Are Political Asylum Seekers Required to Request Protection through a U.S. Port of Entry? And a Whole lot more…

Basically what I want to address in this post is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ assertion that the only legal way to request asylum in the United States is through a U.S. port of entry (or U.S. consulate). I also want to explore how the government can distinguish between undocumented economic immigrants who cross the Mexico border without documentation to work, and those who cross the border seeking political asylum because they are fleeing persecution.

Are Political Asylum Seekers Required to Use a Port of Entry?

According to Jeff Sessions, there is a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’ to seek asylum in the United States, and crossing the border without valid documentation is definitely the wrong way. He stated this very thing in a speech to the National Sheriff’s Association on June 18, 2018:

​​“We do have a policy of prosecuting adults who flout our laws to come here illegally instead of waiting their turn or claiming asylum at a port of entry. We cannot and will not encourage people to bring children by giving them blanket immunity from our laws.”

So, according to Jeff Sessions, if an immigrant crosses the southern border without valid documentation, they are “flouting our laws,” and he appears to be asserting that the only legal way to request political asylum is by requesting protection at a U.S port of entry.
 
So, is this correct?
No. According to U.S. asylum law, how immigrants enter the United States has no bearing whatsoever on their ability to apply for asylum. An immigrant can request asylum in the following ways:
 

  • Coming into the country on a temporary visa (school, vacation, conference), overstaying the visa, and then applying for asylum,
  • Crossing the border without documentation and applying for asylum once inside the country,
  • Asking for protection at a U.S. port of entry, or
  • Asking for protection at a U.S. consulate.

 
In other words, even immigrants who cross the border without documentation have the legal right to apply for political asylum.
 
You don’t have to believe me. Here’s the section of the legislation pertaining to who has authority to apply for asylum in the United States, taken directly from the U.S. Code: Title 8: Aliens and Nationality. Chapter 12, Sub-Chapter II, Part I, § 1158 – Asylum (and no, I did not know this code number off the top of my head before writing this post).

        (a) Authority to apply for asylum
        (1) In general
         Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in                   the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and                         including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been                     interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such                   alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where           applicable… [Emphasis Added].

There are some exceptions though. For example, a person must apply for asylum within one year of having entered the country, and they can’t have previously applied for political asylum, unless their circumstances have changed.
 
So how do most political asylum-seekers get into the United States? 

By breaking the law. The majority of political asylum-seekers either overstay a temporary visa, or cross the Mexican border without valid documentation.

Click here to see the full report, and then click Download.

That’s the funny thing about asylum law in the United States: an immigrant usually has to break the law in some way to get into the country, before they can apply.
 
But let’s say that many of the recent Central American immigrants did exactly as Jeff Sessions said they should do—they presented themselves to a U.S. port of entry and requested protection. If this is the “right way,” then why are some being rejected by U.S. Border and Customs officials, due to lack of space?

​Check out this article in the Texas Monthly, this article in the Washington Post, and this NPR article.

Expedited Removals: What are they, how are they used, and what’s the problem?

When the reports began coming forward that the Central American immigrants were being turned away from U.S. ports of entry, I wondered if it was possible that in some way the Central American immigrants were being encouraged to cross the border without documentation, so they are subject to expedited removal—that is, apprehended and immediately returned to their country of origin. There’s no way to know this definitively until the many law suits filed against the government have unfolded a bit more, but I’ll admit, it did cross my mind. And, if this was occurring, if there was some purposeful intent on the part of the government to block the Central American asylees from entering the country through a port of entry, this would be highly unethical, and would violate U.S. asylum and international law.

But first, what are expedited removals?

Certain categories of immigrants entering the country are subject to an expedited removal proceeding, where they are deported immediately, without a hearing. Immigrants who enter through the southern border without valid documentation, (such as a visa, border crosser card, passport), are included as one of the categories.  

​The decision to place an immigrant in an expedited removal process is made by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. CBP officers have blanket authority, and their decisions are not subject to review or appeal. 

There is only one way to stop an expedited removal of an immigrant who crosses the border without valid documentation, and that is to claim political asylum. 
 
 Expedited removals have been around since 1996 (through the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act), but they weren’t really used much until Bush and Obama, and they’ve skyrocketed under Trump. 

In fact, they appear to be the bedrock of the Trump administrations immigration reform policy, initiated with an Executive Order (EO) signed on January 25, 2017 that focused on increased border security and immigration enforcement.

President Trump’s border security EO is basically what AG Session’s “zero-tolerance” policy was all about—significantly expanding the use of expedited removals of immigrants crossing the southern border without valid entry documents.

So, let’s assume that immigrants from Central America have crossed the border without documentation, in an attempt to seek protection, because they were rejected from a U.S. port of entry, or because they did not know another way (there seems to be no indication that this group were trying to “sneak” across the border, so this scenario makes the most sense). What now? 

Because they crossed the border without documentation, they would have been placed in an expedited removal process. But U.S. law dictates that immigrants slated for expedited removal who request asylum are to be immediately removed from expedited removal proceedings and referred to an asylum officer for processing.

Unlike other political asylum-seekers, immigrants slated for expedited removal must go through an additional screening process that includes a “credible fear” interview with an asylum officer. This screening is used as an additional border control measure. The credible fear interview takes place within 48 hours of apprehension, and making the request for asylum. 

In order to pass the interview, immigrants must be able to convince an asylum officer they have suffered persecution, or they fear they will suffer persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, group membership (such as an ethnic group), or political opinion. 

If they pass the credible fear interview, their case is then referred to immigration court for a hearing a year or two down the road (this is because there is a lengthy investigative process, and a backlog of cases). If they fail the interview, they can appeal to an immigration judge who is required to hear their case within one to seven days. If the appeals process is unsuccessful, they are immediately referred back to an expedited removal process, and deported.
 
Here are the questions I would like answered:

Have some (or all) of the Central American immigrants being placed in an expedited removal process and deported before having an opportunity to request asylum? And, are they being deported without their children? 
 
Are the Central American immigrants being discouraged from requesting asylum altogether, with their children being used as bargaining chips, as some media outlets have reported?

What will happen to the Central American immigrants who are being processed as asylum-seekers? Is it the intention of DHS to keep them in detention even after they have passed a “credible fear” interview, perhaps for years, with or without their children?  

Border control and immigration enforcement are very important, but the legislators of our immigration laws have always sought to balance respect for rule of law with compassion, for both native born citizens and immigrants.

​So I find myself asking one more question: where’s the compassion? 

My next blog post: What are the “Dem laws” and “loopholes” the Trump administration keeps referring to? 

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Basically what I want to address in this post is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ assertion that the only legal way to request asylum in the United States is through a U.S. port of entry (or U.S. consulate). I also want to explore how the government can distinguish between undocumented economic immigrants who cross the Mexico border without documentation to work, and those who cross the border seeking political asylum because they are fleeing persecution.

Are Political Asylum Seekers Required to Use a Port of Entry?

According to Jeff Sessions, there is a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’ to seek asylum in the United States, and crossing the border without valid documentation is definitely the wrong way. He stated this very thing in a speech to the National Sheriff’s Association on June 18, 2018:

​​“We do have a policy of prosecuting adults who flout our laws to come here illegally instead of waiting their turn or claiming asylum at a port of entry. We cannot and will not encourage people to bring children by giving them blanket immunity from our laws.”

So, according to Jeff Sessions, if an immigrant crosses the southern border without valid documentation, they are “flouting our laws,” and he appears to be asserting that the only legal way to request political asylum is by requesting protection at a U.S port of entry.
 
So, is this correct?
No. According to U.S. asylum law, how immigrants enter the United States has no bearing whatsoever on their ability to apply for asylum. An immigrant can request asylum in the following ways:
 

  • Coming into the country on a temporary visa (school, vacation, conference), overstaying the visa, and then applying for asylum,
  • Crossing the border without documentation and applying for asylum once inside the country,
  • Asking for protection at a U.S. port of entry, or
  • Asking for protection at a U.S. consulate.

 
In other words, even immigrants who cross the border without documentation have the legal right to apply for political asylum.
 
You don’t have to believe me. Here’s the section of the legislation pertaining to who has authority to apply for asylum in the United States, taken directly from the U.S. Code: Title 8: Aliens and Nationality. Chapter 12, Sub-Chapter II, Part I, § 1158 – Asylum (and no, I did not know this code number off the top of my head before writing this post).

        (a) Authority to apply for asylum
        (1) In general
         Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in                   the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and                         including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been                     interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such                   alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where           applicable… [Emphasis Added].

There are some exceptions though. For example, a person must apply for asylum within one year of having entered the country, and they can’t have previously applied for political asylum, unless their circumstances have changed.
 
So how do most political asylum-seekers get into the United States? 

By breaking the law. The majority of political asylum-seekers either overstay a temporary visa, or cross the Mexican border without valid documentation.

Click here to see the full report, and then click Download.

That’s the funny thing about asylum law in the United States: an immigrant usually has to break the law in some way to get into the country, before they can apply.
 
But let’s say that many of the recent Central American immigrants did exactly as Jeff Sessions said they should do—they presented themselves to a U.S. port of entry and requested protection. If this is the “right way,” then why are some being rejected by U.S. Border and Customs officials, due to lack of space?

​Check out this article in the Texas Monthly, this article in the Washington Post, and this NPR article.

Expedited Removals: What are they, how are they used, and what’s the problem?

When the reports began coming forward that the Central American immigrants were being turned away from U.S. ports of entry, I wondered if it was possible that in some way the Central American immigrants were being encouraged to cross the border without documentation, so they are subject to expedited removal—that is, apprehended and immediately returned to their country of origin. There’s no way to know this definitively until the many law suits filed against the government have unfolded a bit more, but I’ll admit, it did cross my mind. And, if this was occurring, if there was some purposeful intent on the part of the government to block the Central American asylees from entering the country through a port of entry, this would be highly unethical, and would violate U.S. asylum and international law.

But first, what are expedited removals?

Certain categories of immigrants entering the country are subject to an expedited removal proceeding, where they are deported immediately, without a hearing. Immigrants who enter through the southern border without valid documentation, (such as a visa, border crosser card, passport), are included as one of the categories.  

​The decision to place an immigrant in an expedited removal process is made by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. CBP officers have blanket authority, and their decisions are not subject to review or appeal. 

There is only one way to stop an expedited removal of an immigrant who crosses the border without valid documentation, and that is to claim political asylum. 
 
 Expedited removals have been around since 1996 (through the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act), but they weren’t really used much until Bush and Obama, and they’ve skyrocketed under Trump. 

In fact, they appear to be the bedrock of the Trump administrations immigration reform policy, initiated with an Executive Order (EO) signed on January 25, 2017 that focused on increased border security and immigration enforcement.

President Trump’s border security EO is basically what AG Session’s “zero-tolerance” policy was all about—significantly expanding the use of expedited removals of immigrants crossing the southern border without valid entry documents.

So, let’s assume that immigrants from Central America have crossed the border without documentation, in an attempt to seek protection, because they were rejected from a U.S. port of entry, or because they did not know another way (there seems to be no indication that this group were trying to “sneak” across the border, so this scenario makes the most sense). What now? 

Because they crossed the border without documentation, they would have been placed in an expedited removal process. But U.S. law dictates that immigrants slated for expedited removal who request asylum are to be immediately removed from expedited removal proceedings and referred to an asylum officer for processing.

Unlike other political asylum-seekers, immigrants slated for expedited removal must go through an additional screening process that includes a “credible fear” interview with an asylum officer. This screening is used as an additional border control measure. The credible fear interview takes place within 48 hours of apprehension, and making the request for asylum. 

In order to pass the interview, immigrants must be able to convince an asylum officer they have suffered persecution, or they fear they will suffer persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, group membership (such as an ethnic group), or political opinion. 

If they pass the credible fear interview, their case is then referred to immigration court for a hearing a year or two down the road (this is because there is a lengthy investigative process, and a backlog of cases). If they fail the interview, they can appeal to an immigration judge who is required to hear their case within one to seven days. If the appeals process is unsuccessful, they are immediately referred back to an expedited removal process, and deported.
 
Here are the questions I would like answered:

Have some (or all) of the Central American immigrants being placed in an expedited removal process and deported before having an opportunity to request asylum? And, are they being deported without their children? 
 
Are the Central American immigrants being discouraged from requesting asylum altogether, with their children being used as bargaining chips, as some media outlets have reported?

What will happen to the Central American immigrants who are being processed as asylum-seekers? Is it the intention of DHS to keep them in detention even after they have passed a “credible fear” interview, perhaps for years, with or without their children?  

Border control and immigration enforcement are very important, but the legislators of our immigration laws have always sought to balance respect for rule of law with compassion, for both native born citizens and immigrants.

​So I find myself asking one more question: where’s the compassion? 

My next blog post: What are the “Dem laws” and “loopholes” the Trump administration keeps referring to? 

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Are Undocumented Immigrants Flooding our Southern Border?

Well, that depends on how you define “flooding.” If we’re looking at historical data, then the answer is absolutely no. There are two dynamics occurring right now (actually, there are several, but I’m only going to address two in this post).

1. Undocumented economic migrants (typically from Mexico, but also from Central America), and 2. Political asylum seekers (primarily from Central America). Most of the recent news about family separations centers on political asylum seekers from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. But this blog post is about undocumented economic migrants, and whether they are presenting a significant threat for our country, and if so, whether that justifies building a wall (and by the way, we all know drug smugglers and human traffickers use tunnels, right?). 

So here are some basic facts about undocumented economic migrants (meaning, immigrants who cross the border illegally to work)…


Are undocumented immigrants from Mexico flooding our southern border?
 
No. We do not have a flood of Mexicans coming across the border, in fact we’ve been experiencing a net loss of undocumented immigration since 2007. According to the Pew Research Center (2015): “Mexicans made up 52% of all unauthorized immigrants in 2014, [and] their numbers have been declining in recent years. There were 5.8 million Mexican unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. that year, down from 6.4 million in 2009, according to the latest Pew Research Center estimates. Meanwhile, the number of unauthorized immigrants from nations [Asia and sub-Saharan Africa]…grew by 325,000 since 2009, to an estimated 5.3 million in 2014.”  In other words, more undocumented immigrants are leaving than arriving.  That doesn’t mean that some border communities aren’t being impacted by undocumented immigration, but overall, the numbers are declining, which is why our agricultural sectors are struggling.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/27/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/

http://www.pewhispanic.org/2016/09/20/overall-number-of-u-s-unauthorized-immigrants-holds-steady-since-2009/#recent-arrivals-a-smaller-share-of-u-s-unauthorized-immigrants
 
How long have undocumented Mexican immigrants lived in the US if they haven’t just arrived?

Most undocumented Mexican immigrants came to the United States about 15 to 20 years ago during what’s called the “Chicken Boom” – a time when people cut back on eating red meat and started eating more chicken. Meat processing plants could not keep up with demand, so started recruiting south of the border. In fact, close to 70% of undocumented Mexican immigrants have lived in the U.S. for over a decade (~13.6 years), while only 7% of undocumented Mexicans have been in the U.S. for less than five years.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/27/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/ (see point 5).

https://www.marketplace.org/2013/04/30/wealth-poverty/special-report-raiteros/major-american-companies-benefit-undocumented-workers

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB908338941795342000
 
Are undocumented immigrants stealing our jobs?
 
In a word, no, at least not the ones most Americans want. The majority of undocumented immigrants from south of the border (Mexico and Central America) are here because they were recruited by US companies in the agricultural, meatpacking/processing and construction sectors (Tyson Foods, IBP slaughterhouses, etc.) to do work that US Americans won’t do. They’re recruited by labor brokers through radio ads that play in many of Mexico’s poorest cities, as well as leaflets and billboards. They’re also recruited on the street corners of immigrant communities in the US, such as Chicago. These industries typically offer about $8 an hour to do grueling work, under very poor working conditions (long hours, very little safety precautions, etc.).

According to a 1998 report, IBP in particular admitted to its recruitment across the border with ICE’s (then INS) knowledge because “it is unable to keep its plants fully staffed with U.S.-based workers, who often can find more-appealing jobs elsewhere.” These undocumented workers are exploited, they’re threatened, and then they’re scapegoated when it’s politically convenient.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/08/exploitation-and-abuse-at-the-chicken-plant

https://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/21/us/meatpackers-profits-hinge-on-pool-of-immigrant-labor.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/20/us/tyson-foods-indicted-in-plan-to-smuggle-illegal-workers.html
 
Remember beanie babies? The company Ty, Inc. was notorious for recruiting undocumented workers from both the streets of Chicago, and across the border, and then paying them extremely low wages. They also engaged in many other labor abuses. Some U.S. companies have even furnished undocumented immigrants with false papers, and the companies are rarely, if ever, held accountable; instead, when the political tides changed, the immigrants were charged with felonies because of their false documentation.

They are then detained because they are now “criminals” and sent back to Mexico, often without their U.S. born children. In other words, at some point it became convenient to scapegoat the immigrants and the unwritten rules were changed without their knowledge. Even the Pentagon has gotten into the act, recruiting about 1.2 million undocumented workers as translators and other positions.

https://www.salon.com/2013/04/30/beanie_babies_manufacturer_accused_of_shady_labor_practices_partner/

http://thoughtcrimeradio.net/2014/09/importing-repression-pentagon-to-recruit-undocumented-immigrants/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09538250500354140
 
 
Where else do undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrants work?
 
In the US agricultural industry. In fact, up to 70% of of the estimated 2.5 million farm workers in the US are estimated to be undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrants who were recruited by U.S. agricultural companies from across the border. In other words, they had jobs here before they left home. Did you know that per federal and state law, agricultural laborers are exempt from receiving overtime pay and they are exempt from child labor laws, which means that children as young as 12 can work in the fields?

Why do you think the federal government has allowed these exemptions in the agricultural industry? Because the federal government knows full-well that our entire agricultural industry is reliant on undocumented workers, and they’ve passed laws that  encourage this practice. Would they permit these exemptions if it were American children working in the fields? Of course not. When ICE began to crack down on companies hiring illegal workers, the companies just found more creative ways to recruit workers (including using temp agencies, and proxies, such as labor brokers), and our government has consistently looked the other way because these industries have powerful lobbies.

http://business.time.com/2012/09/21/bitter-harvest-u-s-farmers-blame-billion-dollar-losses-on-immigration-laws/
 
Why not just create a temporary visa program for foreign workers?
 
We have them. The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program is for farm workers, but the farming industry doesn’t like it and rarely uses it. Why? Because it requires that  employers provide housing and pay the higher of the applicable state or federal minimum wage, the prevailing wage in that region and occupation, as determined by the USDOL, or the regional average wage observed in NASS’s Farm Labor Survey. The latter is known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rate. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, this wage rate ranges from $9.50 to $12.33 per hour, depending on the state. H-2A visa usage has accounted for less than 5 percent of the hired farm work force in recent years. There have been some recent movements toward improving the program, and usage has expanded (about 77,000 to 165,000 in 2016), but the majority of farm workers (and we’re talking millions here) are hired illegally.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-migrant-farm-workers-corn-detassling-0807-biz-20160805-story.html

https://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/broken-guest-worker-program-threatens-us-food-supply/story?id=19339511

https://tucson.com/business/national-and-international/farmworker-visas-more-than-doubled-in-state-nation-in-past/article_05f8d7e3-076b-5e11-a712-2c0e30c71896.html
 
Another temporary visa program is the H2B visa, which is for the construction industry. It’s also “significantly underutilized.” Again, these visa programs kind of defeat the economic purpose of hiring cheap and exploitable labor. Just think about it…industries that use these workers enjoy a reliable and stable force workforce—people who are afraid of being deported. Fear is a great motivator.

https://www.sbcmag.info/news/2018/apr/h-2b-worker-visa-program-significantly-underutilized

So what now? 

Well, if you’re unmoved by all of this, and you’re still convinced that undocumented immigrants are stealing your jobs, word on the street is that avocado farmers in Santa Barbara, California are hiring But according to the industry, despite paying decent wages, Americans are still saying “thanks but no thanks.”

You can also find this post on my Facebook page.

Well, that depends on how you define “flooding.” If we’re looking at historical data, then the answer is absolutely no. There are two dynamics occurring right now (actually, there are several, but I’m only going to address two in this post).

1. Undocumented economic migrants (typically from Mexico, but also from Central America), and 2. Political asylum seekers (primarily from Central America). Most of the recent news about family separations centers on political asylum seekers from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. But this blog post is about undocumented economic migrants, and whether they are presenting a significant threat for our country, and if so, whether that justifies building a wall (and by the way, we all know drug smugglers and human traffickers use tunnels, right?). 

So here are some basic facts about undocumented economic migrants (meaning, immigrants who cross the border illegally to work)…


Are undocumented immigrants from Mexico flooding our southern border?
 
No. We do not have a flood of Mexicans coming across the border, in fact we’ve been experiencing a net loss of undocumented immigration since 2007. According to the Pew Research Center (2015): “Mexicans made up 52% of all unauthorized immigrants in 2014, [and] their numbers have been declining in recent years. There were 5.8 million Mexican unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. that year, down from 6.4 million in 2009, according to the latest Pew Research Center estimates. Meanwhile, the number of unauthorized immigrants from nations [Asia and sub-Saharan Africa]…grew by 325,000 since 2009, to an estimated 5.3 million in 2014.”  In other words, more undocumented immigrants are leaving than arriving.  That doesn’t mean that some border communities aren’t being impacted by undocumented immigration, but overall, the numbers are declining, which is why our agricultural sectors are struggling.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/27/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/

http://www.pewhispanic.org/2016/09/20/overall-number-of-u-s-unauthorized-immigrants-holds-steady-since-2009/#recent-arrivals-a-smaller-share-of-u-s-unauthorized-immigrants
 
How long have undocumented Mexican immigrants lived in the US if they haven’t just arrived?

Most undocumented Mexican immigrants came to the United States about 15 to 20 years ago during what’s called the “Chicken Boom” – a time when people cut back on eating red meat and started eating more chicken. Meat processing plants could not keep up with demand, so started recruiting south of the border. In fact, close to 70% of undocumented Mexican immigrants have lived in the U.S. for over a decade (~13.6 years), while only 7% of undocumented Mexicans have been in the U.S. for less than five years.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/27/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/ (see point 5).

https://www.marketplace.org/2013/04/30/wealth-poverty/special-report-raiteros/major-american-companies-benefit-undocumented-workers

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB908338941795342000
 
Are undocumented immigrants stealing our jobs?
 
In a word, no, at least not the ones most Americans want. The majority of undocumented immigrants from south of the border (Mexico and Central America) are here because they were recruited by US companies in the agricultural, meatpacking/processing and construction sectors (Tyson Foods, IBP slaughterhouses, etc.) to do work that US Americans won’t do. They’re recruited by labor brokers through radio ads that play in many of Mexico’s poorest cities, as well as leaflets and billboards. They’re also recruited on the street corners of immigrant communities in the US, such as Chicago. These industries typically offer about $8 an hour to do grueling work, under very poor working conditions (long hours, very little safety precautions, etc.).

According to a 1998 report, IBP in particular admitted to its recruitment across the border with ICE’s (then INS) knowledge because “it is unable to keep its plants fully staffed with U.S.-based workers, who often can find more-appealing jobs elsewhere.” These undocumented workers are exploited, they’re threatened, and then they’re scapegoated when it’s politically convenient.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/08/exploitation-and-abuse-at-the-chicken-plant

https://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/21/us/meatpackers-profits-hinge-on-pool-of-immigrant-labor.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/20/us/tyson-foods-indicted-in-plan-to-smuggle-illegal-workers.html
 
Remember beanie babies? The company Ty, Inc. was notorious for recruiting undocumented workers from both the streets of Chicago, and across the border, and then paying them extremely low wages. They also engaged in many other labor abuses. Some U.S. companies have even furnished undocumented immigrants with false papers, and the companies are rarely, if ever, held accountable; instead, when the political tides changed, the immigrants were charged with felonies because of their false documentation.

They are then detained because they are now “criminals” and sent back to Mexico, often without their U.S. born children. In other words, at some point it became convenient to scapegoat the immigrants and the unwritten rules were changed without their knowledge. Even the Pentagon has gotten into the act, recruiting about 1.2 million undocumented workers as translators and other positions.

https://www.salon.com/2013/04/30/beanie_babies_manufacturer_accused_of_shady_labor_practices_partner/

http://thoughtcrimeradio.net/2014/09/importing-repression-pentagon-to-recruit-undocumented-immigrants/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09538250500354140
 
 
Where else do undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrants work?
 
In the US agricultural industry. In fact, up to 70% of of the estimated 2.5 million farm workers in the US are estimated to be undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrants who were recruited by U.S. agricultural companies from across the border. In other words, they had jobs here before they left home. Did you know that per federal and state law, agricultural laborers are exempt from receiving overtime pay and they are exempt from child labor laws, which means that children as young as 12 can work in the fields?

Why do you think the federal government has allowed these exemptions in the agricultural industry? Because the federal government knows full-well that our entire agricultural industry is reliant on undocumented workers, and they’ve passed laws that  encourage this practice. Would they permit these exemptions if it were American children working in the fields? Of course not. When ICE began to crack down on companies hiring illegal workers, the companies just found more creative ways to recruit workers (including using temp agencies, and proxies, such as labor brokers), and our government has consistently looked the other way because these industries have powerful lobbies.

http://business.time.com/2012/09/21/bitter-harvest-u-s-farmers-blame-billion-dollar-losses-on-immigration-laws/
 
Why not just create a temporary visa program for foreign workers?
 
We have them. The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program is for farm workers, but the farming industry doesn’t like it and rarely uses it. Why? Because it requires that  employers provide housing and pay the higher of the applicable state or federal minimum wage, the prevailing wage in that region and occupation, as determined by the USDOL, or the regional average wage observed in NASS’s Farm Labor Survey. The latter is known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rate. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, this wage rate ranges from $9.50 to $12.33 per hour, depending on the state. H-2A visa usage has accounted for less than 5 percent of the hired farm work force in recent years. There have been some recent movements toward improving the program, and usage has expanded (about 77,000 to 165,000 in 2016), but the majority of farm workers (and we’re talking millions here) are hired illegally.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-migrant-farm-workers-corn-detassling-0807-biz-20160805-story.html

https://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/broken-guest-worker-program-threatens-us-food-supply/story?id=19339511

https://tucson.com/business/national-and-international/farmworker-visas-more-than-doubled-in-state-nation-in-past/article_05f8d7e3-076b-5e11-a712-2c0e30c71896.html
 
Another temporary visa program is the H2B visa, which is for the construction industry. It’s also “significantly underutilized.” Again, these visa programs kind of defeat the economic purpose of hiring cheap and exploitable labor. Just think about it…industries that use these workers enjoy a reliable and stable force workforce—people who are afraid of being deported. Fear is a great motivator.

https://www.sbcmag.info/news/2018/apr/h-2b-worker-visa-program-significantly-underutilized

So what now? 

Well, if you’re unmoved by all of this, and you’re still convinced that undocumented immigrants are stealing your jobs, word on the street is that avocado farmers in Santa Barbara, California are hiring But according to the industry, despite paying decent wages, Americans are still saying “thanks but no thanks.”

You can also find this post on my Facebook page.

My Response to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s Press Briefing today On Zero-Tolerance Policy

I watched the White House Press Briefing today with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. I took notes as best as I could so I could later respond, while furiously posting comments online, and clicking the angry face emoji 😡 every five seconds. I found Nielsen to be very defensive and angry. This could have been because she knew she was lying, but my instincts told me that it was more likely because she believes she’s correct and is outraged to be so misunderstood. Quite likely it was a combination of the two, and perhaps she’s just furious that she’s in this place to begin with. Who really knows. But her general disdain and disregard for these traumatized families was apparent to me, and I kept wondering if she had ever gone through hardship, because regardless of what one’s thoughts are on border protection, all of our hearts should be breaking in half.


What I do know though, is that most of the information Nielson shared was dishonest at worst, and misleading at best. The following is my response to many of her assertions, which represents a combination of areas I was already familiar with, but also some new research I did today to fill in the blanks. I then did my best to connect the dots. One thing to keep in mind is that this story is evolving, thus the various analyses you may be reading online, will likely be evolving as well as experts and journalists attempt to figure out what the administration’s true motives are for their “zero-tolerance” policy. 

‘There are glaring loopholes in U.S. asylum-seeking policy’ – FALSE.

While no legislation is perfect, and situations arise that require legislative amendments to meet new and changing social dynamics, the majority of immigration experts agree that there are no “glaring loopholes” in our political asylum legislation. Rather, what Trump and current Secretary of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen refer to as “loopholes” are purposeful humanitarian aspects of the legislation that had bi-partisan support. For instance, while unaccompanied minors from Mexico and Canada can be sent back to their countries of origin more easily, unaccompanied minors from other countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador cannot, because we don’t share a border, and also because of fears of potential trafficking (see below for what they’re describing as “loopholes”).  Here’s a good assessment of the “legal loophole” claim:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/feb/07/donald-trump/immigration-ms-13-and-crime-facts-behind-donald-tr/

‘Legislation passed under the Bush Administration in 2008 is the cause of this problem and President Trump inherited the problem, and is just the first president to come forward and try to deal with the problem’: FALSE.

The law Nielsen referred to is the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 signed into law by Bush, with bi-partisan support and a strong push by Evangelical leaders who were working to combat human trafficking.

This is a good bill and provided new protections to trafficking victims, including unaccompanied minors entering the country (without a parent). To ensure that these children were not being trafficked, rather than immediately sending them back to their countries of origin, the law requires that they have an immigration hearing with an advocate. They are also granted the legal right to apply for political asylum. Unaccompanied minors (referred to as “unaccompanied alien children” in the legislation) are then transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) within 72 hours, and are required to be placed “in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child.”

Unaccompanied minors are then placed either with a family member, a residential center or foster care. While the intention of this law was good, there has been a significant increase in unaccompanied minors coming across the border since 2008, which may constitute a humanitarian crisis. Not because of fraud or poor parents, but because of social conditions (violence, etc.) in their home countries. Here is the issue: Many (not all) Republicans appear to want to send these kids back immediately, regardless of the risk, and Democrats as a whole believe that the law already provides enough flexibility to respond accordingly in times of crisis.

The loophole Trump and Nielson are referring to is actually one of the humanitarian components of this legislation. But this is vitally important: **** the children being separated from their parents currently, under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy are not unaccompanied minors, but are being legally treated as such if the parents cannot provide immediate proof of parentage**** (see comments below about birth registrations).


Here is the TIP Act: 

https://www.state.gov/j/tip/laws/113178.htm 

And here’s a good article describing the background of the zero-tolerance policy: 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/16/us/politics/family-separation-trump.html

‘The only families who are being separated are those who cannot provide proof of parentage and are suspected of smuggling children’: HIGHLY MISLEADING.

This is so important! If you don’t remember anything else about this post, please remember this. Approximately one-fourth to one-third of all children under the age of 5 worldwide have not had their births legally registered, meaning their country of birth has not issued a legal birth certificate to the parents. Meaning that the parents have no legal proof that their children are their own. In many countries, legal documentation of family relationships, such as marriage and births, are unavailable. Sometimes this is because poor, indigenous families live in the countryside, far from infrastructure, and in other cases, birth registrations are denied to certain populations because it is easier to commit human rights violations against them. How can you verify deaths if there is no legal evidence of the births in the first place? This is the stuff Guatemala’s “invisible war” was made of—causing the disappearance of entire indigenous villages that lack legal documentation of their existence. In fact, the lack of birth registration, and in some cases the outright denial of birth certificates, is considered a human rights violation according to the United Nations. Thus it is highly misleading and disingenuous for Nielson to claim that only parents who cannot provide legal proof of parentage are having their children removed, since that would likely include most, if not all of these migrant parents seeking refuge in our country, since they’re coming from countries that likely have not provided birth registration.
Here’s the United Nations’ statement on birth registration: 

https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/birth-registration/

Families were separated under prior administrations’: MOSTLY FALSE.

The policy to separate parents and children is new and was instituted on 4/6/2018. It was the “brainchild” of John Kelly and Stephen Miller to serve as a deterrent for undocumented immigration and political asylum-seeking, and some allege to be used as a political bargaining chip in the ongoing immigration reform debates. The policy was approved by Trump, and adopted by Sessions, and described in a policy statement dated April 6, 2018: 

https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1049751/download?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Prior administrations detained migrant families, but didn’t have a practice of forcibly separating parents from their children unless the adults were deemed unfit. While there may be no specific policy aimed at separating children from their parents, the administration no doubt knew that the decision to manage undocumented immigration (and apparently political asylum) through a criminal proceeding, rather than through a civil administrative proceeding would trigger this process of separating parents from their children. Additionally, it is wholly unnecessary to detain parents for a misdemeanor charge, which is the level of crime for crossing the border without documentation. Additionally, it is not illegal to seek political asylum. Additionally, there is a photo of a child in a cage being circulated and some are claiming this photo was taken in 2014, during the Obama administration. This assertion was deemed to be false. The photograph was taken June 10, 2018. Here’s my source:

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/toddler-cage-photo/

‘Parents must be detained if they break the law, Just as they would be anywhere else in the United States’: FALSE.

The charge of misdemeanor does not require detainment.

‘No one is being turned away from US Ports of Entry’: FALSE.

There are numerous reports of political asylum-seekers requesting protection from US Ports of Entry and being turned away. Here are two articles with witness testimony:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/12/us/asylum-seekers-mexico-border.html 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/message-at-the-border-no-vacancy/2018/06/16/1c1719de-70d9-11e8-bd50-b80389a4e569_story.html?utm_term=.6e7768e67528

‘MS-13 gang members are flooding our border, and that’s who we’re trying to stop to protect the children’: FALSE.

The MS-13 gang was created in the United States in the 1980s, not Central America. The gang grew out of Los Angeles neighborhoods with higher numbers of civil war refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. There are an estimated 10,000 or less MS-13 gang members living in the United States (a 2006 stat), 70% of who are US citizens, not immigrants. For instance, a May 2017 report on an ICE arrest found that of the 1378 individuals arrested, 933 were US citizens.

Here’s a report on MS-13:

Seven Facts about MS-13 and How to Combat the Gang

The MS-13 gang constitutes approximately 1% of all gang members living in the United States, but they are a real threat, particularly to unaccompanied minors fleeing their countries because of violence and persecution. Since unaccompanied minors are a target for MS-13 gang members, the Trump administration quite likely has dramatically increased the vulnerability of the children who they’ve taken from their parents and legally deemed “unaccompanied alien children” because their parents did not have legal proof of their relationship. Here’s another good assessment:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/feb/07/donald-trump/immigration-ms-13-and-crime-facts-behind-donald-tr/

Additionally, there were 68,541 unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border in 2014, and U.S. Border Patrol confirmed that 159 of them were suspected gang affiliations, and of those, 56 were suspected or confirmed to be affiliated with MS-13. 45,400 unaccompanied minors, on average, have been apprehended per year from 2012 to 2017.
Source:

https://www.cbp.gov/…/southwest-border-unaccompanie…/fy-2014

‘Political asylum up 349%’: PARTIALLY TRUE, BUT MISLEADING.

Percentages are meaningless without the numbers, and statistics can be manipulated. I could not get the 349% number, but political asylum applications from Central America have increased, but not because of legal loopholes, rather, because of a spike in violence in those countries, and a dramatic increase in the desperation of families being targeted by gang violence. First, it’s important not to confuse political asylum applicants with the UN refugees, although both are granted refugee status, if accepted into the country. Basically, there are two primary ways someone can gain refugee status in the US: 1) coming into the US and then applying for political asylum (either by presenting themselves to a US Port of Authority or overstaying a visa ) and 2) being granted refugee status in another country by the UN (UNHCR) when individuals cross an international border in response to persecution and/or conflict. Trump dramatically lowered the annual UNHCR refugee threshold from about 80,000 to 21,000 (dramatically lower than both Bush and Obama). The majority of refugees coming from the UNHCR program are from Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan, followed by Asia (Burmese and Bhutanese).

With regard to the first option (people coming into the country first, and applying for political asylum), overall there has been a sharp decline in political asylum applications being granted in the last 15 years, but again, an increase in applications, particularly from what’s called the “Northern Triangle” in Central America (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) (see below).

First, the numbers. In 2000 there were 32,514 people who were granted political asylum, compared to 20,455 in 2016:

Source:

https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statisti…/yearbook/…/table16

Here is the breakdown on where the asylem seekers are coming from (2016):

22% China
11% El Salvador
10% Guatamala
7% Honduras
5% Mexico
4% Egypt
4% Syria
3% Iraq
2% Nepal
2% Ethiopia

Source:
https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/asylum-united-states

So now, about the increase in applications (i.e., screenings). There were 115,399 affirmative asylum applications filed with USCIS in 2016, which is an increase of 39% from the prior year, and a 100% increase since 2014, but still far lower than the all-time high of 144,000 applications filed in 1995. The numbers fluctuate based on what’s happening in the world and who is fleeing due to a credible fear of persecution (based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion). The country-of-origin with the largest increase in applications is actually China (16,494 applications, a 19% increase compared to 2015), followed by Egypt, and then Venezuela (14,773 applications, a 161% increase compared to 2015). The number of affirmative asylum applications by migrants from Central America’s Northern Triangle Countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) is the topic of concern and those applications have risen 25% between 2016 and 2017, but in the past three years the number of applications has gone from 7,723 to 25,80. The number of denials has increased as well though, thus most of these cases of political asylum have been denied, particularly for those from Latin America.

Source:
https://www.dhs.gov/…/publicati…/Refugees_Asylees_2016_0.pdf

So first, let’s keep the numbers in mind, since statistics can be misleading. Among the total number of asylum applications of 115,399 received in 2016, most are from China, and only about 25,000 applications are from the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras). And while the total number of migrants being arrested at the US-Mexico border is the lowest since the early 70s (46 year low), the reason for the increase in asylum applications from people in Central America is due to violence, not legal loopholes.

Basically, desperate parents in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are either requesting protection from US border security authorities, or they’re sending their children with the hope of keeping them alive (kind of like when desperate parents threw their children over the fence during the Viet Nam war). Most political asylum seekers from Central America are women and children, because these are the populations targeted by gangs in their home countries. These are desperate people needing help. They often arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and often without legal identification.

I believe that the Trump administration is waging war on all forms of immigration, but right now, he seems focused on political asylum from south of the border. For instance, according to government policy under Bush and Obama administrations, once a political asylum-seeker in detention passes the “credible fear” test during an immigration interview, they are released. They then proceed through the political asylum process, which takes about a year. If their application is denied, they’re detained and returned to their country of origin. Under the Trump administration though, this policy changed and political asylum-seekers are continuing to be detained even after they’ve passed the credible fear interview. For instance, recently “in the El Paso sector [from February to September of 2017] 349 requests for release from detention were made, and all 349 of them were denied.”

Source:
https://www.thenation.com/article/ice-is-sending-a-message-to-the-worlds-asylum-seekers-the-us-is-no-place-of-refuge/

So basically, there is violence and horrific persecution in Central America, targeting primarily women and children. These desperate people are coming to the US and requesting help, and the Trump policy response appears to be to create a deterrent by separating them from their children, likely forever, because most of these desperate parents will never be able to provide legal proof of their familial relationship (see my analysis on unaccompanied minors and the 2008 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) legislation and birth registrations above).

Fact sheet on Asylum-Seekers:
https://reliefweb.int/report/united-states-america/fact-sheet-us-immigration-and-central-american-asylum-seekers

‘There is no policy to separate parents from their children when they are seeking political asylum’: FALSE.

Richard Hudson, the Deputy Chief of Operations Program of US Customs and Border Protection, testified before a Senate Judiciary committee hearing on May 23, 2018 and stated that “hundreds of children [are being] separated from their parents every week.” This admission is in contradiction to Nielson’s and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ assertion that only families crossing the border illegally are facing separation.

Families seeking asylum and presenting themselves at a US Port of Entry are being separated as well:

https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/…/tvpra-and-exploited-loop… (video)

https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/…/05-23-18%20Hudson%20Test… (transcript)

‘People are flooding the our southern border’: FALSE.

This has been a constant rallying cry of President Trump since he was running for president, and there is no evidence to back up his claim. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. As of 2016 (most recent statistics available) there were as estimated 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, which is a significant decrease from 12.2 million in 2005. Among all unauthorized immigrants in 2014, 5.8 million are Mexican, down from 6.4 million in 2009. The balance of unauthorized immigrants are primarily from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico has been steadily declining since 2009, and 78% of all unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. over a decade (avg 13.6 years). Among Mexican unauthorized immigrants, only 7% have lived in the U.S. less than 5 years, and the majority (estimate 87%) were recruited to the US directly from their home communities, by the US agricultural and meat-processing industries (during the “Chicken Boom”). In other words, the majority of undocumented immigrants currently in the United States have been here for years, and are not recent migrants. While there has been an increase in political asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children (typically teens), our southern border is NOT being flooded.

Source on illegal immigration from Mexico:
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/03/02/what-we-know-about-illegal-immigration-from-mexico/

Source on DHS 2011 stats:
https://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ois_ill_pe_2011.pdf

Source on DHS 2017 stats:
https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics/special-reports/legal-immigration

Summary: There is a humanitarian crisis occurring in the Northern Triangle of Central America that has caused an increase in political asylum-seekers requesting protection from the United States, and an increase in unaccompanied minors. The people presenting themselves at US Ports of Entry are poor, desperate, and traumatized. We may not be able to help all of them, but we can help some of them, both in their home countries and here. It’s unclear to me whether Trump is waging war against all migrants (undocumented economic migrants, UNHCR refugees, and political asylum-seekers), or if the current policy is focusing more on political asylum-seekers entering through a southern US Port of Entry (particularly unaccompanied minors). But what does seem clear to me is that the Trump administration has responded to this humanitarian crisis by taking a hostile stance toward the victims, and rather than responding with compassion (even compassion with some limits), they are dramatically exaggerating the problem and conflating numerous dynamics to reduce sympathy: making it sound as though Central Americans make up the bulk of immigrants and asylum-seekers in the US (they don’t); implying that the majority of children being brought into the country are being trafficked by MS-13 gangs (they aren’t), scapegoating the parents by referencing them with disdain for attempting to come into the country with their children, calling them criminals, etc. for bringing their children into our country (far from it).

Is this who we are as a country?

 

I watched the White House Press Briefing today with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. I took notes as best as I could so I could later respond, while furiously posting comments online, and clicking the angry face emoji 😡 every five seconds. I found Nielsen to be very defensive and angry. This could have been because she knew she was lying, but my instincts told me that it was more likely because she believes she’s correct and is outraged to be so misunderstood. Quite likely it was a combination of the two, and perhaps she’s just furious that she’s in this place to begin with. Who really knows. But her general disdain and disregard for these traumatized families was apparent to me, and I kept wondering if she had ever gone through hardship, because regardless of what one’s thoughts are on border protection, all of our hearts should be breaking in half.


What I do know though, is that most of the information Nielson shared was dishonest at worst, and misleading at best. The following is my response to many of her assertions, which represents a combination of areas I was already familiar with, but also some new research I did today to fill in the blanks. I then did my best to connect the dots. One thing to keep in mind is that this story is evolving, thus the various analyses you may be reading online, will likely be evolving as well as experts and journalists attempt to figure out what the administration’s true motives are for their “zero-tolerance” policy. 

‘There are glaring loopholes in U.S. asylum-seeking policy’ – FALSE.

While no legislation is perfect, and situations arise that require legislative amendments to meet new and changing social dynamics, the majority of immigration experts agree that there are no “glaring loopholes” in our political asylum legislation. Rather, what Trump and current Secretary of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen refer to as “loopholes” are purposeful humanitarian aspects of the legislation that had bi-partisan support. For instance, while unaccompanied minors from Mexico and Canada can be sent back to their countries of origin more easily, unaccompanied minors from other countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador cannot, because we don’t share a border, and also because of fears of potential trafficking (see below for what they’re describing as “loopholes”).  Here’s a good assessment of the “legal loophole” claim:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/feb/07/donald-trump/immigration-ms-13-and-crime-facts-behind-donald-tr/

‘Legislation passed under the Bush Administration in 2008 is the cause of this problem and President Trump inherited the problem, and is just the first president to come forward and try to deal with the problem’: FALSE.

The law Nielsen referred to is the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 signed into law by Bush, with bi-partisan support and a strong push by Evangelical leaders who were working to combat human trafficking.

This is a good bill and provided new protections to trafficking victims, including unaccompanied minors entering the country (without a parent). To ensure that these children were not being trafficked, rather than immediately sending them back to their countries of origin, the law requires that they have an immigration hearing with an advocate. They are also granted the legal right to apply for political asylum. Unaccompanied minors (referred to as “unaccompanied alien children” in the legislation) are then transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) within 72 hours, and are required to be placed “in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child.”

Unaccompanied minors are then placed either with a family member, a residential center or foster care. While the intention of this law was good, there has been a significant increase in unaccompanied minors coming across the border since 2008, which may constitute a humanitarian crisis. Not because of fraud or poor parents, but because of social conditions (violence, etc.) in their home countries. Here is the issue: Many (not all) Republicans appear to want to send these kids back immediately, regardless of the risk, and Democrats as a whole believe that the law already provides enough flexibility to respond accordingly in times of crisis.

The loophole Trump and Nielson are referring to is actually one of the humanitarian components of this legislation. But this is vitally important: **** the children being separated from their parents currently, under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy are not unaccompanied minors, but are being legally treated as such if the parents cannot provide immediate proof of parentage**** (see comments below about birth registrations).


Here is the TIP Act: 

https://www.state.gov/j/tip/laws/113178.htm 

And here’s a good article describing the background of the zero-tolerance policy: 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/16/us/politics/family-separation-trump.html

‘The only families who are being separated are those who cannot provide proof of parentage and are suspected of smuggling children’: HIGHLY MISLEADING.

This is so important! If you don’t remember anything else about this post, please remember this. Approximately one-fourth to one-third of all children under the age of 5 worldwide have not had their births legally registered, meaning their country of birth has not issued a legal birth certificate to the parents. Meaning that the parents have no legal proof that their children are their own. In many countries, legal documentation of family relationships, such as marriage and births, are unavailable. Sometimes this is because poor, indigenous families live in the countryside, far from infrastructure, and in other cases, birth registrations are denied to certain populations because it is easier to commit human rights violations against them. How can you verify deaths if there is no legal evidence of the births in the first place? This is the stuff Guatemala’s “invisible war” was made of—causing the disappearance of entire indigenous villages that lack legal documentation of their existence. In fact, the lack of birth registration, and in some cases the outright denial of birth certificates, is considered a human rights violation according to the United Nations. Thus it is highly misleading and disingenuous for Nielson to claim that only parents who cannot provide legal proof of parentage are having their children removed, since that would likely include most, if not all of these migrant parents seeking refuge in our country, since they’re coming from countries that likely have not provided birth registration.
Here’s the United Nations’ statement on birth registration: 

https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/birth-registration/

Families were separated under prior administrations’: MOSTLY FALSE.

The policy to separate parents and children is new and was instituted on 4/6/2018. It was the “brainchild” of John Kelly and Stephen Miller to serve as a deterrent for undocumented immigration and political asylum-seeking, and some allege to be used as a political bargaining chip in the ongoing immigration reform debates. The policy was approved by Trump, and adopted by Sessions, and described in a policy statement dated April 6, 2018: 

https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1049751/download?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Prior administrations detained migrant families, but didn’t have a practice of forcibly separating parents from their children unless the adults were deemed unfit. While there may be no specific policy aimed at separating children from their parents, the administration no doubt knew that the decision to manage undocumented immigration (and apparently political asylum) through a criminal proceeding, rather than through a civil administrative proceeding would trigger this process of separating parents from their children. Additionally, it is wholly unnecessary to detain parents for a misdemeanor charge, which is the level of crime for crossing the border without documentation. Additionally, it is not illegal to seek political asylum. Additionally, there is a photo of a child in a cage being circulated and some are claiming this photo was taken in 2014, during the Obama administration. This assertion was deemed to be false. The photograph was taken June 10, 2018. Here’s my source:

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/toddler-cage-photo/

‘Parents must be detained if they break the law, Just as they would be anywhere else in the United States’: FALSE.

The charge of misdemeanor does not require detainment.

‘No one is being turned away from US Ports of Entry’: FALSE.

There are numerous reports of political asylum-seekers requesting protection from US Ports of Entry and being turned away. Here are two articles with witness testimony:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/12/us/asylum-seekers-mexico-border.html 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/message-at-the-border-no-vacancy/2018/06/16/1c1719de-70d9-11e8-bd50-b80389a4e569_story.html?utm_term=.6e7768e67528

‘MS-13 gang members are flooding our border, and that’s who we’re trying to stop to protect the children’: FALSE.

The MS-13 gang was created in the United States in the 1980s, not Central America. The gang grew out of Los Angeles neighborhoods with higher numbers of civil war refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. There are an estimated 10,000 or less MS-13 gang members living in the United States (a 2006 stat), 70% of who are US citizens, not immigrants. For instance, a May 2017 report on an ICE arrest found that of the 1378 individuals arrested, 933 were US citizens.

Here’s a report on MS-13:

Seven Facts about MS-13 and How to Combat the Gang

The MS-13 gang constitutes approximately 1% of all gang members living in the United States, but they are a real threat, particularly to unaccompanied minors fleeing their countries because of violence and persecution. Since unaccompanied minors are a target for MS-13 gang members, the Trump administration quite likely has dramatically increased the vulnerability of the children who they’ve taken from their parents and legally deemed “unaccompanied alien children” because their parents did not have legal proof of their relationship. Here’s another good assessment:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/feb/07/donald-trump/immigration-ms-13-and-crime-facts-behind-donald-tr/

Additionally, there were 68,541 unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border in 2014, and U.S. Border Patrol confirmed that 159 of them were suspected gang affiliations, and of those, 56 were suspected or confirmed to be affiliated with MS-13. 45,400 unaccompanied minors, on average, have been apprehended per year from 2012 to 2017.
Source:

https://www.cbp.gov/…/southwest-border-unaccompanie…/fy-2014

‘Political asylum up 349%’: PARTIALLY TRUE, BUT MISLEADING.

Percentages are meaningless without the numbers, and statistics can be manipulated. I could not get the 349% number, but political asylum applications from Central America have increased, but not because of legal loopholes, rather, because of a spike in violence in those countries, and a dramatic increase in the desperation of families being targeted by gang violence. First, it’s important not to confuse political asylum applicants with the UN refugees, although both are granted refugee status, if accepted into the country. Basically, there are two primary ways someone can gain refugee status in the US: 1) coming into the US and then applying for political asylum (either by presenting themselves to a US Port of Authority or overstaying a visa ) and 2) being granted refugee status in another country by the UN (UNHCR) when individuals cross an international border in response to persecution and/or conflict. Trump dramatically lowered the annual UNHCR refugee threshold from about 80,000 to 21,000 (dramatically lower than both Bush and Obama). The majority of refugees coming from the UNHCR program are from Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan, followed by Asia (Burmese and Bhutanese).

With regard to the first option (people coming into the country first, and applying for political asylum), overall there has been a sharp decline in political asylum applications being granted in the last 15 years, but again, an increase in applications, particularly from what’s called the “Northern Triangle” in Central America (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) (see below).

First, the numbers. In 2000 there were 32,514 people who were granted political asylum, compared to 20,455 in 2016:

Source:

https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statisti…/yearbook/…/table16

Here is the breakdown on where the asylem seekers are coming from (2016):

22% China
11% El Salvador
10% Guatamala
7% Honduras
5% Mexico
4% Egypt
4% Syria
3% Iraq
2% Nepal
2% Ethiopia

Source:
https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/asylum-united-states

So now, about the increase in applications (i.e., screenings). There were 115,399 affirmative asylum applications filed with USCIS in 2016, which is an increase of 39% from the prior year, and a 100% increase since 2014, but still far lower than the all-time high of 144,000 applications filed in 1995. The numbers fluctuate based on what’s happening in the world and who is fleeing due to a credible fear of persecution (based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion). The country-of-origin with the largest increase in applications is actually China (16,494 applications, a 19% increase compared to 2015), followed by Egypt, and then Venezuela (14,773 applications, a 161% increase compared to 2015). The number of affirmative asylum applications by migrants from Central America’s Northern Triangle Countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) is the topic of concern and those applications have risen 25% between 2016 and 2017, but in the past three years the number of applications has gone from 7,723 to 25,80. The number of denials has increased as well though, thus most of these cases of political asylum have been denied, particularly for those from Latin America.

Source:
https://www.dhs.gov/…/publicati…/Refugees_Asylees_2016_0.pdf

So first, let’s keep the numbers in mind, since statistics can be misleading. Among the total number of asylum applications of 115,399 received in 2016, most are from China, and only about 25,000 applications are from the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras). And while the total number of migrants being arrested at the US-Mexico border is the lowest since the early 70s (46 year low), the reason for the increase in asylum applications from people in Central America is due to violence, not legal loopholes.

Basically, desperate parents in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are either requesting protection from US border security authorities, or they’re sending their children with the hope of keeping them alive (kind of like when desperate parents threw their children over the fence during the Viet Nam war). Most political asylum seekers from Central America are women and children, because these are the populations targeted by gangs in their home countries. These are desperate people needing help. They often arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and often without legal identification.

I believe that the Trump administration is waging war on all forms of immigration, but right now, he seems focused on political asylum from south of the border. For instance, according to government policy under Bush and Obama administrations, once a political asylum-seeker in detention passes the “credible fear” test during an immigration interview, they are released. They then proceed through the political asylum process, which takes about a year. If their application is denied, they’re detained and returned to their country of origin. Under the Trump administration though, this policy changed and political asylum-seekers are continuing to be detained even after they’ve passed the credible fear interview. For instance, recently “in the El Paso sector [from February to September of 2017] 349 requests for release from detention were made, and all 349 of them were denied.”

Source:
https://www.thenation.com/article/ice-is-sending-a-message-to-the-worlds-asylum-seekers-the-us-is-no-place-of-refuge/

So basically, there is violence and horrific persecution in Central America, targeting primarily women and children. These desperate people are coming to the US and requesting help, and the Trump policy response appears to be to create a deterrent by separating them from their children, likely forever, because most of these desperate parents will never be able to provide legal proof of their familial relationship (see my analysis on unaccompanied minors and the 2008 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) legislation and birth registrations above).

Fact sheet on Asylum-Seekers:
https://reliefweb.int/report/united-states-america/fact-sheet-us-immigration-and-central-american-asylum-seekers

‘There is no policy to separate parents from their children when they are seeking political asylum’: FALSE.

Richard Hudson, the Deputy Chief of Operations Program of US Customs and Border Protection, testified before a Senate Judiciary committee hearing on May 23, 2018 and stated that “hundreds of children [are being] separated from their parents every week.” This admission is in contradiction to Nielson’s and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ assertion that only families crossing the border illegally are facing separation.

Families seeking asylum and presenting themselves at a US Port of Entry are being separated as well:

https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/…/tvpra-and-exploited-loop… (video)

https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/…/05-23-18%20Hudson%20Test… (transcript)

‘People are flooding the our southern border’: FALSE.

This has been a constant rallying cry of President Trump since he was running for president, and there is no evidence to back up his claim. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. As of 2016 (most recent statistics available) there were as estimated 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, which is a significant decrease from 12.2 million in 2005. Among all unauthorized immigrants in 2014, 5.8 million are Mexican, down from 6.4 million in 2009. The balance of unauthorized immigrants are primarily from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico has been steadily declining since 2009, and 78% of all unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. over a decade (avg 13.6 years). Among Mexican unauthorized immigrants, only 7% have lived in the U.S. less than 5 years, and the majority (estimate 87%) were recruited to the US directly from their home communities, by the US agricultural and meat-processing industries (during the “Chicken Boom”). In other words, the majority of undocumented immigrants currently in the United States have been here for years, and are not recent migrants. While there has been an increase in political asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children (typically teens), our southern border is NOT being flooded.

Source on illegal immigration from Mexico:
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/03/02/what-we-know-about-illegal-immigration-from-mexico/

Source on DHS 2011 stats:
https://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ois_ill_pe_2011.pdf

Source on DHS 2017 stats:
https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics/special-reports/legal-immigration

Summary: There is a humanitarian crisis occurring in the Northern Triangle of Central America that has caused an increase in political asylum-seekers requesting protection from the United States, and an increase in unaccompanied minors. The people presenting themselves at US Ports of Entry are poor, desperate, and traumatized. We may not be able to help all of them, but we can help some of them, both in their home countries and here. It’s unclear to me whether Trump is waging war against all migrants (undocumented economic migrants, UNHCR refugees, and political asylum-seekers), or if the current policy is focusing more on political asylum-seekers entering through a southern US Port of Entry (particularly unaccompanied minors). But what does seem clear to me is that the Trump administration has responded to this humanitarian crisis by taking a hostile stance toward the victims, and rather than responding with compassion (even compassion with some limits), they are dramatically exaggerating the problem and conflating numerous dynamics to reduce sympathy: making it sound as though Central Americans make up the bulk of immigrants and asylum-seekers in the US (they don’t); implying that the majority of children being brought into the country are being trafficked by MS-13 gangs (they aren’t), scapegoating the parents by referencing them with disdain for attempting to come into the country with their children, calling them criminals, etc. for bringing their children into our country (far from it).

Is this who we are as a country?

 

9 Myths About Trump’s ‘Zero-Tolerance’ Policy

There is so much misinformation out there about the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy that requires criminal prosecution, which then warrants the separating of parents and children at the southern border. As a professor at a local Cal State, I research and write about these issues, so here, I wrote the following to make it easier for you:

Myth 1: This is not a new policy and was practiced under Obama and Clinton – FALSE.

The policy to separate parents and children is new and was instituted on 4/6/2018. It was the “brainchild” of John Kelly and Stephen Miller to serve as a deterrent for undocumented immigration, and some allege to be used as a bargaining chip. The policy was approved by Trump, and adopted by Sessions. Prior administrations detained migrant families, but didn’t have a practice of forcibly separating parents from their children unless the adults were deemed unfit. Here is the memo.

Myth 2: This is the only way to deter undocumented immigration: FALSE.

Annual trends show that arrests for undocumented entry are at a 46 year low, and undocumented crossings dropped in 2007, with a net loss (more people leaving than arriving). Deportations have increased steadily though (spiking in 1996 and more recently), because several laws that were passed since 1996 have made it more difficult to gain legal status for people already here, and thus increased their deportations (I address this later under the myth that it’s the Democrats’ fault). What we mostly have now are people crossing the border illegally because they’ve already been hired by a US company, or because they are seeking political asylum. Economic migrants come to this country because our country has kept the demand going. But again, many of these people impacted by Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy appear to be political asylum-seekers. Here is an article describing how arrests for undocumented crossings are at an all-time low:

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/05/568546381/arrests-for-illegal-border-crossings-hit-46-year-low


Myth 3: Most of the people coming across the border are just trying to take advantage of our country by taking our jobs: FALSE.

Most of the parents who have been impacted by Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy have presented themselves as political asylum-seekers at a U.S. port-of-entry, from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Rather than processing their claims, according to witness accounts, it appears as though they have been taken into custody on the spot and had their children ripped from their arms. The ACLU alleges that this practice violates the US Asylum Act, and the UN asserts that it violates the UN Treaty on the State of Refugees, one of the few treaties the US has ratified. The ACLU asserts that this policy is an illegal act on the part of the United States government, not to mention morally and ethically reprehensible. Here’s an article about criminal charges against Tyson for recruiting undocumented migrants directly from Mexico during the Chicken Boom (that era when everyone stopped eating beef and started to eat more chicken because they thought it was healthier):

https://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/21/us/meatpackers-profits-hinge-on-pool-of-immigrant-labor.html

Myth 4: We’re a country that respects the Rule of Law, and if people break the law, this is what they get: FALSE.

We are a country that has an above-ground system of immigration and an underground system. Our government (under both parties) has always been aware that US companies recruit workers in the poorest parts of Mexico for cheap labor, and ICE (and its predecessor INS) has looked the other way because this underground economy benefits our country to the tune of billions of dollars annually. Thus, even though many of the people crossing the border now are asylum-seekers, those who are economic migrants (migrant workers) likely have been recruited here to do jobs Americans will not do. Here is an article that describes how our economy is dependent on undocumented labor:

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/Opinion/2016/10/26/Donald-Trumps-wall-ignores-the-economic-logic-of-undocumented-immigrant-labor/2621477498203/

Myth 5: The children have to be separated from their parents because the parents must be arrested and it would be cruel to put children in jail with their parents: FALSE.

First, in the case of economic migrants crossing the border illegally, criminal prosecution has not been the legal norm, and families have historically been kept together at all cost. Also, crossing the border without documentation is typically a misdemeanor not requiring arrest, but rather has been handled in a civil proceeding. Additionally, parents who have been detained have historically been detained with their children in ICE “family residential centers,” again, for civil processing. The Trump administration’s shift in policy is for political purposes only, not legal ones. Here is the ACLU lawsuit. See p. 18:

https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/ms-l-v-ice-plaintiffs-opposition-defendants-motion-dismiss-doc-56

Myth 6: We have rampant fraud in our asylum process, the proof of which is the significant increase we have in the number of people applying for asylum. FALSE.

​The increase in asylum seekers is a direct result of the increase in civil conflict and violence across the globe. While some people may believe that we shouldn’t allow any refugees into our country because “it’s not our problem,” neither our current asylum law, nor our ideological foundation as a country support such an isolationist approach. There is very little evidence to support Sessions’ claim that abuse of our asylum-seeking policies is rampant. Also, what Sessions failed to mention is that the majority of asylum seekers are from China, not South of the border. Here is a very fair and balanced assessment of his statements:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/oct/19/jeff-sessions/jeff-sessions-claim-about-asylum-system-fraudulent/

Myth 7: The Democrats caused this, “it’s their law.” FALSE.

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats caused this, the Trump administration did (although the Republicans could fix this today, and have refused). I believe what this myth refers to is the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which were both passed under Clinton in 1996. These laws essentially made unauthorized entry into the US a crime (typically a misdemeanor for first-time offenders), but under both Republicans and Democrats, these cases were handled through civil deportation proceedings, not a criminal proceeding, which did not require separation. And again, even in cases where detainment was required, families were always kept together in family residential centers, unless the parents were deemed unfit (as mentioned above). The administration has also referred to the Trafficking in Person’s Act (TIP), which I will address in my next blog post. Basically, Trump’s assertion that he hates this policy but has no choice but to separate the parents from their children, because the Democrats “gave us this law” is false and nothing more than propaganda designed to compel negotiation on bad policy. Here’s a good article about the zero-tolerance policy. Many articles are evolving as the administration reveals more information about their motives:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-democrats-us-border-migrant-families-children-parents-mexico-separate-a8401521.html

Myth 8: The parents and children will be reunited shortly, once the parents’ court cases are finalized: FALSE.

Criminal court is a vastly different beast than civil court proceedings. Also, the children are being processed as unaccompanied minors (“unaccompanied alien children”), which typically means they are in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). Under normal circumstances when a child enters the country without his or her parent, ORR attempts to locate a family member within a few weeks, and the child is then released to a family member, or if a family member cannot be located, the child is placed in a residential center (anywhere in the country), or in some cases, foster care. Prior to Trump’s new policy, ORR was operating at 95% capacity, and they simply cannot effectively manage the influx of 2000+ children, some as young as 4 months old. Also, keep in mind, these are not unaccompanied minor children, they have parents. There is great legal ambiguity on how and even whether the parents will get their children back because we are in uncharted territory right now. According to the ACLU lawsuit (see below), there is currently no easy vehicle for reuniting parents with their children. Additionally, according to a May 2018 report, numerous cases of verbal, physical and sexual abuse were found to have occurred in these residential centers. Here’s ACLU’s report on the abuse in these centers:

https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-obtains-documents-showing-widespread-abuse-child-immigrants-us-custody

Myth 9: This policy is legal: LIKELY FALSE.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on 5/6/18, and a recent court ruling denied the government’s motion to dismiss the suit. The judge deciding the case stated that the Trump Administration’s policy is “brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.” The case is moving forward because it was deemed to have legal merit. Here is an article that describes the judge’s comments:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-07/aclu-suit-over-child-separations-at-border-may-proceed-judge

This post is also on my personal Facebook page as a public post

There is so much misinformation out there about the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy that requires criminal prosecution, which then warrants the separating of parents and children at the southern border. As a professor at a local Cal State, I research and write about these issues, so here, I wrote the following to make it easier for you:

Myth 1: This is not a new policy and was practiced under Obama and Clinton – FALSE.

The policy to separate parents and children is new and was instituted on 4/6/2018. It was the “brainchild” of John Kelly and Stephen Miller to serve as a deterrent for undocumented immigration, and some allege to be used as a bargaining chip. The policy was approved by Trump, and adopted by Sessions. Prior administrations detained migrant families, but didn’t have a practice of forcibly separating parents from their children unless the adults were deemed unfit. Here is the memo.

Myth 2: This is the only way to deter undocumented immigration: FALSE.

Annual trends show that arrests for undocumented entry are at a 46 year low, and undocumented crossings dropped in 2007, with a net loss (more people leaving than arriving). Deportations have increased steadily though (spiking in 1996 and more recently), because several laws that were passed since 1996 have made it more difficult to gain legal status for people already here, and thus increased their deportations (I address this later under the myth that it’s the Democrats’ fault). What we mostly have now are people crossing the border illegally because they’ve already been hired by a US company, or because they are seeking political asylum. Economic migrants come to this country because our country has kept the demand going. But again, many of these people impacted by Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy appear to be political asylum-seekers. Here is an article describing how arrests for undocumented crossings are at an all-time low:

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/05/568546381/arrests-for-illegal-border-crossings-hit-46-year-low


Myth 3: Most of the people coming across the border are just trying to take advantage of our country by taking our jobs: FALSE.

Most of the parents who have been impacted by Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy have presented themselves as political asylum-seekers at a U.S. port-of-entry, from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Rather than processing their claims, according to witness accounts, it appears as though they have been taken into custody on the spot and had their children ripped from their arms. The ACLU alleges that this practice violates the US Asylum Act, and the UN asserts that it violates the UN Treaty on the State of Refugees, one of the few treaties the US has ratified. The ACLU asserts that this policy is an illegal act on the part of the United States government, not to mention morally and ethically reprehensible. Here’s an article about criminal charges against Tyson for recruiting undocumented migrants directly from Mexico during the Chicken Boom (that era when everyone stopped eating beef and started to eat more chicken because they thought it was healthier):

https://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/21/us/meatpackers-profits-hinge-on-pool-of-immigrant-labor.html

Myth 4: We’re a country that respects the Rule of Law, and if people break the law, this is what they get: FALSE.

We are a country that has an above-ground system of immigration and an underground system. Our government (under both parties) has always been aware that US companies recruit workers in the poorest parts of Mexico for cheap labor, and ICE (and its predecessor INS) has looked the other way because this underground economy benefits our country to the tune of billions of dollars annually. Thus, even though many of the people crossing the border now are asylum-seekers, those who are economic migrants (migrant workers) likely have been recruited here to do jobs Americans will not do. Here is an article that describes how our economy is dependent on undocumented labor:

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/Opinion/2016/10/26/Donald-Trumps-wall-ignores-the-economic-logic-of-undocumented-immigrant-labor/2621477498203/

Myth 5: The children have to be separated from their parents because the parents must be arrested and it would be cruel to put children in jail with their parents: FALSE.

First, in the case of economic migrants crossing the border illegally, criminal prosecution has not been the legal norm, and families have historically been kept together at all cost. Also, crossing the border without documentation is typically a misdemeanor not requiring arrest, but rather has been handled in a civil proceeding. Additionally, parents who have been detained have historically been detained with their children in ICE “family residential centers,” again, for civil processing. The Trump administration’s shift in policy is for political purposes only, not legal ones. Here is the ACLU lawsuit. See p. 18:

https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/ms-l-v-ice-plaintiffs-opposition-defendants-motion-dismiss-doc-56

Myth 6: We have rampant fraud in our asylum process, the proof of which is the significant increase we have in the number of people applying for asylum. FALSE.

​The increase in asylum seekers is a direct result of the increase in civil conflict and violence across the globe. While some people may believe that we shouldn’t allow any refugees into our country because “it’s not our problem,” neither our current asylum law, nor our ideological foundation as a country support such an isolationist approach. There is very little evidence to support Sessions’ claim that abuse of our asylum-seeking policies is rampant. Also, what Sessions failed to mention is that the majority of asylum seekers are from China, not South of the border. Here is a very fair and balanced assessment of his statements:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/oct/19/jeff-sessions/jeff-sessions-claim-about-asylum-system-fraudulent/

Myth 7: The Democrats caused this, “it’s their law.” FALSE.

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats caused this, the Trump administration did (although the Republicans could fix this today, and have refused). I believe what this myth refers to is the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which were both passed under Clinton in 1996. These laws essentially made unauthorized entry into the US a crime (typically a misdemeanor for first-time offenders), but under both Republicans and Democrats, these cases were handled through civil deportation proceedings, not a criminal proceeding, which did not require separation. And again, even in cases where detainment was required, families were always kept together in family residential centers, unless the parents were deemed unfit (as mentioned above). The administration has also referred to the Trafficking in Person’s Act (TIP), which I will address in my next blog post. Basically, Trump’s assertion that he hates this policy but has no choice but to separate the parents from their children, because the Democrats “gave us this law” is false and nothing more than propaganda designed to compel negotiation on bad policy. Here’s a good article about the zero-tolerance policy. Many articles are evolving as the administration reveals more information about their motives:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-democrats-us-border-migrant-families-children-parents-mexico-separate-a8401521.html

Myth 8: The parents and children will be reunited shortly, once the parents’ court cases are finalized: FALSE.

Criminal court is a vastly different beast than civil court proceedings. Also, the children are being processed as unaccompanied minors (“unaccompanied alien children”), which typically means they are in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). Under normal circumstances when a child enters the country without his or her parent, ORR attempts to locate a family member within a few weeks, and the child is then released to a family member, or if a family member cannot be located, the child is placed in a residential center (anywhere in the country), or in some cases, foster care. Prior to Trump’s new policy, ORR was operating at 95% capacity, and they simply cannot effectively manage the influx of 2000+ children, some as young as 4 months old. Also, keep in mind, these are not unaccompanied minor children, they have parents. There is great legal ambiguity on how and even whether the parents will get their children back because we are in uncharted territory right now. According to the ACLU lawsuit (see below), there is currently no easy vehicle for reuniting parents with their children. Additionally, according to a May 2018 report, numerous cases of verbal, physical and sexual abuse were found to have occurred in these residential centers. Here’s ACLU’s report on the abuse in these centers:

https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-obtains-documents-showing-widespread-abuse-child-immigrants-us-custody

Myth 9: This policy is legal: LIKELY FALSE.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on 5/6/18, and a recent court ruling denied the government’s motion to dismiss the suit. The judge deciding the case stated that the Trump Administration’s policy is “brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.” The case is moving forward because it was deemed to have legal merit. Here is an article that describes the judge’s comments:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-07/aclu-suit-over-child-separations-at-border-may-proceed-judge

This post is also on my personal Facebook page as a public post