Trump administration’s wish to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

A majority of Americans support the DACA program and the recipients who benefit from it.

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Selena Gomez recently debuted a new docu-series highlighting the lives of undocumented people in the U.S. The show has given new perspective to the immigration debate that has been raging in the U.S. for decades.

More than 60 percent of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center also favor a pathway for citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. That poll found that 48 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

All eyes are on the Supreme Court as more than 600,000 DACA recipients wait to know their fate.

With such overwhelming support, it would seem that passing legislation to protect DACA recipients would be easy. However, Democratic Representation Lucille Roybal-Allard of California introduced a bill in March of this year called The American Dream and Promise Act. The bill would enshrine the protections offered by DACA into law. The bill passed the House of Representatives on June 4 and is awaiting a vote from the Senate. However, the Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, has refused to take a vast array of bills up for a vote in an increasingly partisan pushback.

DACA and the lives of undocumented people in the U.S. are being evaluated at the highest court of the land today.

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Americans overwhelmingly support the program. The president has used this vulnerable community as a political pawn. At one point, the president was willing to offer DACA protections in exchange for border wall funding.

The nation is watching the Supreme Court closely as they are waiting to hear the fate of hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S.

Students in Los Angeles joined in with major walkouts to demonstrate in favor of DACA and their peers benefitting from the program. We are all waiting to hear how the Supreme Court rules on this issue.

Check back with mitú as this story develops.

READ: Luis Cortes Is The 31-Year-Old Dreamer Attorney Fighting To Save DACA In The Supreme Court Case