A former acting head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says President Trump’s call to eliminate immigration judges is the “single dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” Former ICE director John Sandweg tells CNN it would be wrong to get rid of immigration judges because the Constitution guarantees due process. The president wants to take immigration judges away in an effort to speed up the immigration process.
Hundreds of agents will be pulled from ports of entry to help El Paso Border Patrol process undocumented immigrants
EL PASO — Saying that his agency has reached a “breaking point” in the face of a surge of undocumented immigrants, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan called on Congress for help and said he’s reassigning 750 federal agents stationed at some of the country’s busiest international bridges and trade zones to help overwhelmed U.S. Border Patrol agents.
During a news conference near the Rio Grande, McAleenan said the Border Patrol is on pace to apprehend about 100,000 migrants this month alone along the southwest border — most of them families and unaccompanied children from Central America. The El Paso sector has seen a particularly large surge in undocumented immigrants, he said, and across the southwest border the agency now has more than 13,400 migrants in custody, including nearly 3,500 in El Paso.
“A crisis level is 6,000; 13,000 is unprecedented,” he said.
McAleenan told Congress in testimony earlier this month that the border was reaching a breaking point, and on Wednesday he said, “That breaking point has arrived this week at our border. And nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso.”
He said CBP agents who are normally tasked with processing legitimate trade and travel while detecting contraband will be reassigned from ports of entry in El Paso, Laredo, Tucson and San Diego. Laredo and El Paso have ranked as the country’s top two inland ports for years; about $229 billion and $77.4 billion in two-way trade passed through those respective customs districts in 2018.
“There will be impacts to traffic at the border, there will be a slowdown in the processing of trade, there will be wait times in our pedestrian and passenger vehicle lanes” at ports of entry, he said. “But this is required to help us manage this operational crisis.”
McAleenan also said the vast majority of the apprehended migrants will be released instead of being transferred to and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That agency’s holding facilities are at capacity, and McAleenan said he is left with no choice but to let the migrants go with orders to appear before an immigration judge. Border Patrol agents will now be tasked with deciding whether a person should be released, he said.
“That is not something we want to do; it’s something we have to do given the overcrowding in our facilities,” he said, calling it “an unfortunate step” that hurts morale in the agency.
Shortly after McAleenan’s press conference, the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector announced that it has begun releasing migrants on their own recognizance because it “has experienced a significant rise in the number of family units arrested throughout the sector.”
As many as 40 percent of the El Paso sector’s agents have been asked to help with transportation, processing or providing medical care to the migrants, which McAleenan said makes the border more vulnerable because those agents aren’t patrolling.
McAleenan said the crisis is a result of increasing migration from Central America — he said poverty is driving most of the migrants north — and U.S. laws that prevent families and unaccompanied minors from being detained for prolonged periods of time after turning themselves in to Border Patrol. He called on Congress to change the laws in order to help end the crisis and give asylum seekers with legitimate claims their day in court.
He said the agency needs the ability to detain families together for four to eight weeks, enough time for a judge to evaluate their asylum claims and decide whether to deport them or let them stay in the U.S. “They live with uncertainty for years at a time because the system is broken and overwhelmed,” he said.
“Our courts tell us that 10-15 percent of Central American migrants have a legitimate asylum claim at the end of the process,” he said. “Those people won’t even see a judge now for two to five years or more to have that asylum claim adjudicated.”
The reassignment of CBP agents marks the second shift in personnel away from their primary duties in less than a week. Over the weekend, the Border Patrol shut down its roadside checkpoints within the El Paso sector so that agents assigned to those posts could instead help process migrants. It’s unclear how long either reassignment will last.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of undocumented immigrants held in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector. The correct number is about 3,500.
Ever since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, immigration advocates have warned that his restrictive immigration policies will frighten those without legal status into the shadows. Now, new data collected by WNYC show undocumented immigrants do seem more reluctant to engage with authorities when they’ve been victimized.
A new film called The Infiltrators tells the story of two activists from the National Immigrant Youth Alliance who went undercover to infiltrate an Immigration and Customs Authority facility in Florida. The undocumented activists pretended to be newly-arrived in the country who spoke little English. In this Politics and More podcast from The New Yorker,Dorothy Wickenden has more on the new quasi-documentary and how it affected one of the two protagonists.
Emails show ICE skipping reviews of some detention warrants
CNN reports that some Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in a five-state region have been using warrants that haven’t been reviewed by authorized supervisors. The news came out after a fired ICE officer challenged his termination and presented proof that he wasn’t the only one who had been breaking the rules. CNN reviewed internal emails and other ICE documents that showed it happened a lot on evenings and weekends. Some ICE supervisors even gave officers blank pre-signed warrants. According to CNN:
Legally, the signature on a warrant attests that an authorized supervisor reviewed it and determined that there was probable cause to believe the person named was deportable. The Immigration and Naturalization Act doesn’t offer the option of letting unauthorized officers sign for supervisors.
Lawyers and advocates for migrants say this opens the door to challenging arrests that were made with the improperly signed warrants.
Lawsuit Demands Government to Disclose Information About Unjust Deportations
The Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies have increased immigrants’ vulnerability to swift deportation, making the ability to access safeguard more important than ever. The Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws, has refused to disclose critical information about how it implements life-saving mechanisms that would allow these individuals to seek reopening or reconsidering of their immigration cases, and prevent the irreparable harms that can result from deportation.
In response, the American Immigration Council and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law filed a lawsuit yesterday in federal court to compel the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the Department of Justice to release policies, practices, and data that disclose how the BIA interprets mechanisms to reopen or reconsider immigration cases, and legal actions to temporarily prevent deportation of vulnerable individuals.
The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, challenges the BIA’s failure to disclose information—in response to two Freedom of Information Act requests submitted in July and November 2018— about its policies and practices regarding requests to halt removal while an individual seeks review of an unlawful deportation order. The suit asks the court to produce documents that will provide the public with information on requests to prevent unlawful or unjust deportations, including statistical information on these decisions and guidance on the standards for deciding such requests.
“The BIA’s failure to properly implement these crucial mechanisms for reopening cases and protecting against harm places asylum seekers at risk of serious bodily harm and death,” said Yael Ben Tov, law student intern at the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “In order to prevent more erroneous deportations, it is critical that the BIA produce these documents so that noncitizens may access their statutory and regulatory rights.”
“The motion to reopen and stay processes exist to protect individuals from irreparable harm as a result of erroneous deportations. Yet by operating in secrecy and opacity, the BIA undermines Congress’ intention and allows this exact population along with many others who have valid claims for relief to be deported, without so much as a glance at the merits of their case,” said Claudia Valenzuela, FOIA staff attorney at the American Immigration Council. “We cannot allow the BIA to continue to shield its practices from public scrutiny.”
“Individuals seeking to avail themselves of their statutory rights, especially those that are pro se, need clear guidance from the BIA on how these mechanisms work,” said Geroline Castillo, law student intern at the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “Without it, they risk losing their families and communities, even if they have valid claims and can lawfully remain in the United States.”
Since the Trump administration took office in 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stepped up arrests, detention, and quick deportation of people residing in vulnerable immigrant communities. Many targeted individuals have lived in the United States for years with the federal government’s permission.
In many cases, these individuals are now afraid to return to their country of origin because of changed circumstances there and hope to reopen their immigration cases to seek protection from persecution. In other cases, individuals can now show that their underlying deportation order was invalid or that they merit some other form of relief. While immigration law provides mechanisms for reopening and reconsidering cases and preventing the irreparable harms that can result from deportation, current EOIR practices often render these protections ineffective and result in unjust deportation of individuals before their cases are even considered by the immigration courts. Many of these deported noncitizens are forced to live in hiding in fear of their lives and often lose touch with their friends, family, and advocates in the United States.
Stars and social media groups are showing their support for rapper 21 Savage, who was arrested by ICE agents on Sunday. Savage is British, and he overstayed his visa as a youth, USA Today reports. Even feuding rappers Nicki Minaj and Cardi B have united in supporting Savage. Both women came to his defense after conservative activist Tomi Lahrentaunted Savage about his arrest.
Contractors running immigrant detention centers aren’t reporting some serious violations such as sexual assaults, and federal immigration officials aren’t watching what they do closely enough, according to an inspector general’s report released by the Department of Homeland Security. HuffPost reports that contractors are failing to reporting serious incidents, including sexual assaults and employee misconduct. The report also says in many cases, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is issuing waivers to contracted detention centers that allow them to skirt the rules. ICE has approved 65 waivers that allow contractors to ignore the requirements included in their contracts with the government, according to the IG report.
Refugees seeking asylum in the United States now face an even more difficult process after President Trump signed a presidential proclamation limiting applications to official ports of entry. CNN explains:
The proclamation put into effect a new rule the Trump administration entered into the federal registry on Friday that would ban migrants from applying for asylum outside of official ports of entry. The American Civil Liberties Union has already called the rule “illegal,” and legal challenges are expected to follow.
However, The Daily Beast reports that even those who are following the latest orders are being turned away because of bottlenecks resulting at official ports of entry. And HuffPost has more on the ongoing fight to get justice for migrants being detained at the border by ICE.
Migrant mothers describe being separated from their children by the US government
Most of us can only imagine the pain, terror and uncertainty caused when immigrant mothers seeking asylum in the United States are forcibly separated from their children. CNN has details in letters from some of the mothers who have since been reunited with their children, but who say their nightmare is not over.
“My children were far from me and I didn’t know if they were okay, if they were eating or sleeping. I have suffered a lot,” wrote a mother identified as Elena. “ICE harmed us a lot psychologically. We can’t sleep well because my little girl thinks they are going to separate us again. … I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone.”
The comments come from letters written by parents being held at the Dilley detention center in Texas. The Immigration Justice Campaign provided the letters to CNN as part of their pro bono project to give legal help to migrant families being held in custody.