refugee

The nightmare on the border is real

To get a shocking, unvarnished picture of what’s happening on the U.S.-Mexican border now, look at this account by John Wahala, of the Center for Immigration Studies, who for several years has been leading annual group tours to the border to see activity there first-hand.

 He describes findings of this year’s tour in vivid detail. It’s a long article, worth reading in full.

 Here are some excerpts:

Most of the families that are being released into the United States are simply not eligible for asylum. What is worse is that some of the "family units" are not families at all. A top Border Patrol agent told us they apprehend men traveling with children who have either been kidnapped or bribed along the way.

… the only reason the Tucson Sector has yet to experience the volume of asylum seekers that are arriving at other areas of the border is because the local drug cartel on the Mexican side has started turning them away. Sources on both sides of the border told us that the cartel is redirecting the migrants who are heading north to Nogales and Agua Prieta because they do not want the attention on the area. …

…  But what everyone did acknowledge is that no institution in Mexico can effectively challenge the cartels. Drug money drives the local economy, creating wealth and corruption that has spilled over into neighboring Douglas, Arizona, where U.S. customs agents and others have been reportedly bribed over the years.  …

… Approximately 40 percent of drug seizures nationwide are conducted in this [Tucson] sector and, according to a top Border Patrol official, there was enough fentanyl seized in the past year to kill the entire population of the United States, twice. Since marijuana became legal in parts of the United States, authorities have increasingly been dealing with hard narcotics. …

… February saw the highest apprehension rate ever for the Tucson Sector. We were told that smugglers pay close attention to the enforcement techniques and adjust accordingly. For example, most of the crossings used to occur at night until the National Geographic "Border Wars" television show revealed how effective night vision was in spotting incursions. Smugglers realized that crossing during the day neutralized this technology, giving them a better chance to evade the apprehension. Now most of the crossings occur during the day. …

… Today, agents encounter a high volume of illegal crossers and also "rip crews," which are armed groups of bandits who rob the migrants as they make their way north. Most of the bandits are American citizens but some are foreign nationals who come across the border to commit various crimes before returning to Mexico. All of this activity poses a danger to the agents and other law enforcement officials, whom we were told are more likely to get assaulted while making an apprehension the closer they are to Mexico because migrants know they can escape prosecution if they can just make it back across the border. Smugglers and other criminals often go right through the southbound port of entry with drugs and other contraband, easily bribing Mexican officials. There are no southbound checks by the United States.

The relentlessness of this illegal influx heading north can be defeating for those who have dedicated years of their life to securing the border. Even young agents, who signed up for the excitement of being out in the field, get discouraged. Their frustration stems mostly from the persistent lack of political will to enforce the law. Morale was excellent when President Trump took office but the agents have not seen enough change. They know the steps that are needed to stop the influx, which are more extensive than simply erecting a wall, but for complex social and political reasons these steps have not been implemented. This has led to cynicism and contributed to attrition within the ranks. We were told that five hundred new agents are being hired each year but eight hundred are leaving.  …

… East of Nogales, we visited ranchers who deal with the fallout from the illegal influx every day. They explained that the situation is constantly changing and that things there are simply not normal. A theme of the discussion, which we have heard repeated elsewhere, is that the border region is a country unto itself with its own laws and customs. Illegality often goes unprosecuted and certain societal norms cannot be taken for granted. They gave us a string of anecdotes in support of this claim: vandalism and burglaries are common and there have even been murders; raw sewage flows from Mexico into the United States at several points along the border, a local hospital closed because it could not cover the costs of treating illegal crossers; a group of teenagers just got paralyzed by a batch of tainted cocaine; a group of men from India seeking asylum jumped on the top of one of their vehicles as they were driving down the road. One of the most poignant moments of our visit was when one of the ranchers asked rhetorically, "How do you raise a daughter in such lawlessness?"

The ranchers cited a study finding it costs 33 percent more to raise cattle on the border and another claiming it costs 75 percent more per animal.  … That rancher told us that the cartels cut right through the steel border wall. In the last three years, 54 trucks have driven right through his land, ripping up pastures and destroying fences.  …

… whether people can see it or not, failing to secure the border is not just a problem for overwhelmed federal agencies or migrant shelters or hospitals or schools or ranchers along the border. It is a moral, social, and political problem for the entire nation, one that threatens the very idea of nationhood.

 

-- A Growing Border Crisis; A report from Arizona, by John Wahala, Center for Immigration Studies,  May 24, 2019.   https://cis.org/Wahala/Growing-Border-Crisis

Trump moves to limit asylum; new rules challenged in court

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump issued a proclamation Friday to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally, tightening the border as caravans of Central Americans slowly approach the United States. The plan was immediately challenged in court.

Trump invoked the same powers he used last year to impose a travel ban that was upheld by the Supreme Court...

“We need people in our country, but they have to come in legally,” Trump said Friday as he departed for Paris.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other legal groups swiftly sued in federal court in Northern California to block the regulations, arguing the measures were illegal.

“The president is simply trying to run roughshod over Congress’s decision to provide asylum to those in danger regardless of the manner of one’s entry,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.

The litigation also seeks to put the new rules on hold while the case progresses.

The regulations go into effect Saturday...

Trump’s announcement was the latest push to enforce a hard-line stance on immigration through regulatory changes and presidential orders, bypassing Congress, which has not passed any immigration law reform. But those efforts have been largely thwarted by legal challenges and, in the case of family separations this year, stymied by a global outcry that prompted Trump to retreat.

Officials said the asylum law changes are meant to funnel migrants through official border crossings for speedy rulings instead of having them try to circumvent such crossings on the nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border...

But the busy ports of entry already have long lines and waits, forcing immigration officials to tell some migrants to turn around and come back to make their claims...

“The arrival of large numbers ... will contribute to the overloading of our immigration and asylum system and to the release of thousands ... into the interior of the United States,” Trump said in the proclamation, calling it a crisis.

Administration officials said those denied asylum under the proclamation may be eligible for similar forms of protection if they fear returning to their countries, though they would be subject to a tougher threshold. Those forms of protection include “withholding of removal” — which is similar to asylum, but doesn’t allow for green cards or bringing families — or protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

Homeland Security officials said they were adding staffing at the border crossings ...

The U.S. is also working with Mexico in an effort to send some migrants back across the border. Right now, laws allow only Mexican nationals to be swiftly returned and increasingly those claiming asylum are from Central America.

Trump pushed immigration issues hard in the days leading up to Tuesday’s midterm elections, railing against the caravans that are still hundreds of miles from the border.

He has made little mention of the issue since the election, but has sent troops to the border in response. As of Thursday, there were more than 5,600 U.S. troops deployed to the border mission, with about 550 actually working on the border in Texas.

Trump also suggested he’d revoke the right to citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil and erect massive “tent cities” to detain migrants. Those issues were not addressed by the regulations. But Trump insisted the citizenship issue would be pushed through.

“We’re signing it. We’re doing it,” he said.

The administration has long said immigration officials are drowning in asylum cases partly because people falsely claim asylum and then live in the U.S. with work permits. In 2017, the U.S. fielded more than 330,000 asylum claims, nearly double the number two years earlier and surpassing Germany as highest in the world.

Migrants who cross illegally are generally arrested and often seek asylum or some other form of protection ... Generally, only about 20 percent of applicants are approved.

It’s unclear how many people en route to the U.S. will even make it to the border. Roughly 5,000 migrants — more than 1,700 under the age of 18 — sheltered in a Mexico City sports complex decided to depart Friday for the northern city of Tijuana, opting for the longer but likely safer route to the U.S. border.

Similar caravans have gathered regularly over the years and have generally dwindled by the time they reach the southern border, particularly to Tijuana. Most have passed largely unnoticed.

___

Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego, Nomaan Merchant in Houston and Jill Colvin and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

 

Trump to Cap Refugees Allowed Into U.S. at 30,000, a Record Low

WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to cap the number of refugees that can be resettled in the United States next year at 30,000, his administration announced on Monday...

Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, announced the limit at the State Department, saying it reflected the “daunting operational reality” of addressing what he called a “humanitarian crisis” involving people claiming asylum in the United States.

The number represents the lowest ceiling a president has placed on the refugee program since its creation in 1980...

The move is the latest in a series of efforts the president has made to clamp down on immigration to the United States.

It is also the culmination of a quiet but successful effort by Stephen Miller, the president’s senior policy adviser, to severely restrict the number of refugees offered protection inside the country....

Others inside the administration, including in the Department of Defense and, initially, the State Department, had supported maintaining the 45,000-refugee ceiling.

Mr. Pompeo had privately advocated last month for keeping the number where it was. He was pivotal to the decision, and kept his final recommendation under wraps until Monday afternoon, when he announced it from the Treaty Room of the State Department.

In doing so, he adopted an argument made privately by Mr. Miller: that the United States needed to prioritize hundreds of thousands of people who have arrived at the United States border, claiming a credible fear of returning home, rather than refugees overseas who are by definition already in need of protection and resettlement in another country.

“Some will characterize the refugee ceiling as the full barometer of America’s commitment to vulnerable people around the world,” Mr. Pompeo said. “This would be wrong.”

“This year’s refugee ceiling reflects the substantial increase in the number of individuals seeking asylum in our country, leading to a massive backlog of outstanding asylum cases and greater public expense,” he added.

Mr. Pompeo said refugees had to be weighed against a backlog of 800,000 asylum seekers — people in the United States who claim a “credible fear” of returning home — who are awaiting a decision by immigration authorities about whether they will be granted status to remain...

About 730,000 additional immigrants were waiting for their cases to be resolved by American courts, according to the Justice Department, including people who had asked for asylum after being apprehended. But that number also included people in deportation or other immigration proceedings.

Immigrant and advocates condemned the cuts to the refugee program, calling it a callous decision that would also undermine American national security and foreign policy priorities.

The cap does not require the Trump administration to resettle 30,000 refugees; in years past, governments have accepted far fewer than what is legally permitted.

During the administration of President George W. Bush, for example, the program’s ceiling accepted up to 70,000 refugees annually; it was raised to 80,000 during his final year in office. But the government only resettled about 27,000 refugees in 2002, immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and accepted 28,000 the following year.

Mr. Trump, who campaigned promising a “Muslim ban,” and argued for a halt to the admission of Syrian refugees because he argued that they could be a danger to the country, has targeted the refugee resettlement program for cuts since his first days in office.

His travel ban, imposed a week after he was sworn in, temporarily halted the program and limited the number of refugees that could be resettled in the United States to 50,000. That slashed the program from the 110,000 cap that President Barack Obama had put in place before he left office.

Last year, Mr. Miller led an effort, with the support of John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, to cut the program even more, to as low as 15,000.

But pushback from Defense and State Department officials, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff and members of the United States mission to the United Nations, who advocated for maintaining the 50,000 level, resulted in a ceiling of 45,000...

Gardiner Harris contributed reporting.

 

Oregon immigrant rights groups respond to Trump's order for 200,000 Salvadorans to leave U.S.

The Trump administration will end temporary legal immigration status for 200,000 Salvadorans who have been living in the U.S. for nearly two decades, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.

The decision means that Salvadorans who currently have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) must return to their homeland by September 2019 or become undocumented immigrants if they choose to remain without legal protections.

Salvadorans were first granted TPS in 2001 following a pair of devastating earthquakes that killed nearly 1,000 people and destroyed more than 100,000 homes in the Central American country.

There are roughly 4,784 foreign-born Salvadorans living in Oregon, according to a 2016 Migration Policy Institute report. Roughly 1.2 percent of Oregon Salvadorans were born in the United States. It's unclear how many TPS holders are affected in Oregon.

The decision comes two months after the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to end temporary residency permit programs granting 5,000 citizens from Nicaragua and 60,000 Haitians to live and work in the United States for roughly 20 years and eight years, respectively. In November, the Trump administration postponed a decision until July regarding a similar program granting refuge for 86,000 residents from Honduras.

Oregon immigrant rights and human rights organizations called the decision inhumane.

"The biggest issue is that these folks have put roots in Oregon, they have jobs, they have children born here," said Levi Herrera-Lopez. "Just like the issue of DACA, people are deciding if their families are going to have to split up."

The Salvadoran Embassy in Washington estimates that 97 percent of Salvadorans in the program over the age of 24 are employed and paying taxes, and more than half own their own homes. Salvadorans on TPS have also given birth to 192,000 children, all U.S. citizens, according to a report from the Center for Migration Studies.

For Carlos Garcia, 58, of El Salvador, he said his days are now numbered.

He fled his home country with his two sons, who are both now Dreamers awaiting their own looming deadline, roughly 17 years ago.

Garcia works as a detailer for an auto dealership and works parttime installing windshields in vehicles.

"What am I going to do now? I’ve been a tax paying resident of this country and I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do," Garcia said.

Garcia said he's known tightening immigration reform has been one of Trump's sole focuses since his campaign, but the reality of returning to El Salvador's "corrupt" government and its "organized crime" is a concern.

"How can anyone live under these circumstances of not knowing what's going to happen this month, or this year?" Garcia said. "The main problem here is the mental health of 200,000 Salvadorans who don't know what the outcome will be."

He said his American dream has become the "American nightmare." Garcia hopes Congress will step in and pressure Trump to reverse the action.

Herrera-Lopez, executive director of Mano a Mano Family Center, a Latino-led community organization offering immigration assistance and youth development services, said Trump's decision falls in line with his campaign promise of deporting millions of undocumented immigrants. 

"I understand that these people were offered temporary status, but El Salvador's challenges have not been stabilized," Herrera-Lopez said. "That may be true from the natural disaster standpoint, but not of the social stability of the country."

He points to the country's struggle with Mara Salvatrucha, an international gang commonly known as MS13, in addition to other local crimes that may put tens of thousands of returned Salvadorans at a disadvantage.

"Their economy may not be stable enough to absorb 200,000 people," Herrera-Lopez said. "For many, they are going to a country that is foreign to them, that has changed over the past 20 years, and that is completely disconnected."

An Oregon anti-illegal immigration organization supports the president's action.

Jim Ludwick, communications director for Oregonians for Immigration Reform, said decision demonstrate's Trump's understanding that every nation has a sovereign right to establish immigration policies.

"They were brought in because of the earthquake and were supposed to be here on a temporary basis, but some people have a different definition of 'temporary,'" Ludwick said. "El Salvador has the right to regulate who goes into their country, just like we have the right to regulate who comes into ours."

He said he doesn't understand why people oppose the action, saying families don't have to be torn apart during their return to El Salvador. Hypothetically, he said, if he had children in another country, and his visa ran out, he wouldn't leave his family there.

"Trump isn't breaking up families," Ludwick said. "If someone breaks up their families, they're doing it themselves."

Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, translated as Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United, plans on coordinating with other Oregon immigrant rights organizations like Mano a Mano to localize efforts and rally support from elected officials and business leaders, but they are thinking nationally as well.

PCUN's secretary-treasurer Jaime Arredondo said they are organizing along with their partner Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a national coalition of grassroots immigrant rights organizations.

"This is something we saw coming, so we're seeing if we can do anything on a national level to delay it or to make sure it's done away with,"Arredondo said.

Mat dos Santos, the legal director of the ACLU of Oregon, said President Trump's focus on targeted immigration operations, including rescinding DACA and ending other TPS programs, will tear Oregon families apart.

"This is another reminder from the Trump administration that new Americans are seen as a threat and not contributors to our country," dos Santos said.

He said he and his ACLU colleagues are expecting to get calls from Salvadorans who are impacted by the program's cut.

Kayse Jama, executive director of immigrant and refugee rights organization Unite Oregon, said the move demonstrates the systematic dismantling of immigration in the United States.

Jama, of Somalia, said President Trump's ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries has prevented him from returning to his home country, and that this recent program cut is only sustaining the president's "anti-immigrant" rhetoric still looming from his campaign.

"These community members are dishwashers, they working in nursing homes, they have their own businesses," Jama said. "This will have huge implications for the Salvadoran community but also our economy."

USA TODAY contributed to this story.

Email Lauren Hernandez at lehernande@statesmanjournal.com, call 503-399-6743 or follow on Twitter @LaurenPorFavor

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