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Saturday, July 21, 2018


Trump boosts manufacturing of orphans

by Tom Sullivan

The Trump administration has returned only a small fraction of separated children to their parents.

The court-imposed deadline is less than a week away for the Trump administration to reunite migrant families it forcibly separated a the border as part of its "zero tolerance" approach to refugees. The administration missed a deadline last week for reuniting children under five with their parents. Of the more than twenty-five hundred children in government detention, only 450 between the ages of 5 and 17 have reunited with their parents ahead of the July 26 deadline.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security that found it easy to take children from their parents' arms at U.S.-Mexico border stations find it much more difficult to reunite them. DHS personnel admitted weeks ago that records linking parents and their children have disappeared and in some case destroyed (a DHS spokesperson disputes this). HHS requested volunteers to help pore through case records to match children with their parents.

The Trump administration admitted Thursday while it had found 1,606 parents "potentially eligible" for reunification with their children, another 900 have been classified ineligible.

CNN reported on Thursday:

Of the parents the government claims are ineligible for reunification, two are in state or federal custody, 136 "waived" reunification rights when interviewed, 91 had a criminal record or were otherwise deemed ineligible. But, the largest group -- mostly likely to cause further questions -- are 679 that require "further evaluation."
Talking Points Memo adds:
On Monday, an HHS official took the witness stand and revealed under questioning that the administration has not been able to identify the parents of 71 children. There is no reference to that group in Thursday’s filing. The filing also contained no information about parents who have already been deported without their children. The administration promised to provide that data to the court and the ACLU sometime on Friday, including the date of the deportation, the parents’ home country, and the last place they were detained in the United States.

In the same joint status report, the American Civil Liberties Union complained that the government has refused to give them the information it needs to contact parents and inform them of their legal rights. In particular, the attorneys say they are concerned about the roughly 700 parents in the class who have a final order of removal, and may be swiftly deported just after they are reunified.
Thus, Trump's America treats destitute refugees seeking asylum by making orphans of their children.

Barbara Hines, a retired clinical law professor from the University of Texas School of Law, describes for the Austin American-Statesman the detention system for asylum seekers as the tip of the iceberg in a sprawling system of mostly for-profit private facilities housing 40,000 immigrants daily:
An utter lack of transparency and incompetence have been hallmarks of detention. The disorganized reunification process of separated children is clear evidence. The focus on abducted children has highlighted problems that immigration advocates — including myself — have complained about for years. Abhorrent conditions, sexual abuse, inadequate food, lack of medical care and deaths in detention have been repeatedly documented. Although nothing in the system changes, the administration has pushed for expanded and longer detention.

Immigrants arrested in South Texas have always been held in freezing and crowded cage-like cells. Only now has this hidden gulag sprung into public vision.

In most facilities, immigrants in the so-called civil system are clothed in prison jump suits. They are transferred at will across the country from one detention center to another, even when they have legal representation. For example, separated parents were moved from Laredo, Texas, to Tacoma, Washington. Indigenous-language speakers cannot convey their legal claims or find their children. There are insufficient interpreters for this population, and phone interpretation lines are frequently broken. Attorneys must communicate with clients by leaving messages that may never be delivered. Waiting times to see clients can be up to three hours, and attorneys must share the few available visitation rooms. At the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, where many separated mothers were incarcerated, the visitation rooms consist of see-through plastic cubicles that are not soundproof.

Despite the similarities with the prison model, immigrants are not entitled to court-appointed lawyers. This makes navigating the immigration court system nearly impossible for most immigrants.
Emma Platoff of the Texas Tribune on Thursday posted a Twitter thread of court documents in which detainees confirm what Hines's experience: detainees signing documents they cannot read; no legal assistance; denial of requests for asylum processing, etc.

National Public Radio last night ran a story of a woman Lourdes (last name withheld) who had a "credible fear" hearing with an asylum officer in El Paso:
Back in 2012, Lourdes says, she owned a small clothing store in Honduras. A local gang tried to extort money from her — money she didn't have.

"Four people came into my store, with their faces covered," Lourdes said. They beat her, and burned her arm with acid, she said, and damaged her left hand so severely that four fingers had to be amputated.
She went into hiding for five years. When she emerged, she says, the gang found her and threatened to kill her. The asylum officer in El Paso denied her claim. She is scheduled for deportation.
"The Trump administration is trying to send a message to asylum seekers," said Carlos Moctezuma Garcia, an immigration lawyer in McAllen, Texas. "Perhaps we will reunify you. But we'll reunify you on the plane back to your home country, without allowing you to present your full case before an immigration judge," Garcia said.

Garcia says he recently visited the ICE facility in Port Isabel, Texas, where some of his clients are detained. Out of 76 women in the cell block, Garcia says, his clients told him that only 8 had passed the credible fear screening.
L. Francis Cissna, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, testified before Congress in May that he wants to curtail "frivolous filings." Many smugglers, traffickers, and criminals, he said, are exploiting the system, creating "lingering backlogs can be exploited and used to undermine national security and the integrity of the asylum system." His testimony provided no data to establish the scope of the problem.

Is is a "get tough" argument similar to that used to erect barriers to voting in the name of election integrity. God forbid any who cheat get through the net – we cannot say how few. Better to make the barriers higher for everyone. "Zero tolerance" is not simply a policy, but an authoritarian mindset.

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