Homeland Security

Myth vs. Fact: DHS Zero-Tolerance Policy

Release Date:
June 18, 2018

In recent days, we have seen reporters, Members of Congress, and other groups mislead the public on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) zero-tolerance policy.

Federal law enforcement officers have sworn duties to enforce the laws that Congress passes. Repeating intentionally untrue and unsubstantiated statements about DHS agents, officers, and procedures is irresponsible and deeply disrespectful to the men and women who risk their lives every day to secure our border and enforce our laws.

 


Myth

DHS has a policy to separate families at the border.


Fact

DHS does not have a blanket policy of separating families at the border. However, DHS does have a responsibility to protect all minors in our custody. This means DHS will separate adults and minors under certain circumstances. These circumstances include: 1) when DHS is unable to determine the familial relationship, 2) when DHS determines that a child may be at risk with the parent or legal guardian, or 3) when the parent or legal guardian is referred for criminal prosecution.

  • Familial Relationship – If there is reason to question the claimed familial relationship between an adult and child, it is not appropriate to detain adults and children together.
  • Human Trafficking and Smuggling – If there is reason to suspect the purported parent or legal guardian of human trafficking or smuggling, DHS detains the adult in an appropriate, secure detection facility, separate from the minor. DHS continues to see instances and intelligence reports indicating minors are trafficked by unrelated adults, posing as a “family” in an effort to avoid detention.
  • Safety Risk – If there is reason to suspect the purported parent or legal guardian poses a safety risk to the child (e.g. suspected child abuse), it is not appropriate to maintain the adult and child together.
  • Criminal Prosecution – If an adult is referred for criminal prosecution, the adult will be transferred to U.S. Marshals Service custody and any children will be classified as an unaccompanied alien child and transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services custody.

In recent months, DHS has seen a staggering increase in the number of illegal aliens using children to pose as family units to gain entry into the United States. From October 2017 to February 2018, there was a 315 percent increase in the number of cases of adults with minors fraudulently posing as “family units” to gain entry.

 


Myth

Prior to April 2017, DHS never separated families arriving at the border.


Fact

DHS has separated families under the circumstances described above. Because of court decisions, DHS can generally no longer hold families in detention beyond 20 days.

 


Myth

DHS can indefinitely detain families who cross the border illegally.


Fact

DHS generally releases families within 20 days. This creates a “get out of jail free” card for illegal alien families and encourages groups of illegal aliens to pose as families hoping to take advantage of that loophole.

In 2014, DHS increased detention facilities for arriving alien families and held families pending the outcome of immigration proceedings. However, a federal judge ruled in 2016 that under the Flores Settlement Agreement, minors detained as part of a family unit cannot be detained in unlicensed facilities for longer than a presumptively reasonable period of 20 days, at which point, such minors must be released or transferred to a licensed facility. Because most jurisdictions do not offer licensure for family residential centers, DHS rarely holds family units for longer than 20 days. The judge’s ruling made it much more difficult for the Federal government to use the detention authorities Congress gave it.

 


Myth

DHS is referring for prosecution all families coming to the border.


Fact

DHS only refers to the Department of Justice those adults who violate the law by crossing the border illegally (or who have violated some other criminal law) and are amenable for prosecution. When adults, with or without children, unlawfully enter this country, there must be a consequence for breaking our laws.

DHS is not referring for prosecutions families or individuals arriving at ports of entry or attempting to enter the country through legal means. These families and individuals have not broken the law and will be processed accordingly.

 


Myth

DHS is turning away asylum seekers at ports of entry.


Fact

DHS complies with Federal law with regard to processing individuals claiming asylum at ports of entry.

CBP processes all aliens arriving at all ports of entry without documents as expeditiously as possible without negatively affecting the agency's primary mission to protect the American public from dangerous people and materials while enhancing the nation’s economic competitiveness through facilitating legitimate trade and travel.

As the number of arriving aliens determined to be inadmissible at ports of entry continues to rise, CBP must prioritize its limited resources to ensure its primary mission is being executed. Depending on port circumstances at the time of arrival, CBP officials will allocate the necessary resources to its primary mission and operate appropriate access controls and queue management procedures for those arriving aliens without proper travel documents.

 


Myth

DHS separates families who entered at the ports of entry and who are seeking asylum – even though they have not broken the law.


Fact

If an adult enters at a port of entry and claims asylum, they will not face prosecution for illegal entry. DHS does have a responsibility to protect minors we apprehend and will separate in three circumstances:1) when DHS is unable to determine the familial relationship, 2) when DHS determines that a child may be at risk with the parent or legal guardian, or 3) when the parent or legal guardian is referred for criminal prosecution.

 


Myth

Once separated, arriving alien adults cannot contact minors and are not told where the minors are being held by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).


Fact

DHS is committed to and has procedures in place to connect family members after separation so adults know the location of minors and have regular communication with them.

HHS and DHS work to facilitate communication between detained adults and minors (in HHS custody) in a number of ways to include telephone and/or video conferencing. Additionally, ICE has posted information in all over 72-hour facilities advising detained adults who are trying to locate, and/or communicate with a child in the custody of HHS to call the Detention Reporting and Information Line (DRIL) for assistance. This posted information includes:

  • HHS Adult Hotline (24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in both English and Spanish):
    • If calling from outside an ICE detention facility, call 1-800-203-7001.
    • If calling from an ICE detention facility, dial 699# on the free call platform.
    • Please note that you will need to provide the child’s full name, date of birth, and country of origin. It is also helpful to provide the child’s alien registration number, if you know it.
  • HHS Email: information@ORRNCC.com

Individuals may also obtain information about a particular immigration case (including their child’s), or information about reunifying with minors, through the following methods:

  • ICE Call Center (Monday-Friday, 8 am-8 pm EST):
    • If calling from outside an ICE detention facility, call 1-888-351-4024.
    • If calling from an ICE detention facility, dial 9116# on the free call platform.
  • ICE Email: Parental.Interests@ice.dhs.gov

Additionally, CBP has developed and distributed bilingual documents outlining the separation and reunification process.

 


Myth

Language barriers prevent aliens apprehended at the border, and subject to prosecution, from receiving adequate information.


Fact

All US Border Patrol trainees are required to take Spanish language training while at the Border Patrol Academy, and achieve proficiency in Spanish. All Border Patrol personnel on the Southwest Border are bilingual.

CBP apprehends illegal aliens from numerous countries that speak many languages other than Spanish. Should an agent ever have a language or communication issue, they are required to find another Agent who speaks the language or to utilize contract interpreters.

All Border Patrol personnel at the border are directed to clearly explain the relevant process to apprehended individuals. CBP provides detainees with written documentation (in Spanish and English) that lays out the process – to include the appropriate phone numbers to contact.

 


Myth

CBP and ICE officers are not properly trained to separate minors from their custodians.


Fact

The safety of CBP employees, detainees, and the public is paramount during all aspects of CBP operations. CBP treats all individuals in its custody with dignity and respect, and complies will all laws and policy, including CBP’s National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search (TEDS). TEDS reinforces/reiterates the need to consider the best interest of children and mandates adherence to established protocols to protect at-risk populations, to include standards for the transport and treatment of minors in CBP custody.

All ICE facility staff who interact with adults receive trauma-informed care training. ICE is augmenting mental health care staffing, to include trained clinical staff, to provide mental health services to detained adults.

 


Myth

DHS detention facilities are in poor condition and do not provide clean drinking water.


Fact

DHS facilities are safe and sanitary, and adults and minors are provided access to food and drinking water, medical care as needed, and adequate temperature control and ventilation.

 


Myth

DHS and HHS houses migrants in “inhumane fenced cages” or in an “ice box.”


Fact

DHS and HHS utilize short-term facilities in order to process and temporarily hold migrants that have been apprehended. These short-term facilities do not employ the use of ‘cages’ to house minors. Certain facilities make use of barriers in order to separate minors of different genders and age groups – for the safety of those who are being held. Additionally, CBP facilities have adequate temperature control and ventilation. ICE facilities are designed for longer-term detention of adults and, in some cases, families.

DHS takes seriously our responsibility for the safety and security of all migrants in the custody of the United States government.

 


Myth

DHS has never separated families for prosecutions before – this is a new policy in this Administration.


Fact

Illegal border crossers, including family units, were referred for prosecutions, as appropriates, under the previous Administration. The average referral rate for amenable adults from FY10 – FY16 was 21 percent.

 


Myth

By choice, DHS refuses to keep families together through the immigration adjudication and removal process.


Fact

Court decisions interpreting the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA), which has been in existence for over 20 years but was significantly broadened in 2016, limits the government’s ability to detain family units. Pursuant to these court decisions, minors detained as part of a family unit cannot be detained in unlicensed facilities for longer than a presumptively reasonable period of 20 days, at which point, minors must be released or transferred to a licensed facility. Because most jurisdictions do not offer licensure for family residential centers, DHS can rarely detain a family for longer than 20 days.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) requires unaccompanied alien children (other than those from contiguous countries – Mexico and Canada – who are eligible to withdraw their application for admission) be transferred from DHS to the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours, absent exceptional circumstances.

13 Facts the Media 'Pros' Don’t Want You to Know About 'Family Border Separation'

The fire hose of fake news from the establishment media this week on the issue of illegal immigrant families separated at the border is designed to mislead the American people — and to distract from Trump’s recent successes.

Here are the facts — 13 truths the media do not want you to know about President Trump’s legal, humane, and moral handling of adults and children who enter our country illegally.

 

1. Trump Is Only Enforcing the Law

... In truth, Trump is only complying with and enforcing the law, which is his constitutional duty and responsibility.

When the media claim Trump has a “choice,” what they mean is he has a choice to ignore the law as Obama did when he illegally released untold numbers of illegals into America....

2. Trump’s Only Choice Is to Separate Illegal Alien Families

When an illegal alien crosses the border into the U.S., he is a lawbreaker, and, like any lawbreaker (including American citizens), he is put into the criminal justice system.

This is the law.

Obviously, when an illegal alien is in custody, he is housed in an adult detention center. For obvious reasons, it would be illegal for Trump to “reunite” this family by allowing children to live in adult detention centers....

Keep in mind that when we are this early in the process, we do not even know if this is a real family unit. It is not uncommon for illegal aliens (including criminals) to pretend the children they are traveling with are their own....

 

3. The Left Wants Illegal Aliens to Enjoy Privileges Denied to American Citizens

If an American citizen breaks the law and is funneled into the justice system, he is separated from his family and children. This American citizen is not allowed to keep his family with him in a detention center....

 

4. Asylum Seekers Not Breaking the Law are Not Being Separated...

 

5. Trump Is Correct About the Loophole

In 1997, a consent decree called the Flores Settlement made it illegal for America to hold migrant children for longer than 20 days. Meaning, in order to keep the family together after 20 days of detention, we can either reunite the family by letting them loose to live illegally in America, or we can keep the parent in detention and place the child in a foster home or with a relative who lives in America.

Trump is wisely choosing to do the latter ...

 

6. "Reuniting" Families Would Be a Disaster for Countless Children

Again, the only way to “keep a family together” is to allow illegals to pour into our country....

 

7. Obama and Democrats Incentivized This ‘Family Separation’

Until Obama came along, illegal border crossings primarily involved young, single men. Obama incentivized the idea of dragging minor children along on this dangerous journey (where many children are sexually assaulted) through his policy of “catch and release.”...

 

8. Barack Obama Separated Illegal Alien Families, Media Said Nothing

Under Obama, when illegal border crossers were put into the criminal justice system, families were indeed separated. Obama, of course, rarely prosecuted, even though the law calls for it.

Neither Democrats nor the media cared about family separation then, which proves this manufactured and coordinated uproar is only about politics....

 

9. IMPORTANT: The ONLY Way to Unite Families Is to Release Them into America

... But when you hear the media call for these families to be reunited, remember that is coded language that means only one thing: releasing illegal aliens into our country with nothing more than a court summons....

 

10. Incentivizing the Act of Bringing Minor Children Across the Border Is Evil

... Evil people want these children dragged across the border, want this abuse incentivized by “keeping the family unit together,” because flooding the country with future indebted voters is more important to them than the safety and well-being of small children....

 

11. Those Who Come to America Legally Face ‘Family Separation’

 

12. “Family Reunification” Is an Invitation to Human Traffickers

Because of “catch and release,” because of this dumb and destructive loophole carved out for families, the number of illegal aliens using children to enter the U.S. increased by 315 percent between October 2017 and February 2018.

Trump understands what is happening and this is why he has moved to a zero tolerance policy....

 

13. Media Do Not Give a Shit About American Families Separated by Criminal Illegal Aliens

Illegal alien families are choosing to be separated by voluntarily engaging in lawbreaking. These illegal alien families, if they so choose, can stay together, simply by obeying the law....

Here's the real story on migrant children separated from parents

As is usually the case, the latest Trump outrage as presented to you by the self-righteous media is not an accurate reflection of what’s really going on.

If you’ve been listening to the scandalized reports from the press and the outraged howls of Democrats and celebrities, you have the impression the Trump Administration is seizing migrant children, separating them from their families and banishing them to dark dungeons – never to see their parents again. And they’re doing all of this because they’re racist xenophobes ...

Is this even close to what’s really going on?

.... National Review’s Rich Lowry explains the truth about how this works, and under what circumstances, and why:

Separation happens only if officials find that the adult is falsely claiming to be the child’s parent, or is a threat to the child, or is put into criminal proceedings.

It’s the last that is operative here. The past practice had been to give a free pass to an adult who is part of a family unit. The new Trump policy is to prosecute all adults. The idea is to send a signal that we are serious about our laws and to create a deterrent against re-entry. (Illegal entry is a misdemeanor, illegal re-entry a felony.)

When a migrant is prosecuted for illegal entry, he or she is taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals. In no circumstance anywhere in the U.S. do the marshals care for the children of people they take into custody. The child is taken into the custody of HHS, who cares for them at temporary shelters.

The criminal proceedings are exceptionally short, assuming there is no aggravating factor such as a prior illegal entity or another crime. The migrants generally plead guilty, and they are then sentenced to time served, typically all in the same day, although practices vary along the border. After this, they are returned to the custody of ICE.

If the adult then wants to go home, in keeping with the expedited order of removal that is issued as a matter of course, it’s relatively simple. The adult should be reunited quickly with his or her child, and the family returned home as a unit. In this scenario, there’s only a very brief separation.

Where it becomes much more of an issue is if the adult files an asylum claim. In that scenario, the adults are almost certainly going to be detained longer than the government is allowed to hold their children.That’s because of something called the Flores Consent Decree from 1997. It says that unaccompanied children can be held only 20 days. A ruling by the Ninth Circuit extended this 20-day limit to children who come as part of family units. So even if we want to hold a family unit together, we are forbidden from doing so.

The clock ticking on the time the government can hold a child will almost always run out before an asylum claim is settled. The migrant is allowed ten days to seek an attorney, and there may be continuances or other complications.

This creates the choice of either releasing the adults and children together into the country pending the adjudication of the asylum claim, or holding the adults and releasing the children. If the adult is held, HHS places the child with a responsible party in the U.S., ideally a relative (migrants are likely to have family and friends here).

The media coverage tells you none of this, of course....

The truth is that when there is separation, it’s very brief, and every family that wants to come to the United States can easily avoid it happening by a) going to a legitimate port of entry instead of sneaking across the border illegally, and by telling the truth about who they are....

But much of America, including almost all of the media and just about every member of the Democratic Party, has stopped taking illegal immigration seriously as a crime. But the law says it is, and the border patrol is charged with treating it like it is....

 

A Civil Rights Commissioner Weighs In On Children at the Border

On Friday, U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on the subject of separating families who enter the country illegally at the southern border. Peter’s letter is as clear an explanation of the issue as I have seen. It is so cogent that I am duplicating it here...

The reason parents and children are separated is the law: When an adult illegal alien is prosecuted for unlawful entry, that person is taken into the custody of the U.S. Marshals and the children are taken into custody by HHS. Nonetheless, unless the adult applies for asylum, the unlawful entry is resolved relatively quickly and the separation is brief. But if the adult applies for asylum, the process–-and separation–is lengthier. ...

The bottom line is that the Commission majority is opposed to enforcing almost any immigration laws pertaining to illegal entry. ...

People who have potentially valid claims for asylum can present themselves at ports of entry and request asylum. They will be processed normally and will not be separated from their children because they are following the law....

It is unwise to release detained individuals into the United States, because they are then very likely to abscond into the interior and fail to appear for their immigration hearing. “Over the past 20 years, 37 percent of all aliens free pending their trials – 918,098 out of 2,498,375 – never showed for court.”...

Separating children from their parents is regrettable. It is not, however, unique. American parents are separated from their children every day when they are arrested or incarcerated. According to HHS, during Fiscal Year 2016, 20,939 American children entered foster care because their parent is incarcerated. This is more than ten times the number of children who have been separated from their parents due to entering the United States illegally. People who cross the border illegally have committed a crime, and one of the consequences of being arrested and detained is, unfortunately, that their children cannot stay with them. ...

 

View the letter on ScribD

Children used as human shields against immigration enforcement

“We will not apologize for doing our job,” declares DHS Secretary Nielsen.

There is a coordinated effort now by some Democratic Party leaders and their allies to stop any immigration enforcement involving children.  Oregon’s Senators and Reps. Bonamici and Blumenauer participated in a demonstration in Sheridan OR this past week-end. 

In a statement released today (6/18/2018), Mark Krikorian, Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, analyzes the media hysteria created thus far and exposes the deceit and misrepresentation being used in the campaign.  Read the entire article, 'We will not apologize for doing our job' .

Below is an excerpt:

The manic wave of "concentration camp" accusations and Hitler comparisons is reminiscent of the atrocity propaganda that helped propel us into World War I (stories of Germans "bayoneting Belgian babies", raping nuns, and the like). Democratic politicians are weeping on television, staged photos are widely retweeted, and even former President George Bush's wife has penned an op-ed calling for a "kinder, more compassionate" means of enforcing our immigration laws.

The reality is more mundane. Border apprehensions of adults bringing children with them skyrocketed during the Obama administration, from about 15,000 in Fiscal Year 2013 (the first time separate statistics were reported) to more than 75,000 in FY 2017. Before the Obama years, it was rare for a parent to bring children with her when trying to infiltrate the U.S. border. No parent, after all, would subject her children to such risks unless there was an incentive to do so.

And that incentive was not flight from gang violence; research has shown almost everyone leaving Central America is motivated by economic reasons. Instead, the prospect of being released into the United States if you brought a child with you was what has caused the spike in arrests of what he Border Patrol calls "family units" at the border.

As the New York Times reported earlier this year:

Some migrants have admitted they brought their children not only to remove them from danger in such places as Central America and Africa, but because they believed it would cause the authorities to release them from custody sooner.

Others have admitted to posing falsely with children who are not their own, and Border Patrol officials say that such instances of fraud are increasing.

Children have served as get-out-of-jail-free cards for border infiltrators, ensuring the whole family's release with a notice to appear in immigration court some months or years in the future, and when they failed to appear, the Obama administration's prioritization rules meant no one would track you down.

When you reward something, you can expect to get more of it.  …

These problems could be fixed with legal changes present in both immigration bills expected to be voted on this week, as my colleague Andrew Arthur explained earlier today. The alternative is to surrender to the use of children as human shields against immigration enforcement, which will only invite even more widespread use of children as tickets to America, not only for Central Americans but also for illegal immigrants from around the world using Mexico as a springboard to sneak into the United States.

 

Opposition to immigrant sanctuary spreading in California

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — More local governments in California are resisting the state's efforts to resist the Trump administration's immigration crackdown, and political experts see politics at play as Republicans try to fire up voters in a state where the GOP has grown weak.

Since the Jeff Sessions-led Department of Justice sued California last month over its so-called "sanctuary state" law limiting police collaboration with immigration agents, at least a dozen local governments have voted to either join or support the lawsuit or for resolutions opposing the state's position. Those include the Board of Supervisors in Orange County, which has more than 3 million people.

More action is coming this week, with leaders in the Orange County city of Los Alamitos scheduled to vote Monday on a proposal for a local law to exempt the community of 12,000 from the state law. On Tuesday, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is meeting to consider joining the Trump administration lawsuit.

Immigration has been a hot topic across the country since President Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 on promises of tougher enforcement and a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. It has been a lightning rod issue in California far longer....

"When the attorney general of the United States decides to take a firm position against it, I think that gave a signal to a lot of us that, 'Hey, California is on the wrong side of this thing,'" said Fred Whitaker, chairman of the Republican Party in Orange County...

"Politics is very much about emotions, especially in midterms," he said. "I think it was only a matter of time when people went back to the issue that actually hits the nerve in the Republican base these days more than any other."

Under Democratic leadership, California has enacted a series of laws in recent years aimed at helping immigrants, including issuing driver's licenses regardless of legal status and assisting with tuition at state universities. After Trump was elected, lawmakers passed the measure to limit police collaboration with federal immigration agents....

Most of the local governments siding with the Trump administration are in Orange County, an area once considered a GOP stronghold but that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. But it's starting to spread.

Escondido in neighboring San Diego County has voted to support the federal lawsuit and last week the small city of Ripon in the state's Central Valley did the same.

In many cases, meetings on the issue have drawn boisterous crowds. Anti-illegal immigration activists have traveled from city to city to attend...

In response to the controversy, some local governments have taken the opposite approach. Leaders in Santa Ana, an Orange County city home to about 330,000 residents, voted to support California in the lawsuit.

Some of the supervisors pushing the issue in Orange and San Diego counties are Republicans running for Congress and they may see this as a way to generate needed enthusiasm, said Louis DeSipio, a political science professor at the University of California, Irvine.

"The mobilization that could come from introducing immigration debates into county political races may be a critical element in a year like 2018 when Democrats will likely be more mobilized than Republicans," he said.

Grassley charges 'colleges' selling visas to foreigners

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is confronting the Department of Homeland Security about a special program under which groups “pose as education institutions in order to secure visas for tuition-paying foreign students.”

The students, the senator points out, are then able to obtain three-year work permits and are exempted from payroll-tax requirements.

“Visa mills are those marginal educational institutions that provide visas and work permits to foreign students, but little in the way of actual schooling,” explains the Center for Immigration Studies.

The work permits under the Optional Practical Training program “actually give the alien students’ employers a tax break for hiring them instead of comparable citizen and green card students.”

Grassley, in a letter with pages of questions posed to DHS, pointed out that the foreign students are given three-year work visas, even if they aren’t offered any reasonable education.

“These ‘visa mills’ profit from the foreign student tuition and face little governmental oversight when issuing work visas under the program, which is not available to American students,” the senator explained.

“Employers also benefit from hiring foreign student over American workers, as neither the employer nor the foreign students is required to pay payroll taxes for the work,” he said.

Grassley said that with all of the financial incentives granted the students, schools and employers, it’s not surprising “that foreign student enrollment has exploded, while recent American grads are un- or under-employed.”

“Unfortunately, our government has delegated much of the authority surrounding foreign student employment to the very individuals and entities that benefit the most, schools and school officials,” he said.

David North at the Center for Immigration Studies noted, “To my knowledge, this is the first time that DHS has been asked by Congress about visa mills and OPT; one hopes that it will stir some interest in DHS about issues long neglected by that agency.”

He previously noted action taken against a visa mill that that had been described in India as “an academic rip-off.”

Grassley said foreign students “contribute to a growing population of non-immigrants who overstay their visas.”

“In 2016, more than 79,000 foreign students overstayed their visas – an overstay rate nearly three times greater than that of the general non-immigrant visa population.”

He pointed out that many reputable colleges enroll foreign students, but there are others.

“These institutions, many of which operate as section 501(c)(3) (tax-exempt) educational institutions, are costing American workers millions of dollars in lost taxes and employment opportunities, and contribute disproportionately to the large and growing population of foreign students and exchange visitors – nearly 80,000 in 2016 – who overstay visas to remain in the United States without legal authorization.”

It’s also a national security concern, he said.

There were more than a quarter-million “foreign students working in one of these government-approved, alien-only, paid ‘training’ programs, as of August 2017,” he noted.

Students are drawn by the money, and schools want to maximum revenue. To do that, he explained, schools such as Pomona College, Williams College, Yale and MIT “all recently reclassified their economics programs so that they qualify for the Department of Education’s ‘STEM’ designation, because foreign students in STEM fields can work in the U.S. for three years or more after graduation.”

U.S. employers also cash in because they are exempted from payroll taxes for the workers.

Grassley said the problem is huge.

“Tri-Valley University (TVU), was certified to admit 30 foreign students in 2009 but by May 2010 – when ICE began an investigation – had enrolled 939. The next fall, Tri-Valley had 1,555 foreign students, before the school was shuttered due to an astonishing list of criminal activity by the school’s founder, Susan Su. TVU ‘students’ reportedly took no classes, but exchanged tuition and fees for I-20s and work approval. After closure, hundreds of TVU students were, mystifyingly, permitted to transfer to other schools.”

Grassley is asking DHS how the work permits are monitored, who looks at students’ training plans, how problems are corrected and more.

 

MS-13 Resurgence: Immigration Enforcement Needed to Take Back Our Streets

The Trump administration has declared war on MS-13, the notoriously brutal gang based in El Salvador. A similar initiative launched by the Bush administration in 2005 stifled the gang's activity after several years, but the gang has been able to rebuild itself here since 2012.

Center researchers reviewed more than 500 cases of MS-13 gang members arrested nationwide since 2012. We conclude that this resurgence represents a very serious threat to public safety in communities where MS-13 has rebuilt itself. The resurgence is directly connected to the illegal arrival and resettlement of more than 300,000 Central American youths and families that has continued unabated for six years, and to a de-prioritization of immigration enforcement in the interior of the country that occurred at the same time.

All criminal gangs are a threat to public safety, but MS-13 is a unique problem because of the unusually brutal crimes its members have committed, its success in using intimidation to victimize and control people in its territory, and its focus on recruiting young members, often in schools.

Nevertheless, because such a large share of MS-13 members are not citizens, they are especially vulnerable to law enforcement, and many can be removed from the communities they terrorize. Strategic use of immigration enforcement is a necessary element to disrupting and dismantling MS-13 gangs and any other transnational criminal organization operating in our communities.

The proliferation of sanctuary policies that interfere with cooperation between state and local law enforcement agencies threatens to hamper efforts to stifle MS-13 activity. The federal government must take steps to clarify how federal law permits such cooperation and also must set up consequences for those jurisdictions and officials who impose sanctuary policies.

Key findings:

  • We found 506 MS-13 members arrested or charged with crimes that were reported in 22 states. The most cases were reported in California (92), Maryland (85), New York (80), and Virginia (63).
  • MS-13 crimes are not primarily petty nuisance crimes; 207 MS-13 members were charged with murder. In addition we found more than 100 accused of conspiracy/racketeering, and dozens of others for drug trafficking, sex trafficking, attempted murder, sexual assaults, and extortion.
  • While most of the reports of MS-13 suspects in our case set did not include information on the immigration status of the individual, we could determine that 126 of the 506 suspects (and 38 of the 207 murder suspects) were illegal aliens.
  • The median age of MS-13 gang members identified was 23, and suspects ranged in age from 14 to 57.
  • The median age of their victims was 19, and victims ranged in age from 14 to 74. Sixty of the victims were under the age of 18, including 52 of the murder victims.
  • 120 of the 506 MS-13 suspects in our case set arrived as UACs (Unaccompanied Alien Children), including 48 of the murder suspects.
  • The location of these MS-13 crimes corresponds with locations of large numbers of UACs who were resettled by the federal government.

MS-13 Crime in the United States Has Rebounded. Federal and state law enforcement agencies around the country have expressed concern about the resurgence of crime and violence attributed to the MS-13 gang. The gang activity subsided for a time following successful disruption and dismantling efforts, including ICE's Operation Community Shield, which began in 2005. A key element in that success was the assertive use of immigration law enforcement tools.1 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents participated in regional gang task forces led by local law enforcement agencies, ICE field offices launched operations with the help of local agencies, ICE encouraged the formation of 287(g) partnerships to delegate immigration enforcement authority to local gang unit officers, and ICE worked to target individual gang members who were identified by local agencies, even in sanctuary jurisdictions like San Francisco and Miami. Documented gang members often were arrested on administrative immigration violations, which had the effect of disrupting the gang's activities and ridding communities of troublemakers. In addition, these lower-level arrests often led to more significant criminal investigations of gang leaders and the dismantling of local MS-13 cliques.

The Obama administration revised these policies, however, and ICE field offices were directed to cease efforts to disrupt gangs by arresting members for immigration violations or minor crimes and instead focus on major conspiracy cases. ICE officers were no longer permitted to arrest and remove foreign gang members until they had been convicted of major crimes. Gang arrests by ICE plummeted from about 4,600 in 2012 to about 1,580 in 2014.

This de-prioritization of anti-gang enforcement by ICE corresponded to an influx of unaccompanied youths and families arriving illegally from Central America, which began in 2012. During this surge, the Border Patrol has apprehended more than 300,000 UACs and families. Under Obama administration policies, most of the families were released and allowed to continue to their destination, with orders to appear for immigration court proceedings that would take place years in the future, but most have absconded from the process. The Obama administration also adopted a lenient interpretation of the law with respect to UACs, most of whom were males between the ages of 13 and 17, and who were quickly resettled with sponsors, usually family members who were already residing here illegally; some were released to non-family sponsors.2 The government has made almost no effort to monitor or keep track of these individuals. According to DHS, about two-thirds of the youths who were permitted to resettle here as UACs have applied for green cards under a special program for juveniles who claim to have experienced hardship or been abandoned by one of their parents.3

Beginning in 2015, law enforcement agencies across the country began to express concerns about the renewal of MS-13 activity in a number of locations.

For instance, the Texas Department of Public Safety determined that MS-13 had again become a top-tier public safety threat in 2015, on par with larger established gangs, noting the increasing numbers of illegal alien members arriving in Texas and an increase in violent crime associated with it:

Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) has emerged as a top tier gang threat in Texas for 2015. The influx of illegal alien gang members crossing the border into Texas in 2014, along with reports of extremely violent murders committed by its members in the Houston area, positions the gang as one of the most significant gang threats in the state for this upcoming year.

Since 2011, the number of MS-13 members encountered by U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) sector has increased each year, accelerating in 2014 and coinciding with increased illegal migration from Central America during the same period.

Although a large number of MS-13 members have been captured along the border, it is likely many more have successfully crossed into Texas and remain hidden from law enforcement. Gang members from Guatemala, Honduras, and

El Salvador could be destined for locations in Texas with large Central American communities, including the Houston and Dallas areas. Law enforcement agencies in Houston already report the highest number of identified MS-13 members in the state. …

Several recent crimes in Texas illustrate the criminal threat associated with MS-13.

  • On September 15, 2014, the mutilated body of a 14-year-old middle school student was discovered in the woods near Houston after he was murdered with a machete. … In October 2014, a 14-year-old and three adult males were arrested and charged with murder in this case. The adult males are from El Salvador, and at least two are documented MS-13 gang members. ...
  • In mid-August 2014, a 29-year-old 18th Street gang member was stabbed to death in Houston by a 16-year-old El Salvadoran member of MS-13…. According to investigators, the juvenile suspect revealed he illegally crossed into the U.S. in March 2014.4

MS-13 remains listed as at top-tier threat in the 2017 edition of the report, stating that while the illegal border influx has declined “slightly” since 2014, and that while state law enforcement agencies have made some progress, its transnational activity is still a major public safety problem for the state.5

Other state law enforcement agencies report similarly significant increases in MS-13 crime. The Montgomery County, Md., corrections head says the number of incarcerated MS-13 members has risen 20 percent, straining their ability to maintain order. Suffolk County, N.Y., reports a similar rise over the last two years. Prince William County, Va., reports a 32 percent increase in two years, and next-door Fairfax County says their MS-13 inmate population has doubled in the last year.6

506 MS-13 Cases Compiled. Using simple internet searches, Center researchers found 506 cases of MS-13 members arrested or charged with crimes since 2012. We compiled information on the name of the suspect, location of arrest, country of citizenship, age, offense, victim's name and age, and immigration history.

The map below represents the Center's review of these cases. For the purposes of the map, the accused were grouped into a single point when related, such as when multiple members were arrested for a single murder or were part of a racketeering indictment. The points were then color-coded under four general crime categories:

  1. Murder and Attempted Murder
  2. Sex Crimes
  3. Assault and Violent Crime
  4. Other Crimes.

Though a single point may be marked as a "Murder or Attempted Murder", this does not preclude the offender(s) from having committed crimes not related to murder. For details on each individual represented on the map, please download our complete list of MS-13 criminals.

This set of cases is not a full representation of MS-13 activity throughout the country during this time period, of course. Nevertheless, it gives an indication of the scale of the problem and the direct connection to immigration policy....

 MS-13 Suspects by State

MS-13 Arrests Occurred Across the Country, but Are Concentrated in UAC Settlement Areas. The cases we identified were located in 22 different states. The state with the most reported arrests was California (92), followed by Maryland (84), New York (80), and Virginia (63). Table 1 shows the arrests by state.

The arrests occurred primarily in urban or suburban locations, like Boston, Charlotte, Fairfax County, Va., and Brentwood, N.Y., but also in a number of relatively rural areas, like Frederick County, Md., Lynchburg, Va., and Seneca County, Ohio.

The parts of the country that have experienced an increase in MS-13 activity correspond roughly to the areas where there have been the largest number of UAC resettlement placements by the federal government.7 This makes sense; about 15 years ago, MS-13 made a push to expand from Los Angeles to other parts of the country with sizeable Central American communities, including many illegal aliens. Most of the MS-13 members also were in the country illegally.8 These same communities have been the destination of the recent UAC arrivals, who were joining family and friends who had arrived earlier.9

207 MS-13 Murders. The MS-13 members identified in the cases we found were accused of very serious crimes, including 207 murders. More than 100 were accused of conspiracy/racketeering, and dozens of others were charged with drug trafficking, sex trafficking, attempted murder, sexual assaults, and extortion.

We understand that it is the most serious crimes that are most likely to be reported in the news media and by prosecutors. Nevertheless, in the aggregate, this compilation of cases is alarming, and confirms the severity of the public safety threat posed by MS-13.

At a recent roundtable of officials convened at the White House by President Trump on February 6, 2018, to discuss the MS-13 problem, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said that MS-13 members had committed 17 murders in an 18-month period, representing 38 percent of all homicides in his district. According to investigators, the number of MS-13-related murders in Montgomery County, Md., has gone from about one a year to seven in the last two years.10

Table 2 presents the most serious criminal charges or offenses for each case in our set.

 MS-13 Suspects by Cime

Many MS-13 Members Are Foreign Nationals, Often Here Illegally. The MS-13 gang was formed by illegal aliens from El Salvador who settled in Los Angeles in the 1980s, along with hundreds of thousands of others from Central America. A number of the founding members of MS-13 fought with guerilla and paramilitary groups and participated in violence in El Salvador before relocating to the United States. They held their own in the California gang environments and succeeded in carving out a niche for criminal activity, cultivating a reputation for brutality, intimidation, and zero tolerance for informants or snitching. They recruited new members aggressively, primarily other citizens of El Salvador or the children of Salvadoran migrants. Federal authorities estimated that in its heyday, 90 percent of the MS-13 members were in the country illegally.

ICE and other law enforcement agencies moved aggressively against MS-13 beginning in 2005, seeking to disrupt activities, arrest, prosecute and deport gang members and associates where possible, and dismantle individual cliques and criminal enterprises. The gang's strength was significantly diminished and soon ICE shifted focus to other gangs it considered to be a greater threat.

Today, a smaller percentage of MS-13 members is believed to be here illegally. Some are U.S.-born, others have obtained green cards or have Temporary Protected Status; some have Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But when the gang leadership decided to launch a more concerted effort to enlarge in the United States, it was able to take advantage of the Obama administration's catch-and-release policies for unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border to move in younger members from Central America. For example, one MS-13 clique leader in Frederick, Md., who had received a DACA work permit and was employed as a custodian at a middle school in Frederick, Md., and who was recently incarcerated for various gang-related crimes, reportedly was told by gang leaders in El Salvador to take advantage of the lenient policies on UACs to bring in new recruits, knowing that they would be allowed to resettle in the area with few questions asked. Several of these unaccompanied minors now have been arrested and incarcerated for various crimes, including a vicious random attack on a sheriff's deputy in 2015.

In addition, the influx of tens of thousands of teenagers, mostly male, into areas where the gang already had a presence, provided a large pool of youths from which to recruit new members. According to local gang investigators, these gangs have been aggressively recruiting recently arrived Central American children as young as 10 years old.

While most of the reports of MS-13 suspects in our case set did not include information on the immigration status of the individual, in 126 of the 506 cases (and in 38 of the 207 murder cases) we were able to determine that the suspect was an illegal alien.

According to ICE, 30 percent of the MS-13 members that ICE has arrested in recent years are UACs. We could determine that 120 of the 507 MS-13 arrests in our case set arrived as UACs, including 48 of the murder suspects.

Not all of the reports included information on the suspect's country of citizenship, but of those that included this information, 88 percent were from El Salvador. The rest were citizens of Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.

MS-13 Suspects Were Young, but their Victims Were Younger. Nearly all of the reports we found included information on the age of the MS-13 suspect at the time of arrest. In these cases, the age of the gang members ranged from 14 to 57, with a median age of 23. (See Figure 1.)

 Ages of MS-13 Suspects and Victims

Information on the victims of the crimes was provided in 164 of the cases. They ranged in age from 14 to 74, with a median age of 19. Sixty of the victims were under the age of 18, including 52 of the murder victims.

The Proliferation of Sanctuaries May Complicate Disruption of MS-13. Many of the hotbeds of MS-13 activity are also places where local officials have adopted sanctuary policies. These policies prevent ICE from working effectively with local law enforcement agencies. There are approximately 300 sanctuary jurisdictions in the country, and they include municipalities, counties, and states.11 About half of the MS-13 arrests in our case set (222) occurred in sanctuary jurisdictions.

In addition to information and intelligence, ICE and other immigration agencies have unique immigration authorities that can be particularly effective in addressing criminal activity from transnational gangs. These authorities include the ability to charge criminal aliens with immigration violations such as illegal entry, overstaying a visa, re-entry after deportation, failure to appear for immigration proceedings, illegal possession of a firearm, identity or document fraud, immigration fraud, alien smuggling, immigration charges based on prior commission of serious crimes (aggravated felonies) and other prosecutorial tools.12

Sanctuary policies are destructive to local and federal efforts to combat gangs because they interfere with communication and cooperation that could lead to disruption and dismantling of gangs with large numbers of non-citizens. In addition, sanctuary policies inevitably result in the release of criminal aliens back to the streets where they can and do re-offend. Finally, sanctuary policies can act as a magnet for criminal gangs whose members are in the country illegally, because they know that immigration violations will be overlooked and that their use of fraudulent documents and identities is less likely to be detected.

The practical result of such policies is the release of deportable criminal alien gang members back to the streets of the communities, where they are likely to resume their criminal activities. Acting ICE Director Tom Homan has stated that since January 2014, there have been 10,000 criminal aliens who were released by sanctuaries and who were then subsequently arrested for additional crimes. Homan said that the recidivism rate for released criminal aliens could be as high as 70 percent, which is consistent with the recidivism rate for all offenders in the United States.13

Recommendations. There are a number of steps Congress should take to assist federal and local law enforcement agencies in combating MS-13 and other transnational criminal organizations. Many of these provisions are found in the Secure America's Future Act, introduced by a group of committee chairs in the U.S. House of Representatives.14

These steps include:

  • Update the definition of a criminal gang in federal law, and provide for a designation process to create a bar to the admission of gang members and grounds for their removal. This ensures that the federal government can prevent the entry of known gang members and deny them access to any form of visa, permanent residence, work permit, asylum, or other immigration benefit. Currently, the government must wait for a gang member to commit a crime before disqualifying them from such benefits.
  • Require ICE and the Border Patrol to detain gang members while they are being processed for deportation.
  • Update the law to provide for more serious consequences for sanctuary jurisdictions and the officials who impose sanctuary policies.
  • Revise immigration law to allow DHS more flexibility in dealing with minors and families who are caught after crossing the border illegally.

End Notes

1 Jessica Vaughan and Jon Feere, "Taking Back the Streets: ICE and Local Law Enforcement Target Immigrant Gangs", Center for Immigration Studies, September 30, 2008.

2 Joseph J. Kolb, "Immigration Impunity: Illegal immigrant sponsors of UACs avoid accountability for non-compliance with deportation process", Center for Immigration Studies, February 2017.

3"President Trump Holds a Law Enforcement Roundtable on MS-13", Latest.com, February 6, 2018.

4"Texas Gang Threat Assessment", Texas Joint Crime Information Center, Intelligence & Counterterrorism Division, Texas Department of Public Safety, August, 2015.

5"DPS Releases Texas Gang Threat Assessment", Texas Department of Public Safety, July 25, 2017.

6 Michael E. Miller, "'Vying for control': How MS-13 uses violence and extortion in America's jails", The Washington Post, February 5, 2018.

7 See "Facts and Data" section of the Office of Refugee Resettlement website.

8 See Vaughan and Feere, "Taking Back the Streets".

9 Joseph J. Kolb, "Brentwood, NY Consumed by MS-13 Crime Wave", Center for Immigration Studies, November 3, 2016, and "Immigration Impunity", Center for Immigration Studies, February 17, 2017.

10 J. Weston Phippen, "What Trump Doesn't Understand About MS-13", The Atlantic, June 26, 2017.

11 See the Center for Immigration Studies map and lists of sanctuary jurisdictions here.

12 For more information, see Claude Arnold, "Immigration Authorities and Gang Enforcement", U.S. Attorney's Bulletin 47, May 2006.

13 Acting ICE Director Tom Homan in remarks in Miami, Fla.; see "ICE Director: Sanctuaries 'Pulling their own funding' by disobeying feds", Fox News, August 16, 2017.

14H.R.4760 - Securing America's Future Act of 2018.

Bravo to new CIS mission statement

No longer will non-citizens coming into the U.S. from other countries be officially classified as “customers” who must be catered to.  Welcome to the return of realism and truth.  Here’s the revised mission statement of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services agency:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.

Contrast this with the former open-borders slant that prevailed for far too long:

USCIS secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.

Explaining deletion of the “customer” reference from the Mission statement, USCIS’s Director L. Francis Cissna (appointed by President Trump) said:

What we do at USCIS is so important to our nation, so meaningful to the applicants and petitioners, and the nature of the work is often so complicated, that we should never allow our work to be regarded as a mere production line or even described in business or commercial terms. In particular, referring to applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits, and the beneficiaries of such applications and petitions, as "customers" promotes an institutional culture that emphasizes the ultimate satisfaction of applicants and petitioners, rather than the correct adjudication of such applications and petitions according to the law. Use of the term leads to the erroneous belief that applicants and petitioners, rather than the American people, are whom we ultimately serve. All applicants and petitioners should, of course, always be treated with the greatest respect and courtesy, but we can't forget that we serve the American people.

Right on, Mr. Cissna!  Thank you.

Senate rejects Trump immigration plan

The Senate rejected legislation based on President Trump's framework for an immigration deal in a 39-60 vote on Thursday, leaving an uncertain path forward for Congress with nearly a million immigrants sheltered by an Obama-era program facing the prospect of deportation.

The measure spearheaded by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) needed 60 votes to clear a filibuster, but failed to meet the mark.

It was the fourth proposal in a row rejected by the Senate ...

The Grassley measure provided a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Many of these people could face deportation beginning in March as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is scaled back, though court rulings are complicating that matter.

It also included $25 billion for border security, tougher interior enforcement and new limits on legal immigration.

Supporters of the plan and the White House mounted an intense pressure campaign to win over the 60 votes needed to move forward with their plan.

"The president, in my view, has gone more than halfway to meet the Democrats and resolve this matter..." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said ahead of the vote.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also called the framework a "reasonable compromise."

And Trump, in a tweet, urged senators to "strongly consider a system of merit based immigration."

"While the Republicans and Democrats in Congress are working hard to come up with a solution to DACA, they should be strongly considering a system of Merit Based Immigration so that we will have the people ready, willing and able to help all of those companies moving into the USA!" he said.

Bolstering the White House, most Senate Republicans backed the measure, despite some concerns about cuts to legal immigration. And Trump won over three Democrats — Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) — all of whom face tough reelection races in deep-red states this fall. 

“I share the President's commitment to border security," Manchin said. "That’s why I voted for his plan. That’s why I fought to ensure the $25 billion he requested for border security was included in the bipartisan deal. That’s why I opposed the Democratic proposal that did not provide a single penny for border security." 
 
Trump and McConnell threw their support behind the Grassley plan earlier this week, bolstering its chances. Republicans are wary of moving forward with an immigration bill that the president doesn't support given that the issue is a political lightning rod amongst the party's base.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), one of Trump's closest allies in the Senate, warned ahead of the vote that any Republicans who supported a separate bipartisan proposal should be concerned about "their electoral futures.”

But the interior enforcement measures, limits to legal immigration and nixing of the Diversity Visa Lottery program were largely considered nonstarters for Democrats.

"President Trump, since he created this problem by terminating DACA last August, has stood in the way of every single proposal that has had a chance to become law," said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Republicans tried to pressure Democrats into supporting the measure, making it the fourth of the four proposals to get a vote in the Senate Thursday. But Democrats largely scoffed at the take it-or-leave it set up.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) separately told reporters that “I think the writing’s on the wall with the Grassley proposal. … Few if any Democrats will vote for it.”

Grassley tried to win over Democratic support by pledging they would be able to offer changes if it overcame an initial procedural hurdle.

"Aren't you at a point where here the Democrats have been pleading for months and months and months for justice," he said, "why would they turn it down?"

Where the Senate's debate goes next is unclear, though Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters that both sides would keep talking ahead of the March 5 deadline.

Where the Senate's debate goes next is unclear. 

The Trump administration announced last year that they were ending DACA, which allows undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to work and go to school.

Under that decision Congress has until March 5 to pass a fix. But two court dates have thrown that into limbo.

McConnell said late Thursday afternoon that it had been a "disappointing week" and Democrats "couldn't take yes for an answer." 

And while noting that he had "held up my end of the bargain," the GOP leader left the door open to bringing immigration back up if a plan emerged that could pass both chambers and had the support of the White House. 

"Even though this week has been squandered, this does not have to be the end of our efforts," he said.

 

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