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Mainstream Media: Brown Children as Carriers of Disease

The Blaze first reported one June 24 that ” A young illegal immigrant child from Central America was diagnosed with swine flu Friday after crossing the Texas-Mexico border…”

To the Blaze’s credit, they later noted that the H1N1 virus experiencing an uptick this year.

However, the conclusion to be drawn from this article–that immigrant children are carrying diseases from their native countries into the United States–is completely unfounded. 1 or 2 out of approximately 50,000 children coming down with the “predominant” strain of flu present in the U.S. in 2014 is not news.

It is fear mongering.

Indeed, the child may have contracted the H1N1 virus after he or she entered the United States.

Thus far in the 2013-14 Flu Season, the CDC has confirmed 28,357 cases of the H1N1 virus in the United States. That means that more than 28 thousand individuals had already contracted the H1N1 before the one or two immigrant children did.

Ruben Navarrette followed up on the Blaze’s report with an article to add to the dehumanization of immigrant children by falsely claiming that:

Now H1N1 may be back. It has been delivered into our air supply by unsuspecting pint-sized carriers who have endured a lot of pain, sacrifice and suffering to get here and whose fate is still unclear.

No, H1N1 has not been delivered into our air supply by children from Central America. In fact, the prevalence rate of confirmed cases of H1N1 viruses compared to the whole U.S. population of 313.9 million is higher than the rate of unaccompanied children who have entered the U.S. so far in this fiscal year.

At most,  2 out of 50,000 unaccompanied children  have been infected with H1N1, which equates to a 0.003 % prevalence rate.  When compared to the population at large in the U.S., the  prevalence rate of individuals infected with H1N1  is significantly higher at 0.009 %.

There is zero evidence that children from Central America are bringing in communicable diseases into the United States. One cannot bring something to the United States that is already here.

Stop demonizing children. One or two kids came down with the Flu. That is not news. That is fear mongering.

Open Letter to Congress: Reject Obama’s Request For Expedited Removal of Central American Children

Below is a message that we have sent to several members of Congress. Please feel free to use the text for your own letter to Congress:

“I am writing to urge Congress to do all that is possible to deny President Obama’s request to give DHS ‘additional authority to exercise discretion in processing the return and removal of unaccompanied minor children from non-contiguous countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.’

We have over 100 unaccompanied Central American children as clients.  These children should not be subject to expedited removal. DHS is incapable of properly screening children for relief from removal.

If President Obama’s request is granted by Congress, thousands of children will be sent back to concrete harm in their native countries. Many of our clients are victims of sexual abuse, gang violence, and/or domestic violence. These children are often unable to speak about their past experiences, even in a safe place in front of their adult caretakers.

These children should be protected. Political considerations should not blind us to the need to protect children fleeing from concrete harm.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Very Truly Yours,

 

Bryan S. Johnson, Esq.

A New Era of Darkness: Obama’s Attack on Child Refugees

On June 30, 2014, President Barack Obama wrote a letter to Congress requesting, among other things, “additional authority to exercise discretion in processing the return and removal of unaccompanied minor children from non-contiguous countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador”

In other words, Obama wants to break the shackles of current law that  requires the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to transfer unaccompanied children from Central American countries to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement within 72 hours of apprehension. Under current law, all unaccompanied children are in effect entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge to determine if they can stay in the United States.

With expedited removal, thousands of children will not be able to apply for protections under our current laws, such as asylum of special immigrant juvenile visas.

We know because we currently represent more than 100 unaccompanied minors from Central America.

DHS is not capable of screening children for legal relief. DHS’s job is to deport, not to advocate for the interests of children. Obama knows this.

Where the evil pours in is that Obama is keenly aware of the consequences of his actions:  Children will be sent back to their deaths. Children will be sent back to be raped. Children will be sent back to be abducted or sold into slavery. Children will be sent back to never be heard from again.  Children will be sent back to the places that only dwell in some of  our worst nightmares.

And for what? The  ever-illusory comprehensive immigration reform?  How would Obama feel if his two girls were summarily sent back to a place that is constantly convulsing with extreme violence. Where no one is safe? Where there is no rule of law?

To make matters worse, President Obama has misled the public about the consequences he knows will result from elimination of due process protections for children.

According to the New York Times:

White House officials said they were not asking Congress to change other existing legal protections for children apprehended without their parents. The administration is working with the governments of the three countries that are home to most of the migrants — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — to ensure the children are safe once they are returned, the officials said.

By asking Congress to give DHS the legal authority to expeditiously remove unaccompanied children, Obama IS asking Congress to change existing legal protections for children apprehended without their parents

The President is also misleading the public in claiming that his administration can ensure the safety of children upon return to their native countries.

The State Department has written extensively on how the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras do not have the ability to protect their own citizens. The U.S. State Department has been particularly emphatic on the problems that these three nations have with child abuse.

The 2013 Human Rights Report on El Salvador found that:

“Child abuse was a serious and widespread problem. Incidents of rape continued to be underreported for a number of reasons, including societal and cultural pressures on victims, fear of reprisal against victims, ineffective and unsupportive responses by authorities toward victims, fear of publicity, and a perception among victims that cases were unlikely to be prosecuted.

The report concluded that:

The principal human rights problems were widespread corruption; weaknesses in the judiciary and the security forces that contributed to a high level of impunity; and abuse, including domestic violence, discrimination, and commercial sexual exploitation against women and children.

The same report for Honduras also found that “Child prostitution and abuse” were ” human rights problems” and that ” Police, gangs, and members of the public engaged in violence against poor youths.” Overall, the report concluded that:

Among the most serious human rights problems were corruption, intimidation, and institutional weakness of the justice system leading to widespread impunity; unlawful and arbitrary killings by security forces, organized criminal elements, and others; and harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions.

For Guatemala, the U.S. State Department found that “Child abuse remained a serious problem” and concluded that:

“Principal human rights abuses included widespread institutional corruption, particularly in the police and judicial sectors; police and military involvement in serious crimes such as kidnapping, drug trafficking, and extortion; and societal violence, including often lethal violence, against women.”

Do you see a pattern? Widespread institutional corruption within the judiciary and police which allows predators to hunt and hurt children with near 100 % impunity. These are the places that Obama wants to deport children back to.

Obama  cannot be serious in claiming he is working to ensure the safety of children upon return to Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador.

The abomination of sending children back to harm needs to be stopped.

Call or write to your Senators and Representatives to urge an end to the madness of harming children who are begging for our help. Help that we can and should give.

12 year old Mayeli, who entered the U.S. in 2013, on Telemundo’s Primera Edicion

Mayeli Hernandez is 12 years old. Her mother brought her  with her younger sister in July of 2013 to save their lives from the extraordinary danger pervades Honduras.

She and her sister will be able to reside in the United States permanently because they are Special Immigrant Juveniles (“SIJ”), which makes them eligible for Green Cards in the United States.

Unlike President Obama, Congress acted to protect children by expanding the amount of kids eligible to stay here as SIJ permanent residents in 2008.

New York Times: “U.S. Setting Up Emergency Shelters in Texas as Youths Cross Border Alone.”

Though problematic because of its legally incorrect use of language to describe children migrants and other errors, Julia Preston of the NY Times wrote an important story today. The article is below, followed by our analysis:

With border authorities in South Texas overwhelmed by a surge of young illegal migrants traveling by themselves, the Department of Homeland Security declared a crisis this week and moved to set up an emergency shelter for the youths at an Air Force base in San Antonio, officials said Friday.

After seeing children packed in a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Tex., during a visit last Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Monday declared “a level-four condition of readiness” in the Rio Grande Valley. The alert was an official recognition that federal agencies overseeing borders, immigration enforcement and child welfare had been outstripped by a sudden increase in unaccompanied minors in recent weeks.

On Sunday, Department of Health and Human Services officials will open a shelter for up to 1,000 minors at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, authorities said, and will begin transferring youths there by land and air. The level-four alert is the highest for agencies handling children crossing the border illegally, and allows Homeland Security officials to call on emergency resources from other agencies, officials said.

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Johnson said the influx of unaccompanied youths had “zoomed to the top of my agenda” after his encounters at the McAllen Border Patrol station with small children, one of whom was 3.

The children are coming primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, making the perilous journey north through Mexico to Texas without parents or close adult relatives. Last weekend alone, more than 1,000 unaccompanied youths were being held at overflowing border stations in South Texas, officials said.

The flow of child migrants has been building since 2011, when 4,059 unaccompanied youths were apprehended by border agents. Last year more than 21,000 minors were caught, and Border Patrol officials had said they were expecting more than 60,000 this year. But that projection has already been exceeded.

By law, unaccompanied children caught crossing illegally from countries other than Mexico are treated differently from other migrants. After being apprehended by the Border Patrol, they must be turned over within 72 hours to a refugee resettlement office that is part of the Health Department. Health officials must try to find relatives or other adults in the United States who can care for them while their immigration cases move through the courts, a search that can take several weeks or more.

The Health Department maintains shelters for the youths, most run by private contractors, in the border region. Health officials had begun several months ago to add beds in the shelters anticipating a seasonal increase. But the plans proved insufficient to handle a drastic increase of youths in recent weeks, a senior administration official said.

Mr. Johnson said Pentagon officials agreed this week to lend the space at Lackland, where health officials will run a shelter for up to four months. The base was also used as a temporary shelter for unaccompanied migrant youths in 2012. It became the focus of controversy when Gov. Rick Perry of Texas objected, accusing President Obama of encouraging illegal migration by sheltering the young people there.

Mr. Johnson said the young migrants became a more “vivid” issue for him after he persuaded his wife to spend Mother’s Day with him at the station in McAllen. He said he asked a 12-year-old girl where her mother was. She responded tearfully that she did not have a mother, and was hoping to find her father, who was living somewhere in the United States, Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Johnson said he had spoken on Monday with the ambassadors from Mexico and the three Central American countries to seek their cooperation, and had begun a publicity campaign to dissuade youths from embarking for the United States.

“We have to discourage parents from sending or sending for their children to cross the Southwest border because of the risks involved,” Mr. Johnson said. “A South Texas processing center is no place for a child.”

Officials said many youths are fleeing gang violence at home, while some are seeking to reunite with parents in the United States. A majority of unaccompanied minors are not eligible to remain legally in the United States and are eventually returned home.

I am pleasantly surprised at Jeh Johnson’s swift action and his unequivocal message: The United States Government must not abuse children migrants regardless of the situation. Jeh Johnson is right that a South Texas Processing Center is no place for a child.

But his prior statement that parents of children must be discouraged from sending their children to cross the border because of the risks involved is not as straightforward as it sounds.

To be sure, the journey from Central America to the United States by land is extraordinarily dangerous. One minor client of ours was abducted right after crossing the U.S./Mexico border and held for ransom. Luckily, he was rescued after other victims escaped the house they were being imprisoned in and alerted authorities.

I could go on. But has Jeh  Johnson walked in the shoes of these children in their native countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, where the government is powerless to protect children from gangs and other predators?

The simple truth is this: There are often more risks for a child to stay in their native country than for them to take the journey to the United States.

More than half the children that walk through into our office did not live with their parents in their native countries. Without parents, children in Central America  are at an even higher risk of being exploited by powerful street gangs; sexual predators; and other bad actors.

The vast majority of Central American children who are brought to the U.S. unlawfully  have been abandoned by one  or both parent, or both, or their parents are residing in the U.S. to ensure their kids don’t go hungry.

PROBLEMATIC JOURNALISM

Minors do not have the sufficient intent to violate immigration law. Yet the first sentence in this article states:  “With border authorities in South Texas overwhelmed by a surge of young illegal migrants traveling by themselves…”(emphasis added.)

Minors are brought to the United States. They do not commit the act of violating the law. So why does the NY times permit this patently false description  of children fleeing their homelands? It’s frankly a bit perplexing.

Preston also uses the word “young”, which is itself problematic. An 18 year old is still young, yet they are clearly not a part of the class of individuals described in the article because they are not under 18.

The following example would be an accurate for the vast majority of children entering the U.S. at the border: “a surge in children brought to the United States unlawfully.”  Granted, some children flee with just the clothes on their back without telling any adult. Another alternative example would be this: ” a surge in minor children entering the United States without legal permission.”

The article concludes that  “the majority of unaccompanied minors are not eligible to remain legally in the United States and are eventually returned home.” Both of these conclusions are very problematic.

For example, the vast majority of Mexican unaccompanied minors are in fact deported  to Mexico within 48 hours of arriving in the U.S. Many deported Mexican minors are actually eligible for relief as special immigrant juveniles, refugees, victims of trafficking, or other means.

The fact that most Mexican children are deported does not mean that they were not eligible to remain legally in the United States.

Also, Jeh Johnson and Julia Preston seem to be ignorant of the fact that in 2012 DHS deported 14,000  unaccompanied Mexican children. U.S. authorities will claim that the children return to Mexico voluntarily but this is impossible given that they are minors. They did not come for a golf trip. They came to live in the United States.

However, the vast majority of Central American unaccompanied minors are not deported to their native country, regardless of whether they are eligible to remain in the U.S. legally. The reasoning is simple: DHS cannot deport children back to Central American countries within the 72 hours that they have to transfer the child to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

In our experience, well over half of unaccompanied children from Central America are eligible for permanent residency in the U.S. through special immigrant juvenile status, asylum, or other means. Even if a child is not eligible to remain legally in the U.S., DHS cannot detain a minor under the age of 18. Therefore, once released, it would be near impossible for DHS to force a child to return to their native country.

Mayor Bill De Blasio: Another Fake Pro-Immigrant Politician

There has been a lot of talk about how Mayor Bill De Blasio is  more pro-immigrant than his predecessor. Reality tells a different tale.

In De Blasio’s State of the City address earlier this year, everyone applauded his warm words on undocumented immigrants. He promised that Municipal ID cards would be available to all residents of New York City regardless of their immigration status: “so that no daughter or son of our city goes without bank accounts, leases, library cards, simply because they lack identification.”

Veering away from the concrete, he concluded: “To all of my fellow New Yorkers who are undocumented, I say: New York City is your home, too, and we will not force any of our residents to live their lives in the shadows,”

Unless you are deported and ripped away from your family because of New York City’s voluntary cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”.)

New York City likes to pretend more than act as pro-immigrant.

In 2013, Christine Quinn announced the passage of two bills that purported to stop a significant amount of individuals from being handed over to ICE, saying that:

“We have seen too many families torn apart by current detention and deportation practices. Our legislation will ensure that the city does not enable such a harmful policy.”

With great dismay, I realized that this legislation was mostly just for show: New York City would still hand over immigrants with outstanding orders of deportations and of persons previously ordered deported who returned unlawfully afterwards. The two latter classes of individuals make up the vast majority of persons deported from the U.S. In other words, New York City’s 2013 legislation did almost nothing to stem the destruction of immigrant families living in its neighborhoods.

And the data backs this up. The Department of Correction granted 73 % of all requests submitted by ICE and transferred 3000 people to ICE between October 2012 and September of 2013, according to a Daily News Article. 

Two of those 3000 were our clients, Werner and Oscar.  Neither had ever been convicted of a crime.

Oscar was abruptly torn away from his two infant twin girls after being arrested for having an open beer can. Werner was forcefully separated from his U.S. citizen wife and stepdaughter after being arrested on bogus charges after a traffic stop. All charges were dismissed.

Bill De Blasio is still complicit in destroying families like that of Oscar and Werner.

A recent campaign called ICE-Free NYC is requesting that the city to “refuse to allow ICE into city jails to look for people to deport. Also, they say, it should stop holding people once they have finished serving time for their conviction and have paid their debt to society — with no exceptions.”

De Blasio’s response was to repeat that it was immigrant friendly while not addressing the fact that it still cooperates with ICE to separating families for no reason. 

Maybe De Blasio should give Barack Obama a call. He is, after all, the ultimate fake pro-immigrant.

 

 

Guest Post: “The Revised Credible Fear Lesson Plan: Enough is Enough!”

Dree Collopy, AILA Refugee & Asylum Liaison Committee Chair and Partner at the Immigration Law Firm Benach Ragland LLP , wrote an excellent article today in response to DHS’s recent change in policy to make it harder for individuals fleeing persecution or torture to obtain protection in the United States.

Spread it far and wide:

“This is not just a blog post, but a call to action.  Over the past six months, we have seen dog-and-pony hearings by Congress and a series of administrative changes to our asylum system that have deviated from the United States’ longstanding obligations under domestic and international law to the detriment of bona fide refugees.  The most recent of these deviations is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Asylum Division’s revisions to its Lesson Plan on Credible Fear of Persecution and Torture Determinations.

Implicit in the core humanitarian purpose of U.S. asylum law is the requirement that it be as effective as possible in offering reliable protection to bona fide refugees.  While effectively protecting refugees may seem like a simple concept, the human rights considerations involved in U.S. asylum law often collide with the challenges involved in maintaining the integrity of the application process.  It is this collision that led to the development and implementation of the expedited removal and credible fear provisions of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRAIRA), which took effect on April 1, 1997.

Expedited removal was a direct result of the Congressional perception that individuals arriving at ports of entry with false or no documentation were abusing the asylum system.  Nonetheless, under U.S. asylum law – which was derived directly from international law – the government is prohibited from returning refugees to countries where they would face persecution.  In an attempt to address the potential for violations of this obligation of nonrefoulement through the implementation of the expedited removal process, the credible fear provisions were also enacted.  Under these provisions, rather than being subjected to immediate removal, an individual arriving at a port of entry who expresses a fear of persecution or torture will be referred to an asylum officer for a “credible fear” interview.  If the individual substantiates a “significant possibility” she could establish eligibility for asylum under INA § 208, the asylum officer will find her to have a credible fear of persecution.  Such a finding grants the individual her rightful day in court, allowing her to present a full asylum claim before an immigration judge in INA § 240 proceedings.

For those who have been following recent developments in U.S. asylum law and procedure, the rhetoric surrounding – largely unsubstantiated – claims that our asylum system is under attack by abuse and calling for sweeping changes that threaten the core humanitarian purpose of U.S. asylum law sounds all too familiar.  With a significant and steady influx of refugees fleeing the violence and turmoil stemming from the entrenchment of gangs and drug cartels in Central America, the human rights considerations involved in U.S. asylum law are once again colliding with the challenges involved in maintaining the integrity of our asylum system.  Unfortunately, this collision has resulted in a series of changes that have deviated from the United States’ longstanding obligations under domestic and international law to the detriment of bona fide refugees.

Over the past six months, we have seen border officers overzealously using expedited removal to deny individuals fleeing real persecution and torture the opportunity to seek asylum.  We have seen Congress focus its attention on a series of hearings entitled “Asylum Laws and Abuse,” designed to attack those seeking protection rather than the faulty implementation of the expedited removal and credible fear provisions by Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  We have seen the Board of Immigration Appeals, in Matter of M-E-V-G- and Matter of W-G-R-, dramatically increase the evidentiary burden on asylum-seekers while seeking to rationalize a legal test that is irreconcilable with U.S. obligations under domestic and international law.  And just last week, we saw the USCIS Asylum Division join in the backlash against the influx of refugees at our borders with a notable narrowing of the “significant possibility” standard for credible fear determinations made by its asylum officers.  Is anyone else out there thinking, “Enough is enough!?”

In this most recent development, USCIS revised its April 14, 2006 Lesson Plan on Credible Fear of Persecution and Torture Determinations, which it uses to train asylum officers.  In releasing the revised Lesson Plan, USCIS issued a memorandum describing the changes and the reasons for these changes (see AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 14041845).  In explaining the need for these revisions, USCIS notes the significant increase in credible fear referrals to the Asylum Division and its need to allocate more resources to credible fear adjudications than ever before.  Instead of recognizing that this increase in resources devoted to credible fear adjudications may be due to the overall increase in individuals seeking protection at our borders, however, USCIS seemingly attributes this increase to its concern that “the application of the ‘significant possibility’ standard has lately been interpreted to require only a minimal or mere possibility of success.”  Although USCIS claims that “these modifications…do not change the ‘significant possibility’ standard or alter the screening function of the credible fear process,” in practice these revisions will considerably narrow the longstanding “significant possibility” standard.

The main problems with the 2014 Lesson Plan stem from deviations that thwart the legislative intent behind the expedited removal and credible fear provisions.  The legislative history of IIRAIRA indicates that Congress intended the credible fear provisions to be a safety net and the “significant possibility” standard to be a low standard that would catch any potential refugees in that net.  The 2006 Lesson Plan previously included several explicit references to this intent, but in the 2014 Lesson Plan, all such references have been removed.

Moreover, Congress intended the credible fear process to serve as a threshold screening mechanism for protection claims to ensure that, in its implementation of the expedited removal provisions, the United States was still abiding by its longstanding obligation under domestic and international law not to return an individual fleeing persecution to his or her persecutor.  The credible fear process was not intended to be a full assessment or adjudication of an asylum claim, but rather, a gateway to the full assessment and adjudication process.

Contradicting this Congressional intent, the 2014 Lesson Plan: (1) directs officers to apply the significant possibility standard through the lens of a full adjudication, (2) emphasizes that a claim that has only a minimal or mere possibility does not meet the “significant possibility” standard, (3) creates a three-prong test that did not exist in the previous 2006 Lesson Plan standard, requiring the asylum-seeker’s testimony to be “credible, persuasive, and…specific”, and (4) includes extensive statements of the current regulations and case law, similar to those discussions included in the Lesson Plans on full asylum assessments and adjudications.  These changes seem to require an asylum officer to complete a full assessment of the asylum-seeker’s potential asylum or Convention Against Torture (CAT) claim, rather than a safety net preliminary screening for a potential refugee.

These changes are likely to yield confusion among asylum officers, as well as a blending of the credible fear standard with the full asylum and CAT standards.  Furthermore, they will likely lead to officers applying prohibitively high standards during credible fear interviews, creating yet another source for the increasing number of bona fide refugees who are denied the opportunity to seek asylum in the United States.  Finally, since these changes are likely to generate assessments that are closer to full asylum and CAT adjudications than screenings for potentially successful claims, these changes are ironically likely to cost USCIS even more time, money, and resources.  Notably, USCIS did not consult key non-governmental organizations or non-governmental stakeholders during its revision process.

Although these Lesson Plan revisions may seem minor in the grand scheme of our broken, punitive, and increasingly unworkable immigration system, to me, they signify another drastic deviation from our system’s founding principles and legal obligations.  I don’t know about you all, but for me, “Enough is enough!”  As another AILA year concludes and a new AILA year begins in June in Boston, let us re-commit ourselves to working together on all fronts.  Only together can we fill the next six months with developments that restore protection for bona fide refugees and renew our obligations under domestic and international law, while still maintaining the integrity of our asylum system.  This is not just a blog post, but a call to action.”

 

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