Monday, May 27, 2019
The 2019 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association, held in Washington, DC, is coming up on May 30-June 2!
The Citizenship and Migration CRN2 Section is sponsoring 29 panels, roundtables, and other events at the LSA 2019 Annual Meeting. The panels are summarized at this link and can be found by searching the Law and Society conference website. Forthcoming posts on featured events to be posted throughout the week, including new books by Sarah Song and a formidable team of crimmimmigration scholars Jennifer Chacon, Tanya Golash-Boza, and Yolanda Vasquez. UPDATE: Mae Ngai's roundtable” Citizenship in the US: New Historical Approaches” will be on Sat 6/1 at 4:45 pm in Hyatt Everglades.
The Annual CRN 2 Business Meeting. This will be held at 6:45 PM in Regency B at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, the LSA conference hotel. At the Business Meeting, changes in leadership will be discussed and upcoming events will be discussed (including a pre-conference workshop on immigration for LSA Denver 2020). There will also be time for mutual introductions, announcement regarding workshop and publication opportunities, and more. Regarding leadership roles, there are still lots of opportunities to be involved and engaged with leading and organizing with our Research Network, and the best way to get linked in, stay informed on future events and opportunities, as well as meet new colleagues and learn more about CRN2 is to attend the meeting!
Happy Hour/Social Gathering
Immediately following the CRN2 Business Meeting, a happy hour will be held at the Billy Goat Tavern, just a few blocks away from the conference hotel at 500 New Jersey Ave NW #1, for drinks and dialogue. Feel free to bring friends and colleagues to join for this social event, especially those who may be interested in becoming involved and engaged with CRN 2.
Community Encounter and Advocacy Panel, sponsored by CRN2
Title: Immigration Advocacy During Contentious Times
Date: Friday, May 31st
Time: 8:00 - 9:45 am
Place: Regency A, Table 1
Description: This roundtable features immigration attorneys and advocates from several nonprofits in the Greater DC area. The panelists will discuss how current immigration policies have affected the populations that they serve, as well as their organization's responses to these policies. The goal of this panel is to highlight both the agency of the immigrants who are seeking to navigate the U.S.'s complex immigration system, as well as the nonprofits who are working alongside them to ensure that their voices are heard. Topics discussed will include the following: family separation, ICE raids, notario fraud, humanitarian applications for survivors of gender-based violence, immigration applications on behalf of detained minors, family-based immigration petitions, TPS and DACA. The panel provides an unparalleled opportunity to connect with DC-area immigration attorneys and to ask them about their work. The presenters are *not* academics -- they are immigration attorneys who represent individuals that have been affected by the current administration's immigration policies. It is the CRN2's hope that this panel will be relevant and informative for many CRN2 members' ongoing research agendas. See attached document for more details including the names of our advocacy-centered presenters and interlocutors.
Joining the CRN Listserv
To join the Citizenship and Migration CRN2 list-serve, please feel email CRN2 co-organizer Miranda Hallett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Miriam Jordan for the New York Times reports on migrants using buses to travel away from the border.
A Greyhound road trip across the country has long been a hallmark of the American experience, a way for those who couldn’t afford airfare or a car to come home from college, start new jobs, get to the coast, leave problematic situations behind. Today, along the border and deep into parts of the nation’s interior, the Greyhound buses plying the interstate highway system have become an essential element in an extraordinary new migration.
Entering the country at a rate of more than 5,000 each day, new arrivals from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are departing border towns by the busload. Migrants are already traveling by the thousands every day to cities across the country — to Atlanta, Chattanooga, Orlando, Richmond, as well as to sanctuary cities, like New York, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Sunday, May 26, 2019
The quick pitter-patter of little feet scurry down the tiled hallway. Children’s giggles echo through the concrete walls. These sounds ring in the background as Haitian singer-turned-pastor Jean Elise Durandisse softly says: “the children—they inspire us.”
Inspiration is contagious at Christ Ministry Center, radiating from every individual there—from the passionate staff, to the generous volunteers, to the resilient migrants and their children who have found safe refuge there. The optimism is almost tangible, even as Pastor Durandisse says that San Diego shut down the shelter for being overcrowded and not up to code. Indeed, following the end of ‘Safe Release,’ CBP and Border Patrol left migrants stranded at McDonalds and bus stations around the city. So, Christ Ministry Center welcomed them with open arms. Dozens of refugees ended up living in this modest building, sleeping in areas only meant to fit a few.
But what choice did it have? For years, Christ Ministry Center has been on CBP and Border Patrol’s speed dial as the only immigrant welcome center in southern California. Shutting its doors meant sending hundreds of migrants—many seeking asylum with no family or resources—onto the streets. “Imagine trying to navigate complex immigration proceedings and being homeless at the same time.” Volunteer caseworker Kathryn LaPointe forces us to consider an unimaginably harsh reality.
A testament to their resiliency, Christ Ministry Center created its own solution by forming Safe Harbors Network. This new nonprofit links refugees with other churches and homes to provide temporary shelter while their immigration cases process.
It is not a permanent solution by any stretch of the imagination. It does not combat “the haters”—anti-immigrant protesters that show up at the shelter. It does not alter the Department of Homeland Security’s everchanging immigration policy. It does not modify the confusing asylum process in the United States, nor the changing migration patterns that lead refugees there in the first place. But the work of Christ Ministry Center and Safe Harbors Network does provide something extraordinary: shelter, community, faith, and hope for another day.
-posted by KitJ on behalf of Kim Langona
It's illegal to enter the United States without passing through an official port of entry. However, along an isolated stretch of the southern border, U.S. citizens are doing just that every day because of a shortage of basic services on the U.S. side, including health care. Lorne Matalon reports for the NPR from the town of Candelaria, Texas, on the Rio Grande River.
The American Bar Association has renewed calls for lawmakers to overhaul the nation's immigration court system by making the courts independent from the U.S. Department of Justice. The ABA is joined by an array of legal workers in accusing the administration of enacting policies that pressure immigration judges to ramp up deportations, with no apparent concern for due process or the rule of law.
Here is the ABA Commission on Immigration report on the immigration adjudication system. The Executive Summary includes a recommendation for the creation of an Article I immigration court system:
"Our recommendations relating to the creation of an Article I court are set forth in Part 6 of this Update Report. In recognition of the fact that institutional changes take time and political will to achieve, Part 2 is largely devoted to providing updates to our prior recommendations in the 2010 Report relating to the immigration courts as they currently exist. We provide a brief update on the two systemic issues identified in the 2010 Report and then reframe the discussion of each of the 2010 recommendations by addressing them in the context of the three most urgent systemic issues facing the immigration courts today:
(1) lack of judicial independence and political interference with the immigration courts;
(2) policies and practices that threaten due process; and
(3) longstanding and widespread under-resourcing of the immigration courts.
While major systemic reform is necessary, the updated recommendations we offer in this Part are designed to ensure that the immigration courts can continue to function until such time as transition to an Article I court becomes a reality."
Saturday, May 25, 2019
Guest post by Cassidy Carlen, rising 3L at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University
It’s 9:00 am. Paper pages turning, chatter amongst attorneys and shuffling footsteps fill Courtroom 2A of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. The door to chambers opens and the room falls silent. The powerful man in the black robe enters, queuing every person in the room to stand in unison, only relieved by the phrase “You may be seated.” Another door in the far corner of the wooden room is pushed open, a guard leads the way for a single file line of stone faced men in green jump suits. As they pile into the courtroom, its hard not to analyze each face and wonder “what exactly brought you here?” This inquiry answered as we move down the docket. The desperate need to support your paralyzed father. Your wife who is a citizen raising your children all alone in a foreign place. No matter the reason, the land of opportunity is pulling you in, offering you opportunity like the “bright blinking lights of a Las Vegas billboard.”
Time moves in slow motion while the cases are called like an assembly line, the next compared to the last. “The government recommends 90 days your honor… 60 days… 30 days.” “Your honor my client came here for a better life.” “To support his 5 children and work in the fields of Oregon picking wheat.” “He has a 6th grade education, and cannot read or write.” “He will not return again.” The judge softly responds to each argument “I am sympathetic, I thank you for your comments,” followed by a statement about deterrence and respect for the law.
The question is constantly asked “why not do it the ‘right way’?” Courtroom 2A taught me that many do… wait… receive a pardon… and if lucky eventually granted the gift to spend their life on American soil. But then, a mistake of the justice system rips this from their hands. Hope is lost and I can’t blame them from wondering “If I can just get past that border line…”
- posted by KitJ on behalf of Cassidy Carlen
Photo via Freedom for Immigrants
Guest post by Angela Palacios, rising 2L at Barry University, Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law
“See! They have open bays!” the ICE agent proudly proclaimed. We peered in through the windows that were covered in wire mesh and followed the stairs with our eyes up to the second level. There we saw jail cells without doors that created the illusion that the prisoners had freedom. The lower level is the common area, and on the far side of it is a small concrete courtyard surrounded by chain link fence and concertina wire. The prisoners in this section can at least get some sunlight and fresh air there. This is the Women’s Low-Level Security Section at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. The prisoners are dressed in navy blue jumpsuits with the word “DETAINEE” in bold white letters across their backs. They are the lowest security threat and therefore have the most freedom, including being able to “volunteer” to do tasks such as clean bathrooms for $1.00 a day. The Low-Level Security prisoners make up the majority of the prisoners at Otay Mesa.
The prisoners with the Highest-Level Security due to a strong criminal history or those that are prone to violence, wear red jumpsuits. When we entered the Law Library, we encountered ten male prisoners in red jumpsuits looking through books, trying to find information to help them with their cases. Looking up from their work, they smiled in acknowledgment of us. In any other setting there would be no cause for alarm. However, the fact that they were being supervised by a single female librarian, makes me doubt the level of their security risk.
At Otay Mesa they call their prisoners “detainees,” not “inmates,” as if their word play makes what is going on there acceptable. The majority of their over 1000 “detainees” aren’t criminals. They are people who risked their lives to come to the US in hopes of being granted asylum, due to the dangers they faced if they stayed in their native countries. If the majority of the people imprisoned at Otay Mesa are asylum seekers and not criminals, then why are we imprisoning them?
- posted by KitJ on behalf of Angela Palacios
A federal judge on Friday night blocked President Donald Trump from tapping into Defense Department funds to build parts of his US-Mexico border wall.
Guest blogger: Flavio Bravo, Masters in Migration Studies, graduate student, University of San Francisco
Every Thursday morning, Barbara Zavala can be found in East Oakland leading a weekly food distribution to over 300 families. Rain or shine, even during the weeks of Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Zavala and her team of volunteers at the Oakland Catholic Worker are committed to serving first-and-second generation immigrant families within Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood. With Latinos accounting for over 53% of the neighborhood’s population, Zavala shares not only a cultural connection but attributes her own personal immigrant experience to being able to understand the needs of the community.
Central American Roots
Almost thirty years ago, on August 6, 1990, Zavala migrated from El Salvador to the Fruitvale neighborhood. Prior to her arrival, Zavala and her family were victims of extreme violence at the hands of the Salvadoran government during the country’s internal armed conflict which lasted between 1980 and 1992.
Over the course of these twelve years, this country that is around the same geographical size as the state of Massachusetts yet with around 370,000 fewer people, received over USD $4.5 billion in U.S. aid largely funding its civil war. The impact of this state violence affected over 75,000 civilians of El Salvador and led to Zavala’s father being captured by the Salvadoran armed forces before her family fled to Honduras and eventually seeking asylum at the United States border.
When Zavala arrived to the Oakland Catholic Worker in 1990, she found a community organization dedicated to assisting migrant families from Latin America resettle in the Bay Area. She received housing for two months and fifteen days before transitioning out and working a series of different jobs from preparing meals at Paula LeDuc Fine Catering, to working at San Francisco Foods grocery store, before becoming a chef at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley proudly preparing Salvadoran pupusas and tamales for Jesuit priests within the community.
Paying it Forward in Fruitvale
Even while working various jobs across the Bay Area, Zavala never completely left the Oakland Catholic Worker community. After being a consistent volunteer for twenty-five years, she is currently approaching her fourth anniversary of being a full-time staff member as the House and Property Manager.
Having lived in a space with ten people during her initial stay at the Worker, Zavala does everything she can to improve the experiences of newly arrived migrant families. This means helping them find work, enroll their children in schools, and assisting them find more permanent housing. When asked about what changes in the Fruitvale neighborhood she’s witnessed over the last thirty years, Zavala referenced the high-level of violence and the soaring cost of living.
Although 75 days of free housing was enough in 1990 for her to transition out with a stable job and apartment, the Worker currently offers at minimum four months of housing with some families staying for up to one year due to being unable to find an affordable place to live.
Much of her advice offered to newly arrived migrant families involves warning them of the ever-present violence in the streets of Oakland and to be wary of notarios who have been known to steal thousands of dollars without actually being able to advance immigration cases. Zavala, herself, was the victim of attorney theft in 1996 losing a total of USD $10,000 by an accredited attorney who promised to process her daughter’s cases after Zavala had received a work permit, only for the attorney to deny having ever received the payment.
Given the challenges that she and her family have faced, Zavala continuously seeks to pay it forward and assist families who are trying to navigate the immigrant experience in the U.S.
Que Viva Santo Romero
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Oakland Catholic Worker was founded under the corporal works of mercy in mind, of which some include: feeding the hungry; giving drink to the thirsty; clothing the naked; and giving shelter to travelers. With this in mind, Zavala and her team are committed to offering temporary housing, collaborating with the Alameda County Community Foodbank to address food insecurity, and advocating for more humane immigration policies regularly delivering presentations across the Bay Area.
Having shared her personal story with high school and university groups in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, Zavala finds great hope and inspiration in the life of the former Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero. As stated by Zavala: “Romero spoke the truth as someone dedicated to the poor and to the children of El Salvador. He was a defender of the poor, and for that, he was assassinated.”
Currently, Zavala has four kids and seven grandchildren in the U.S. and three kids and twelve grandchildren who remain in El Salvador. With the tragic loss of her recent daughter last year to leukemia, Zavala receives great hope to know that her own daughter passed away in the same hospital as the newly canonized Saint.
Zavala’s leadership and unwavering dedication to both improve her community of Fruitvale, while keeping her home of San Salvador forever in her heart speak greatly to the reality of the immigrant experience. Yet in her case, she has not only found a home in more places than one but has helped other migrant families find one as well.
The Hill reports that the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is out at the agency, the latest shakeup at the department charged with implementing President Trump's immigration agenda, according to multiple reports. Lee Francis Cissna, who took over as USCIS director in October 2017, sent a letter to agency staff on Friday evening confirming that he had submitted his resignation effective June 1, saying he submitted it "at the request of the President," CNN reported. "As an immigration law and policy professional dedicated to the rule of law like so many of you, I appreciate that this opportunity to serve was a unique experience," Cissna wrote in the email thanking staff and looking back at his tenure at the agency, according to CNN.
Several months ago, Politico published a profile of Cissna highlighting his civil servant career preceding the political appointment and his own family's immigrant background. Some found the path between his past and recent history serving under the Trump administration at odds. During the Trump administration, he led an agency designed to provide service to immigrants seeking visas, citizenship, and other benefits through a transformation into an enforcement agency as it implemented Trump policies with a "workmanlike dedication." Politico says, "From his perch atop USCIS, he’s issued a steady stream of policy changes and regulations that have transformed his agency into more of an enforcement body and less of a service provider. These changes have generated blowback from immigrant advocates, businesses and even some of his own employees. Leon Rodriguez, who served as USCIS director under President Barack Obama, said the agency is sending a message “that this is a less welcoming environment than it may have been before.”
Examples of USCIS policies include the establishment of a “denaturalization task force” that pledges to investigate immigration fraud and strip away citizenship in such cases, a memo that allows visa officers to deny applications without first requesting more evidence or notifying an applicant, and curtailment of the refugee program. Coming soon is a controversial proposed regulation that could prevent immigrants from obtaining green cards if they or their family members have used a public benefit, which is expected to include everything from food stamps to health insurance programs.
Trump is reportedly expected to tap former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) to be the next head of USCIS. Cuccinelli served as the top law enforcement official in Virginia from 2010 to 2014. His expected appointment comes as Trump has pushed for the administration to take a more aggressive posture on addressing what he has called a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
As Kevin pointed out on Monday, five children have died at U.S. Border Patrol stations on the U.S.-Mexico border since December. Vox puts those numbers in context: "Before December 2018, no children had died in CBP custody in a decade."
Editorial cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz has responded to this crisis with the following sadly on-point commentary:
Friday, May 24, 2019
Guest blogger: Flavio Bravo, Masters in Migration Studies, graduate student, University of San Francisco
Encuentro en El Paso
In partnership with the Jesuit Migration Network, I recently visited the border community of El Paso/Ciudad Juarez through the Encuentro Project. While much of our week was dedicated to collaborating with leaders from Jesuit schools, advocacy groups, and parishes across the U.S., we also had the opportunity to visit a newly converted migration shelter in El Paso.
Local community leader, Ruben Garcia, has long assisted migrants in El Paso through his leadership with the Annunciation House which was founded in 1978. Yet, most recently, the number of asylum seekers arriving at the El Paso – Paso del Norte (PDN) port of entry, has increased so much that the organization had to acquire a warehouse the size of Costco. Before entering the warehouse converted shelter, itself, we were informed that the space could serve around 500-800 migrants at capacity, but that they were trying to expand to 1,000 or 1,500 as many asylum seekers needed more time before they could connect with their sponsoring families across the U.S.
As we entered the facility as a group of volunteers made up of educators, attorneys, advocates, and graduate students such as myself, many of us had never witnessed anything like it. The first thing that we noticed was the immense sense of heat in the facility (even hotter than the high 80’s outside) due to so many people crowded together either walking around or laying in cots. In the midst of the orderly chaos, some little kids could be found kicking soccer balls to each other while others were engaged in their coloring books.
After being divided into our respective volunteer stations which included a medical clinic and a room to prepare sandwiches and other meals, I was asked as a Spanish-speaker to assist with in-takes and to help coordinate communication with sponsoring families. Essentially, we had to call each and every person’s point of contact in the U.S. to confirm that it was time for their travel to be booked. Whether they were going to be traveling from El Paso via Greyhound bus or a Southwest airlines flight, volunteers assisting with phone calls had to inform the receiving families that they had to book travel by the next day between 10 A.M. and 10 P.M. as that was the only time that volunteers from the Annunciation House could provide transportation to the airport and bus station.
Reuniting with Families
Around the clock, while some volunteers were completing in-takes and conducting phone calls, other groups of previously arrived migrants were preparing to depart for either the airport or local bus station. As families lined up in the dedicated cafeteria area, volunteers handed them drawstring bags with varied amounts of food depending on how many hours or days they would be traveling from El Paso to their eventual U.S. destination. Repeatedly, I was asked by young mothers and fathers from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras whether or not the food would be enough for their accompanying children. Many of us were also asked for advice on how to navigate plane transfers at U.S. airports given that so few families spoke English.
As visual images and stories spread across newspapers and the internet less than one year ago of families being separated into different cages in Tornillo, Texas, many of the parents who had arrived to El Paso expressed a great amount of fear whether or not they, too, would be separated from their children at any point.
Before we knew it, nine hours had passed from the time we initially arrived to the migrant shelter and it was close to 10:30 PM. As we departed, other volunteers from the Annunciation House were preparing to stay behind to serve as an immediate contact should the families need anything throughout the night. By our time of departure, I realized that what we had witnessed in one day has become the daily routine not only for volunteers from organizations across southern border communities, but also for the migrant families seeking asylum in the U.S.
A Greater Price to Pay
Bringing only enough clothing and necessities that can fit into a backpack, families are continuously uncertain if they will have enough as they migrate across new territories. If they are fortunate enough to pass through a migrant shelter (which are largely at capacity and under resourced), then they might have access to a meal, a shower, and basic medical services.
Despite these great humanitarian needs, during the same time that President Trump recently announced that he would be cutting U.S. aid to Central America, he also wrote a memorandum seeking to charge fees to migrants exercising their legal right to apply for asylum upon presenting themselves at a U.S. port of entry.
Currently, only two countries – Australia and Fiji – charge asylum seekers fees ($27 and $227 USD, respectively). This is because of our basic understanding that the most vulnerable human beings fleeing communities of violence and turmoil have already paid a cost and should not have to pay more to to have the opportunity to improve their situation.
Altogether, President Trump’s intentions could not be clearer: he wants fewer asylum seekers from Central America to present themselves at a U.S. port of entry, while also cutting U.S. aid that would invest in improving the infrastructure within Central America. By doing so, he is not only ignoring the U.S. government’s historic interventions which have contributed to Central America’s instability, but he is refusing to address the root causes of migration by withdrawing U.S. humanitarian aid.
Guest blogger: Jorge Ambriz, Masters in Migration Studies student, University of San Francisco
Emerging from a post-Cold War new normal, the North American Free Trade Agreement promised prosperity through trade facilitation, and an overall feel-good sentiment across the three North American nations enabled the passage of the agreement in the early 1990s. NAFTA lowered tariffs, essentially creating a North American market that enabled the quick manufacturing of goods with little regard to national borders. But the unintended devaluing of labor had detrimental effects on labor markets, especially the employment sector of Mexico. Although NAFTA kept its promise of easing the movement of goods across the North American continent, the agreement also had the unintended consequence of economically displacing those on the lower rungs of society.
At odds with NAFTA’s promise of prosperity was the U.S. response in the form of immigration policy. The free movement of goods was at the same time met with the increasingly militarized Mexico-U.S. border. Just months after NAFTA’s passage, measures like Operation Gatekeeper in California were implemented to physically deter entry. This approach was not what proponents of NAFTA had envisioned; the movement of capital and goods indirectly led to a rise in economic migrants knocking on the southern border. This move toward border securitization ran parallel to the neoliberal dream of free movement of capital, contributing to the displacement of many.
Undoubtedly, NAFTA, and those who pushed for it, are responsible for the weakening of the employment sector that Mexico continues to experience. Responsibility should then be on the trading partners to provide some relief. If credit wants to be taken when times are good, responsibility should be taken when things go bad. The standardization of labor, particularly when comparing the United States and Mexico experience, pushed many Mexican workers out of the continental labor market. Mexico had already been going through a tough economic period in the decade prior to NAFTA, and only made the everyday Mexican laborer brunt the negative effects of unfair competition. If agreements like NAFTA are to stand, pathways to absorb labor from other displaced regions is a step in the right direction.
Moving forward, advancements in technology might be a factor with similar consequences to NAFTA. We are already seeing the displacement of working class people in the United States due to unfair labor competition, with working class families being pushed farther and farther away from major metropolitan hubs like the Bay Area. Technology is already undermining the nation-state via its leaps in travel technology and communication. We can talk with people from across the globe on our digital screens. Information travels faster now than at any time before. A lesson should be taken from the NAFTA experience. A rethinking of the interplay between immigration policy and globalization should be undertaken. In the globalized world that technology promises, the human factor should not come secondary to the benefits of technology. There should be immigration policy that caters to the needs of a 21st century world.
President Trump has gone on another immigration bender. The latest target is benefit receipt by lawful immigrants. Here is the latest (May 23, 2019):
It is baseball season and here is a good baseball story. Yesterday, we heard about Clayton Kershaw's efforts to challenge human trafficking in the Dominican Republic. Alaa Abdeldaiem in Sports Illustrated reports on Detroit Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd is on a mission to end sex slavery. Boyd has "essentially adopted" 36 girls in Uganda in an attempt to protect them from the sex slave industry. He and his wife, Ashley, provide the girls with food, clothing and rent for their homes. The Boyds have created their own nonprofit, Kingdom Home, and are raising money to buy land to expand in Uganda. The couple hopes to build four new homes on that land over the next three years to protect more girls from sex slavery.
Thursday, May 23, 2019
Guest post by Rita Cinquemani, a rising 2L at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University
Check-in, grab a number, and take a seat. Despite weeks of preparation, nervous eyes shift from the line to the floor and back again. Feet tap. Hands are folded nicely. Each person is here for the same reason – to receive a golden ticket into the United States – a visa.
Each day, over a hundred individuals walk into the U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana and wait for an interview to potentially receive a non-immigrant visa. Once there, they are separated into small groups and directed to line up in front of teller-style windows. With each step, they clutch their paperwork closer to their heart. It is one step closer to getting approved.
On the line, there is less than a foot between each person. Hope floats into the air; the cloud grows with each step forward. Once at the window, each person seeking a non-immigrant visa gets less than five minutes to explain their story to a foreign service officer. The presumption is guilty of immigrant intent unless proven otherwise; a stark contrast to the American legal system where individuals are presumed innocent. Those seeking tourist visas get three minutes, while others seeking H-2 temporary work visas get two and a half minutes to plead their case. A decision is granted on the spot.
A non-immigrant visa can be denied for ineligibilities under law, if the application is incomplete, or due to immigrant intent. At this time, individuals have two options: they can re-apply or accept the decision. There is no appeal process. If one chooses to apply again, the process restarts at the beginning. The $160.00 USD application fee needs to be paid and a new interview needs to be scheduled. It may take weeks to get another appointment.
With the cloud of hope looming overhead, they exit the U.S. Consulate with a choice: to try again or find another way to enter into the United States. Some choose to head north.
- posted by KitJ on behalf of Rita Cinquemani
“No attorneys today, right?” asked the monotone government attorney. “Nah, just one and they’re gonna need a creole interpreter” replied the court room guard as he stared at his phone, slouched in his chair. The bright, white fluorescent lights in the court room illuminated every detail of the detainees’ being. Their despondent, tiresome faces. Some lost in their prayers for hope. Others with palpable displays of disinclination.
Everyone shot up into the air as Judge Olga Attias entered. Upon learning that two of the detainees were Eritrean, the Judge called “Interpretalk” for a Tigrinya language—not creole—interpreter on speakerphone. Soft, upbeat-jazz with ascending arpeggios and major tones emanated from the court room speakers. The music was in stark contrast to the collective orchestra of sighs and nervous shuffling of the detainees. After the call was dropped and another had to be made, I thought, “Is this a joke?” This time, somber piano notes with melancholy harmonies plagued the room.
Finally, an interpreter answered, putting an end to this mockery. The Judge, in a pleasant yet stern voice, read the nine detainees their rights as a group for thirty minutes. “Do you understand your rights?” she asked, quickly followed by the interpreter. Her question was met by a sea of half-raised dark-skinned hands.
She began the first detainee’s case, reading him the short list of allegations from his “Notice to Appear” (NTA). Each allegation met with immediate honesty. Within just a minute of questioning, the judge sustained the order of removal against him. A sharp pain shot through my chest as questions furiously swarmed the inside of my skull like crows surrounding newly dead flesh. I was lost in my thoughts, trying to understand in what world this could be justice. “I want you treat this asylum application like a full-time job” I suddenly heard the judge demand. Taken aback, I sat there as the detainees life changed twice within minutes. “Thank you, your honor,” he replied, this time in English, as he unsuccessfully attempted to conceal his smile.
This is an average day in Immigration Court at Otay Mesa.
-posted by KitJ on behalf of Marlon Bayas
Although the border may be the center of attention for immigration, the fate of hundreds of thousands of migrants are decided on miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. The WNYC Radiolab's Takeaway is reporting on the crisis in the immigration courts. For months, their senior reporter Beth Fertig has been sitting in on immigration courts in New York City, to see how proceedings are changing under the Trump Administration. Click below to hear this segment. An accompanying story by Fertig appears here.
"We hear so much about the border and these tent cities and these migrants coming, and all the lawsuits taking place right now," Beth Fertig said. "But the places where those cases will ultimately be decided will be in immigration court — which is this world that a lot of people don’t get to see. And these judges have the fate of all of the immigrants in their hands right now." The number of pending immigration cases has ballooned in recent years after the Trump administration implemented stricter asylum demands. These additions to the bench in New York City — the nation’s busiest immigration court — are part of a larger hiring wave across the country.
The Radiolab program comes the same week as NPR All Thing Considered interview with Jeffrey Chase, a former immigration judge, about how President Trump's new proposals to raise high-skilled immigration will affect immigration courts. The upshot: it will have no impact. Click below to listen.
UPDATE 5/24/2019: A TRAC report supplements these narrative accounts with quantitative data about the burgeoning immigration caseload and the inability of IJ hiring to keep pace.
Los Angeles Dodgers ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, visited the Dominican Republic during the MLB offseason to help fight the battle against human trafficking.
Mike Stocker for ESPN wrote about the Kershaws' visit. When Kershaw and Ellen learned of the rampant child trafficking in the Dominican Republic, they looked for ways to help. The Kershaws traveled to Santo Domingo to meet with officials from the International Justice Mission (IJM), a faith-based organization that fights slavery and sex trafficking, particularly child exploitation. The group had an audience with Dominican Republic president Danilo Medina, visited the city's red-light district with investigators and spent an afternoon playing baseball with survivors of sex trafficking.