Bor­der mea­sures part of Trump’s big­ger im­mi­gra­tion crack­down

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY COLLEEN LONG AND AMY TAXIN

The sep­a­ra­tion of fam­i­lies at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der caught the at­ten­tion of the world and prompted mass out­rage, but it only tells a small part of the story sur­round­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

In re­al­ity, the gov­ern­ment is work­ing to har­den the sys­tem on mul­ti­ple fronts to curb im­mi­gra­tion, carv­ing a path around var­i­ous court rul­ings to do so. The ad­min­is­tra­tion is seek­ing to lock up fam­i­lies in­def­i­nitely, ex­pand de­ten­tion space and tighten asy­lum rules and ap­ply more scru­tiny to green card ap­pli­ca­tions.

Many of the ini­tia­tives re­ceived lit­tle at­ten­tion dur­ing the chaos over sep­a­rated fam­i­lies, but they show how de­ter­mined Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is to stop im­mi­grants from com­ing — both legally and il­le­gally — even in cases where the ad­min­is­tra­tion has been stymied by the courts.

Other ad­min­is­tra­tions may have faced sim­i­lar prob­lems with il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and tried sim­i­lar solutions, but all have been un­able to stem the flow of mi­grants stream­ing through south­ern bor­der. No other pres­i­dent, how­ever, has cam­paigned so vo­cif­er­ously on the topic.

“The United States will not be a mi­grant camp and it will not be a refugee hold­ing fa­cil­ity,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­clared days be­fore putting an end to the sep­a­ra­tion of par­ents from their chil­dren. “Not on my watch.”

This week’s head­lines were dom­i­nated by sto­ries of re­unions of im­mi­grant par­ents and their young chil­dren that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had to carry out un­der a court or­der. The White House said it “worked tire­lessly” to com­plete the re­uni­fi­ca­tions and make sure the chil­dren were put back into safe homes.

In the same week, how­ever, the ad­min­is­tra­tion made other moves to clamp down on im­mi­grant fam­i­lies, asy­lum seek­ers and those seek­ing green cards.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­tempts to de­ter Cen­tral Amer­i­can fam­i­lies and chil­dren from mak­ing the trip north are de­signed to send the mes­sage to im­mi­grants — and Trump’s sup­port­ers in an elec­tion year — that reach­ing the United States is go­ing to get harder, and so will get­ting pa­pers to stay in the coun­try legally.

“All of th­ese things, I think, are part of a big­ger ul­ti­mate aim, which is to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce im­mi­gra­tion of all kinds to the United States over the longer term, and in the process, the real de­sire is to change the char­ac­ter of the coun­try,” said Doris Meiss­ner, a for­mer com­mis­sioner of the Im­mi­gra­tion and Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Ser­vice in the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In Europe, the pres­i­dent hasn’t shied away from of­fer­ing his views on the flow of im­mi­gra­tion across the pond. Trump pressed ahead with his com­plaints that Euro­pean im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies are chang­ing the “fab­ric of Europe” and de­stroy­ing Euro­pean cul­ture. He re­it­er­ated a po­si­tion he ar­tic­u­lated in a Bri­tish tabloid where he said: “I think al­low­ing mil­lions and mil­lions of peo­ple to come into Europe is very, very sad.”

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced plans in April to pros­e­cute il­le­gal bor­der crossers with the crime of im­proper en­try, and in do­ing so, jailed some par­ents caught on the bor­der and placed their chil­dren in gov­ern­ment cus­tody. The U.S. gov­ern­ment was sued and the pub­lic was ou­traged, prompt­ing Trump to halt the sep­a­ra­tions.

The chaos over the sep­a­ra­tions has put the ad­min­is­tra­tion in the dif­fi­cult po­si­tion of hav­ing to re­lease fam­i­lies with an­kle­mon­i­tor­ing bracelets into the pub­lic — a prac­tice Trump has de­cried — while at the same time at­tempt­ing a se­ries of le­gal ma­neu­vers to ar­gue for tougher en­force­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

That’s be­cause two court cases in Cal­i­for­nia re­strict what the gov­ern­ment can do in car­ry­ing out hard­line im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies. One re­quires the gov­ern­ment to re­lease im­mi­grant chil­dren gen­er­ally af­ter 20 days in de­ten­tion. The other has banned the sep­a­ra­tion of fam­i­lies and placed the gov­ern­ment un­der tight dead­lines to reunite par­ents and chil­dren.

In an at­tempt to com­ply with both rul­ings, the White House wants to present fam­i­lies with a choice: Stay to­gether in de­ten­tion or re­lease the child to a gov­ern­ment pro­gram for im­mi­grant youth for po­ten­tial place­ment with a rel­a­tive while the par­ent re­mains locked up.

It’s un­clear whether the ad­min­is­tra­tion has enough de­ten­tion beds to do so, but it’s look­ing. Home­land Se­cu­rity has for­mally re­quested 12,000 beds for fam­ily de­ten­tion, with 2,000 beds to be made avail­able im­me­di­ately at U.S. mil­i­tary bases. The De­fense De­part­ment has said it also re­ceived a re­quest to house up to 20,000 un­ac­com­pa­nied im­mi­grant chil­dren.

Of­fi­cials are also seek­ing to send im­mi­grants back to their coun­tries sooner and make it harder for them to seek asy­lum in a back­logged courts sys­tem where it can take years to get a rul­ing.

Asy­lum of­fi­cers tasked with screen­ing im­mi­grants stopped at the bor­der were told this week to heed a re­cent opin­ion by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions that gang and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence should not gen­er­ally be a rea­son for asy­lum — rea­sons cited by many im­mi­grants flee­ing blood­shed in Cen­tral Amer­ica.

The re­sult: fewer im­mi­grants will pass th­ese ini­tial screen­ings that en­able them to seek asy­lum be­fore an im­mi­gra­tion judge, said Megan Brewer, an im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­ney in Los An­ge­les and for­mer asy­lum of­fi­cer.

“If they don’t com­ply, all their de­ci­sions are go­ing to be sent back to them,” she said. “The av­er­age of­fi­cer will go with the path of least re­sis­tance.”

Im­mi­grants in the coun­try legally also face new hur­dles un­der var­i­ous poli­cies.

Since tak­ing of­fice, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has ended pro­tected sta­tus for hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple from coun­tries re­cov­er­ing from war and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, slashed the num­ber of refugees al­lowed into the United States and said it will seek to strip the U.S. cit­i­zen­ship of those sus­pected of cheat­ing to get it. And ap­pli­cants for green cards and other im­mi­gra­tion ben­e­fits are fac­ing longer waits and more de­tailed ques­tions.

Im­mi­gra­tion on the South­west bor­der has changed over the years. Pre­vi­ously, there were far more peo­ple com­ing, with more than five times the num­ber of bor­der pa­trol ap­pre­hen­sions in 2000 than dur­ing the most re­cent fis­cal year. More im­mi­grants also came from Mex­ico than Cen­tral Amer­ica — which made it eas­ier for U.S. au­thor­i­ties to send them back. Far fewer were chil­dren or fam­i­lies.

A num­ber of im­mi­gra­tion ex­perts con­tend the ar­rival of Cen­tral Amer­i­can im­mi­grants on the bor­der is not a cri­sis — ex­cept of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s mak­ing.

Im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates said an­kle bracelets and com­mu­nity-based pro­grams can be used to en­sure im­mi­grants at­tend court hear­ings where a judge will de­ter­mine whether they’re al­lowed to stay in the coun­try or should be de­ported. They said it’s much cheaper and more ap­pro­pri­ate since de­ten­tion isn’t meant to be puni­tive but to en­sure court at­ten­dance.

Rather, they said re­sources should be de­voted to beef­ing up the over­whelmed im­mi­gra­tion court sys­tem to help those gen­uinely flee­ing vi­o­lence get their cases heard quicker and weed out those who aren’t.



Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump


Ni­cole Her­nan­dez, of the Mexican state of Guer­rero, holds onto her mother June 13 as they wait with other fam­i­lies to re­quest po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in the United States in Ti­juana, Mex­ico.

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