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Archive for the ‘immigration’ Category

This is Senator Warren’s eyewitness account of what she saw in the McAllen processing center. The words ‘processing center’ should set off bells and whistles.

Elizabeth Warren for Senate 2018
Sunday morning, I flew to McAllen, Texas to find out what’s really happening to immigrant families ripped apart by the Trump administration.

There’s one thing that’s very clear: The crisis at our border isn’t over.

I went straight from the airport to the McAllen Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center that is the epicenter of Donald Trump’s so-called “zero-tolerance” policy. This is where border patrol brings undocumented migrants for intake before they are either released, deported, turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or, in the case of unaccompanied or separated children, placed in the custody of Health and Human Services.

From the outside, the CBP processing center looks like any other warehouse on a commercial street lined with warehouses. There’s no clue about the horrors inside.

Click 'Display Images' to see this photo!

Before we could get in, CBP insisted we had to watch a government propaganda video. There’s no other way to describe it – it’s like a movie trailer. It was full of dramatic narration about the “illegals” crossing our border, complete with gory pictures about the threats that these immigrants bring to the United States, from gangs to skin rashes. The star of the show is CBP, which, according to the video, has done a great job driving down the numbers.

Then an employee described what we were about to see. “They have separate pods. I’ll call them pods. I don’t really know how they name them.” Clearly they had gotten the memo not to call them what they are: cages. Every question I asked them had a complicated answer that led to two more questions – even the simple question about how long people were held there. “Nobody is here longer than 24 hours.” “Well, maybe 24-48 hours.” “72 hours max.” And “no children are separated out.” “Well, except older children.”

The warehouse is enormous, with a solid concrete floor and a high roof. It is filled with cages. Cages for men. Cages for women. Cages for mamas with babies. Cages for girls. Cages for boys.

The stench – body odor and fear – hits the second the door is opened. The first cages are full of men. The chain link is about 12-15 feet high, and the men are tightly packed. I don’t think they could all lie down at the same time. There’s a toilet at the back of the cage behind a half-wall, but no place to shower or wash up. One man kept shouting, “A shower, please. Just a shower.”

I asked the men held in cage after cage where they were from. Nearly all of them were from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras.

Then I asked them how long they had been there – and the answers were all over the map, from a few days to nearly two weeks (72 hours max?). The CBP agents rushed to correct the detained men, claiming that their answers couldn’t be right. My immigration specialist on the trip who speaks fluent Spanish made sure the men understood that the question was, “How long have you been in the building?” Their answers didn’t change.

Cage after cage. Same questions, same answers.

Next we came into the area where the children were held. These cages were bigger with far more people. In the center of the cage, there’s a freestanding guard tower probably a story or story-and-a-half taller to look down over the children. The girls are held separately in their own large cage. The children told us that they had come to the United States with family and didn’t know where they had been taken. Eleven years old. Twelve. Locked in a cage with strangers. Many hadn’t talked to their mothers or fathers. They didn’t know where they were or what would happen to them next.

The children were quiet. Early afternoon, and they just sat. Some were on thin mats with foil blankets pulled over their heads. They had nothing – no books, no toys, no games. They looked shell shocked.

And then there were the large cages with women and small children. Women breast-feeding their young children.

When we went over to the mamas with babies, I asked them about why they had left their home countries. One young mother had a 4-year-old child. She said she had been threatened by the gangs in El Salvador. She had given a drink of water to a police officer, and the gang decided she must be in with the police. The longer she spoke, the more agitated she got – that she would never do that, that she understood the risk with the gangs, but that the gangs believed she did it. She sold everything she had and fled with her son to the United States.

One thing you won’t see much of in the CBP processing center? Fathers caged with their children. After pressing the CBP agents, they explained that men traveling with children are automatically released from the facility. They just don’t have the cages there to hold them. Women with small children, on the other hand, could be detained indefinitely. I pressed them on this again and again. The only answer: they claimed to be protecting “the safety of the mother and children.”

CBP said that fathers with children, pregnant women, mothers of children with special needs, and other “lucky ones” who are released from the processing center are sent over to Catholic Charities’ Humanitarian Respite Center for help. That was my next stop in McAllen. Sister Norma, her staff, and volunteers are truly doing God’s work. Catholic Charities provides food, a shower, clean clothes, and medicine to those who need it. The center tries to explain the complicated process to the people, and the volunteers help them get on a bus to a family member in the United States.

Click 'Display Images' to see this photo!

Sister Norma introduced me to a father and his teenage son from Honduras. The father said that a gang had been after his son, determined that the boy would join the gang. The only way for the boy to escape was to run. The man left his wife and four daughters in Honduras to bring his son to the United States. His only plan is to find work here to send money home to his family. His cousin lives in New Jersey, so CBP sent their paperwork to the local ICE center in New Jersey, and they would soon begin the long bus ride there.

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley provides a lifesaving service to people of all faiths and backgrounds, but with a humanitarian crisis in their backyard, they’re clearly stretched as thin as it gets. With more money and volunteers, they would gladly help more people.

I asked Sister Norma about the women and babies who were in indefinite detention. She said her group would open their arms and take care of them, get them cleaned up and fed and on a bus to a family member – if only ICE would release them.

“This is a moral issue. We are all part of this human family,” they say.

Next, I met with some of the legal experts on the frontlines of this crisis – lawyers from the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Border Rights Center of the Texas ACLU, and the federal public defenders.

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I gave them a rundown of everything I’d seen so far in McAllen, particularly when it comes to reuniting parents and children, and they raised some of my worst fears,

  • The Trump administration may be “reunifying” families, but their definition of a family is only a parent and a child. If, for example, a 9-year-old crosses with an 18-year-old sister – or an aunt or uncle, or a grandparent, or anyone who isn’t the child’s documented legal guardian – they are not counted as a family and they will be separated.
  • Mothers and children may be considered “together” if they’re held in the same gigantic facility, even if they’re locked in separate cages with no access to one another. (In the world of CBP and ICE, that’s how the 10-year-old girls locked in a giant cage are “not separated” from their mothers who are in cages elsewhere in the facility.)
  • In the process of “reunifying” families, the government may possibly count a family as reunited by sending the child to a distant relative they’ve never met – not their parents. Some relatives may be unwilling to claim these children because it would be inviting ICE to investigate their own families.
  • Parents are so desperate to be reunited with their children that they may be trading in their legal right to asylum.
  • The system for tracking separated families is virtually unknown, if one exists at all. One expert worries that for some families, just a simple photo may be all the documentation that the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services have to reunite them. (I sincerely hope that’s not true.)

The longer the day went on, the more questions I had about how the Trump administration plans to fix the crisis they’ve created at the border. So my last stop of the day was at the Port Isabel Detention Center, about an hour east of McAllen. It’s one of the largest detention facilities in Texas.

The Department of Homeland Security had released some details on its plan to reunify families. The release noted that Port Isabel will be the “primary family reunification and removal center for adults in their custody.”

Let’s be clear: Port Isabel isn’t a reunification center. It’s a detention center. A prison.

Click 'Display Images' to see this photo!

There’s no ambiguity on this point. I met with the head of the facility. He said several times that they had no space for children, no way to care for them, and no plans to bring any children to his locked-down complex. When I pressed on what was the plan for reunification of children with their parents, he speculated that HHS (the Department of Health and Human Services) would take the children somewhere, but it certainly wasn’t going to be to his facility. When I asked how long HHS would take, he speculated that it would be weeks, but he said that was up to them. He had his job to do: He would hold these mothers and fathers until he received orders to send them somewhere else. Period.

So let me say it again. This is a prison – not a reunification center.

We toured the center. It is huge – multiple buildings isolated on a sun-baked expanse of land far from any town. We didn’t go to the men’s area, but the women are held in a large bunk-bed facility with a concrete outdoor exercise area. It’s locked, double-locked, and triple locked. Tall fences topped with razor wire are everywhere, each backed up by a second row of fences also topped with razor wire.

An ICE official brought in a group of nine detained mothers who had volunteered to speak to us. I don’t believe that ICE cherry-picked these women for the meeting, because everything they told me was horrifying.

Each mother told us her own story about crossing the border, being taken to a processing center, and the point that they were separated from their child or children. In every case, the government had lied to them about where their children were being taken. In every case, save one, no mother had spoken to her child in the days since the separation. And in every case, no mother knew where her child was.

At the time of separation, most of the mothers were told their children would be back. One woman had been held at “the icebox,” a center that has earned its nickname for being extremely cold. When the agent came to take her child, she was told that it was just too cold for the child in the center, and that they were just going to keep the child warm until she was transferred. That was mid-June. She hasn’t seen her child since.

One mother had been detained with her child. They were sleeping together on the floor of one of the cages, when, at 3:00am, the guards took her away. She last saw her 7-year-old son sleeping on the floor. She cried over and over, “I never got to say goodbye. I never got to say goodbye.” That was early-June, and she hasn’t seen him since.

Even though the CBP officials at the processing center told me that mothers with children that have special needs would be released, one of the mothers I spoke with had been separated from her special needs child. She talked about her child who doesn’t have properly formed legs and feet and walks with great difficulty. One of the mothers spoke of another mother in the facility who is very worried because her separated child is deaf and doesn’t speak at all.

The women I met were traumatized, weeping, and begging for help. They don’t understand what is happening to them – and they’re begging to be reunited with their kids.

Detainees can pay to make phone calls, but all of their possessions are taken from them at the processing center. The only way they can get money for a call is for someone to put money on their accounts. I asked if people or charities could donate money so that they’d be able to make phone calls to their family or lawyers, but they said no – a donor would need the individual ID number for every person detained at the center, and ICE obviously isn’t going to release that information.

Three young lawyers were at Port Isabel at the same time we were. The lawyers told us that their clients – the people they’ve spoken to in the detention center – have strong and credible cases for asylum. But the entire process for being granted asylum depends on one phone call with an immigration official where they make the case for why they should be allowed to stay. One of the first questions a mother will be asked is, “Have you been separated from a child?” For some of the women, just asking that question makes them fall apart and weep.

The lawyers are worried that these women are in such a fragile and fractured state, they’re in no shape to make the kind of detailed, credible case needed for themselves or their children. They had no chance in our system because they’ve lost their children and desperately want them back.

We stayed inside at Port Isabel for more than two hours – much longer than the 45 minutes we had been promised. When I finally went to bed that night, I thought about something the mothers had told me – something that will likely haunt me for a long time.

The mothers say that they can hear babies cry at night.

This isn’t about politics. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. This is about human beings. Children held in cages today. Babies scattered all over this country. And mamas who, in the dark of night, hear them cry.

I’m still working through everything I saw, but I wanted you to know the full story. The fight for these children and families isn’t over – not by a long shot.

Thanks for being a part of this,

Elizabeth

P.S. Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley’s Humanitarian Respite Center provides food, clothing, medicine, diapers, and other basic supplies for immigrant families released by Customs & Border Protection. They need our support to help more children and families. Please donate now to help their emergency relief efforts at the border.

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What do we mean when we use the word “protection?” A simple Google search yields this.

pro·tec·tion

[prəˈtekSH(ə)n]

NOUN

  1. the action of protecting someone or something, or the state of being protected:

    “the B vitamins give protection against infection” ·

    [more]

    synonyms: defense · security · shielding · preservation ·

    [more]
    • a person or thing that prevents someone or something from suffering harm or injury:

      “the castle was built as protection against the Saxons” ·

      [more]

      synonyms: barrier · buffer · shield · screen · hedge · cushion ·

      [more]
    • (protections)
      a legal or other formal measure intended to preserve civil liberties and rights.
    • a document guaranteeing immunity from harm to the person specified in it.
    • the practice of paying money to criminals so as to prevent them from attacking oneself or one’s property:

      “a protection racket” ·

      [more]
    • money paid to criminals to prevent them from attacking, especially on a regular basis.
    • archaic
      used euphemistically to refer to the keeping of a mistress by her lover in a separate establishment:
      “she was living under his lordship’s protection at Gloucester Gate”
pro·tect

[prəˈtekt]

VERB

  1. keep safe from harm or injury:

    “he tried to protect Kelly from the attack” ·

    [more]

    synonyms: keep safe · keep from harm · save · safeguard · preserve ·

    [more]
    • (protected)
      aim to preserve (a threatened plant or animal species) by legislating against collecting or hunting.
    • (protected)
      restrict by law access to or development of (land) so as to preserve its natural state:
      “logging is continuing in protected areas in violation of an international agreement”

      synonyms: secured · sheltered · in safe hands · safe ·

      [more]
    • (of an insurance policy) promise to pay (someone) an agreed amount in the event of loss, injury, fire, theft, or other misfortune:
      “in the event of your death, your family will be protected against any financial problems that may arise”
    • economics
      shield (a domestic industry) from competition by imposing import duties on foreign goods.
    • computing
      restrict access to or use of (data or a memory location):
      “security products are designed to protect information from unauthorized access”

Origin and Etymology of protect

Middle English, from Latin protectus, past participle of protegere, from pro- in front + tegere to cover — more at pro-, thatch
First Known Use: 15th century

It is Donald Trump’s flavor of the week.

Trump releases statement on immigration

Amid protests nationwide over President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration order, the president did not back away from his plan, saying his “first priority will always be to protect and serve our country.”

Trump released the statement Sunday afternoon, two days after he signed an executive order that halts the Syrian refugee program and temporarily suspends immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

“America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border,” Trump said.

Read the full story here.
Read Trump’s full statement here.

After the stroke of Trump’s pen, a dramatic 34 hours

President Donald Trump paused as he removed the cap from his pen, an executive order severely limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations waiting on the desk before him.

“That’s big stuff,” the president said, and scrawled his jagged signature.

In the 34 hours that followed, lawyers would mount a frantic effort to overturn the order; politicians and protesters would descend on Logan International Airport as detainees waited behind closed doors; and somehow, at a federal court hearing in the middle of the night, they would win.

Read the full special report.
34 hours of confusion: An interactive timeline.

George Lakoff, our canary in the language mine, has something to say about protection.

The Public’s Viewpoint: Regulations are Protections

 

The American Majority got 2.8 million more votes in the 2016 election than the Loser President. That puts the majority in a position to change American political discourse and how Americans understand and think about politics. As a start, what is needed is a change of viewpoint.

Here is a typical example. Minority President Trump has said that he intends to get rid of 75% of government regulations. What is a “regulation”?

The term “regulation” is framed from the viewpoint of corporations and other businesses. From their viewpoint, “regulations” are limitations on their freedom to do whatever they want no matter who it harms. But from the public’s viewpoint, a regulation is a protection against harm done by unscrupulous corporations seeking to maximize profit at the cost of harm to the public.

Imagine our minority President saying out loud that he intends to get rid of 75% of public protections. Imagine the press reporting that. Imagine the NY Times, or even the USA Today headline: Trump to Eliminate 75% of Public Protections. Imagine the media listing, day after day, the protections to be eliminated and the harms to be faced by the public.

Read more >>>>

Parents and grandparents of teens hope that when romance prevails they are using “protection.”  Given this administration’s and the GOP’s plans for Planned Parenthood, that kind of protection is not among their priorities.

Trump’s use of this word is a protection in itself, covering ulterior motives. Words have meanings and Lakoff has been telling us for decades the the Republicans are very adept at co-opting words for their own purposes. He has long advised Democrats to own the framing.

Regulation is a form of protection. Immigration bans targeting specific populations are not protection. They are a form of discrimination for the purpose of abridging the rights of some.

Vigilance requires that we pay attention to words as well as actions. This new government will not protect us. We need to take our protection into our own hands.

cropped-dehos-11-2016signed3.jpg

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A biopic about J.D. Salinger debuted at Sundance and is likely and given the writer-director’s creds is a hit in the making and is likely to spur a revival of The Catcher in the Rye this year.

MAKE AMERICA PHONY AGAIN

J.D. Salinger in the Age of Donald Trump: ‘The Rebel in the Rye’ Debuts at Sundance

Writer-director Danny Strong (Empire, The Butler, Game Change) on why his J.D. Salinger biopic The Rebel in the Rye, which just premiered at Sundance, is so timely.

Kevin Fallon

Kevin Fallon

01.28.17

“What makes you think that you have anything to say to people?”

It’s a crushing line, delivered from father to son, in writer-director Danny Strong’s new J.D. Salinger biopic The Rebel in the Rye, which chronicles how Salinger’s time fighting in World War II and ensuing PTSD played backdrop to his writing one of the last century’s most popular and important novels, and eventually played a part in the writer spending the last decades of his life a recluse in New Hampshire.

Read more >>>>

George Orwell’s 1984 is at the top of Amazon’s bestseller list, again. It is unlikely that this is because every English teacher in America is assigning it as required reading this semester. Many probably are, and if I were back in my English teaching days, I probably would. In fact I probably would add Animal Farm, which I did use with freshman English classes once upon a time.  Two articles published today cite both books as worthy of a second read.  It may be the year of the rooster, but the pigs are in control.

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast

Prescient

How George Orwell Predicted Donald Trump

The White House’s embrace of ‘alternative facts’ evokes the managed truth Orwell described in 1984 and Animal Farm—a perfect example of the Big Lie backed by Big Power.

John Sutherland

01.28.17

Oh Orwell, thou shouldst be living at this hour. In fact, every hour since that dark night in January 1950 when you died, alone, in a hospital. Perhaps, web paranoia speculates, your truth-telling got too dangerous for the powers that be and you were terminated with extreme prejudice. It makes a crazy kind of sense.

The recent furor about “alternative facts,” in a culture polluting its thought processes with post-truth license and fake news, suggests that George Orwell’s dire predictions about double-think and thought-crime are with us—albeit 33 years late.

Read more >>>>

In our Orwellian reality, reach for ‘Animal Farm’ with your ‘1984’

After Trump took office, on Saturday he sent his press secretary out to berate and lie to the press. On Sunday, his senior adviser called the lies “alternative facts.” The Washington Post’s media columnist Margaret Sullivan declared we’ve gone “full Orwell.”

Sales of Orwell’s anti-totalitarian classic “1984” skyrocketed after Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway tried to justify the government’s over-exaggerated inaugural turnout claim as ” alternative facts.”

But Stanford University literature professor Alex Woloch, who penned ” Or Orwell: Writing and Democratic Socialism,” says another book by the late British author might provide better insight for what’s happening to America today: “Animal Farm.”

“In ‘1984,’ however we’ve gotten into that situation has already occurred,” Woloch says. “But in ‘Animal Farm,’ [Orwell is] really tracing that sense of a ‘slippery slope.’”

Woloch is referring to the “slippery slope” scholars on authoritarian regimes call the transition from democracy to totalitarianism.

Read more >>>>

Meanwhile, the benevolent dictator wannabe’s executive order banning immigrants from seven countries has, today, left hundreds stranded in no man’s land. He sat with ABC’s David Muir, this week,  and in the kindliest of tones described how Christian immigrants would be given priority standing.

Your first reaction might be that this is unAmerican.  That is correct. But it also is untrue.

VIENNA (AP) — Austria has shut its door to about 300 non-Muslim Iranians hoping to use the country as a way station before establishing new homes in the United States, The Associated Press has learned. The action is an early ripple effect of U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to clamp down on refugee admissions.

Under a 27-year-old program originally approved by Congress to help Jews in the former Soviet Union, Austria had been serving until recently as a conduit for Iranian Jews, Christians and Baha’i, who were at risk in their home country and eligible to resettle in the United States. Iran has banned the Baha’i religion, which was founded in 1844 by a Persian nobleman considered a prophet by followers.

U.S. officials had been interviewing the candidates in Austria because they cannot do so in Iran. But the United States suspended the so-called “Iranian Lautenberg Program” in recent days, according to Austrian officials, who in turn stopped Iranians from reaching their territory. It’s unclear when the program might restart.

Read more >>>>

Not only are these folks marooned, green card holders are included in the ban.

People holding so-called green cards, making them legal permanent U.S. residents, are included in President Donald Trump’s executive action temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, a Department of Homeland security spokeswoman said on Saturday.

Read more >>>>

So it is not English teachers and their students alone who likely are boning up on their Orwellian glossaries. Newspeak is with us. As for how this particular transition works, Animal Farm is a great source. You might even want to pair it up with William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. My long-ago ninth graders were adept at finding parallels in the politics of subjugation.

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