Sunday, February 17, 2019

Detained for Speaking Spanish?

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Mimi Hernandez and Ana Suda, ACLU plaintiffs, stand outside the convenience store where CBP detained them in Havre, Montana.

 

With the Trump administration, the atmosphere for immigrants in the United States for the Latinx population has taken a sharp turn for the worse.  Read the story of Ana Suda, a native-born U.S. citizen, who was questioned by the Border Patrol in Havre, Montana for speaking Spanish in a convenience store.  Her experience has caused great concern:

"Life hasn’t changed just for our families. Other Mexican and Latinx people in Havre have approached us in the grocery store or on the street, fearful about whether they could also be stopped by Border Patrol just for speaking Spanish or looking differently."  

The ACLU has brought suit to vindicate Suda's rights.  The case, Suda v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was filed in U.S. District Court.  The complaint is here.

KJ

February 17, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Border Towns Are Among the Safest in the United States

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City of El Paso Police Department

In issuing an emergency declaration to allocate funding to the wall along the US/Mexico border, President Trump emphasized the lawlessness of the border region.  The truth of the matter is much different, however.

Melissa Cruz for Immigration Impact offers the counter-story to Trump's depiction of lawlessness.  Earlier this week,  Texas, two very different images of the U.S.-Mexico border emerged from El Paso, Texas.

President Trump held a rally to make the case for his border wall again, repeating his usual talking points on the supposed dangers lurking in the region. A block away, former Democratic Representative from El Paso, Texas Beto O’Rourke held an opposing rally to counter the president’s claims on immigrants, refugees, border town safety, and the need for a wall.

The demonstrations show just how easy it is to stir up the public around the issue of immigration, particularly when the backdrop is the southern border region. However, the truth is the communities along the U.S.-Mexico border are among the safest in the United States.

El Paso, the site of the two rallies, has been considered one of the safest cities in the nation for the last 20 years, long before any border fencing was built.

KJ

February 16, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 15, 2019

Schrödinger's Immigrant

Check out this fabulous meme, perfect for generating discussion about political discourse surrounding migration.

Schrodinger

-KitJ

February 15, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

US Undocumented Population Continued to Fall from 2016 to 2017 and Visa Overstays Significantly Exceeded Illegal Crossings for the Seventh Consecutive Year

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Robert Warren for the Center for Migration Studies has issued an interesting report on trends in the undocumented population.

The executive summary:

This article presents estimates of the US undocumented population for 2017 derived by the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS). It focuses on the steep decline in the undocumented population from Mexico since 2010. While the president has focused the nation’s attention on the border wall, half a million US undocumented residents from Mexico left the undocumented population in 2016 alone, more than three times the number that arrived that year, leading to an overall decrease of nearly 400,000 undocumented residents from Mexico from 2016 to 2017. From 2010 to 2017, the undocumented population from Mexico fell by a remarkable 1.3 million.

For the past 10 years, the primary mode of entry for the undocumented population has been to overstay temporary visas. This article provides estimates of the number of noncitizens who overstayed temporary visas and those who entered without inspection (EWIs) in 2016 by the top five countries of origin.

Summary of Findings

  • The US undocumented population from Mexico fell by almost 400,000 in 2017.
  • In 2017, for the first time, the population from Mexico constituted less than one half of the total undocumented population.
  • Since 2010, the undocumented population from Mexico has declined by 1.3 million.
  • In California, the undocumented population from Mexico has declined by 26 percent since 2010, falling from 2.0 to 1.5 million; it also dropped by 50 percent in Alabama, and by one third in Georgia, New York, and New Mexico.
  • The undocumented population from Venezuela grew rapidly after 2013, increasing from 60,000 to 145,000 in just four years.
  • Visa overstays have significantly exceeded illegal border crossings during each of the last seven years.
  • Mexico was the leading country for overstays in 2017, with about twice as many as India or China.

The estimates presented here were derived by CMS based on information collected in the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey (ACS). The procedures used to derive detailed estimates of the undocumented population are described in Warren (2014). CMS used its annual estimates of the undocumented population for 2010 to 2017 — by state of residence, country of origin, and year of entry — to compile the information described here. Additional methodological details appear as footnotes or as notes in the tables.

DOWNLOAD

KJ

February 15, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trump Issues Emergency Declaration on US/Mexico Border: "The southern border is a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics."

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Breaking news!  President Donald Trump signed off on declaring a national emergency on Friday to free up funding to construct a wall along the southern border. 

The move has created a new fight between the White House and lawmakers but will allow up to $8.1 billion to be used to construct a barrier along the bother between the U.S. and Mexico. 

Here (and here) is the full text of the proclamation released by the White House.  The beginning paragraph is telling:

"The current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency.  The southern border is a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics.  The problem of large-scale unlawful migration through the southern border is long-standing, and despite the executive branch's exercise of existing statutory authorities, the situation has worsened in certain respects in recent years.  In particular, recent years have seen sharp increases in the number of family units entering and seeking entry to the United States and an inability to provide detention space for many of these aliens while their removal proceedings are pending.  If not detained, such aliens are often released into the country and are often difficult to remove from the United States because they fail to appear for hearings, do not comply with orders of removal, or are otherwise difficult to locate.  In response to the directive in my April 4, 2018, memorandum and subsequent requests for support by the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense has provided support and resources to the Department of Homeland Security at the southern border.  Because of the gravity of the current emergency situation, it is necessary for the Armed Forces to provide additional support to address the crisis."

Criticism has been quick.  A number of scholars, including immigration law professors Steve Legomsky and Peter Margulies, discuss the legality of the emergency declaration on VOX.  Foe frther commentary ob the declaration, see Nolan Rappaport (supporting the declaration), Alan Dershowitz (declaration was a "mistake"), Los Angeles Times ("Trump is the national emergency").  and Ann Coulter ("Ann Coulter after Trump's order: ‘The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot").

Here are some reactions:

Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) issued the following statement in response to today’s declaration of a state of emergency by Donald J. Trump:

“The national emergency is real.  It is not, however, an emergency at the nation's southern border or an emergency of border security.  The emergency comes in the form of a dire constitutional crisis.

“Today's lawless announcement by Donald Trump should provoke immediate and universal outrage.  There is zero factual support for the existence of a national emergency at the border.  Indeed, today's announcement would be a laughable object of ridicule were it not so dangerous.

“Neither outrage nor ridicule can suffice in the face of an unconstitutional usurpation of monstrous and perilous power.  Donald Trump's pretensions of dictatorial authority have now been laid fully bare.  We must unite in full-scale opposition to today's unlawful action.  MALDEF commits to do its part in that full-scale opposition.”

 

Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas, had the following reaction:

“There is no national emergency, except for one of Trump’s own making. Using emergency powers to manipulate funds for political gain is not what our country needs. Border communities in Texas should not bear the brunt of this foolish, expensive stunt that will be viewed by the world as a symbol of hate. The invocation of a national emergency to fulfill a campaign promise flouts values we hold dear as a democracy.” 

 

Astrid Dominguez, director for the ACLU Border Rights Center, had the following reaction:

“President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border is not based on fact or reality. There is no security crisis at the border. This declaration only reinforces the racist policies he is attempting to use to harm our border communities.”

This statement is available here.

Bet on a lawsuit challencing the emergency declaration.  California reportedly may be the first to the courthouse. The ACLU may be in the race.

 

KJ

February 15, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Supreme Court to Hear Citizenship Question on Census Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case challenging a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census.  Here is the order:

DEPT. OF COMMERCE, ET AL. V. NEW YORK, ET AL. The petition for writ of certiorari before judgment is granted. The case will be set for argument in the second week of the April argument session.

Amy Howe on SCOTUSBlog has background on the case here.

KJ

February 15, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shutdown Averted, Trump to Declare Border Emergency?

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CNN reports on some big immigration news from Washington D.C.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell managed to avert the political disaster of a new government shutdown by securing a pledge yesterday that President Donald Trump will sign a federal funding bill that averts a government shutdown but lacks several billion dollars sought by the President for a US/Mexico border wall. 

The President's efforts to fund the wall may raise serious constitutional questions. Trump will appear in the White House Rose Garden at 10 am ET to sign the compromise funding bill and announce a slate of executive actions, a White House official said. The plan is expected to include a declaration of national emergency, which he will use to reallocate $8 billion in government money to fund the wall.  Here are some expert opinions on the lawfulness of a presidential exercise of emergency powers.

KJ

February 15, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Policy Returning Asylum Seekers to Mexico

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The American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the Trump administration’s new policy forcing asylum seekers to return to Mexico and remain there while their cases are considered.

“The Trump administration is forcibly returning asylum seekers to danger in Mexico,” said Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Once again, the administration is breaking the law in order to deter asylum seekers from seeking safety in the United States.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 individual asylum seekers forcibly returned to Mexico, and organizational plaintiffs Innovation Law Lab, the Central American Resource Center of Northern California, Centro Legal de la Raza, the University of San Francisco School of Law Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic, Al Otro Lado, and the Tahirih Justice Center.

“This is no longer just a war on asylum seekers, it’s a war on our system of laws,” said Melissa Crow, Southern Poverty Law Center senior supervising attorney. “This misguided policy deprives vulnerable individuals of humanitarian protections that have been on the books for decades and puts their lives in jeopardy.”

The lawsuit cites violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, as well as the United States’ duty under international human rights law not to return people to dangerous conditions.

“This new policy severely undermines the very purpose of our asylum system, endangering rather than safeguarding the lives of our individual plaintiffs and others fleeing persecution,” said Blaine Bookey, co-legal director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.

The case, Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen, was filed in federal court in San Francisco. View complaint here.

KJ

February 15, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

William Barr sworn in as attorney general

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Yesterday, William Barr was sworn in as the 85th attorney general of the United States, immediately assuming leadership of a Justice Department. Barr took the oath at a closed White House ceremony after the Senate voted to confirm him on a largely party-line vote of 54-45, allowing him to become only the second person in history to serve twice as the attorney general. 

Before becoming Attorney General the first time, Barr held numerous other posts within the U.S. Justice Department, including serving as Deputy Attorney General from 1990 to 1991 under George H. W. Bush.  Most recently, Barr was with the law firm of Kirkland and Ellis.

Dara Lind on VOX looks at Barr's immigration record. I am hopeful that Barr is more even-handed in his approach to immigration than his predecessor, Jeff Sessions.  His "dark vision for immigration policy" is considered in this New Yorker piece by Jonathan Blitzer.

KJ

February 15, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Caribbean Immigrants in the United States

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Migation Information Source has released a "Spotlight" on "Caribbean Immigrants in the United States" by Jie Zong and Jeanne Batalova.

In 2017, approximately 4.4 million Caribbean immigrants resided in the United States, accounting for 10 percent of the nation’s 44.5 million immigrants. With the notable exception of Jamaica, all major Caribbean nations were under direct U.S. political control at some point, which has created incentives and opportunities for the nationals of these islands to migrate to the United States.

Between 1980 and 2000, the Caribbean immigrant population increased by more than 50 percent every ten years (54 percent and 52 percent, respectively) to reach 2.9 million in 2000. The growth rate declined gradually afterwards. From 2000, the population increased 26 percent, to 3.7 million, in 2010, and grew another 18 percent, to 4.4 million, in 2017.

KJ

February 14, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Congressman Deployed to Border

Colorado Advisory Committee to the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights to Examine Backlog in Citizenship and Naturalization Applications

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On February 12, 2019, Reps. García (D-IL), Espaillat (D-NY), and Velázquez (D-NY) as well as 83 more House Democrats sent a letter to Director L. Francis Cissna raising concerns about USCIS’s growing backlog of adjudications. 

On February 22, 2019, the Colorado Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will hold a public briefing to examine the backlog in citizenship and naturalization applications in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Committee will examine the cause of the backlog, and its civil rights implications, and will look at ways to restore the agency’s processing times to its selfimposed target of six months. There will be livestreaming of the event at: https://cu.law/live.

Confirmed panelists include: 

Bryce Downer, Attorney, Downer Legal Group 

John Eastman, Law Professor, Chapman University 

Kristi Goldinger, District Director, US Citizenship and Immigration Service 

Diego Iñiguez-López, Policy and Communications Associate, National Partnership for New Americans 

Jennifer Kain-Rios, Immigration Attorney, KainRios Immigration 

Nicole Melaku, Executive Director Legal Services Coordinator, CO Immigrant Rights Coalition 

Robert Preuhs, Professor of Political Science, Metropolitan State University of Denver 

Jamie Torres, Director of the Denver Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs 

Travis Weiner, CO Chapter Lead, Veterans for American Ideals & Veterans for New Americans

DATE: February 22, 2019

LOCATION: University of Colorado Law School, Wolf Law Building, Wittemeyer Court Room 2450 Kittredge Loop Drive, Boulder, CO 80305 Live-streaming at: https://cu.law/live

AGENDA: Invited Panelists: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. MST Open Comment/Public Testimony: 3:15 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

PUBLIC COMMENT:

At the conclusion of the speakers’ panels, the Committee will hold an open public comment session, to begin at 3:00 p.m. MST. Members of the public in attendance will be invited to make short statements on the topic. Those wishing to speak must sign-up at the meeting room no later than 3:00 p.m. on the briefing day. The Committee will also accept written testimony submitted to ebohor@usccr.gov or by mail to the Rocky Mountain Regional Office, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1961 Stout Street, Suite 13-201, Denver, CO 80294. Written testimony must be submitted no later than Friday, March 22, 2019.

KJ

February 14, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigration Article of the Day: Slouching Toward Oblivion: the Divergent Implementation and Potential Exodus of Chevron Analysis in the Supreme Court’s Interpretation of Immigration Law by Amy Moore

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Slouching Toward Oblivion: the Divergent Implementation and Potential Exodus of Chevron Analysis in the Supreme Court’s Interpretation of Immigration Law by Amy Moore, ___ UMKC L. Rev. ___ (Spring 2019 Forthcoming)

Abstract

The adoption of the Chevron test in 1984 radically changed the face of judicial deference to agency action, but it has taken some time for the test to truly develop meaning and uniformity in the jurisprudence. This article examines some carefully curated examples of Chevron analysis by the Supreme Court since the test’s inception but focuses on the Court’s treatment of agency deference in cases where Chevron was used without being specifically noted or cited. In analyzing the case law, there appear to be four large categories of reasons for avoidance: constitutional concerns, jurisdictional or judicial review delineations, plain language interpretations, and criminal law interpretation that intersects with the immigration interpretation. This article creates a doctrinal map for the Supreme Court’s “shadow” use of Chevron deference and argues for a uniform application of the test and a properly structured step zero level analysis. This is especially relevant in light of congressional efforts to overturn the doctrine by statute and recent judicial invitations to overrule it.

KJ

February 14, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Immigration Article of the Day: Migration As Decolonization by Tendayi Achiume

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Migration As Decolonization by Tendayi Achiume, 71 Stanford Law Review (2019, Forthcoming)

Abstract

International migration is a defining problem of our time, and central to this problem are the ethical intuitions that dominate thinking on migration and its governance. This Article challenges existing approaches to one particularly contentious form of international migration, as an important first step towards a novel and more ethical way of approaching problems of the movement of people across national borders.

The prevailing doctrine of state sovereignty under international law today is that it entails the right to exclude non-nationals, with only limited exceptions. Whatever the scope of these exceptions, so-called economic migrants—those whose movement is motivated primarily by a desire for a better life—are beyond them. Whereas international refugee law and international human rights law impose restrictions on states’ right to exclude non-nationals whose lives are endangered by the risk of certain forms of persecution in their countries of origin, no similar protections exist for economic migrants. International legal theorists have not fundamentally challenged this formulation of state sovereignty, which justifies the largely unfettered right to exclude economic migrants.

This Article looks to the history and legacy of the European colonial project to challenge this status quo. It argues for a different theory of sovereignty that makes clear why, in fact, economic migrants of a certain kind have compelling claims to national admission and inclusion in countries that today unethically insist on a right to exclude these migrants. The European colonial project involved the out-migration of at least 62 million Europeans to colonies across the world between the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century alone. It also involved movement in the reverse direction of human and natural resources, overwhelmingly for the benefit of Europe and Europeans. This Article details how global interconnection and political subordination initiated over the course of this history generates a theory of sovereignty that obligates former colonial powers to open their borders to former colonial subjects. Insofar as certain forms of international migration today are responsive to political subordination rooted in colonial and neocolonial structures, a different conceptualization of such migration is necessary, one that engages economic migrants as political agents exercising equality rights when they engage in “de-colonial” migration.

KJ

February 13, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Deal Appears to be Reached to Avoid Federal Government Shutdown

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It looks like a deal is close on the budget, with a "down payment" on the U.S./Mexico border wall.  And President Trump just may sign the bill despite not being "happy" with it.  Here is a discussion of the somewhat messy compromise process.  The deal includes $1.375 for the border barrier structures and an increase in Department of Homeland Security funding.  Perhaps we will avoid a border another shutdown?

KJ

February 13, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

21 Savage Granted Release Pending Immigration Hearing

 

Breaking News on 21 SavageImmigrationProf previously posted on the arrest of 21 Savage by Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

On Facebook, 21 Savage's attorneys posted the following:

For the past 9 long days, we, on behalf of She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, known to the world as 21 Savage, have been speaking with ICE to both clarify his actual legal standing, his eligibility for bond, and provide evidence of his extraordinary contributions to his community and society.

In the last 24 hours, in the wake of the Grammy Awards at which he was scheduled to attend and perform, we received notice that She’yaa was granted an expedited hearing.

Today, 21 Savage was granted a release on bond. He won his freedom.

21 Savage asked us to send a special message to his fans and supporters—he says that while he wasn’t present at the Grammy Awards, he was there in spirit and is grateful for the support from around the world and is more than ever, ready to be with his loved ones and continue making music that brings people together.

He will not forget this ordeal or any of the other fathers, sons, family members, and faceless people, he was locked up with or that remain unjustly incarcerated across the country. And he asks for your hearts and minds to be with them.

Charles Kuck Dina LaPolt and Alex Spiro."

KJ

 

February 13, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"No More Xenophobia": Calififornia Governor Criticizes Trump On Immigration

 

California has another governor taking on President Trump,  As NPR reports, in his first State of the State speech, California Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized what he called President Trump's "fear-mongering" over the "so-called 'border emergency'" as a "manufactured crisis" and "political theater."  

"The answer to the White House, with all due respect: No more division, no more xenophobia and no more nativism," he said, one day after signing an order removing most California National Guard troops from the Mexican border.

Here is the prepared text of the speech.  And the following is a telling passage on immigration:

"Let us state the facts. We are currently experiencing the lowest number of border crossings since 1971.

In California, like our nation, our undocumented population is at its lowest level in more than a decade.

Some 550,000 fewer in our state alone.

Immigrants, both those here legally and those without documentation, commit crime at a lower rate than native-born citizens.

And those families, women and children, seeking asylum at our borders, are doing so lawfully.

Those are the facts. The border “emergency” is a manufactured crisis and California will not be part of this political theater.

We’re not backing down. Just yesterday, I gave the National Guard a new mission – one that will refocus on the real threats facing our state.

A third of our forces currently on the border will be redeployed to help prepare for the upcoming fire season by joining CAL FIRE in prevention and suppression. Work, ironically, the federal government curtailed during the recent shutdown.

Another third will boost the National Guard’s statewide Counterdrug Task Force by redeploying up north to go after illegal cannabis farms, many of which are run by cartels, are devastating our pristine forests, and are increasingly becoming fire hazards themselves.

The remaining third of our Guard will focus on stopping criminals smuggling drugs and guns through existing border checkpoints.

A wall that stretches thousands of miles through the wilderness will do nothing to stop this threat.

This is our answer to the White House: No more division, no more xenophobia and no more nativism. We suffered enough from that in the nineties with Props 187 and 227."

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KJ

February 13, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Immigration Article of the Day: Conditioning Citizenship Benefits on Satisfying Citizenship Obligations by Michael S. Kirsch

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Conditioning Citizenship Benefits on Satisfying Citizenship Obligations by Michael S. Kirsch, 2019 U. Ill. L. Rev. (Forthcoming) Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 1920 46 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2019  Notre Dame Law School Date Written: February 6, 2019

Abstract

Citizenship status is often discussed in terms of both its benefits and its obligations. A recently enacted Federal statute (the FAST Act), which denies U.S. passports to certain citizens who owe significant unpaid taxes, provides an opportunity to examine the linkage between citizenship benefits and obligations. In particular, it raises the question under what circumstances, if any, should the benefits of citizenship be conditioned on compliance with the obligations of citizenship.

This Article identifies a typology for situating unpaid taxes within other circumstances under which passports may be denied to U.S. citizens. It then focuses on the instrumental, constitutional, and expressive impacts of the FAST Act, illustrating that the benefit-obligation linkage can have unintended consequences, not only from an instrumental perspective, but perhaps more importantly from its expressive impact on social norms. The Article then applies these lessons to a broader range of situations where Federal benefits are conditioned on compliance with citizenship obligations, most notably the denial of student loan benefits for those young men who do not register with the Selective Service.

The Article concludes by acknowledging that, for certain types of benefit-obligation linkages and under certain circumstances, conditioning citizenship benefits on compliance with citizenship obligations might provide useful instrumental results. However, it cautions against the wider expansion of this conditional approach to citizenship benefits, due to the unintended instrumental and expressive effects that might result.

KJ

February 12, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Detention Center for Migrant Children to be Built on Chemical Landfill

Today, Earthjustice released a report that highlights how a migrant detention center for unaccompanied children is slated to be placed on top of a former landfill and could have damaging effects on children’s health. The Trump administration has proposed that Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, host approximately 7,500 unaccompanied children; the area is said to be contaminated with lead, arsenic, benzene, PFAS, and other chemicals associated with increased risk of cancer and neurodevelopmental damage. 

Findings come some three months after the Hispanic Federation, National Hispanic Medical Association, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Southwest Environmental Center, GreenLatinos and Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, represented by Earthjustice, sued the Trump administration to get additional documentation related to the proposed migrant detention center. The Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demands that the Air Force release records concerning environmental hazards at Goodfellow that have the potential to expose children at the base to toxic chemicals via air, water, and soil.

Earthjustice and its clients have for months sought documents that can shed light on the government’s publicly announced plans to build migrant detention centers in Goodfellow and Fort Bliss, both in Texas. The government refuses to comply with FOIA requests, and a lawsuit was filed against the government for its failure to release documents concerning Fort Bliss. Meanwhile, communities are protesting detention sites and caravans of migrant families fleeing violence in Central America and Mexico continue reaching the U.S. – Mexico border for asylum. 

The review of publicly available environmental records shows that lead, a potent neurotoxin that can permanently damage children, has been detected near the proposed site at levels unacceptable for housing, in the soil and groundwater close to a former arms range, the landfill and a fuel storage area. Other contaminants detected at the site include volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which contaminate the air and threaten human health through vapor intrusion.

Children have less developed natural defenses, including a more permeable blood-brain barrier, less effective filtration in nasal passages, highly permeable skin, and vital organ systems that are still developing.

Key findings in the report:

  • Lead in the area was previously found at levels 27 times higher than Environmental Protection Agency standard for lead in soil for play areas.
  • Lead in groundwater exceeds EPA’s safety limit by over 20 percent.
  • The nearby fuel storage facility shows about a dozen chemicals associated with liver problems, increased risk of cancer and development delays in children.
  • Nine locations near the site exhibit PFAS contamination; PFAS is a group of toxic chemicals that can hamper thyroid and immunological system function and increase one’s risk of cancer.
  • Vapor intrusion in the area is worrisome as vapors (or gases) from the dozens of chemicals can penetrate buildings through cracks in the foundation and openings for utility lines. These contaminants pose threats to indoor air quality.
  • Before housing for children is built at the Air Force Base, soil may have to be removed, groundwater tested, waste sites thoroughly removed or covered, and the commercial/industrial restrictions will need to be lifted to allow residential housing for children.

To read the full report click here 

“Public records so show the migrant children’s housing site proposed for Goodfellow will be built atop a former landfill, in an area riddled with lead, benzene and other chemicals particularly hazardous to children,” said Lisa Evans, Earthjustice attorney. “This is outrageous. We urge the government to immediately turn over all documents related to this immoral plan so the public can get to the bottom of this.”

VOCs found in the area include benzene, arsenic, and tetrachloroethylene at extremely high levels, making the area unsuitable for housing. Exposure to these vapors can cause nausea, headaches, trouble breathing, difficulty concentrating, and even death. Long-term exposure – even low levels – can cause damage to the nervous system, kidney, and liver.  

“The Trump administration clearly cannot be trusted with the health and safety of vulnerable migrant children,” said Laura M. Esquivel, director of National Advocacy for Hispanic Federation, the lead plaintiffs in the FOIA case. “Make no mistake; if plans go forward for these centers, the Trump administration is responsible for yet another cruel, misguided, and intentional action that will compound the irreparable damage to the physical and mental wellbeing of thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents at the border.

“Families seeking solace from violence and poverty should be embraced,” said Elena Rios, MD, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association. “Instead, this government seems keen on building detention centers on contaminated sites, and eager to jail children who just want peace and safety.”

“As a farmworker women's organization, we know the permanent and detrimental effects that chemicals, such as pesticides, have in the lives of our migrant and campesina communities,” said Mily Treviño with Alianza Nacional de Campesinas. “We won’t stand idly as vulnerable children are put in cages, let alone in cages on top of landfills at polluted military bases.” 

“The public has a right to know where and how will innocent children be detained,” said David Baake, Southwest Environmental Center attorney. “We urge the government to reveal whatever is hiding and face the public.” 

“This bigoted administration has shown time and time again that it has no regard for the rule of law and the safety of the most vulnerable,” said Hector Sanchez from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “But we stand strong for our communities and will not stop defending migrant families that need support and compassion.”

“The Trump administration chooses secrecy, despite the public’s right to know,” said Mark Magaña, president and CEO of GreenLatinos. “Now we must compel the government to respond to our queries and be accountable for the sake of our communities and migrant families.”  

bh

February 12, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Breaking News: Deal Reached to Avert Government Shutdown?

 

President Trump held a rally in El Paso, Texas last night to make his case for building a wall along the U.S./Mexico border, as congressional negotiators continue to negotiate over border security funding to avert another shutdown by the Friday deadline.


Shortly after the rally, negotiators apparently has reached an agreement to avoid a government shutdown. CNN reports that congressional negotiators say they have reached an agreement in principle to avert a partial government shutdown at the end of this week. The four lead bipartisan negotiators, emerging from talks last night, declined to get into details, but when asked whether it included barrier funding and a resolution to the detention bed issue, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby said: "We got an agreement on all of it." Shelby's comments follow those from a Democratic aide involved in the border security funding talks who said earlier yesterday negotiators are "very, very close" to an agreement and they are now checking to see if the emerging proposal would get the votes it needs to pass the House.

Emily Cochrane and Glenn Thrush from the New York Times offer further details on the agreement:

"House and Senate negotiators on Monday night agreed in principle to provide $1.375 billion for fencing and other physical barriers at the Mexican border, part of a broader agreement that would stave off another partial government shutdown without funding President Trump’s wall.

The agreement would allow for 55 miles of new bollard fencing, with some restrictions on location based on community and environmental concerns, according to two congressional aides, who requested anonymity to disclose details of the private negotiations. That is a fraction of the more than 200 miles of steel-and-concrete wall that Mr. Trump demanded — and 10 miles less than negotiators agreed on last summer, before Democrats took control of the House."

KJ

February 12, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)