DHS and com­mu­nity part­ners to as­sist mi­grants

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY JULIO MO­RALES Staff Writer

EL CEN­TRO — Lo­cal im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials and com­mu­nity groups are work­ing to­gether to es­tab­lish an e cient and hu­mane way to tem­po­rar­ily as­sist un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants granted re­lease from cus­tody and given no­tices to ap­pear in court.

The col­lab­o­ra­tive e ort is a di­rect re­sult of a re­cent uptick in the num­ber of fam­ily units that im­mi­gra­tion o cials have ap­pre­hended along the South­west bor­der and a sub­se­quent shift in o cials’ de­ten­tion prac­tices.

To date, Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment and Bor­der Pa­trol o cials have met with sev­eral rep­re­sen­ta­tives of lo­cal non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions to at­tempt to de­ter­mine the level of re­sources avail­able to as­sist im­mi­grants re­leased from lo­cal cus­tody.

“As more NGOs hear about what we’re try­ing to do and reach out to us we’ll con­tinue to col­lab­o­rate,” said El Cen­tro Sec­tor As­sis­tant Bor­der Pa­trol Chief David Kim.

The tem­po­rary as­sis­tance from the par­tic­i­pat­ing NGOs would likely come in the form of lo­cal trans­porta­tion, cloth­ing, food and tem­po­rary hous­ing for el­i­gi­ble im­mi­grants.

Typ­i­cally, the fam­ily units that are re­leased from cus­tody un­der al­ter­na­tive de­ten­tion and su­per­vi­sion prac­tices while they await their im­mi­gra­tion court dates have plans to unite with fam­ily or rel­a­tives else­where in the United States, o cials said.

Of­ten, those re­leased from cus­tody have the fi­nan­cial means to unite with fam­ily and spon­sors else­where in the coun­try. The lo­cal col­lab­o­ra­tive e ort would specif­i­cally tar­get those in­di­vid­u­als who may not nec­es­sar­ily have means to ar­range trans­porta­tion out of the county and who are pro­hib­ited from be­ing de­tained in­def­i­nitely, Kim said.

“What we don’t want to do is just turn them out to the streets,” Kim said.

In­stead, Bor­der Pa­trol and ICE have sought to en­list the help of lo­cal NGOs to pos­si­bly pro­vide cer­tain im­mi­grants with help ar­rang­ing trans­porta­tion out of the county, as well as cloth­ing, food and tem­po­rary hous­ing while those ar­range­ments are be­ing made, said Mar­garet Sauza, Sure Helpline Cri­sis Cen­ter ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

“At this point right now it’s just talk, but we may soon have our hands full,” Sauza said.

The lo­cal col­lab­o­ra­tive e ort has been a wel­come respite from the heated rhetoric that of­ten has ac­com­pa­nied dis­cus­sions here and else­where about il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and asy­lum seek­ers, Sauza said.

After hav­ing met with both ICE and Bor­der Pa­trol o cials on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions as part of the ef­fort, Sauza said she was im­pressed with the o cials’ ap­par­ent con­cern for the im­mi­grants’ well-be­ing.

Among those who have pledged ini­tial sup­port are lo­cal church groups and other non-prof­its that are an­tic­i­pat­ing pro­vid­ing lo­cal trans­porta­tion, food, cloth­ing, tem­po­rary hous­ing and pos­si­bly even funds for bus tick­ets, if nec­es­sary, Sauza said.

The meet­ings have also prompted a fundrais­ing e ort to as­sist with meet­ing the mi­grants’ po­ten­tial needs. Those in­ter­ested in mak­ing a do­na­tion can con­tact Sure Helpline or the Calex­ico Brown Bag Coali­tion.

On Mon­day, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­i­ous lo­cal NGOs met with im­mi­gra­tion o cials at El Cen­tro First United Methodist Church to dis­cuss the col­lab­o­ra­tive e ort. The meet­ing was or­ga­nized with the as­sis­tance of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of San Diego and Im­pe­rial Coun­ties.

The in­for­ma­tive meet­ing al­lowed par­tic­i­pants to ask im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials ques­tions about the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion along the South­west bor­der and o cials’ on­go­ing en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties.

The meet­ing also should help clear mis­con­cep­tions about the fully vet­ted im­mi­grants who will po­ten­tially be pro­vided as­sis­tance as part of the col­lab­o­ra­tive e ort, said Pas­tor Ron Gri en.

“The fact that we can com­mu­ni­cate openly and have an un­der­stand­ing of the needs makes it a lot eas­ier for us to get the word out to our com­mu­nity,” Grif­fen said.

Ad­di­tional col­lab­o­ra­tive meet­ings are likely to fur­ther al­low stake­hold­ers to iden­tify ways to stream­line the al­ter­na­tive de­ten­tion process and en­sure vul­ner­a­ble im­mi­grants are safe, said ICE spokes­woman Lau­ren Mack.

“We’re look­ing for­ward to con­tinue to work with the lo­cal NGOs,” Mack said. “We’re hope­ful that they are go­ing to come back and of­fer as­sis­tance in the near fu­ture.”

Such col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts are likely to get un­der­way else­where along the South­west bor­der as the re­sult of ICE re­cently de­cid­ing to no longer con­duct re­views of the post-re­lease plans of fam­i­lies ap­pre­hended, ICE re­ported.

Un­til re­cently, ICE had con­ducted re­views of post-re­lease plans to en­sure im­mi­grants el­i­gi­ble for re­lease had se­cured travel ar­range­ments to reach a fi­nal des­ti­na­tion within the United States.

Those re­views were vol­un­tar­ily cur­tailed on Oct. 23 as a re­sult of a re­ported in­crease in the num­ber of fam­ily units be­ing ap­pre­hended at the South­west bor­der, ac­cord­ing to a writ­ten state­ment from Sarah Ro­driguez, ICE deputy press sec­re­tary.

Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials are pro­hib­ited from de­tain­ing im­mi­grant chil­dren be­yond 20 days as a re­sult of a fed­eral court or­der, re­ferred to as the Flores Set­tle­ment Agree­ment.

“After decades of in­ac­tion by Congress, the govern­ment re­mains se­verely con­strained in its abil­ity to de­tain and promptly re­move fam­i­lies with no le­gal ba­sis to re­main in the U.S.,” Ro­driguez stated. “As a re­sult, fam­ily units con­tinue to cross the bor­der at high vol­umes and are likely to con­tinue to do so, as they face no con­se­quence for their ac­tions.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF EL CEN­TRO SEC­TOR BOR­DER PA­TROL

El Cen­tro Church of Nazarene and Sure Helpline Cri­sis Cen­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tives met with El Cen­tro Sec­tor Bor­der Pa­trol Chief Glo­ria Chavez (left, cen­ter) and ad­di­tional agency per­son­nel Tues­day to dis­cuss pos­si­ble col­lab­o­ra­tive e orts to as­sist cer­tain im­mi­grants who have been re­leased from lo­cal cus­tody.

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