Media Visits Artesia, NM Detention Center For Children And Families

There is a slightly more detailed report below from El Diario de El Paso. I believe that the administration thinks it can lock people up and send them back very quickly and that will stop the flow.  It will probably be true even though many of the people coming do have a credible fear of persecution if returned. It is unlikely that the people in these kinds of detention centers will have adequate access to legal counseling and/or representation and thus their deportation will be carried out quickly. Putting these people in prison facilities and shutting them away from media and community humanitarian efforts will help the government to carry out the policy of fast deportation… It is harder to think this process is justified when ordinary people come face to face with the people who make this dangerous journey.

On the other hand, there must not be enough prisons (yet) because some women and children are being released with documents notifying them of their court dates–usually in about a month from the time of their arrest and initial processing.

Volunteer groups in El Paso and Las Cruces continue to provide temporary housing, food, clothing, medical screening and assistance with travel and family reunification continues. “All I see is that here’s a human who needs help,” he said. “They’re just here, so we should help them.” (Leonel Brisen~o, Director of Project Oak Tree, Las Cruces)

Community Pitched In For Weary Immigrants (The Las Cruces Bulletin)

Our Whirlwind Response To Huge Releases Of Migrants (Annunciation House)

DHS Secretary Visits Artesia N.M, Facility; Warns Immigrants ‘We Will Send You Back’ (El Paso Times) 

Deportar Indocumentados En 15 Días, Plan De DHS (El Diario)

Lauren Villagran from the Albuquerque Journal provides some valuable context from immigration attorneys. Also note the restrictions faced by the media at the media event:

“On Friday, ICE provided a tour of unoccupied areas of the Artesian detention center to local and national media. ICE has denied media access to any of the detained migrants at Artesia.”

‘We Will Send You Back’: Immigrants Face Deportation As DHS Talks Tough (Albuquerque Journal)

Border Reflection & Debunking Myths

Listera Kathy Nicodemus sent this reflection (posted with permission) on the current border situation and below is an excellent article by David Bacon published in IN THESE TIMES with details on how US economic and security policies have exacerbated the situation that forces people to flee their homes in Central America. -molly

______
Border Reflection – Support Non-violent solutions in Central American Countries. My thoughts on the Central American immigrant-refugee situation at the moment.

We need to deal with the immediate need, however, if we don’t deal with the systemic issues, the situation will only continue. First we need to stop contributing our (US) part- Corporations that use the land, cheap labor (including Maquilas), our cheap products sold to these countries (taking away their ability to make a living). Need to stop-Selling weapons, supporting bad leaders, US need for drugs. I know there are many other issues. What might be of help–The US supporting these countries to be self-sustaining economically and non-violent.

Debunking 8 Myths About Why Central American Children Are Migrating (In These Times)

Maybe Pope Francis Should Visit The Border?

PanAmerican Post has a brief analysis of the issues today with links to several good articles. And NPR Morning Ed. covered the Washington politics pretty well (also posted below). The irony (not quite the right word) of Obama’s proposal for more immigration court funding is that people will most certainly be processed and deported more quickly.  I find it unlikely that the US will ever agree to treat these people as refugees. Even during the height of the Central American civil wars of the 1980s, only a tiny percentage of Guatemalans and Salvadorans were granted political asylum.  The current refugees are less of a fit for the asylum criteria as they now stand. Eventually, some Central Americans rec’d Temporary Protected Status (TPS), but I don’t see the political will in Congress or the White House for this to happen now.

The environmental disaster of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 created another refugee crisis and it seems that the US responds better to natural disaster crises than to those involving war, drugs and gang violence. And hardly ever a mention of the economic disasters wrought by free trade policies.

I am not advocating for the way the administration is responding to the political hysteria drummed up by the right wing in Congress and in the country, simply trying to report.  I have followed the politics of immigration, asylum and military/security involvement in Central America and Mexico for several decades and I think it is unlikely that there will be a positive policy outcome from this situation. What we can hope for is continued humanitarian response from people. I wish Pope Francis would weigh in.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if he decided to visit the border?  Right here, right now? -molly

Border Crisis: Migrants or Refugees? (Pan-American Post)

Obama To Ask Congress For $2B To Ease Immigration Crisis (NPR News)

The Refugee Option Obama Will Ignore (Huffington Post)

Q & A with Fronteras Desk Reporter Monica Ortiz Uribe

Mónica Ortiz Uribe is a native of El Paso, Texas, where she works as a reporter for the public radio network Fronteras. She covers a range of topics from politics, to industry and environment in New Mexico, west Texas and northern Mexico. Previously she freelanced for National Public Radio on the drug-related violence in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Her first reporter gig was for the Waco Tribune Herald in Waco, Texas. Mónica graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a degree in history. Follow her at @MOrtizUribe

********************************************************************************************************

In all your years covering the border, is there any story that stands out to you?

The story of the disappeared young women of Ciudad Juárez. These are young women who vanished without a trace during the height of drug violence in the city. They lived in poor neighborhoods and rode the bus to school or to work. One day they didn’t come home. They left devastated families behind whose lives were transformed. Unsatisfied with the police’s response, the families tried doing their own investigations. As of today none of the women I tracked have been found and the families still have no answers.

What has been the most difficult border-related story to write about? Why?

The same story as above. It’s difficult because there is no resolution, no answers, no rest. The families’ lives can never be the same.

In a recent story, you mentioned that apprehensions have risen 74 percent since last year. With so much controversy surrounding the border, what changes have you noticed in the last year?

I can say that the hot spot on the border now is south Texas. I visited that region last year and saw for myself the incredible amount of traffic coming across. Border Patrol is overwhelmed. At night their radios are non-stop. I witnessed two apprehensions. One woman was traveling alone from Guatemala with two toddlers, she was coming to meet her husband in the United States.  The other was a Mexican teenager and his 70-something year-old grandfather. It’s a humanitarian crisis, people are trying to come across every single day. When they are caught they need to be processed, fed, housed, etc. The federal government has only recently acknowledged their inability to keep up.

What do you wish more people knew about the border?

There is so much. I think we all need to reconsider how we spend our tax dollars on the border. The amount of money we spend on border enforcement is more than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. And still we can’t keep up. Meanwhile legal traffic coming across the border is bottle necked. Our immigration system is backed up beyond a decade in some cases. It will take some bold thinking and brave decisions to change the status quo.

First Central American Immigrants To Arrive Thursday In Las Cruces…Sun News

A friend and I went by yesterday to volunteer. It is gratifying to see Las Cruces respond this way…and in contrast to some of the media-grabbing protests other places. Las Cruces is not a wealthy town, but in terms of helping those who have a hard road, we seem to come together. As someone said to me yesterday: “We have to respond to the moral issue now…”

I also recommend NPR’s reports from California and Guatemala on Morning Edition today. -Molly

First Central American immigrants to arrive Thursday in Las Cruces (Las Cruces Sun News)

Why Are Kids From Central America Risking Solo Travel To The U.S.? (NPR)

Dramatic Surge in the Arrival of Unaccompanied Children Has Deep Roots and No Simple Solutions

This is the single best explanation of the complex issues involved with the increase in unaccompanied minor children in migration. It includes data and a discussion of push and pull factors and the convergence of factors relating to the current situation. The explanation of the differing treatment of Mexican vs. Central American minors is the best I have seen, as is the explanation of the US laws pertaining to these groups. I really encourage everyone to read it: http://migrationpolicy.org/article/dramatic-surge-arrival-unaccompanied-children-has-deep-roots-and-no-simple-solutions 

Also below is a brief report from Colorlines: http://colorlines.com/archives/2014/06/us_has_no_plans_for_leniency_with_unaccompanied_migrant_children.html

 

Immigration Enforcement “Surge”…Report From San Antonio (June 20)

Bill Conroy reports from the new detention facilities at Lackland military base in San Antonio… After this article was posted today, the major news wires report on a new policy statement from the Obama administration.  I don’t think I am being pessimistic to say that the administration’s response is as bad as it gets… (article posted below)

More detention facilities for children and families… how can anyone see this as other than cruel and unusual punishment? The vast majority of these people are refugees fleeing life-threatening conditions…they are guilty of no crime other than entering the US without documents…Many of these prisons are operated by private companies which profit by detaining more people for longer periods of time…all paid for by US taxpayers…

 
More immigration judges, asylum officers and government attorneys…this means that more asylum cases will be denied and people will be funneled more quickly through the courts and deported.  Recently (at least in El Paso) it seems that the government has been offering to ADMINISTRATIVELY CLOSE cases, rather than go through the full hearing process. I know of several cases where the asylum hearing is completed and the government still offers to close the case. The judge does not rule. The government allows the asylum seekers to stay in the country for an indefinite period. The government reserves the right to reopen the case at any time, thus leaving the asylum seekers in a vulnerable position–subject to renewed deportation proceedings in the future. But, considering that in many jurisdictions (certainly here in El Paso) more than 90 percent of asylum cases are denied, the administrative closures are a better outcome for many people who have fled Mexico and other countries and fear death or persecution if returned.
 
Increased security measures and $161 million from the US (taxpayer money) to “fight crime” in Central America…As noted by many of us who have watched the results of such aid in Mexico recently, it is clear that the money, weapons and other military equipment, training and funding result in increasing levels of violence. As noted by Conroy, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are already some of the most violent places on the planet:

Some critics of current U.S. immigration policy argue that it is the militarized nature of the nation’s war on drugs that is actually at the heart of the current refugee crisis along the US/Mexican border.

“U.S. security policy in Mexico and Central America, focused on militarized counter-narcotics efforts known as the war on drugs, has had severely negative effects on the region,” states a recent report by the Mexico City-based Americas Program of the Center for International Policy. “… The report finds that current drug-war policy has dramatically increased the transfer of arms, equipment and military/police training to the region. Concurrently, we find that violence in the region has exploded.”

Immigrant Surge Sheds Light on Dangers of Broken Policy

Sylvia Longmire is a former Air Force officer and Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, where she specialized in counterintelligence, counterespionage, and force protection analysis. After being medically retired in 2005,  Longmire worked for four years as a Senior Intelligence Analyst for the California State Threat Assessment Center, providing daily situational awareness to senior state government officials on southwest border violence and Mexico’s drug war. She received her Master’s degree from the University of South Florida in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and she is an award-winning columnist for Homeland Security Today magazine and contributing editor for Breitbart Texas.  Longmire was a guest expert on The History Channel’s “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded,” and has consulted for the producers of National Geographic Channel’s Border Wars and Drugs, Inc. series.  Her first book, Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars, was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and she has written for numerous peer-reviewed journals and online publications. Her newest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer was published in April 2014. For more, check out her website.

*********************************************************************************************************

On the morning of June 18, 2014, roughly two dozen reporters gathered outside a Nogales warehouse and waited to be escorted inside by Border Patrol agents. Many were anxious; it was the first time members of the media would be allowed to witness firsthand the hundreds of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) being detained by the agency after being apprehended in south Texas.

Since October 2013, Border Patrol agents have apprehended more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors, ranging in age from infant to 17 years old, in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas. The vast majority of these children are from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and they are all anxious to be reunited with family members in the United States. For some of them, the journey has been incredibly difficult—paying coyotes thousands of dollars in smuggling fees, eating and sleeping little, and navigating the gang- and cartel-infested territories in eastern Mexico. For some, the goal is to cross the border undetected and reach various destinations across the country.

But others are traveling right to the border and turning themselves in to agents under the impression—fueled by rumors at home—that they will soon be released. In many cases, they’re right.

Undocumented immigrants from Central America get treated differently by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because it’s logistically more difficult to repatriate them. Also, UACs from Central America get treated differently than adults. By law, they have to be processed and handed over to the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which will try to reunite them with a family member or legal in the US as quickly as possible. Generally, the legal status of the person a UAC is released to does not impact the transfer of the child. UACs without a family member in the US get placed into the ORR’s network of shelters and group homes—essentially foster care—while they go through removal proceedings.

The reporters went into that Nogales warehouse hoping to get some answers about what President Obama and others have termed a “humanitarian crisis” on the border. For two weeks, they have been seeing photos—many of them leaked by Border Patrol agents—of the crowded conditions inside, and the experience was jarring for many. Several reporters expressed their thoughts on their Twitter feeds, describing the minors’ moods as ranging from bored to sad to outright distraught. UACs are only supposed to be detained for a maximum of 72 hours before being transferred to ORR custody, but the huge influx of minors in such a short period of time have made it logistically impossible for that to happen.

Given that this is a crisis that will not be ending or get resolved soon, two questions persist: What caused this huge influx, and how can it be controlled? Both questions are naturally fraught with political complications. Many on the right point the finger at lax enforcement of immigration policies by the Obama administration and a failure to secure the border. Many on the left fully blame the deteriorating security and economic conditions in Central America, which have led to the rise in control of many parts of those countries by gangs and drug cartels.

The truth is not always that simple, and in this case, it’s a combination of both of those factors—a sort of push-pull effect. Violence and a lack of economic and educational opportunities drive young people out of Central America by the thousands. But word has gotten around the region—in some cases, through television announcements—that many UACs, and even adults, are being released after processing and just being told to show up for their immigration hearing. Most will not. In addition, those with family members already in the US will be provided with bus fare to be reunited with them anywhere in the country. To say that word of mouth about these actions don’t have a “pull” effect is naïve and ignorant of the power rumors can have in Central America.

As far as controlling the push and pull factors, the latter is much easier than the former. Even though the US government has been providing counterdrug and economic development assistance to Central America for some time, security has not improved and economic development can be difficult to measure. One also has to add in the fact that US drug demand, which fuels the activities of cartels and the gangs they employ, is not diminishing, and corruption within governments and police forces in these countries is rampant.

The only thing left is to find a way to manage the pull factor—the controversial issue known as comprehensive immigration reform. The increase in border enforcement measures that the US government can reasonably sustain will be insufficient to stop determined migrants fleeing violence and poverty, as difficult a pill that may be for some to swallow. Changing immigration laws in a way that doesn’t grant automatic amnesty, but preserves the integrity of our justice system, is entirely possible. However, US politicians lack the political will to reach some sort of compromise that allows non-criminal “economic migrants” to contribute to the US economy and travel freely—and safely—between their home country and the US.

There is no simple answer, but there is also not one single acceptable answer. There is a halfway point between granting full amnesty to all undocumented immigrants and walling off the border while deporting every single one. A meaningful change at the legislative level and a very visible change at the border enforcement level will help spread an accurate message to desperate Central Americans—and the smugglers who exploit them—that although the US border isn’t open for business, a new way of following practical and effective rules is the best way to reach the safety of the United States.

 

 

Visit to the Nogales, AZ U.S. B.P. Detention Area for Migrant Children…Kino Border Initiative

This report was sent from Father Sean Carroll of the Kino Border Initiative, located in Nogales. It is reposted here with permission. The listero who sent it my way said that Father Sean is contacting many clergy and media with this message.

Visit to the Nogales, AZ U.S. Border Patrol Station’s

Detention Area for Migrant Children

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sean Carroll, S.J.

 

On Wednesday, June 11, 2014, I accompanied a group of representatives from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, Congressman Raúl Grijalva’s Office, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Office and the Santa Cruz Count Board of Supervisors.

We were first briefed by Mr. George Allen, a representative of the U.S. Border Patrol.  He made the following points:

·         The Office of Refugee Resettlement has been overwhelmed by the number of migrant children crossing into South Texas from Mexico, and has not had adequate space to receive and process so many young people.

·         The decision was made to transport children by plane to Tucson International Airport and then taken by bus to the U.S. Border Patrol Station in Nogales, AZ.

·         Food is being provided three times a day with snacks in between.  A dining hall has been set up where the children can eat.

·         The children range in age from three to seventeen.

·         They can offer showers to sixty children at one time.

·         A play area is being set up in the parking lot for the children.

·         Public health services are available, which include a health screening, vaccinations and blood tests.

·         The plan is to have the children for seventy-two hours and then be transferred to another facility.  If they are over twelve, it will be to a military base.  If they are under twelve, it will be to a facility run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

·         The consuls from the respective countries have access.  Most of the children are from Honduras and El Salvador.

·         At the moment, they have 1,100 children.  Seventy-eight children were transferred yesterday.

·         The children currently sleep on plastic cots, but 2,000 correctional mattresses have been ordered and will be delivered today or tomorrow.

·         140 Border Patrol Agents have come to assist.

During the question and answer period, he made these additional points in response to questions:

·         The United States Public Health Service is available to provide counseling to the children.

·         Customs and Border Protection Chaplains are coming to accompany the children.  They do not appear to want pastoral assistance from the local Nogales community.

·         Televisions are being set up, which will be used to show the “What to Expect” video and to explain their rights.  They will be able to use the televisions for recreational purposes as well.

·         No plan exists at the moment to engage the local community in providing assistance to the children, though we were told that the plan would be forthcoming.  It is likely that the Red Cross will play a role.

We then walked over to the area where the children are staying.  It is a very large warehouse building and part of it is used for the children.  In the parking lot, two tents have been set up where the play/recreational area will be located.

One large truck was outside the warehouse, which was being used to wash clothing.  At least one truck was there containing showers and there were two trucks with toilets and sinks (we could not go inside to see for ourselves).  However, sometime after we entered the warehouse, a group of young girls were escorted in from outside, and it was clear that they had bathed.

The inside of the warehouse had an adequately cool temperature.  To the left as we entered was the area that had been set up for vaccinations and other health services.  There were a line of refrigerators and freezers, presumably for vaccines and other supplies.  An area nearby had also been designated to keep the children’s belongings in large plastic bags.  Also, a number of phones were visible and were being used.  They were available so the children can speak to consular officials and to their families.

We arrived at lunchtime, so groups of 200 children at a time walked in a single line to receive their food and then to eat in the designated area.  Physically, most looked like they were in good condition, adequately clothed and were having their basic needs met.  At the same time, we were not allowed to speak with them, so it was difficult to assess how they were doing psychologically and spiritually.

The next step is to keep communicating with FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to develop and implement a plan that clarifies the children’s needs and provides people the opportunity to respond to them.  Once we have some direction, then we will make that information available on our web site and on our Facebook page.  We will send out an e-mail blast as well.

I know this report does not answer all the questions, but hopefully it gives a clearer sense of the overall condition of the children and of the place where they are staying at the moment.

Thanks so much for all your generous offers of support.  We are so grateful.