Number of migrant children held by government reaches new high

immigrant child in custodyDespite a court order instructing the Trump administration to reunite migrant families who were forcibly separated at the US-Mexico border, The New York Times reports that the number of children still in custody has reached a record high level. The Times reports that there are currently 12,800 migrant children in federally-contracted shelters this month, five times as many since last summer, when 2,400 children were being held. Most of the children did not have their parents with them when they crossed the border. The information was shared with members of Congress, who in turn shared it with the Times. 

Video: Traumatized children at the border

migrant familiesIn June, a Honduran woman seeking asylum in the US and her five-year-old son were forcibly separated at the Mexican border. A pro bono lawyer, Jodi Goodwin, helped reunite them after they spent a month apart. The Atlantic has produced a documentary called The Separated that shows the chaos and trauma caused by migrant families being torn apart.

American Immigration Council Condemns Administration’s Proposal to Indefinitely Detain Children

immigrant child in custodySeptember 6, 2018

Washington, D.C.— Today, the Trump administration proposed new regulations that could lead to the indefinite detention—and needless suffering—of asylum-seeking children. The new guidelines are related to the 1997 Flores settlement agreement, which concerns the care and custody of immigrant children. Although these proposed regulations are supposed to ensure the appropriate treatment of children, instead, they would weaken protections for children and place them at greater risk of trauma and mistreatment.

The following statement is from Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council:

“Under the Flores settlement, all children must be treated with ‘dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors,’ but these new regulations would do the opposite. The federal government’s proposal would expand family detention, lock up parents and children indefinitely, and hold them in unsafe conditions. From our hands-on work providing legal services to detained families through the Dilley Pro Bono Project, we have seen the indecency and serious harm caused by detaining children. And we know, after witnessing the trauma-inducing practice of family separation, child welfare has never been a priority for this administration. This proposal is further evidence of that fact.”

“The manner in which this administration treats migrant children shocks the conscience. Harsh treatment of children must never be the solution. There are viable alternatives to detention that are more humane, less costly, and just as effective at ensuring people comply with their obligations as they face removal proceedings.”

New ABA president goes to South Texas to help reunite families

TexasAfter traveling to South Texas to see firsthand how the Trump administration’s family separation policy was affecting migrants seeking to enter the US, American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass promised to help reunite families and make sure they received due process. Now, new ABA President Robert Carlson is joining the effort, going to South Texas himself to work pro bono to help asylum seekers as part of the ABA’s commitment.

“The [ABA’s] policy supports protection of our borders, but in a fair and humane way,” says Carlson, of Corette Black Carlson & Mickelson in Butte, Montana. “We want to make sure that people get the due process that they’re entitled to under the Constitution.”

Read more about the ABA’s work to reunite migrant families here. 

Podcast: Holding migrants in federal prisons without charges

jailAs part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, some migrants seeking asylum in America are ending up in a federal prison in Oregon. That has resulted in lawsuits being brought on behalf of these asylum-seekers. Attorneys say the government is illegally detaining them. Hundreds are being held in prisons despite the fact that they haven’t been charged with crimes. Hear more about the issues in this podcast from NPR.

American Immigration Council’s Statement on the Trump Administration’s Failure to Reunite Separated Families

migrant familiesThe Trump administration will miss the court deadline to reunite the nearly 3,000 children separated from their parents under the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. The government’s failure to meet the deadline leaves hundreds of children separated from their parents, including 463 parents who have already been deported.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, an attorney at the American Immigration Council, led a team that interviewed over 90 parents detained in the El Paso, Texas area and learned firsthand how many felt pressured into relinquishing their rights or were unaware that they had done so. His account is captured in a declaration filed in the ongoing family separation litigation brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The following is a statement from Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council.

“The government’s failure to comply with the court order to reunify the thousands of separated children and parents confirms the administration’s utter disregard for the humane and fair treatment of families coming to our country in search of protection. We have grave concerns about the large number of parents who have been coerced into signing papers ensuring their deportation. Many signed these papers without knowing what their options were and without first consulting an immigration attorney.

“No one should be forced to make decisions about their deportation or potential indefinite separation from their children under these circumstances. The U.S. government must ensure that no asylum seeker is pressured to waive their rights and prevented from having a fair day in court.”

Trump changes hiring process for administrative law judges

social security administrationPresident Trump has signed an executive order that changes the way administrative law judges are hired. Trump’s executive order eliminates exams and competitive hiring processes for administrative law judges, and leaves hiring authority to agency heads, reports the ABA Journal. There are about 1,900 administrative law judges in the federal government, but the vast majority of them work for the Social Security administration, according to the Washington Post. According to a member of Trump’s staff, the only requirement to become an administrative law judge is an active bar license or a state judgeship.

Judge refuses extended custody of migrant families

migrant familiesA federal judge in California has denied the Trump administration’s request to hold migrant families in custody long-term, the Associated Press reports. US District Judge Dolly Gee called the administration’s request a “cynical attempt” to undermine a longstanding court settlement. The Justice Department had asked the judge to modify a 1997 settlement to allow the government to hold undocumented immigrant families for longer terms. Judge Gee rejected a similar request from the Obama administration three years ago. Her ruling then said that immigrant children couldn’t be held in custody for more than 20 days. The Justice Department says it’s reviewing the judge’s decision and hasn’t decided yet whether to appeal. More on the judge’s decision is also available at the Washington Post. 

Podcast: Legal immigration under the Trump administration

President Donald TrumpWhile the Trump administration scrambles to reunite immigrant children separated from their parents at the border, it is taking other measures to change the existing legal immigration system. In this podcast from NPR, New York immigration lawyer Cheryl David talks about how the immigration process has been changed by the Trump administration:

The president has signed numerous executive orders in the name of national security safety – the other notion of buy American, hire American. So everything is, you know, vetted more strongly than it was before, probably unnecessarily because we had some very good procedures in place. In October of 2017, the administration had indicated that we are now going to have to interview every applicant applying for a green card. So previously, employment-based cases, for the most part, weren’t interviewed. Now they’re in the queue for interviewing. So that’s set family-based immigration back tremendously.