President Trump took his campaign for a wall to the US-Mexico border this week, hoping to drum up support for a $5.7 billion barrier while some federal workers struggle to survive without pay because of the government shutdown. Earlier, the president denied that he ever said Mexico would “write a check” to pay for the wall, which was a cornerstone of his campaign. Trump has also said the barrier could be built out of steel slats instead of concrete. In this podcast, Tamara Keith of NPR examines the history of Trump’s wall and how his statements sometimes contradict each other.
President Trump says he’s considering inflating what he claims is a crisis into a national emergency so he can find a way to build a wall at the US-Mexico border that Congress has so far refused to fund. The federal government remains in a partial shutdown over the $5 billion the Trump administration is holding out for to fund construction of the wall. Reuters has more on the twin legal challenges the Trump administration is likely to face if it decides to declare the situation a national emergency to circumvent congressional funding.
While President Trump and Congress continue to wrestle over the $5 billion the administration wants to build a wall along the Mexican border, filmmaker David Freid noticed something was missing: no one was talking to the people who actually live there. So, Freid went to Big Bend National Park, which contains 13 percent of the US-Mexico border. Once there, he talked to Mike Davidson, the captain of the only international ferry operating on the Rio Grande river. According to The Atlantic:
Freid’s short documentary Ferryman at the Wall is the story of two countries that, for the most part, peacefully coexist where it matters most: at the dividing line. “When there’s a fire in Big Bend National Park, residents from Boquillas, Mexico, come up to help fight it,” Freid said. Davidson, an American, has homes in both Texas and Mexico; he speaks Spanish and English fluently. Freid found that this cultural melding was commonplace in the towns adjacent to Big Bend.
“There isn’t just a straight line where one country ends and the other begins,” Freid said. “People’s family and friends extend in both directions. The land on either side of the Rio Grande is identical, and the people are close to identical as well. The two countries bleed into each other.”
Thanks to The Atlantic for making this video available.
Despite the Trump administration’s tougher immigration policies, the Department of Homeland Security says the number of migrants seeking asylum in the US along the border with Mexico went up nearly 70% from 2017 to 2018, according to CNN. You may recall that President Trump signed a proclamation in November preventing migrants who enter the country illegally from seeking asylum. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan says the dramatic increase in asylum-seekers is “straining border security.” He also says Congress needs to “Address these vulnerabilities in our immigration system which continue to negatively impact border security efforts.”
A federal appeals court has upheld an earlier ruling preventing President Trump from ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented by President Obama. DACA protects young undocumented immigrants born in the United States from being deported. The ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals means the DACA program can stay in place for now. The Trump administration has already asked the Supreme Court to review the injunction, according to CNN.
You can read the 9th Circuit’s ruling here.
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.
Despite 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.
In 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.
September 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.”