Archive for the ‘Border Enforcement’ Category.

Baby Steps Toward Transparency

shutterstock_8491309Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) took another small step toward transparency – issuing a Request for Quote (RFQ) for 108 body-worn cameras and 12 vehicle-mounted cameras. It probably seems strange to get even a little bit excited about the announcement of a bureaucratic process, but in the case of CBP transparency, every step, even baby steps, are important after years of push-back and blockades in the fight for body-worn cameras. Despite the ever-growing evidence that body-worn cameras benefit all parties, CBP has failed to implement the use of these cameras throughout the field.

In a statement, CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said, “CBP is committed to expanding the use of cameras to increase transparency, accountability, and officer and agent safety. The body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras from this purchase will be tested by agents and officers in the field. What we learn from this initial deployment to several operational environments will help CBP refine requirements that will lead to a larger procurement in the near future.”

Last November, CBP announced its intention to conduct more testing and evaluation rather than actually implement a program to employ the use of body-worn cameras. As I said back in November, it is beyond belief that, given all that we know about the power of video to shine a light on the actions of law enforcement agents and officers, as well as those who are involved in encounters with agents and officers, CBP is still dragging its heels on this initiative. As the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, CBP should lead the way toward transparency and set the standard, rather than keep things hidden away in the desert, bushes, canyons, and riverbanks.

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When Pictures Are Worth More than a Thousand Words

vtcc000019a_1I had heard stories about Border Patrol’s mistreatment of immigrants. When I volunteered in Artesia, New Mexico, and Dilley, Texas, the mothers and children there told me what a horrible experience they’d had in Border Patrol custody. Over the years, I’d become familiar with the term hieleras, or iceboxes, shorthand for the freezing cold and filthy Border Patrol facilities, in addition to the perreras, or dog pounds.

But now, thanks to a lawsuit filed on behalf of immigrants by the American Immigration Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others, the entire nation is seeing for themselves the horrors that have long-been described. Adults and children held in extremely close quarters with only a thin mylar blanket for cover. Diapers being changed on top of the same unsanitary blanket that covered a mother and her child for hours. No showers. No privacy. And empty rooms nearby that could have alleviated the crowded conditions.

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What is Donald Trump’s Position on Immigration?

shutterstock_264609119Why do we ask?  And why particularly of Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton?  While the devil is always in the details, it is clear that Secretary Clinton has a more favorable view of immigration and has laid out a fairly clear strategy for how she would reform the current system.

But the question of what Mr. Trump would prioritize on immigration, should he be elected to hold the highest office in our nation, remains unclear.  First he called for massive, yet “humane” and “nice” deportation of the estimated 11+ million undocumented individuals in this country.  He has also repeatedly reaffirmed that a wall must be built along the southern border.  He has noted that he wants people (who are deported) to come back legally because “they want to be legalized.” The candidate has also said that in the wall, there will be a “tremendous beautiful wide open door.” (Donald Trump on mass deportation).

Recently however, reports have Mr. Trump possibly “softening” his stance on immigration noting that “to take a person who has been here for 15-20 years and to throw them out is a very, very hard thing.”  The outline of a plan appears to have similarities to proposals made by former presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who Mr. Trump previously criticized as “weak on immigration.” Yet there does not yet seem to be any clear and definitive proposals of what his immigration policy would look like in actuality.

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Outrage

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“Apurar, cielos, pretendo,

Por qué me tratáis así,

qué delito cometí

contra vosotros naciendo.

Aunque si nací, ya entiendo

qué delito he cometido;

bastante causa ha tenido

vuestra justicia y rigor,

Pues el delito mayor

del hombre es haber nacido.” ~ by Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Outrage is the only word that comes to mind to describe the Obama Administration’s recent admission that they are aggressively pursuing enforcement against families and children. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has launched a 30-day “surge” of arrests focused on mothers and children who have been ordered removed by an immigration judge. It was also reported that the operation would cover minors who have entered the country without a guardian and since turned 18 years of age.

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ICE Fights to Detain and Deport Teenage Girl Despite Stay

FB_IMG_1454041598864Kimberly was just 17 when she went in front of an Atlanta immigration judge and was told she would be deported. There was no legal orientation. No one asked her why she left her native Honduras or whether she was afraid to be sent back there. Even the lawyer her family hired didn’t tell her she could fight her case—and worse, actually asked the judge to order her removed.

Now, after nearly two months in a for-profit immigration jail in Irwin County, Georgia—under conditions that would make you weep—Kimberly is literally fighting for her life. And by the time you read this, she may already be gone.

In 2014, Kimberly fled Honduras with her little sister—gang members had threatened to take her as their sexual property. At best, Kimberly could expect to be passed from man to man, but girls who don’t submit are often kidnapped, gang-raped and murdered, their mutilated bodies left as a warning to others. Honduras was the murder capital of the world in 2013—our own State Department recognizes a host of human rights violations, including killings, weak law enforcement and judiciary systems, and abuse and violence against women. There are few, if any protections from a government that is both corrupted and outgunned by gangs notorious for targeting women and girls. Physicians for Human Rights shared the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women report, which noted “violent deaths of women in Honduras had increased 263.4 percent between 2005 and 2013, and there is a 95 percent impunity rate for sexual violence and femicide crimes.” Knowing there wasn’t anything anyone could do to protect her, Kimberly escaped to the United States.

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What Asylum Law is About

shutterstock_272600546I’m an asylum lawyer.  Every day I fight for victims of persecution and torture from all over the world.  I listen to their stories and I give them a voice.  Perhaps some of the most compelling and most amazing stories of survival have been those of women – women from the Middle East fleeing the threat of honor killings and the complete abdication of their rights, women from Africa and the Middle East fleeing tribal practices that mutilate their bodies, women from Eastern Europe and East Asia fleeing forced prostitution and sex trafficking, and women from Central America fleeing domestic violence and their positions as the property of their male family members – all harm meant to relegate and maintain women as second class citizens in their societies…all harm that is permitted and even encouraged by their governments.

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For Many, “Beautiful Honduras” Isn’t.

shutterstock_59018533A couple of weeks ago, I read a piece in the Huffington Post quoting Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson saying that it’s okay to deport kids to Honduras because it’s “a beautiful country.” Reading this ridiculous comment, I felt I had to share my knowledge of what is driving children to flee their homes.

The reality is Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Plagued by poverty, infested with deported violent criminals and gang members, its corrupt government fails to protect its citizens. I saw firsthand the plight of many in Honduras when I traveled to the Bay Islands on two separate occasions as an avid scuba diver a few years ago.

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When the Narrative Shifts

11148730_10153682735318632_5462661337177844069_nI joined AILA’s Executive Committee with quite a bit of media experience under my belt. One thing I’ve known for a long time is that the news cycle can turn on a dime and what you may have thought you’d be talking about with a reporter can change, sometimes mid-interview.

As an example – AILA’s annual New York City Media Tour was planned to coincide with the one year anniversary of DAPA and expanded DACA. AILA staff analyzed President Obama’s immigration actions during his term in office and we issued a report card highlighting where he had made a good effort (DACA and DAPA again) and where he had failed (humanitarian protection and family detention), while also highlighting what was still incomplete (legal immigration reform) and unsatisfactory (enforcement). The tour was all set, appointments were made, preparations in place.

And then, attacks in Beirut and Paris happened and the backlash against refugees started. We knew the news cycle wasn’t going to be focused on executive actions on immigration anymore; instead, we read stories and watched interviews that were chock full of fearmongering and hateful speech, of lashing out and calling for isolation.

We talked, we strategized, and we went forward with the report card, but we also accepted the shift and made sure that AILA’s voice was heard.

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Beirut and Paris, What Can We Do?

Syrian-refugee-crisis_crcleThe recent events in Beirut, Baghdad and Paris have brought feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, and helplessness. While these feelings in the coming weeks may subside and take a backseat to the holiday season, they will not entirely go away. And, they shouldn’t. The thought that there has to be something we can do, something we can fight for, will hopefully remain. Many of us are up every night thinking and talking at length about these events and their impact. This is, of course, much bigger than we are but it does not mean that we cannot or should not do anything. We need to do something.

Because this impacts all of us, especially the immigration bar, we need to start a larger discussion. We need to speak out against this xenophobic anti-refugee, anti-Muslim backlash.  We need to be open, be frank, be courageous and be hopeful. We need a deeper conversation among each other, within our communities and with those who do not share the same perspective. There is so much misinformation and misuse of facts. Fear and lack of understanding is dictating impulsive and hateful actions. Many in Congress are aiming to halt the refugee resettlement program for those from Iraq and Syria, while millions of refugees are desperately asking for help. Governors in 31 states are touting that they want to close their doors to Syrian refugees, with one governor already turning two families away. And, this is just the beginning. As immigration professionals, we are in a position to highlight the facts, speak the truth, and hold our elected officials accountable. We understand the immigration system better than anyone—we know the intricacies, the process, and what is required.

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Building Bridges Rather than Walls

shutterstock_104467115Congratulations to the people and elected representatives of San Diego.

As many of us know in the immigration field, it is so easy for politicians, press and the public to demonize and scapegoat immigrants of all colors, creeds, and convictions.  For years we have heard the loud cries to “build a bigger wall” or “build more walls” in order to protect American communities on the U.S.-Mexico border.  But walls aren’t always the answer, and San Diego has had enough of being told what is good for them by bureaucrats who live far from the border and carry a different agenda.

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