Things That Matter

A Trump Immigration Judge Threatened A Toddler With An Unreal Punishment If He Didn’t Settle Down

If President Donald Trump had a Glassdoor profile for his administration, it would not be a positive one. Consider for a moment all of the people that have come and gone since his election (even prior). The man has seriously had an influx of employees that have been fired, arrested, tried in court, and some that have just vanished. The most surprising aspect about this revolving door of employees is that regardless of the job title, Trump can always find someone else for that job no matter if they’re qualified for that job or not. One of his latest hires — not for National Security Adviser John Bolton who just got fired yesterday — but rather an immigration judge sure has a murky past. (Maybe they forgot to do a background check?) 

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.

We know the type of people Trump likes on his side, including racists types such as Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, who he pardoned in 2017. And let’s not forget Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Shall we go on?

READ: Judge Says Immigration Officials Didn’t Follow Protocol With DREAMer Jessica Colotl

Doctors And Nurses Protested Outside CBP Office Demanding Flu Shots For Migrant Kids, Many Were Arrested

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Doctors And Nurses Protested Outside CBP Office Demanding Flu Shots For Migrant Kids, Many Were Arrested

@WendyFry_ / Twitter

United States Customs and Border Protection would not allow a group of doctors access to provide flu vaccines to children in a San Diego detention center. At least three children, according to the Guardian, have recently died in immigration custody due to the flu. They were ages two, six, and 16. 

Just recently, the death of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez garnered national attention when ProPublica uncovered surveillance footage that revealed Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials did not appropriately tend to his flu symptoms. 

Groups like Doctors for Camp Closure, Families Belong Together, and Never Again Action participated in a protest and effort to provide children detained by CBP the vaccines. 

“We see this as medical negligence on the part of the US government,” said Dr Bonnie Arzuaga, co-founder of Doctors for Camp Closure, told the Guardian. “People are being held in close confinement and usually are under a lot of physical and emotional stress … and maybe malnourished and may not have access to hygiene supplies. That puts them at risk.”

Physicians were turned away at a Chula Vista border patrol station.

A group of licensed doctors went to the detention center to run a free flu clinic. CBP would not allow them in. The agents said it was not “feasible” to offer any migrants medical assistance.  

“More people will die without the vaccine,” Dr Hannah Janeway, an emergency medicine physician that was turned away told the Guardian. “There’s no doubt. They are being locked in cages in cold weather together, without any vaccination, in a year that is supposed to bring a horrible flu epidemic.”

Janeway also works with asylum seekers in Tijuana and believes the government has a moral obligation to provide vaccinations to children. 

 “Our government, who is creating these conditions and allowing them to persist, is basically saying some people’s lives are worth more than others, and it’s OK for children to die,” Janeway said. 

Doctors have repeatedly been turned down by CBP. 

Doctors have mobilized for over a month in an attempt to allow the US to vaccinate migrants. In November, they made a formal proposal to operate a free pilot clinic. CBP rejected the proposal alleging it is too logistically difficult to set up because of time constraints. 

“[Migrant detainees] should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours,” CBP spokesman Matthew Dyman told the Guardian in an email. “Every effort is made to hold detainees for the minimum amount of time required.”

Dyman asserted that the larger system in place provides adequate medical care to migrants who are in detention centers for the long-term. However, government records prove that both adults and children are often detained for longer than 72 hours, in crowded conditions — sometimes held for weeks without explanation. 

“It has never been a CBP practice to administer vaccines and this not a new policy,” an official statement from CBP said. “Individuals in CBP custody should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours in either CBP hold rooms or holding facilities. As a law enforcement agency, and due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and other logistical challenges, operating a vaccine program is not feasible.”

52 people protest in front of CBP facility demanding to be allowed to provide medical care. 

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, at least 52 people, largely licensed doctors and medical students, marched from Vista Terrace Neighborhood Park to the detention facility demanding to be let in or to let the children out to receive vaccines from a mobile clinic they set up. 

“We have the team here. We have the vaccines. It would not take 72 hours to do,” said Dr. Mario Mendoza, a retired anesthesiologist who was present. “What I can say is we are not leaving here until they let us enter. We are doctors. We are against death and we are for humanity.” 

Mendoza is an immigrant from El Salvador. He fled the dangerous country because his mother was an advocate for teacher’s rights — a noble cause that put her life in danger. 

“My heart hurts a lot for the immigrants that are here, both the adults and the children. I came here undocumented from El Salvador in 1981. We ran for 12 hours through the desert. We survived only by the grace of God and the strength of my mother,” said Mendoza. 

Doctors are arguing that it doesn’t matter how long migrants are detained, they should be entitled to life-saving services. Dr. Arzuaga believes that all CBP has to do is let them in. Others feel the fact that CBP won’t allow them to provide services is a testament of how they have dehumanized migrants altogether. 

“They are having difficulty prioritizing something like this, because they have so far dehumanized people. My question is, why not?” Danielle Deines, a neonatologist at the protest. “If you want to hold people in detention, you can provide people the basic flu vaccine … You’re saying death is acceptable to you, and that you don’t value human life.”

This Guatemalan Mom Was Separated From Her Son At The Border After Enduring A Gunshot To The Face

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This Guatemalan Mom Was Separated From Her Son At The Border After Enduring A Gunshot To The Face

@ajplus / Twitter

In an exclusive interview with People Magazine, a 32-year-old Guatemalan woman recounts her experience fleeing her home country in August 2017 after being shot in the face at a demonstration. Not only does the woman—who goes by the false name Daniella—describe the event that catalyzed her desire to leave Guatemala, but she tells of the many months spent traveling north, and the many months spent in a detention center after reaching the border, separated from her young son.

On August 9, 2017, Daniella and her son, Carlos, were leaving their family’s house when they encountered a large protest against a new measure that would require people to pay for water. At first the protest was peaceful—but then bullets started flying through the air. Daniella and Carlos were just passing through, but a bullet had caught Daniella in two parts of her body: the left arm, and right below the eye.

“I threw my arm around Carlos to protect him—he was covered in blood, and I started to panic,” she told People. “Little did I know that the one bleeding was me.”

Because of rampant corruption in that part of Guatemala, Daniella knew that the police wouldn’t come—they were told not to interfere. So vigilant were certain members of the demonstration that Daniella’s father received a threatening call before she even made it to a hospital. The caller told her father that if they filed a report, he would kill the whole family. Later she learned that the man who had shot her lived just three blocks away from her mother. Fortunately, when she made it to the hospital, her husband—who had moved the the U.S. five years earlier to find work, sent money for the expenses.

After more than a week in the hospital, both bullets remain in Daniella’s body to this day.

“The doctor said that if they were taken out, I could be left in a vegetative state, or I could die,” she said. “To this day I still feel pain.”

After this harrowing experience, Daniella decided that it was time to follow in her husband’s footsteps and flee to the U.S. She knew that the journey would be anything but easy, but she could have never guessed how nightmarish a month lay ahead. Traveling by truck and by bus, there were many nights spent on the side of the road. When they finally made it to the Arizona border, they were not dropped off at an immigration center, as she had expected. Instead, she and Carlos were told to climb a tree, then jump from the tree to the border wall. From there, they could reach the other side.

“I told Carlos, ‘Mijo, you have to jump.’ He was so afraid that he wouldn’t move,” she said. “I looked into my son’s eyes, and I said, ‘Son, please trust me. Everything’s going to be all right.’

After they had both made it safely to the other side, they took just a few steps before the Border Patrol arrived. They were taken into custody and dropped off at “La Hielera”—The Icebox. There, Daniella was forced to sign papers she didn’t understand, and the officer who was present told her that the children would be taken to a shelter, then given up for adoption. Naturally, all the mothers were desperately frightened by this news.

Before leaving for court that same day, Daniella said goodbye to Carlos, unsure if they would ever see each other again. She told People Magazine that she held her son and said: “You’re a champion, Papa, and you’re always going to be in my heart.”

The mothers were not immediately told the whereabouts of their children. But five months after being moved to Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, Daniella learned that Carlos was in a New Jersey foster home.

A few months later, Daniella had her official court hearing. Her bail was posted at $30,000, and after filing an appeal to extend the bail deadline, Daniella was released from custody. She had been detained for 11 months.

The organization Immigrant Families Together had gathered the money for Daniella’s bail, and they helped her get back on her feet by providing her with food and clean clothes. They also took her to the airport to fly to Virginia, where Carlos had relocated to live with his uncle, her brother.

Daniella’s story isn’t unique—roughly 30,000 people are detained in the U.S. on a given day, and these numbers have seen major upticks throughout 2019. What makes Daniella’s story remarkable is her reunion with Carlos. Many families who have been separated at the border are not nearly as lucky.

While she and Carlos continue to deal with the psychological trauma of this experience, Daniella is grateful and focused on the future.

“Without the assistance from all the people that helped me, I wouldn’t be free,” said Daniella. “Now my only focus is my family, my son, starting a new life here in California . . . I don’t have to worry about being shot again or putting my son’s life in danger.”