Five children die in US custody in 6 months

A sixteen-year-old Guatemalan boy died yesterday, after being denied release from detention for more than a week. This is the fifth child death at the southern border since December 2018. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is calling for an investigation. You can support this by calling Oregon’s Congressional Delegation to object to the maltreatment of children.

OREGON CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION

An “ask” to call your members of Congress today

Federal Budget negotiations are underway in Washington DC. In case you missed it on the OWLS listserve, we are being asked by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law to call our members of Congress (and other congressional leaders) to ask that money not be allocated for the imprisonment and torture of children. This needs to be done immediately – this week, if possible.

Here is the text of the email:

Dear advocates for detained immigrant children,

. . . Organizations and individuals appalled by the Administration’s skyrocketing detention of immigrant children and efforts to terminate their rights to humane treatment and prompt release under the Flores settlement, can help by promptly telephoning and emailing the Congressional negotiators. The memo below explains the issues. Telephone messages and emails will help to insure that the budget negotiators do not agree in the next few days to severely curtail the rights of immigrant children. As the memo explains, we have three core asks: a spending bill should prohibit funds being used to (1) forcibly separate children from their parents, (2) terminate the Flores settlement, or (3) deny asylum to any child who possesses a valid claim under U.S. law and the United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Thanks.

Peter Schey

Contacts (We should not be limited to contacting our own representatives on federal budget negotiations – the states are listed as an FYI only – but many of the websites say only emails from constituents will receive a response, so you may wish to call rather than emailing).

Sen. Ron Wyden (503) 326-7525
Sen. Jeff Merkley (503) 414-3300
Rep. Greg Walden (202) 225-6730
Rep. Kurt Schrader (202) 225-5711
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (202) 225-4811
Rep. Peter DeFazio (202) 225-6416
Rep. Susan Bonamici (503) 208-1228

Sen. Dick Durbin (Illinois): 202.224.2152
https://www.durbin.senate.gov/contact/email

Sen. Richard Shelby (Alabama): (202) 224-5744 https://www.shelby.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-senator-shelby-landing

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vermont): (202) 224-4242
https://www.leahy.senate.gov/contact

Sen. Jon Tester (Montana): (202) 224-2644
https://www.tester.senate.gov/?p=email_senator

Rep. Nita Lowey (New York): (202) 225-6506
https://lowey.house.gov/contact/email

Rep. Barbara Lee (California): (202) 225-2661
https://lee.house.gov/contact/email-me

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (California): (202) 225-1766
https://roybal-allard.house.gov/contact/

Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas): (202) 225-1640
https://cuellar.house.gov/contact/sendmeanemail.htm

Rep. Pete Aguilar (California): (202) 225-3201
https://aguilar.house.gov/contact

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (House Speaker – California): (202) 225-4965
https://pelosi.house.gov/contact-me/email-me

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Minority Leader – California): (202) 225-2915
https://kevinmccarthy.house.gov/contact

Suggested Language:

I urge the House and Senate negotiators concerned with the humane treatment of children to reject the 2019 Secure Border Act or any other legislation that includes similar provisions related to immigrant minors and asylum-seekers, and to ensure that the spending bill negotiated in the coming week prohibits funds being used to (1) forcibly separate children from their parents, (2) terminate the Flores settlement, or (3) deny asylum to any child who possesses a valid claim under U.S. law and the United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Explanation from Peter Schey, CHR

Dueling bills to end the government shutdown failed in the Senate and the government is now engaged in negotiations to fund the government and avoid a second shutdown. The issue of Central American minors was injected into the shutdown discussion by President Trump in a January 4, 2019, letter to Congress, and again in the Senate’s End the Shutdown and Secure Border Act of 2019 (“2019 Secure Border Act”), that received fifty Senate votes.

We are responsible for the treatment of the thousands of immigrant children being detained by the Administration. Pursuant to a nationwide settlement we reached in 1997 in the case now designated Flores, et al., v. Whitaker, et al., No. CV 85-4544 DMG (C.D. Cal), we represent all immigrant children detained each year by CBP, ICE, and ORR. The settlement currently sets the national standards for the care and release of detained children.

For the reasons explained below, a long-term spending bill should prohibit funds being used to (1) forcibly separate children and their parents, (2) terminate the rights children now possess under the Flores settlement, and (3) deny asylum to children who possess valid claims under U.S. and binding international laws.

The Unites States is bound by the terms of the 1967 United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The Protocol prohibits the deportation of any person, including minors, to countries where they face persecution. The Constitution, Article VI, clause 2, provides, “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land …” By denying Central American minors the right to seek and be granted asylum in the United States, the Secure Border Act, if enacted, would clearly violate the supreme law of the land.

Over the past year immigrant children have increasingly become targets of the Administration’s anti-immigrant campaign. Thousands of children have been forcibly separated from their parents (many still not reunited with their mothers and fathers), thousands have been held in cages (the children call them “dog cages”), at least two minors in U.S. custody recently died, and the number of detained unaccompanied minors has skyrocketed to 15,000, because the Administration now unreasonably delays releasing them to parents or relatives living in the U.S. Among other tactics that delay and prevent the release of detained children, the ORR informs parents and relatives seeking children’s release that they will be turned over to ICE for possible arrest and deportation.

Section 103 of the 2019 Secure Border Act, would make minors from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, ineligible to apply for asylum in the United States. This is accomplished by amending Section 208(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), adding language that these Central American minors can only apply for asylum “outside of the United States at a Designated Application Processing Center in Central America.” Before applying for asylum with a Designated Application Processing Center, these minors must first apply for asylum with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), or a non-governmental organization designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security (no details are provided about this process), and the UNHCR or the non-governmental must advise DHS that the minor “is likely to be eligible for asylum …”

Even if a minor’s asylum claim is approved by a U.S. Application Processing Center, the minor will still not be admitted to the U.S. if the minor was previously denied asylum (even if new facts warrant a different decision), or if the minor does not have “a qualified parent or guardian [living] in the United States capable of taking custody and care of the minor upon arrival in the United States.” Div. L, Sec. 103(a)(2)(F)(i). About sixty percent of unaccompanied minors do not have parents or legal guardians living in the U.S.

Finally, the Secure Border Act requires the immediate deportation of any Central American minor unless the minor is the victim of human trafficking. Div. L, Section 108(D)(i).

Minors fleeing persecution usually flee their countries rapidly. They cannot safely wait for several months or years to process applications while their lives are at risk. Nor do most minors facing persecution have the funds that will be needed for fees the U.S. will impose to “deter frivolous applications.” Nor do most minors facing persecution have a “qualified parent or guardian [living] in the United States.” These draconian restrictions will encourage minors to attempt entry into the United States without inspection. If successful, these restrictions will result in the abuse, torture, and death of innocent children.

Seven-year-old separated from her father at the border dies 8 hours later of dehydration and shock

Separating young children from their parents is not only cruel, it can be fatal. Last week, a seven-year-old girl separated from her father when they presented at the border died in US custody a mere 8 hours later. The causes of death: dehydration and shock. These were preventable, treatable, entirely avoidable — and done in our name. You have your representative’s number on speed-dial by now; please call and voice your objection to this horror.

7-year-old migrant girl taken into Border Patrol custody dies of dehydration, exhaustion

Proposed immigration regulations – comment period

Cross-posted with permission from Shari Lane (original post to the OWLS listserve on October 10, 2018). There is still time to file comments!

Two new proposed regulations have been promulgated, and I encourage everyone to comment: https://www.regulations.gov/

  1. Allows the federal government to detain children indefinitely (overturning the Flores Settlement Agreement), and allows waiver of the existing requirement of state agency oversight over facilities housing children.

    Enter DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002 for Proposed Rule (“PR”) titled “Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children.” Comment period ends 11/6/18

    There’s so much that could be said about this, but I’ll say only this: the FSA ensures children are not warehoused in detention forever, and the state agencies are currently charged with ensuring child detainees are provided with education, health care, and other minimum standards of care are met. This regulation would eliminate both protections.

  2. Interprets existing “public charge” laws and regulations as likely to disqualify an applicant for citizenship, permanent status, or extension of temporary protected status if the applicant has ever received public benefits. Benefits that will be disqualifying include SNAP (food stamps), WIC (aid to Women, Infants, and Children), and Medicaid.

    Enter DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012 for the Proposed Rule (PR) labelled “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.” Comment period ends 12/10/18

    This rule applies even if the applicant only received benefits for a short period of time, right after arriving in the country with nothing, having fled natural disaster or violence, and having followed the proper procedures for authorized entry.

    Some healthcare providers are already reporting that, based on the announcement last month that the rule was going to be proposed, even immigrants who are here legally with applications pending or whose status is up for renewal have been refraining from seeking medical care until the situation is dire, for fear it will result in denial of their application.

Sample language for making the comments can be provided by one of the many, many organizations opposing these regulations. . . . The most important action is to reference the PR number and state your opinion. It only takes a few minutes.

And from a follow-up email:

I did find out that the final version of the proposed “public charge” regulation exempts refugees, and it sounds like it won’t include WIC.

Detained moms write letters; you can help free them in this campaign

CNN has this powerful story and video about a group of mothers separated from their children, and the letters they have written from detention.

‘I wouldn’t wish it even on my worst enemy’: Reunited immigrant moms write letters from detention

Immigration Justice Campaign and the Dilley Pro Bono Project invite you to join their social media campaign to free the 39 families who have endured months of detention with no end in sight. Here’s what you can do:

1. Spread the word on social media using the hashtag #FreetheFamilies.
2. Read the letters in their entirety on the Immigration Justice Campaign website.
3. Stay tuned for opportunities to send your comments to the government on the administration’s proposed Flores regulations, which if implemented could result in the indefinite detention of thousands more immigrant children.