The Current Protocol on Family Separation at the Border is Cruel and in Urgent Need of Reform

lawyer and child

KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), attorney, Shanti Martin with Angela. Photo, Kids in Need of Defense. KIND’s network of attorneys represents unaccompanied children in their fight for reunification and safety.

KIND has trained more than 24,200 attorneys and partnered with over 522 corporations, law firms, law schools, and bar associations.

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The Women’s Refugee Commission and several other organizations filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) on behalf of family members who were forcibly separated at the Southern border of the United States. The complaint listed examples of toddlers, as young as two years old, who had been forcibly separated from their parents and labeled, “unaccompanied.”

In a report titled, “Betraying Family Values-How Immigration Policy at the United States Border is Separating Families, ” the commission outlined the risks of separation and detention on the family unit and child well-being, and identified a series of gaps in process, tracking, and communication that are currently hurting reunification attempts between the removed children and their detained parents.

The Women’s Refugee Commission Identified the Following Serious Risks:

  • Family separation through the deportation process is dangerous and impedes safe repatriation and reintegration.
  • Family unity matters. It is a fundamental human right enshrined in international and U.S. child welfare law.

The destruction of a family unit has serious consequences for all members:

  • Jeopardizes liberty, access to justice, and protection.
  • Negatively impacts the emotional, psychological development and well-being.
  • Creates security and economic difficulties.
  • Strips the dignity of an individual and their family as a whole.

The Women’s Refugee Commission argues that the federal government should prioritize liberty and family unity in its immigration policy and make fast improvements to the following:

Tracking Mechanisms and Processes are Needed; So is Accountability and Transparency.

Government agencies should have mechanisms to identify family members and track family separation in all cases.

Improved Professional Training:

  1. DHS agents should receive training and guidance on identification, documentation, processing, and placement decisions for families.

Develop a Series of Alternatives to Detention:

  1. A series of alternatives to detention should be prioritized to avoid separating families and causing trauma.

Hire Child Welfare Bilingual Professionals, Trauma Training:

  1. Trauma Training is Needed. Multi-lingual, Multi-Cultural Staff, Social Workers are Needed. DHS should require the hiring of child welfare professionals at the border to supervise the protection of children and families and oversee instances of family separation.

Document, Trace and Justify:

  1. DHS and its agencies should document and trace all family relationships. Family separation should be recorded and justified in writing.

Report to Congress:

  1. Such information should also be collected, analyzed, and reported regularly to Congress.

Provide Accessible Updates to Families and Attorneys for Reunification:

  1. Information should be accessible to family members and their attorneys. This should also permit families to trace other family members, file complaints about family separation, and seek family reunification.

Best Interest of the Child-First Consideration:

  1. DHS should consider the best interests of the child in all processing, custody, and removal and repatriation decisions.

Protect Children during Removal and Repatriation:

  1. During removal and repatriation, children should be protected from family separation to assist in a safe return without added undue trauma.

Improve Inter-Agency Communication:

  1. Inter-agency processes to improve communication and collaboration to help separated family members be released and/or reunited. This should include mechanisms to help detained family members locate and connect with separated loved ones.

Report to the Public

  1. DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) provide oversight and accountability and report findings to Congress and the public.
  2. Improve documentation, reporting, and policies on family separation.

 

Accurate reporting and checking in with the shelters and sponsors taking care of these children is critical to reunification with family, to welfare and protection, and to the speedy connection of the children with attorneys who can represent them in court. Given the current weak tracking system, it is not surprising that over a thousand children were found to be missing after separation and detention.

What measures are currently being taken so that this never happens again?

In the case of undocumented minors that are deported, urgent questions arise. First, why? Is it because they miss court dates? Are children really expected to keep track of court dates and figure out where to go and when? Is it because they don’t accurately represent themselves? How can a child be expected to do so? Is it because of language barriers? What are the determinations that send minors back to dangerous places?

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Congressional Hearings, and Legal Advocacy

Congressional hearings have illuminated many advocates for justice in this matter. Last week, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) questioned Donald Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen regarding the policy of separating children from their parents when they cross the border through unofficial entry points. In the video below, Nielsen is unable to provide details regarding the treatment of children. Senator Harris pressed for answers that she asked Nielsen to provide within one week time.

Legal advocates are also rising to defend these children’s battles in court. KIND, (Kids in Need of Defense), provides lawyers to represent children who arrive in the U.S. alone. The nonprofit was started by a collaboration between Microsoft and Angelina Jolie.

KIND believes that “No Child Should Appear in Immigration Court Alone.” According to their findings:

  • 50% Of Children Arriving in the U.S. have No One To Represent Them in Immigration Court.
  • Children without Representation are 5 times more likely to be Deported back to Danger.
  • Unaccompanied children are eligible for protection under the U.S. immigration system but need an attorney to represent them.
  • At least 60 percent of children who have attorneys are granted U.S. protection

With the help of KIND and her pro bono attorneys at Microsoft, Nayeli was able to obtain legal relief in the US:

What Forms of Legal Protection Are Available?

KIND describes various legal avenues:

  • Asylum (for those persecuted)
  • Special immigrant juvenile status (if abused, abandoned, or neglected)
  • Trafficking T visa for those who have been coerced into forced labor
  • U Visa for crime victims

Access to legal representation is critical for these children. Without an attorney, most children will not gain the protection for which they are eligible.

Organizations Representing Minors-Their view on Family Separation

The organization, Raices, Refugee, and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, in San Antonio, represents minors who have been separated from their parents.

Attorney Justin Tullius, who works for Raices, told Univision that he believes family separation by U.S. immigration officials,

“is a threat to immigrant families at the border meant to intimidate them.” Tullis fears that if children are sent to military installations, “they could be exposed to risks and violations of their rights.”

Tullius  added that the risks go beyond treatment at the military shelters, but also after,

“Sometimes when a child is separated from his father, the father is lost.”

Univision reports that the refugee program under the Department of Health and Human Services works with 100 shelters in 14 states.

The growing number of children arrivals at the border,  have impacted the capacity at these shelters and has led the Department of Health and Human Services to consider the opening of temporary shelters for the undocumented minors in four military bases in the country.

Under Consideration in Texas:

Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas. 

 

Photo. Salem News.

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Dyess Air Base, Texas 

Texas 1

Photo. Defense Studies. Dyess AFB is located about 7 miles
southwest of Abilene, Texas.

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Abilene and Goodfellow Air Base, San Angelo.

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Photo. Defense Studies. Goodfellow AFB is located near
San Angelo, Texas.

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In Arkansas:

Base Air of Little Rock, Arkansas:

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Photo. Defense Studies. Little Rock AFB is located in Jacksonville, Arkansas
(about 10 miles northeast of Little Rock).

 

While we wait for Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen to provide answers regarding the welfare of unaccompanied children through the separation, detention and court process,  more questions emerge:

What happens to the children waiting in military shelters in the following cases?

A parent is deported while the child sits in a shelter.

No relative or guardian can be found.

A child arrived at the border without identification or records.

A child is unable to communicate due to trauma or language barriers.

How long will they sit in the military shelters? What types of activities-recreational, educational, health, and psychological care will be available to them? What will they eat? Who will comfort them?

As Congress asks tough questions of DHS’s plans to provide for the children, there are valid reasons for the tough questions and many concerns.

The photos below were released by Rep. Henry Cuellar’s (D-Texas) office and depict the cramped living conditions that undocumented immigrants, and unaccompanied children, experienced in a detention center near the U.S.-Mexico border. Photos were published in the Huffington Post. The photos were first published by the Houston Chronicle.

sleeping on foil

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detention 4

 

Why? How is this okay?

As a citizen, as an immigrant, and as a mother, I can’t ignore this issue. These are children, alone, as young as two years old. If we don’t care; if we leave the questions for someone else to raise; if we look the other way, or switch the channel, who will be there for them? Who will demand accountability and human rights? They are vulnerable and don’t have a voice or direct channel to justice. That’s why they need us.

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Seeking Asylum in Canada-What the U.S. Can Learn about the Canadian Process

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength.  Welcome to Canada.” Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau

Trudeau

Justin Trudeau Offers Support to Refugees With “Welcome to Canada” Tweet

Over the past year, Canada has experienced an unprecedented wave of petitions for asylum. The surge has put a strain on Quebec’s capacity to accommodate new arrivals. More than 25,000 asylum seekers were intercepted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police during the period of January 2017 through March 2018.

They crossed from the United States.

During the first trimester of 2018, asylum petitions more than doubled those filed during the same time period last year. Since the Trump administration has ended the temporary protected status-TPS, for immigrants from 4 counties, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan,  asylum petitions to Canada are expected to rise to unprecedented numbers, stressing resources and Canada’s ability to maintain its welcoming policies.

What is TPS? How does it Affect Immigrant beneficiary groups in the US, and What is its Impact on Canada?

The U.S. Immigration Act of 1990 extended temporary protected status (TPS) to immigrants from certain countries affected by armed conflict, environmental disasters, and other extraordinary conditions. TPS has allowed recipients to live and work legally in the US until the Department of Homeland Security deems it safe to return to their countries of origin.

In some cases, people with temporary protected status  have been in the United States since the 1990s.

tps

Skye Gould/Business Insider

Protected status for the following countries is also set to end:

Sudan: November 2, 2018 About 1,050 people benefit from TPS. Protection is set to end citing improved conditions in the country.

Nicaragua: January 5, 2019 TPS for roughly 5,300 Nicaraguans expired on January 5, but the program won’t officially end until early 2019. TPS protection followed the Hurricane Mitch devastation.

Haiti: July 22, 2019 In November, the DHS announced it would end TPS for nearly 59,000 Haitian immigrants. TPS protection followed a catastrophic earthquake in 2010.

El Salvador: September 9, 2019 Salvadorans were first granted temporary residency protections in 1990 amid El Salvador’s brutal civil war. Today, they total 260,000 approximate beneficiaries.The program was extended by Presidents Bush and Obama. The Trump administration announced its end.

In the case of Salvadorans, 88 percent are part of the US workforce and they are parents to 192,700 U.S. citizen children, according to the Center for Migration Studies, cited in the American Jesuit Review.

Other TPS  upcoming deadlines:

Nepal: June 24, 2018
Honduras: July 5, 2018
Somalia Sept. 17, 2018
Yemen September 3, 2018
South Sudan May 2, 2019

“It’s really important that Congress works to fix this situation, especially for long-term recipients that have been here for many years,” Ashley Feasley, director of migration policy and public affairs said at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “They have made so many contributions, own homes, run businesses and are leaders in our churches. These are people who we want to ensure continue to be part of our society.”

Ending TPS will cause an economic, social and familial crisis to over 400,000 beneficiaries. The effect of this massive displacement will also have serious repercussions on the beneficiaries’ home countries, and on our next door neighbor, Canada.

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What has been the Effect of the Trump  Administration’s immigration policies on Canada?

Unprecedented Petition Claims & Visa Abuses

 In addition to the unprecedented numbers of asylum petition claims, Canadian officials have reported visa abuses by travelers who come to the US on a travel visa with the intention of seeking asylum in Canada.

A rise in Unofficial Border Crossings

Most of the illegal border crossings to Canada are occurring in Quebec.

Half of Canada’s 49,775 asylum claims in 2017 were made in that province.

Misinformation Campaigns

Misinformation campaigns and social media rumors that asylum seekers get a free pass in Canada have presented a challenge: “It is unfortunate that these very vulnerable people were convinced that admission as a refugee in Canada and here in Quebec would be simple, even automatic. That’s not the case at all. There is no guarantee that asylum applications will be accepted, given the strict rules that govern them,” stated Quebec’s premier, Philippe Couillard.

Fear of Deportation and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment in the US

Anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. is driving many to seek asylum in Canada. However, fear of deportation from the United States isn’t enough to make an asylum case in Canada.

End of TPS protection to vulnerable populations

TPS recipients from the U.S. are fleeing to Canada to avoid deportation.

Pact between the US and Canada

The pact known as the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States requires people to apply for refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in — under which, the US is considered a safe country.

Because of this, people who seek refugee status in Canada from the US will be turned away at official border crossings. As a result, people are bypassing official entry points and entering the country throughout remote and freezing locations, risking their lives on foot, without going through immigration.

Canada refugee

Haitian asylum seekers are about to test Canada’s refugee system in a big way. An RCMP officer announces to a group of asylum seekers that identified themselves as from Haiti that they will be crossing illegally into Canada as they wait in line to to enter at the U.S.-Canada border in Champlain, N.Y., Aug. 7, 2017. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Asylum Petitions and Refugee Claims in Canada

Before the massive influx of asylum seekers, refugee claims to determine eligibility could be made within 1 day, and cases were heard by the IRB within 60 days. Looking at Quebec, specifically, the process has been greatly impacted.

While waiting for a Hearing, Asylum Seekers Can Access Multiple Services

  • Healthcare
  • Social Assistance
  • Education-Parents can enroll their children in schools. French-language pre-school, elementary and secondary school is free for children between the ages of 5 and 18, but in order to enroll, claimants need to present their Refugee Protection Claimant document issued by the federal immigration ministry.
  • They are encouraged to find a more permanent place to live since parents wanting to send their children to school face the additional barrier of needing a home address to enroll their children.
  • A permanent address also facilitates the receipt of social assistance checks, which are provided to the asylum seekers until they find jobs.

At the Border

Individuals can make an asylum claim in Canada at a port of entry, at a Canada Border Services Agency, or at an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) inland office.

When asylum seekers arrive at the border with Canada, their identification is verified and they are taken to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) where they undergo a health and security check and complete a Basis of Claim Form.

If the claim is determined eligible, they are referred to the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) for a hearing. During the hearing, the IRB considers each case according to the United Nations definition of a Convention refugee-which was adopted into Canadian law-and within the consideration of a person’s need for protection.

No enforcement actions are taken against people seeking asylum.

At the start of the process, asylum seekers also declare how much money they bring. Based on their financial circumstance, they are placed in one of the temporary housing centers until permanent housing can be located.

Within 21 and 35 days, they receive their first social assistance check. The wait can be longer, depending on demand, according to Paul Clarke, the executive director of Action Réfugiés Montreal.

Canadian man hugs child

Family members from Somalia are helped into Canada by RCMP officers along the U.S.-Canada border near Hemmingford, Quebec. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Waiting for the Interview

Asylum seekers in Quebec wait for their eligibility interview in either temporary housing or by staying with family. In the meantime, they apply for social assistance— $649 per month, per person, or $1189 for a family of four —states CBC news, from Montreal, Canada.

Eligibility Interviews

The interviews are conducted by an officer from the Canada Border Services Agency or by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship agency in Canada. The officer verifies whether the asylum seeker meets the criteria.

Once the claimants are marked as eligible for asylum, they are referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) for a hearing.

Typically, cases are heard within 60 days.

What Happens During a Hearing?

During their hearing, they must demonstrate that they face a risk of torture, a risk to their life, cruel and unusual punishment or treatment, or persecution because of:

  • Race.
  • Religion.
  • Nationality.
  • Political opinion.
  • Membership in a particular social group, which can include sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status or domestic violence.

Following the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) Hearing:

If the IRB accepts the claim, the asylum seeker gets “protected person” status. This means they can stay in Canada and apply to become a permanent resident. If the refugee claim is accepted, the person may start the process of obtaining permanent residency. If refugee claim is rejected, there is an opportunity to appeal to the IRB or the Federal Court, or the claimant may be deported.

If the IRB rejects the claim, they must leave Canada.

If the law allows, they may ask for the decision to be reviewed.

Refugee claims may be ineligible if:

  • They have been recognized as a Convention refugee by another country that they can return to.
  • Have already been granted protected person status in Canada.
  • Have arrived via the Canada-US border
  • Are not admissible to Canada on security grounds, due to criminal activities or human rights violations.
  • Made a prior claim that was rejected or found ineligible.
  • Abandoned or withdrew a previous refugee claim.

 

please we need a home

‘Please, we need a home’: Nigerian asylum seekers follow a well-trodden migrant route to Canada. Taxis wait at the bus station in Plattsburgh, N.Y., to take people to an unofficial border crossing into Quebec. Susan Ormiston · CBC News ·

First Forms of Assistance-Temporary Housing

After requesting asylum, they are immediately referred to PRAIDA, (Regional Program for the Settlement and Integration of Asylum Seekers in Quebec) an organization that provides assistance to asylum seekers during their first months in Canada. PRAIDA assesses each case and determines whether to send them to one of the 12 centers set up to temporarily house refugees.

olympic stadium

Canada Turns Olympic Stadium Into Welcome Center For ‘Refugees’ From U.S. IMAGE CREDITS: WIKI.

 

no one is

‘Thank you, God’: Asylum seekers find a warm welcome at Olympic Stadium. CBC News. A man holds up a baby during a rally in support of asylum seekers outside the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The stadium is being used as a temporary shelter for some of the hundreds of asylum claimants pouring across the New York-Quebec border every day. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Several temporary housing centers were set up in Montreal including one in the Olympic Stadium. Canadian Forces staff also built a camp for 1,200 people at Quebec’s Lacolle border crossing, south of Montreal, to accommodate the ongoing wave of asylum seekers.

As migrants wait to be processed. Many sleep in heated trailers and tents installed by Canadian Forces.

tent

Asylum Seekers at the Border Getting heated trailers. Toronto Sun. Canadian Press. Tents to house asylum seekers are shown at the Canada-United States border in Lacolle, Que., Wednesday, August 9, 2017Graham Hughes / Canadian Press

Social Assistance

PRAIDA  helps newcomers find a place to live, apply for social assistance or language courses and, look for employment.

The top requests for services come from: Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Colombia, Congo and Romania.

If the asylum seeker arrives during regular business hours, they first connect with PRAIDA. If they arrive after business hours, they are referred to the YMCA residence in Westmount.

The Y houses and feeds refugees and asylum seekers until they receive social assistance in the form of a check.

The stay is covered by a contract between the YMCA and PRAIDA.

In addition to temporary housing, a group of 140 social services organizations in Quebec also help refugees and immigrants, says Andrea Bellemare, CBC news, Canada.

ymca

The YMCA residence in Westmount where many asylum seekers stay. Photo (Benjamin Shingler/CBC). “For many asylum seekers in Montreal, the long journey includes stop at YMCA”

Community Services and Activities for Asylum Seekers

The YMCA Residence program partners with PRAIDA to provide a variety of community services and activities for the newly arrived asylum seekers:

  • French and English conversation workshops
  • Housing, immigration, job search, financial assistance and health workshops
  • Information sessions with the Sécurité publique de Montréaland discussions with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • A woman’s group, which helps participants break out of their isolation and empowers them through weekly meetings and activities such as arts and crafts and communal cooking.
  • Activities for families
  • Psychosocial support services

y residence

The YMCA residence in Westmount has a playroom for children. (PRAIDA)

Through the Short-Term Housing program, the Y operates a Day Centre where asylum seekers receive information and assistance throughout their immigration and integration process.

The Community Initiatives team also provides asylum seekers with:

  • an emergency locker room
  • a family room with many fun activities for children and parents
  • social and cultural outings that foster the social integration of residents and help them become more familiar with Montréal.

If they first stay with the YMCA residence program, they meet with a PRAIDA specialist the next business day. The representative assesses the asylum seeker’s psychosocial and medical needs and makes referrals accordingly.

Asylum Seekers in Canada have access to health care and social services

An asylum seeker can gain access to health care and social services free of charge. Medical coverage is handled by the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP).

Once an asylum seeker has received refugee status, he or she submits a request to receive services from the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion (MIDI) and from the Quebec Health Insurance Board (RAMQ).

If refugee status is denied, PRAIDA helps clients:

  • Prepare a request for permanent residence for humanitarian reasons
  • Prepare for the judiciary review process of the federal court
  • Request a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA) before being removed to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Assist with steps for their voluntary departure or removal from Canada

Obtaining Work  Permits-Who can work and how long does it take?

To obtain a work permit, asylum seekers must first meet eligibility requirements for a refugee claim. This usually happens within the first few days of arrival, but PRAIDA says the unprecedented influx has created delays of more than three months. Claimants can apply for a federal work permit, but the timeframe for obtaining a work permit is about four months and could take longer.

Delays mean claimants could face months on social assistance without an ability to get a job. The Quebec government stops providing financial assistance once a refugee claimant finds a job.

Comparing the Asylum Process in Canada and the United States

Speaking with La Opinion, renowned immigration specialist in Canada, Douglass Cannon put it this way:

“Compared to the asylum processes in the United States, the Canadian system seems more willing to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt. Our provincial governments fund lawyers for those who can not afford one. Since President Trump took office, we have seen more arrivals of people seeking asylum and many coming from the United States,” Cannon said.

“But I want it to be clear that it is not so easy and there are international agreements that forbid us to accept the majority of the refugees who come from the US by land,” affirmed Cannon.

“If you go by land through a gate, with few exceptions, they will send you back,” Cannon said.

“There are exceptions, including having family members who are already residents or protected in Canada.”

“However,  if one arrives by air or by sea, or if one enters the country in another way – illegal – then it is possible to ask for asylum.”

Compared to the United States, the Canadian system looks increasingly better to refugees.

In Canada, time limits are imposed to consider cases in a timely manner, and another difference is that “the benefit of the doubt is given to the immigrant,” said the expert.

“Here in Canada you can be recognized as a refugee even if you do not prove you are at immediate risk,” Cannon said. “The reason is that our law considers it very risky to play with people’s lives. We check that there is a reasonable chance of persecution if a refugee were to return.”

However, the Canadian government is concerned about a possible influx of more refugees and people who are losing their TPS in the United States.

“The government is worried,” Cannon said. “It does not help the international community in any way when a neighboring country changes the rules radically…it forces people to look for the most suitable countries.”

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“We will continue to defend the integrity of our immigration system and remain careful stewards of an extraordinarily precious asset in this 21st-century world, which is to have a population positively inclined toward immigrants, toward refugees, understanding that being welcoming and open is a source of strength.” Justin Trudeau

 

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When asked why they met refugees outside temporary homes with welcoming signs, Canadian activists and supporters expressed empathy and support:

“We know that in a few years there will be a net benefit because of the arrival of the folks who are here,” said local activist Jaggi Singh.

“That will be a net benefit to our society through a variety of means, through culture, through their contributions, through work, through a lot of things — we know that. We know that previous immigrant populations have done the same thing.” CBC News.

twoleaders

The two leaders have very different views on immigration. Getty. Canadian Prime Minister hinted that his country would continue to welcome refugees without compromising national security.

“What do we want? Justice. When? Now!” Farm & Domestic workers demand protection from Sexual Harassment

Domestic workers and field workers demand more protection from sexual harassment in the workplace.  Foto: María Peña/Impremedia

Encouraged by the #metoo movement, hundreds of activists in farm labor and domestic work met in front of the Capitol yesterday to demand protection from sexual harassment. Members of the National Farm Workers Women’s Alliance and the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance were present to demand an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Currently, the federal employment law prohibits discrimination, including harassment at work, but only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

The women visited Congress to raise awareness of the dangers of working in isolated fields and in private homes where women become easy targets of sexual harassment and abuse. Many do not know what rights they have to protect themselves. The isolation of their workplaces and the people who harass them-including, bosses, and coworkers, make going to work unsafe and stressful. In addition to the fear of harassment, many of the women are single mothers and have the added worries of residency status, lack of information protection measures, and language barriers.

Trabajadoras domésticas y campesinas exigen más protecciones contra acoso y abuso sexual en sitios laborales. Foto: María Peña/Impremedia

Teresa Arredondo, a field worker from Bakersfield, who is a single mother of 2, and a member of the National Alliance of Field Workers, attended the event wearing a black T-Shirt with the word, Unstoppable. In an interview with Univision outside the Capitol, she told her story.

Teresa Arredondo asks Congress to strengthen labor and harassment laws and punish sexual abusers in the workplace. Photo Credits: María Peña/Impremedia

“I come to Washington from Bakersfield, California. I have been working there for 32 years. Throughout the years we, farm workers, have suffered sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of farm owners, supervisors, and even male coworkers. Thanks to meeting women in farm workers rights organizations, I learned that we do have rights to fight these injustices. I also learned that our sisters in the domestic services are equally abused at work. So we came here, the women who work in the fields and in domestic labor, to ask for our rights to be upheld and for help in fighting these abuses. We want the people who abuse us on a daily basis to be sanctioned and to be held accountable.

This is no way to live to go to the fields where we work so hard to earn our daily bread for our families only to be met with men who taunt us:

“I like this one; I don’t like that one.” It’s not fair. We work very hard and we go there to work, not to provide sexual favors for the supervisors who demand them.

Today, I’m crying because I go to work to sustain my family, not be treated as a sexual object. I am a single mother and a provider. I cry because I feel impotent. I’m hurt. I’m mad. I’m frustrated. We do hard labor to feed the wold. Our job is important. We feed the mouths of the United States and yet we endure harassment without protection. This is not right.

Thankfully, we have met many supporters, like Senator Kamala Harris.”

Photo credit, Ai-jen Poo. @campesinasunite @domesticworkers excited to see Senator @KamalaHarris to discuss how to address sexual harassment at work #Unstoppable #AllWorkSafeWork

Democratic legislator Pramila Jayapal, was also present. Her office is looking into several options to strengthen labor protections, particularly for the case of farm and domestic workers so that they can be included and protected in laws against sexual harassment.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal asserts that current laws are simply not working. Foto: María Peña/Impremedia

Activists seek the amendment of “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Rachel Micah-Jones, the founder of the Migrant Rights Center who was also at the demonstration, explained that the current law only covers businesses that have more than 15 employees. Many farm workers work in small businesses. As do domestic workers who work in private residences.

National Domestic Workers Alliance-Unstoppable, April 24, Day of Action. National Awareness.

Politicians and actors have also extended support for the cause and for the amendment of Title VII. Meryl Streep video-messaged the domestic worker activists yesterday with the following message of support:

The women feel supported and encouraged that changes will come:

“We are so happy that they are supporting us now. We have hope. They have power and can do more than we can. People in the White House may not know what we live through every day. That’s why we are here. We brought it to them.”

 

 

“Title VII is flawed law and it must be corrected so that the millions of men and women who are currently unprotected from sexual harassment, assault, and abuse in the workplace can reclaim their rights under the Constitution of the United States. So I stand with you and I applaud you. Let’s go!” Merry Streep.

“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the federal employment law that prohibits discrimination, including harassment at work currently only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. This makes many domestic workers and farm workers, along with millions of other workers, vulnerable to harassment and retaliation with little to no remedies. One case of sexual harassment is one too many.” National Domestic Workers’ Alliance.

Congress can do something to help end sexual harassment for all of us. Send your Congressperson a letter today. Let them know that everyone deserves to be safe at work – no matter what they do or where they work.

Tell Congress, Extend Title VII

 

11,800 Military have Family at Risk of Deportation


Lawmakers urge approval of a law to protect military family members from deportation. Photo: María Peña/Impremedia

On February 28th, the Military Times published a story about a military veteran whose wife was facing deportation. The testimonial triggered confessions across the military community of military families facing separation due to an impending deportation.

Responding to the story, Alejandra Juarez, wife of former Marine Sgt. Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Juarez’s  wrote:

“My name is Alejandra Juarez and I just read your article. Today is not a good day for me, as my deportation date approaches.”

Former Marine Sgt. Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Juarez and his wife Alejandra have two daughters, ages 16 and 8. The Marine served the country from 1995 to 1999 and was later deployed to Iraq as a member of the Florida National Guard.

Alejandra, who entered the U.S. illegally at the age of 18 in 1998,  has no criminal record and has received orders to report to immigration for deportation to Mexico on June 21.

Two days ago, she traveled with her two youngest daughters to Washington to ask Congress to approve a bill that would protect her and the spouses and relatives of about 12,000 soldiers from deportation.

Meeting her in Washington, and talking with the press, Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., told reporters he and others are working on legislative changes intent on helping families like, Alejandra’s, who are in similar dire situations. H.R. 5593, the “Protect Patriot Spouses Act,” would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act since under the current law, military spouses who entered the country illegally may not pursue citizenship without first departing the country.

“This legislation will give priority for residency for military spouses,” Soto said.

“My husband sacrificed so much for this beautiful country and for all Americans, is that the message he wants to send, that he does not care about military families?” asked Alejandra Juarez as she faced the cameras.

Alejandra Juarez and her family. “More Military Families Come Forth with Deportation Fears.” Tara Kopp for Military Times.

Alejandra Juarez’ youngest daughter also had an urgent message for President Trump:

 

“I know that what my mom did is wrong but everyone deserves a second chance. And she is my mom. She’s been there throughout my entire life and I want to ask that you please let her stay.”

The Juarez’ case is not unique. The Military Times published an article by Tara Copp where the writer posted summaries of many painful testimonials:

“…an undocumented husband of an active-duty female soldier wrote: “We’ve been waiting for [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to come pick me up,” he wrote from Texas, where he manages the family when his wife deploys.”

“…a Maryland Army national guardsman and a full-time police officer was worried about his wife: “I’ve spent thousands and I am still in the process,” of protecting my wife, the guardsman said. The couple filed immigration paperwork in 2015. They didn’t get their hearing until January 2018; the case is still unresolved, he said.”

“I was deployed and worried that my wife and child would be deported by the same country I was fighting for,” the guardsman told Military Time.”


The Military Times has been a front-runner in collecting the stories and photos, and bringing them to light:



Navy Petty Officer First Class Justin Sullivan and his wife, Loretto, who are now based in Pensacola, Fla., have decided to speak out about the challenges they have faced obtaining citizenship for her. (Glenn Sircy/Navy). Justin Sullivan, the Navy Times’ 2017 Sailor of the Year, was honored for his service as a radio operator during two combat tours in Afghanistan and hundreds of hours of volunteer work at home.

According to Tara Kopp of the Military Times, Sullivan’s wife, Loretto, had qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, protection back in 2014. Her parents brought her to the US from Ecuador at the age of 14, but the paperwork took seven years to process, which made Loretto, 21, disqualifying her from gaining residence through her parents. Since then, the family has faced multiple challenges and fears Loretto’s deportation.

In the article Sullivan poured his heart out:

“You can’t help who you fall in love with…Loretto was the whole reason I got Navy Times’ Sailor of the Year. She’s the one who nominated me. She took all my evals and wrote it up for me. She’s always been my rock. She’s the person I come home to. Without that, I’d be lost.”


The series of testimonies also included stories of the children of military families who were at risk of deportation. The photo above is of retired Lt. Col. Patrick Schreiber and his wife, Soo Jin. Here, the couple poses with their legally adopted daughter, Hyebin. Despite the state of Kansas issuing a birth certificate recognizing the Schreibers as her parents, the Department of Homeland Security has said there’s no legal route to citizenship for Hyebin. Once her student visa expires she will have to leave the U.S, states Tara Kopp for the Military Times.


Rep. Darren Soto (D) Florida is fighting to protect military spouses at risk of deportation. Will he have the necessary votes just in time to help Alejandra’s case? Congress has to act on it, for he told Univision, without change, for these families, there is no plan B.

Under Soto’s amended act, spouses married to active duty or veteran service members with an honorable service record would be eligible to waive the inadmissibility charge.

“My dad did sacrifice a lot for this country, so we were already separated for that time when he was gone,” said 16-year-old Pamela Juarez, supporting her mother’s case and fighting for her family to stay together.

Alejandra’s family desperately waits for a miracle. They have a strong advocate in Rep. Darren Soto: “No military spouse should be deported. It sends the wrong message to our troops who have sacrificed everything, and military spouses are essential to our national defense.”

In Search of Mercy and Asylum-1,500 migrants march for their lives toward the United States

Migrantes realizan Viacrucis por México. Credito foto. Luis Gonzalez

On March 25, 2018, at 6:00 a.m. thousands of central Americans, including children, babies, adults, families and even grandparents, embarked on foot on a migrant viacrucis headed to the United States.

Their journey is described as a viacrucis, or way of the cross, comparing the migrants’ arduous journey to the different stages of suffering endured by Jesus Christ on his way to Calvary.

They are expected to arrive in the center of Mexico in approximately 30 days.

Henry Romero / Reuters. Un ‘vía crucis’ de refugiados atravesará México en Semana Santa

The director of Pueblos Sin Fronteras and Coordinator of the Migrant Viracrucis, Irineo Mújica, said that the Viacrucis, includes displaced members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTTI) from central American communities, 150 unaccompanied minors, 30 babies, some of whom are breastfeeding, adolescents and elderly among the journeyers who are estimated to total around 1,500. The pilgrimage started in the Mexican southern border city of Tapachula with the purpose of arriving in Mexico and the United States in search of asylum.

One of the coordinators of this group, Irineo Múgica, explained that this odyssey is carried out every year during Holy Week, as migrants take on their own cross in faith as they pass through Mexico.

Along the way, they suffer many hardships, from theft to even death. Women are frequently raped but keep quiet out of fear. The Mexican state governments have vowed to respect migrant rights, but migrants have told of countless cases where those who ought to protect them have joined in the abuse.

Mujeres, niños y mayores muestran el rostro más amargo de caravana migrante by EFE, Nuria Monreal Delgado

Who will defend migrants from aggression? Left with impossible choices, they endure silently for fear of repercussions.

In Tapachula, their point of departure, the migrants gather hungry and thirsty under a scorching sun. The caravans, as they are called, include many young children who are also victims of hunger, thirst, and heat.

What the mothers really want, is to find a job to provide for their children and to work without fear for their lives. They seek asylum and refuge from lives without human rights.

They are migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. They will stop in the coastal municipalities of Huixtla, Mapastepec and Pijijiapan where some will take the train to continue on to Oaxaca, Veracruz, Puebla and then to the north of the country.

Theirs is a journey without prospects and filled with risks.

Parte III: La ruta del peligro por Steven Dudley

More than 200 mothers and their children embarked on the journey hoping for Mexican solidarity and support. In Guadalajara, Mexican organizations and individuals waited for them with food, water, medical care, and transportation.

Migrantes de la caravana repudian a Trump en México Por: El Debate

Six large buses, aligned in a caravan, awaited some of them. These were generously secured by private donations from Mexico and the United States with the intention of sparing mothers and young children from having to ride atop The Beast, the train ride of death.

A bordo de ‘La Bestia’, el tren que trae a inmigrantes al país de la oportunidades. Noticias Univision.

The migrants are headed to the border with the United States, where some will surrender to the authorities to request asylum. They are escaping human rights violations, including, gender violence, political and military violence, gang violence, illiteracy, lack of adequate medical care and lack of work and living wages to support their children. Women and teens are in extreme danger of violence, abuse, and death. They know that an anti-immigrant climate awaits them in the United States, but they feel they have no choice.

What do they want Mexico and the US to know?

  • The migrants want Mexico and the United States to recognize their rights as refugees according to international laws.
  • They want both countries to know they seek protection and they are not criminals.
  • They want to shed light on the humanitarian crisis that exists in their countries of Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
  • They want Mexico and the United States to realize the degree of crisis that they face every day in Central America.
  • They ask for respect regarding their rights; that they listen to them, and that those who need protection, receive it.

The migrants entered Mexico by the Suchiate River, which divides Mexico and Guatemala, located about 45 kilometers from this city. They began their pilgrimage at 6:00 in the morning from the Miguel Hidalgo Central Park in Chiapas. Hanging on to homemade crosses and marching shoulder to shoulder they encouraged each other with a chant:

“Migrants are not criminals. We are workers. We are international workers. Why do you kill us? Why do you assassinate us? When we are the hope of Latin America!”

Impossible Choices-Request for Asylum & Family Separation

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images. Published in Politica para Mi.

After one month and one day of travel on foot, bus, train, and multiple shelters stop, the caravan of migrants seeking asylum to the United States completed their journey from Tapachula in the frontier with Guatemala, to the border of Mexico with the United States.

Correspondents from Noticiero Univision have been following the migrants and reporting on their journey. This Saturday, Univision reported that the last buses had arrived. Migrants were very tired yet willing and prepared to surrender to the United States authorities this Sunday.

A caravan coordinator, named Alex, told Univision that “migrants do not want to invade the United States as President Trump suggested, and a confrontation with the national guard would be unnecessary. They come to ask for asylum, a legal process that is founded in the law. It is not a crime to seek asylum when you surrender at the port of entry.”

Also meeting the migrants in Tijuana were a score of immigration lawyers from various parts of the United States who traveled to the area to advise migrants before surrendering. About 40 lawyers specializing in immigration law, crossed to Tijuana, Mexico, to meet with Central American migrants.

Nicole Ramos, an immigration attorney at the site, told Univision that most migrants wanted to know what detention would be like; who is at risk of being arrested; what happens with family separation, and how to prepare for possible separation from their children.

“We put our faith in God. And he will decide,” said a migrant woman while holding a small child.

Univision reported that there are 200 mothers and children waiting in line for immigration agents and that President Trump warned that if anyone presents a false or unsupported case for asylum they would face a trial, and be prosecuted for the maximum length of sentences.

The government will not extend the welcome mat to the Central Americans, stated Univision.

Attorney Erika Pinheiro told that the majority of women and children waiting to request asylum needed guidance to prepare mentally, and psychologically for detention.

Kevin de Leon (D) Senator from the state of California, defended the migrants’ right to request asylum arguing that in our country the laws are very clear on the subject, “if you are a victim of political persecution, or violence, you are eligible to apply for political asylum status.”

The author of the sanctuary laws of California, Senator de Leon told Univision that fear tactics are being used to as a tool to deny asylum.

Earlier in February, California State Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) released the following statement relating to some recent developments in immigration enforcement:

· Tearing children from the arms of their mothers do not reflect the values of our nation or who we are as Americans.

· Children, like the 7-year-old girl taken from her mother at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, are being used as pawns by the Trump administration to discourage undocumented entries into the United States.

· The mother and her daughter fled violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Mexico and surrendered to immigration authorities at the U.S. border right near where I grew up. They were seeking asylum.

· While her mother is still detained in San Diego, the little girl is now being held at a youth center in Chicago thousands of miles away.

· The mother could hear her daughter screaming from another room, ‘Mommy, don’t let them take me!’

· Compassionless and callousness do not begin to describe the pain being inflicted on honest, hardworking families by President Trump and the zealots driving his immigration policies. This type of inhumane treatment, resembling that of a rogue nation, is now public policy for the United States of America.

Echoing Senator De Leon’s views, Christian Ramirez, who is running for city council of San Diego, argued that “we have a moral obligation to ensure that any person who is requesting refugee protection, can present their case before an immigration judge and that the authorities will fairly evaluate each case, before marking them as delinquents.”

The ACLU is also taking steps to fight against family separation at the border.

Marcia Facundo writes in Politica Para Mi, that the ACLU asked a judge in California to declare family separation an illegal practice. On Friday, the ACLU, sued the government of President Donald Trump for its policy of widely separating the families of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States.

Rex Huppke, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune stated that as part of the sworn statements, Michelle Brane, an attorney and director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission identified separation of parents from children at the border in at least 429 cases without allegation or showing that they had presented a danger to their child.

“You are the worst foster parents in the world!” US Govt accused of losing 1500 Children

Photo credits. Politica para Mi. “Gobierno desconoce el paradero de unos 1,500 niños inmigrantes” (Government does not know the whereabouts of 1,500 children).

“You are the worst foster parents in the world,” accused North Dakota Senator (D) Heidi Keitkamp during a testimony hearing before the Senate, when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) admitted having lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors after placing them with sponsors late last year.

Federal agency says it lost track of 1,475 migrant children. — boys wait in line to make a phone call as they are joined by hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool, File)

Between October and December 2017, 7,635 children who crossed the border alone into the United States, were placed with sponsors throughout the country, reported Noticiero Telemundo, on April 27th, 2018.

From last October until the end of the year, officials from the HHS refugee office attempted to contact 7,635 children and their sponsors. A report from Steven Wagner, interim assistant secretary of the HHS Administration for Children and Families, reveals that the agency learned of the disappearance of hundreds of immigrant children after making calls to the people who took responsibility for them when they were released from custody.

1,475 children could not be located.

Most of the children came from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, seeking refuge from drug cartels, gang violence, and domestic abuse.

From these calls, officials learned that:

6,075 children stayed with their sponsors

28 escaped

5 were deported

52 moved to live with someone else

1,475 children were missing

Agency officials could not determine their whereabouts.

(Photo Credit: John Moore/Getty Images). What You Need to Know About the U.S.-Mexico Border Crisis by Larry Ladutke. Salvadorian immigrant Stefany Marjorie, 8, holds her doll Rodrigo in Mission, Texas.

The report on the “Oversight of HHS Efforts to Protect Unaccompanied Children from Human Trafficking,” revealed that the government does not have a method to follow up on the whereabouts of immigrant children who enter the country alone.

Pro-immigrant groups are extremely concerned.

Maria Sosa, an immigrant’s rights activist from the organization, Fiel, told Noticiero Univision that the government should take more responsibility to ensure that these children are in the right hands:

“We are waiting for an explanation from the government. We want to know, what happened to the children, and why did the government not follow up on their welfare? Many times the government does not visit the homes of the sponsors where they place the children. This hurts the children in many ways. Regarding the immigration process, the children would like to fix their immigration status but this depends on showing up for important immigration court dates. Many of the youths miss court dates because they live in the dark. They have no idea where they are or what they are supposed to do. How can they be responsible for knowing to go to court and when to show up? They entered as minors and so they cannot be made responsible for their own self-care.”

The William Wilberforce Act of 2008 states that immigrant children traveling alone cannot be deported immediately. Instead, children must be placed under the care of HHS while they are processed in immigration courts.

Central American Children’s Testimony Humanizes Debate Around Unaccompanied Minors.Written by Wendy Feliz JULY 30, 2014. Mayeli Hernandez, 12, and her younger sister left Honduras because they were afraid of the violence and because her younger sister suffered from epilepsy.

The report, part of Wagner’s testimony for the Senate, admitted that once the children are handed over to a sponsor, the custody of the Refugee Office with the minor ends, with a file remaining open for only 30 days.

A subcommittee on National Security of the Senate has been investigating the situation of minors after the discovery of a network of labor trafficking, in which eight Guatemalan adolescents were forced to work in egg farms in Marion County.

The office of refugees has been urged to correct the serious deficiencies with the system and design a step by step plan to monitor what happens to the children and to present a report on solutions as early as next week.

Sister Norma Pimentel from Catholic Charities is advocating on the children’s behalf. “We must protect these children who are so vulnerable and who can be taken and exploited.”

Sister Norma S. Pimentel (MA ‘95), executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. Photo. Loyola University, Chicago

Activists in the pro-immigrant communities believe Trump’s government is responsible for losing the children after handing them over to sponsors and failing to follow-up. The risk is that they may have ended up in sex traffic rings, exploited, and forced into labor.

This lack of care, regard and humanitarian efforts to help these children goes against every value that the United States is supposed to stand for. As caravans of migrants head to the border in a desperate request for asylum what is to happen to the children? The families that have escaped persecution, pain, death, come to us for help, for refuge and compassion. What awaits them? A militarized border and possible traumatic separation of already suffering families, from their children. If this happens, where will these children go? To “sponsors?” How would they ever reunite with their parents? What would become of them? Placing them with sponsors and forgetting them after 30 days is irresponsible and shameful. Already missing, 1500 minors.

This is not right. This is not Us.