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“Nazis separated me from my parents as a child. The trauma lasts a lifetime.”

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In the Guardian Yoka Verdoner writes from personal experience, the same sort of experience the Trump administration is giving thousands of children from families seeking asylum in the US:

The events occurring now on our border with Mexico, where children are being removed from the arms of their mothers and fathers and sent to foster families or “shelters”, make me weep and gnash my teeth with sadness and rage. I know what they are going through. When we were children, my two siblings and I were also taken from our parents. And the problems we’ve experienced since then portend the terrible things that many of these children are bound to suffer.

My family was Jewish, living in 1942 in the Netherlands when the country was occupied by the Nazis. We children were sent into hiding, with foster families who risked arrest and death by taking us in. They protected us, they loved us, and we were extremely lucky to have survived the war and been well cared for.

Yet the lasting damage inflicted by that separation reverberates to this day, decades hence.

Have you heard the screams and seen the panic of a three-year-old when it has lost sight of its mother in a supermarket? That scream subsides when mother reappears around the end of the aisle.

This is my brother writing in recent years. He tries to deal with his lasting pain through memoir. It’s been 76 years, yet he revisits the separation obsessively. He still writes about it in the present tense:

In the first home I scream for six weeks. Then I am moved to another family, and I stop screaming. I give up. Nothing around me is known to me. All those around me are strangers. I have no past. I have no future. I have no identity. I am nowhere. I am frozen in fear. It is the only emotion I possess now. As a three-year-old child, I believe that I must have made some terrible mistake to have caused my known world to disappear. I spend the rest of my life trying desperately not to make another mistake.

My brother’s second foster family cared deeply about him and has kept in touch with him all these years. Even so, he is almost 80 years old now and is still trying to understand what made him the anxious and dysfunctional person he turned into as a child and has remained for the rest of his life: a man with charm and intelligence, yet who could never keep a job because of his inability to complete tasks. After all, if he persisted he might make a mistake again, and that would bring his world to another end.

My younger sister was separated from our parents at five. She had no understanding of what was going on and why she suddenly had to live with a strange set of adults. She suffered thereafter from lifelong, profound depression.

I was older: seven. I was more able than my siblings to understand what was happening and why. I spent most of the war with Dick and Ella Rijnders. Dick was mayor of a small, rural village, and he and Ella lived in a beautiful house next to a wide waterway. Ella had a warm smile and Dick referred to me as his “oldest daughter”. I was able to go to school normally, make friends, and became part of village life. I was extraordinarily lucky, but I was not with my own parents, sister, and brother. And, eventually, I also had to leave the Rijnders, my loving second “family”. I was returning to my own family, but this meant another separation.

In later life, I was never able to really settle down. I lived in different countries and was successful in work, but never able to form lasting relationships with partners. I never married. I almost forgot to mention my own anxiety and depression, and my many years in psychotherapy.

My grief and anger about today’s southern border come not just from my personal life. As a retired psychotherapist who has worked extensively with victims of childhood trauma, I know all too well what awaits many of the thousands of children, taken by our government at the border, who are now in “processing centers” and foster homes – no matter how decent and caring those places might be. We can expect thousands of lives to be damaged, for many years or for ever, by “zero tolerance”. We can expect old men and women, decades from now, still suffering, still remembering, still writing in the present tense.

What is happening in our own backyard today is as evil and criminal as what happened to me and my siblings as children in Nazi Europe. It needs to be stopped immediately.

Trump has made a change that will allow him to blame the courts. Read this post by Kevin Drum.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2018 at 3:09 pm

The End of Civil Rights

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Vann R. Newkirk II reports in the Atlantic:

The fires on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, had barely stopped burning when the Department of Justice released an extraordinary report on the city’s police department. In the findings of the 2015 investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division detailed how a municipality had built its social contract on a slow-rolling racist heist. Activists hoped that the Ferguson report—which was prompted by the 2014 police killing of an unarmed black teenager and found that police conduct had “severely damaged the relationship between African Americans and the Ferguson Police Department”—would not only change the city, but would signal that the United States was finally willing to confront the legacy of white supremacy. The Ferguson City Council reluctantly agreed to a consent decree with the DOJ that would overhaul city policing. Federal courts rejected voter-suppression schemes and reaffirmed affirmative action. Movements from Black Lives Matter to LGBTQ advocacy saw an opportunity to broaden the national civil-rights agenda.

Then Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III took over.

More than a year has elapsed since Sessions, formerly a senator from Alabama, was appointed U.S. attorney general by President Donald Trump. For the Trump administration, much of the last 18 months has been spent fighting the fires of one scandal after the next, and watching as the sprawling investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election—led by Sessions’s own department—has threatened to consume Washington. In that particular drama, the president and his attorney general have clashed. Trump has openly insulted Sessions, claiming that Sessions took a “weak position” on investigating intelligence leaks, and saying that he “would have quickly picked someone else” had he known how Sessions would handle the Russia investigation.

But behind the scenes, even as the president has agitated in public about firing his attorney general, Sessions is the true architect of much of what people believe to be Trump’s domestic-policy agenda. As implemented in recent decisions to curtail asylum grants, ramp up immigration enforcement, and dial back criminal-justice reform and voting-rights protections, this agenda is more than just the reversal of policies enacted during the Barack Obama era, which Trump promised during his campaign. Rather, from the Black Belt in Alabama in the 1980s to the farthest reaches of the border fence today, the Sessions Doctrine is the endgame of a long legal tradition of undermining minority civil rights.

The Sessions Doctrine has moved somewhat suddenly to the forefront of the national conversation in the wake of aggressive moves by the Justice Department against immigration. Sessions has recently pushed for changes in the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the immigration-court system embedded within the DOJ. He’s considering ways to force judges to process more deportation cases, changes that several experts say will undoubtedly mean that fewer people receive due process or fair hearings.

The attorney general has also moved to firmly limit asylum grants, and last week announced that he could effectively eliminate the ability of immigrants who face domestic or gang violence back home to successfully apply for asylum. That decision risks sending more vulnerable women and targets of gang violence back to dangerous situations.

The asylum announcement came after a Mother Jones investigation found that a Salvadoran woman pressed into slavery by a gang that had killed her husband had been denied an asylum request under the Obama-era Board of Immigration Appeals in 2016 because her slave labor had constituted “material support” for a terrorist group. In a 2018 decision upholding the denial, the Board of Immigration Appeals reasoned that her denial was justified on the grounds that “any contributions to terrorist organizations further their terrorism.”

That justification—like several other pieces of immigration and asylum policy—is merely a continuance of Obama-era decisions, but the request from the current board to reconsider her protection from deportation is another sign of a shift toward a stark black-and-white view of immigration, and a much more powerful deportation engine. Sessions successfully pushed Trump to end the Obama “catch and release” policy, under which unverified immigrants arrested in the immigration dragnet were let go before trial, and has enforced the “zero tolerance” policy in its place, one detaining all arrested immigrants pending trial. He’s instructed U.S. Attorneys to prioritize prosecuting first-time offenders among undocumented immigrants, and last week cited the Bible in defending the decision to separate mothers and children at the border, telling critics “to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”

When reached by email, a DOJ spokesperson said of the department’s immigration efforts: “In an effort to combat years of neglect and a lack of leadership in the immigration court system, the Justice Department has implemented a number of common-sense reforms designed to reduce the backlog without compromising due process.”

For Paul W. Schmidt, former chairman of EOIR’s Board of Immigration Appeals from 1995 to 2001 and a former EOIR immigration judge, the immigration system has always been vulnerable to naked political plays by the attorney general, but Sessions has so far been the boldest in making such plays. EOIR is “a division of the Justice Department, which is ridiculous,” he says. “You have a biased attorney general who’s jamming more cases into the system, and he reaches down and pulls out individual decisions he doesn’t like—a lot of them relating to asylum-seekers, women, and vulnerable groups—so he can rewrite the law to fit his white-nationalist agenda. It’s basically a kangaroo court.”

Sessions’s immigration agenda extends well beyond his tightening grip over immigration courts and asylum boards. Even in the framework of the Justice Department’s new opioid policy, Sessions made clear he believed that so-called sanctuary cities and unverified immigrants had essentially imported the opioid problem into the U.S. In retaliation for such cities’ continued refusal to enforce strict federal immigration detentions and referrals, Sessions has fought to strip them of certain avenues of federal-grant funding. Under his guidance, the DOJ’s current top civil-rights lawyer has fought to add a controversial citizenship question to the 2020 census, a change that many immigration advocates and researchers believe will make unverified immigrants more vulnerable to raids and reduce response rates among all immigrants, and in the process punish population centers where immigrants are heavily represented.

According to Schmidt, the recent moves on immigration reflect a broader set of priorities that share several common threads. “He’s abandoned prison reform,” Schmidt says. “He’s favoring gerrymandering and other ways of cutting down minority voters. He’s cut protections for LGBT people. Foreign nationals are at the top of his hit list, but basically all vulnerable minorities and people of color are somewhere on his hit list.”

The attorney general didn’t waste any time in making his priorities clear. Upon taking up his office in the Robert F. Kennedy building, just 12 days after his confirmation and swearing in, Sessions issued the first of many memos that would roll back the Obama administration’s criminal-justice priorities. On February 21, 2017, the DOJ rescinded a memo from the previous fall that had pledged to wind down the federal government’s contracts with private prisons. Following years of pressure from criminal-justice advocates, and reporting that outlined massive racial disparitiesrampant abuseespecially of immigrants—and administrative inefficiencies in federal private prisons, the 2016 decision rested on a review from the Office of the Inspector General, which found that “contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable [Federal Bureau of Prisons] institutions.”

In rescinding former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates’s private-prison memo, Sessions did not mention the OIG’s report, or any of the allegations of brutality and misconduct in private prisons. He merely stated that the policy “impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.” With that, the DOJ set the course for an approach to law-and-order that relied more heavily on incarceration, one that pays little attention to data and statistics, and even less attention to the voices of the communities most in need.

In one of his first prepared remarks as attorney general, Sessions outlined his doctrine as such:

Rather than dictating to local police how to do their jobs – or spending scarce federal resources to sue them in court – we should use our money, research and expertise to help them figure out what is happening and determine the best ways to fight crime.


We need to resist the temptation to ignore or downplay this crisis and instead tackle it head-on, to ensure justice and safety for all Americans. We need to enforce our laws and put bad men behind bars. And we need to support the brave men and women of law enforcement as they work day and night to protect us.

But Sessions “has definitely been a force for a regressive approach to criminal justice,” says Inimai Chettiar, the director of the justice program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Since the day he set foot in office, he has one by one repealed the vast majority of items put forward by the Obama administration to advance reforms, not only in policing but with prosecutors and private prisons.”

According to Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division from 2014 to 2017, the pace and extent of retrenchment under the first year of Sessions’s tenure have been extraordinary. “This DOJ and Jeff Sessions are rolling back civil-rights progress and undermining fundamental American values of equality and justice in a fairly unprecedented manner,” Gupta told me. “Across every issue, from criminal-justice reform to voting rights to LGBTQ rights, the attorney general is advancing a vision of America that is narrow, and abdicating some of the Justice Department’s core responsibilities and mandate to ensure equal rights and access to justice for all.”

The Trump administration sees the Trump Doctrine as a negation of the Obama presidency, as Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s editor in chief, reported, or perhaps more crassly, as “the ‘Fuck Obama’ Doctrine.” This portrayal of the current executive line as a hindbrain-level reaction to even the slightest whiff of the White House’s previous occupant makes sense, and is probably the only way to consistently interpret Trump’s wildly impulsive policy gesticulation. But just as Obama himself is tied to a deeper tradition of racial discourse and civil rights in this country, so is his backlash.

The history of voting rights and desegregation in America over the past 50 years—from the civil-rights movement through the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, which to gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act—might be told well by the story of Alabama alone. It is a story in which Sessions’s own career is rooted, and one in which he’s played a central role over the past few decades.

Sessions was only a teenager in 1963, when . . . .

Continue reading.

I have to say that at this point I feel sad for the US. Right now, it seems to have failed.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 June 2018 at 5:21 pm

Fact Checker: The facts about Trump’s policy of separating families at the border

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Salvador Rizzo reports in the Washington Post:

“I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law.”
— President Trump, in remarks to reporters at the White House, June 15

“We have the worst immigration laws in the entire world. Nobody has such sad, such bad and, actually, in many cases, such horrible and tough — you see about child separation, you see what’s going on there.”
— Trump, in remarks at the White House, June 18

“Because of the Flores consent decree and a 9th Circuit Court decision, ICE can only keep families detained together for a very short period of time.”
— Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a speech in Bozeman, Mont., June 7

“It’s the law, and that’s what the law states.”
— White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, at a news briefing, June 14

“We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”
— Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, on Twitter, June 17

The president and top administration officials say U.S. laws or court rulings are forcing them to separate families that are caught trying to cross the southern border.

These claims are false. Immigrant families are being separated primarily because the Trump administration in April began to prosecute as many border-crossing offenses as possible. This “zero-tolerance policy” applies to all adults, regardless of whether they cross alone or with their children.

The Justice Department can’t prosecute children along with their parents, so the natural result of the zero-tolerance policy has been a sharp rise in family separations. Nearly 2,000 immigrant children were separated from parents during six weeks in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The Trump administration implemented this policy by choice and could end it by choice. No law or court ruling mandates family separations. In fact, during its first 15 months, the Trump administration released nearly 100,000 immigrants who were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, a total that includes more than 37,500 unaccompanied minors and more than 61,000 family members.

Children continue to be released to their relatives or to shelters. But since the zero-tolerance policy took effect, parents as a rule are being prosecuted. Any conviction in those proceedings would be grounds for deportation.

We’ve published two fact-checks about family separations, but it turns out these Trumpian claims have a zombie quality and keep popping up in new ways.

In the latest iteration, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted and then said at a White House briefing that the administration does not have “a policy of separating families at the border.” This is Orwellian stuff. Granted, the administration has not written regulations or policy documents that advertise, “Hey, we’re going to separate families.” But that’s the inevitable consequence, as Nielsen and other Trump administration officials acknowledge.

“Operationally what that means is we will have to separate your family,” Nielsen told NPR in May. “That’s no different than what we do every day in every part of the United States when an adult of a family commits a crime. If you as a parent break into a house, you will be incarcerated by police and thereby separated from your family. We’re doing the same thing at the border.”

Although we’ve fact-checked these family-separation claims twice, we hadn’t had the opportunity to assign a Pinocchio rating yet. We’ll do so now.

The Facts

Since 2014, hundreds of thousands of children and families have fled to the United States because of rampant violence and gang activity in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. U.S. laws provide asylum or refugee status to qualified applicants, but the Trump administration says smugglers and bad actors are exploiting these same laws to gain entry. Nielsen says the government has detected hundreds of cases of fraud among migrants traveling with children who are not their own. Trump says he wants to close what he describes as “loopholes” in these humanitarian-relief laws.

The Central American refugee crisis developed during President Barack Obama’s administration and continues under Trump. The two administrations have taken different approaches. The Justice Department under Obama prioritized the deportation of dangerous people. Once he took office, Trump issued an executive order rolling back much of the Obama-era framework.

Obama’s guidelines prioritized the deportation of gang members, those who posed a national security risk and those who had committed felonies. Trump’s January 2017 executive order does not include a priority list for deportations and refers only to “criminal offenses,” which is broad enough to encompass serious felonies as well as misdemeanors.

Then, in April 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled out the zero-tolerance policy.

When families or individuals are apprehended by the Border Patrol, they’re taken into DHS custody. Under the zero-tolerance policy, DHS officials refer any adult “believed to have committed any crime, including illegal entry,” to the Justice Department for prosecution. If they’re convicted, they’re usually sentenced to time served. The next step would be deportation proceedings.

Illegal entry is a misdemeanor for first-time offenders and a conviction is grounds for deportation. Because of Trump’s executive order, DHS can deport people for misdemeanors more easily, because the government no longer prioritizes the removal of dangerous criminals, gang members or national-security threats. (A DHS fact sheet says, “Any individual processed for removal, including those who are criminally prosecuted for illegal entry, may seek asylum or other protection available under law.”)

Families essentially are put on two different tracks. One track ends with deportation. The other doesn’t.

After a holding period, DHS transfers children to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services. They spend an average 51 days at an ORR shelter before they’re placed with a sponsor in the United States, according to HHS. The government is required to place these children with family members whenever possible, even if those family members might be undocumented immigrants. “Approximately 85 percent of sponsors are parents” who were already in the country “or close family members,” according to HHS. Some children have no relatives available, and in those cases the government may keep them in shelters for longer periods of time while suitable sponsors are identified and vetted.

Adding it all up, this means the Trump administration is operating a system in which immigrant families that are apprehended at the border get split up, because children go into a process in which they eventually get placed with sponsors in the country while their parents are prosecuted and potentially deported.

This is a question of Trump and his Cabinet choosing to enforce some laws over others. The legal landscape did not change between the time the Trump administration released nearly 100,000 immigrants during its first 15 months and the time the zero-tolerance policy took effect in April 2018.

What changed was the administration’s handling of these cases.  . .

Continue reading.

More at the link, including a video of Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen regurgitating misinformation.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 June 2018 at 4:06 pm

The Government Has No Plan for Reuniting the Immigrant Families It Is Tearing Apart

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Jonathan Blitzer reports in the New Yorker:

A few days ago, Emily Kephart, a program coördinator at an immigrant-rights group called Kids in Need of Defense, set out to try to find a six-year-old Guatemalan girl who had been separated from her father after arriving in the United States, in May. The pair had been split up as a consequence of the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy at the border, which calls for the criminal prosecution of all migrants, including asylum seekers, who cross the border without turning themselves in to officials at so-called ports of entry. Now the father was in an immigration-detention facility in Arizona, awaiting deportation. He had no idea where his child was. Kephart was put on the case after the father called his family, back in a small town outside of Huehuetenango City, in Guatemala’s western highlands, and his family, in turn, contacted a local nonprofit that works with Kids in Need of Defense.

Every undocumented immigrant who enters government custody is assigned what’s called an alien number. But the girl’s family didn’t know hers. Armed with only the girl’s name and birth date, Kephart dialed a 1-800 hotline set up by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (O.R.R.), the federal body in charge of handling unaccompanied immigrant children. This hotline, Kephart told me, is difficult to access for parents who are in a detention facility (hold times can last half an hour; it’s impossible to leave a call-back number) or who have been deported (international calls are expensive, and 1-800 numbers don’t often work from abroad).

“We hit a dead end,” Kephart said. “The person I spoke with just made a note in the file of the girl they thought it might be. But we didn’t get confirmation that we were talking about the same child. They were looking at the record of someone whose first name was spelled differently, and whose date of birth was a month off.”

In the past two months, the government has taken some two thousand immigrant children away from their parents. Under the zero-tolerance policy, border crossers are arrested and charged with a crime before being placed in immigration detention. If they came with their children, the children are turned over to O.R.R. and treated as though they travelled to the U.S. alone. No protocols have been put in place for keeping track of parents and children concurrently, for keeping parents and children in contact with each other while they are separated, or for eventually reuniting them. Immigration lawyers, public defenders, and advocates along the border have been trying to fill the void.

Kephart had one other lead. The family in Guatemala had the phone number of a children’s shelter run by O.R.R. where they thought that the girl might be. The number had come from a neighbor who had also been separated from a child in the U.S. When Kephart called that shelter, she was told that the girl wasn’t there but that someone with a similar name and date of birth might be at a facility nearby. Eventually, Kephart tracked down a case manager at the second facility. “I told her, ‘Look, I have this situation. I think you have a girl there,’ ” Kephart told me. “The case manager said, ‘Oh, my God, yes!’ The case manager had a kid whose parents she couldn’t find. She was trying to help, but she’d had nothing to go on.”

Although the zero-tolerance policy was officially announced last month, it has been in effect, in more limited form, since at least last summer. Several months ago, as cases of family separation started surfacing across the country, immigrant-rights groups began calling for the Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.), which is in charge of immigration enforcement and border security, to create procedures for tracking families after they are split up. At the time, D.H.S. said that it would address the problem, but there is no evidence that it actually did so. Erik Hanshew, a federal public defender in El Paso, told me that the problems begin at the moment of arrest. “Our client gets arrested with his or her child out in the field. Sometimes they go together at the initial processing, sometimes they get separated right then and there for separate processing,” he said. “When we ask the Border Patrol agents at detention hearings a few days after physical arrest about the information they’ve obtained in their investigation, they tell us that the only thing they know is that the person arrested was with a kid. They don’t seem to know gender, age, or name.”

Jennifer Podkul, who is the policy director of Kids in Need of Defense, told me that advocates are trying to piece together information about the whereabouts of children based on the federal charging documents used in the parent’s immigration case. “You can try to figure out where and when the child was apprehended based on that,” she said. “But where the child is being held often has nothing to do with where she and her parent were arrested. The kids get moved around to different facilities.”

The federal departments involved in dealing with separated families have institutional agendas that diverge. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—the agency at the D.H.S. that handles immigrant parents—is designed to deport people as rapidly as it can, while O.R.R.—the office within the Department of Health and Human Services (H.H.S.) that assumes custody of the kids—is designed to release children to sponsor or foster families in the U.S. Lately, O.R.R. has been moving more slowly than usual, which has resulted in parents getting deported before their children’s cases are resolved. There’s next to no coördination between D.H.S. and H.H.S. “ice detainees are not allowed to receive calls, so any calls need to be individually arranged,” Michelle Brané, of the Women’s Refugee Commission, told me. “A phone call is not a fix for separation. It is a call, often with a very young child. A call is a Band-Aid.” A number of lawyers that I’ve spoken with described personally pressuring individual deportation officers to delay a parent’s deportation until she can be reunified with her child or, failing that, until children and parents can be deported at roughly the same time.

Late last week, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2018 at 4:08 pm

Listen to Children Who’ve Just Been Separated From Their Parents at the Border

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The blurb:

ProPublica has obtained audio from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, in which children can be heard wailing as an agent jokes, “We have an orchestra here.”

Ginger Thompson reports in ProPublica:

The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream “Mami” and “Papá” over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.

The baritone voice of a Border Patrol agent booms above the crying. “Well, we have an orchestra here,” he jokes. “What’s missing is a conductor.”

Then a distraught but determined 6-year-old Salvadoran girl pleads repeatedly for someone to call her aunt. Just one call, she begs anyone who will listen. She says she’s memorized the phone number, and at one point, rattles it off to a consular representative. “My mommy says that I’ll go with my aunt,” she whimpers, “and that she’ll come to pick me up there as quickly as possible.”

An audio recording obtained by ProPublica adds real-life sounds of suffering to a contentious policy debate that has so far been short on input from those with the most at stake: immigrant children. More than 2,300 of them have been separated from their parents since April, when the Trump administration launched its “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which calls for prosecuting all people who attempt to illegally enter the country and taking away the children they brought with them. More than 100 of those children are under the age of 4. The children are initially held in warehouses, tents or big box stores that have been converted into Border Patrol detention facilities.

Condemnations of the policy have been swift and sharp, including from some of the administration’s most reliable supporters. It has united religious conservatives and immigrant rights activists, who have said that “zero tolerance” amounts to “zero humanity.” Democratic and Republican members of Congress spoke out against the administration’s enforcement efforts over the weekend. Former first lady Laura Bush called the administration’s practices “cruel” and “immoral,” and likened images of immigrant children being held in kennels to those that came out of Japanese internment camps during World War II. And the American Association of Pediatricians has said the practice of separating children from their parents can cause the children “irreparable harm.”

Still, the administration had stood by it. President Donald Trump blames Democrats and says his administration is only enforcing laws already on the books, although that’s not true. There are no laws that require children to be separated from their parents, or that call for criminal prosecutions of all undocumented border crossers. Those practices were established by the Trump administration.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has cited passages from the Bible in an attempt to establish religious justification. On Monday, he defended it again saying it was a matter of rule of law, “We cannot and will not encourage people to bring children by giving them blanket immunity from our laws.” A Border Patrol spokesman echoed that thought in a written statement.

In recent days, authorities on the border have begun allowing tightly controlled tours of the facilities that are meant to put a humane face on the policy. But cameras are heavily restricted. And the children being held are not allowed to speak to journalists.

The audio obtained by ProPublica breaks that silence. It was recorded last week inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility. The person who made the recording asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. That person gave the audio to Jennifer Harbury, a well-known civil rights attorney who has lived and worked for four decades in the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border with Mexico. Harbury provided it to ProPublica. She said the person who recorded it was a client who “heard the children’s weeping and crying, and was devastated by it.”

The person estimated that the children on the recording are between 4 and 10 years old. It appeared that they had been at the detention center for less than 24 hours, so their distress at having been separated from their parents was still raw. Consulate officials tried to comfort them with snacks and toys. But the children were inconsolable.

The child who stood out the most was the 6-year-old Salvadoran girl with a phone number stuck in her head. At the end of the audio, a consular official offers to call the girl’s aunt. ProPublica dialed the number she recited in the audio, and spoke with the aunt about the call.

“It was the hardest moment in my life,” she said. “Imagine getting a call from your 6-year-old niece. She’s crying and begging me to go get her. She says, ‘I promise I’ll behave, but please get me out of here. I’m all alone.’”

The aunt said what made the call even more painful was that there was nothing she could do. She and her 9-year-old daughter are seeking asylum in the United States after immigrating here two years ago for the exact same reasons and on the exact same route as her sister and her niece. They are from a small town called Armenia, about an hour’s drive northwest of the Salvadoran capital, but well within reach of its crippling crime waves. She said gangs were everywhere in El Salvador: “They’re on the buses. They’re in the banks. They’re in schools. They’re in the police. There’s nowhere for normal people to feel safe.”

She said her niece and sister set out for the United States over a month ago. They paid a smuggler $7,000 to guide them through Guatemala, and Mexico and across the border into the United States. Now, she said, all the risk and investment seem lost.

The aunt said she worried that any attempt to intervene in her niece’s situation would put hers and her daughter’s asylum case at risk, particularly since the Trump administration overturned asylum protections for victims of gang and domestic violence.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2018 at 3:26 pm

‘I Can’t Go Without My Son,’ a Mother Pleaded as She Was Deported to Guatemala

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The US seems to be a cruel and heartless nation. Miiriam Jordan reports in the NY Times:

They’d had a plan: Elsa Johana Ortiz Enriquez packed up what little she had in Guatemala and traveled across Mexico with her 8-year-old son, Anthony. In a group, they rafted across the Rio Grande into Texas. From there they intended to join her boyfriend, Edgar, who had found a construction job in the United States.

Except it all went wrong. The Border Patrol was waiting as they made their way from the border on May 26, and soon mother and son were in a teeming detention center in southern Texas. The next part unfolded so swiftly that, even now, Ms. Ortiz cannot grasp it: Anthony was sent to a shelter for migrant children. And she was put on a plane back to Guatemala.

“I am completely devastated,” Ms. Ortiz, 25, said in one of a series of video interviews last week from her family home in Guatemala. Her eyes swollen from weeping and her voice subdued, she said she had no idea when or how she would see her son again.

As the federal government continues to separate families as part of a stepped-up enforcement program against those who cross the border illegally, the authorities say that parents are not supposed to be deported without their children. But immigration lawyers say that has happened in several cases. And the separations can be traumatic for parents who now have no clear path to recovering their children.

“From our work on the border, we have seen a significant increase in the number of moms separated from their children, and many of them have reported they didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye before the separation, “ said Laura Tuell, the global pro bono counsel at Jones Day, an international law firm providing assistance to refugees in Texas, whose lawyers spoke with Ms. Ortiz.

“Some of the women we have encountered in detention at the border have reported facing pressure to deport voluntarily in order to be reunified with their children,” she said.

Critics say that Ms. Ortiz’s saga is the latest indication that the administration’s new enforcement strategy was rolled out without adequate planning. The processing and detention of migrant families can involve three Homeland Security agencies — Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Citizenship and Immigration Services — as well as the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services. Poor coordination among them has made it hard to track children and parents once their paths diverge in the labyrinthine system.

[Our reporter visited the largest licensed migrant children’s shelter in Texas, which now houses 1,500 boys in a former Walmart. Read more here.]

“I cannot convey enough how much utter chaos there is,” said Michelle Brané, director of migrant rights and justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission, a research and advocacy organization that monitors immigration issues. “The government does not have a proper system in place to track families and coordinate.”

In some cases, parents and children have gone weeks without being able to communicate with one another and without knowing one anothers’ whereabouts. From April 19 to May 31, a total of 1,995 children who arrived with 1,940 adults were separated from their parents, according to administration officials.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the “zero tolerance” policy officially in early May to stanch the flow of migrants, mainly from Central American countries like Guatemala. It calls for prosecuting nearly all of those who are found to have entered the United States illegally. Previously, most border-crossers who were caught would have faced deportation but not criminal charges, and would not have been separated from their children.

Children whose parents have been arrested are transferred to the custody of the Health and Human Services Department, whose staff screens them, finds housing and remains responsible for them.

From that point, migrant parents and children become separate legal cases in the maze of government bureaucracy, and keeping them linked has proved challenging. Different legal protections are afforded to juveniles and adults in the immigration system, and as a result, reuniting families can take months or longer, several legal experts said.

In federal court, parents typically plead guilty to the misdemeanor offense of illegal entry. Many are then likely to accept “expedited removal” from the country, in the hope of being reunited quickly with their children. But children cannot be subject to expedited removal; they are automatically entitled to a full hearing before an immigration judge, and their cases take longer to resolve.

“Once the parent and child are apart, they are on separate legal tracks,” said John Sandweg, who was acting director of ICE during the Obama administration.

Reunification becomes particularly difficult when a parent is deported without the child and is no longer on American soil, Mr. Sandweg said; in those cases, “there is a very high risk that parents and children will be permanently separated.”

Federal immigration officials say parents are not supposed to be deported without their children, and if this occurs, parents have two options:  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

We would strongly condemn this in another nation, but the US wants to be judged by its sentiments rather than by its actions.

In the meantime, Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen denies the reality of what is happening:

We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.

— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) June 17, 2018

Since she denies that it is happening, she will do nothing to fix it. Welcome to the new US.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2018 at 9:54 am

Trump Again Falsely Blames Democrats for His Family-Separation Tactic

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I’ve never seen a public figure who lies so frequently and so overtly: even after his statements are clearly shown to be lies, he repeats them—and apparently to good effect with his base, who believe everything he says. Julie Hirschfeld Davis reports in the NY Times:

President Trump on Saturday repeated his false assertion that Democrats were responsible for his administration’s policy of separating migrant families apprehended at the border, sticking to a weekslong refusal to publicly accept responsibility for a widely condemned practice that has become a symbol of his crackdown on illegal immigration.

“Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change!” Mr. Trump said in a morning post on Twitter.

It came the day after his administration said that it had taken nearly 2,000 children away from their parents in a six-week period ending last month, as part of a new “zero tolerance” policy that refers for criminal prosecution all immigrants apprehended crossing the border without authorization.

The White House defended the practice this week, saying the president was merely enforcing the law. And in recent speeches around the country, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, has made a spirited case for it, arguing that a strict approach is a vital tool for deterrence.

But Mr. Trump has steadfastly tried to deflect blame for the separation of children from their parents, consistently dissembling about why it is occurring. His comments are the latest example of his asking the public to discount what it sees with its own eyes and instead believe his own self-serving version of reality. They also reflect how politically poisonous the issue has become, as photographs and news articles circulate about the effects of the practice.

“I hate the children being taken away,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Friday in front of the White House during a 45-minute impromptu question-and-answer session on a wide range of topics. “The Democrats have to change their law — that’s their law.”

In fact, there is no law that requires families to be separated at the border. There is a law against “improper entry” at the border, as well as a consent decree known as the Flores settlement that limits to 20 days the amount of time that migrant children may be held in immigration detention, which a federal judge ruled in 2016 also applies to families. A 2008 anti-trafficking statute — signed into law by a Republican president, George W. Bush — also requires that certain unaccompanied alien minors be transferred out of immigration detention in 72 hours. None of those laws or precedents mean that children must be taken away from their parents.

It is the Trump administration’s decision this year to prosecute all unlawful immigrants as criminals that has forced the breakup of families; the children are removed when the parents are taken into federal custody. While previous administrations have made exceptions to such prosecutions for adults traveling with their minor children, the Trump administration has said it will not do so.

An official from the Department of Homeland Security who insisted on anonymity to discuss the policy said on Friday that there are, in fact, exceptions for babies, but could not provide an age cutoff above which a child may be taken from his or her parent. Data reviewed by The New York Times in April indicated that of more than 700 children separated from their parents since October, over 100 had been under the age of 4.

“Our administration has had the same position since we started on Day 1 that we were going to enforce the law,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said on Thursday. “We’re a country of law and order, and we’re enforcing the law and protecting our borders.”

Mr. Trump’s advisers rationalize his statements by

Continue reading.

Immigration offenses are a violation of civil law rather than criminal law, so illegal immigrants are not in fact criminals.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2018 at 8:23 am

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