What’s Really Happening When Asylum-Seeking Families Are Separated?

the ones that I’ve been working with are the ones that are actually being prosecuted for criminal entry, which is a pretty new thing for our country—to take first-time asylum seekers who are here seeking safe refuge, to turn around and charge them with a criminal offense. Those parents are finding themselves in adult detention centers and in a process known as expedited removal, where many are being deported. And their children, on the other hand, are put in a completely different legal structure. They are categorized as unaccompanied children and thus are being put in place in a federal agency not with the Department of Homeland Security but with Health and Human Services. And Health and Human Services has this complicated structure in place where they’re not viewed as a long-term foster care system—that’s for very limited numbers—but their general mandate is to safeguard these children in temporary shelters and then find family members with whom they can be placed. So they start with parents, and then they go to grandparents, and then they go to other immediate family members, and then they go to acquaintances, people who’ve known the children, and they’re in that system, but they can’t be released to their parents because their parents are behind bars.

.. And we may see more parents that get out of jail because they pass a “credible fear” interview, which is the screening done by the asylum office to see who should be deported quickly, within days or weeks of arrival, and who should stay here and have an opportunity to present their asylum case before an immigration judge of the Department of Justice.

.. So we have a lot of individuals who are in that credible fear process right now, but in Houston, once you have a credible fear interview (which will sometimes take two to three weeks to even set up), those results aren’t coming out for four to six weeks. Meanwhile, these parents are just kind of languishing in these detention centers because of the zero-tolerance policy. There’s no individual adjudication of whether the parents should be put on some form of alternative detention program so that they can be in a position to be reunited with their kid.

.. TM: So, just so I make sure I understand: the parents come in and say, “We’re persecuted” or give some reason for asylum. They come in. And then their child or children are taken away and they’re in lockup for at least six weeks away from the kids and often don’t know where the kids are. Is that what’s happening under zero tolerance?

.. AC: So the idea of zero tolerance under the stated policy is that we don’t care why you’re afraid. We don’t care if it’s religion, political, gangs, anything. For all asylum seekers, you are going to be put in jail, in a detention center, and you’re going to have your children taken away from you. That’s the policy. They’re not 100 percent able to implement that because of a lot of reasons, including just having enough judges on the border. And bed space. There’s a big logistical problem because this is a new policy. So the way they get to that policy of taking the kids away and keeping the adults in detention centers and the kids in a different federal facility is based on the legal rationale that we’re going to convict you, and since we’re going to convict you, you’re going to be in the custody of the U.S. Marshals, and when that happens, we’re taking your kid away. So they’re not able to convict everybody of illegal entry right now just because there aren’t enough judges on the border right now to hear the number of cases that come over, and then they say if you have religious persecution or political persecution or persecution on something that our asylum definition recognizes, you can fight that case behind bars at an immigration detention center. And those cases take two, three, four, five, six months. And what happens to your child isn’t really our concern. That is, you have made the choice to bring your child over illegally. And this is what’s going to happen.

TM: Even if they crossed at a legal entry point?

AC: Very few people come to the bridge. Border Patrol is saying the bridge is closed. When I was last out in McAllen, people were stacked on the bridge, sleeping there for three, four, ten nights. They’ve now cleared those individuals from sleeping on the bridge, but there are hundreds of accounts of asylum seekers, when they go to the bridge, who are told, “I’m sorry, we’re full today. We can’t process your case.” So the families go illegally on a raft—I don’t want to say illegally; they cross without a visa on a raft. Many of them then look for Border Patrol to turn themselves in, because they know they’re going to ask for asylum. And under this government theory—you know, in the past, we’ve had international treaties, right? Statutes which codified the right of asylum seekers to ask for asylum. Right? Article 31 of the Refugee Convention clearly says that it is improper for any state to use criminal laws that could deter asylum seekers as long as that asylum seeker is asking for asylum within a reasonable amount of time. But our administration is kind of ignoring this longstanding international and national jurisprudence of basic beliefs to make this distinction that, if you come to a bridge, we’re not going to prosecute you, but if you come over the river and then find immigration or are caught by immigration, we’re prosecuting you.

TM: So if you cross any other way besides the bridge, we’re prosecuting you. But . . . you can’t cross the bridge.

.. When I was in McAllen, the individuals that day who visited people on the bridge had been there four days. We’re talking infants; there were people breastfeeding on the bridge.

.. And so we saw about six hundred children who were taken away from October to May, then we saw an explosion of the numbers in May. It ramped up. The Office of Refugee Resettlement taking in all these kids says that they are our children, that they are unaccompanied. It’s a fabrication. They’re not unaccompanied children. They are children that came with their parents, and the idea that we’re creating this crisis—it’s a manufactured crisis where we’re going to let children suffer to somehow allow this draconian approach with families seeking shelter and safe refuge.

TM: So what is the process for separation?

.. AC: There is no one process. Judging from the mothers and fathers I’ve spoken to and those my staff has spoken to, there are several different processes. Sometimes they will tell the parent, “We’re taking your child away.” And when the parent asks, “When will we get them back?” they say, “We can’t tell you that.” Sometimes the officers will say, “because you’re going to be prosecuted” or “because you’re not welcome in this country” or “because we’re separating them,” without giving them a clear justification. In other cases, we see no communication that the parent knows that their child is to be taken away. Instead, the officers say, “I’m going to take your child to get bathed.” That’s one we see again and again. “Your child needs to come with me for a bath.” The child goes off, and in a half an hour, twenty minutes, the parent inquires, “Where is my five-year-old?” “Where’s my seven-year-old?” “This is a long bath.” And they say, “You won’t be seeing your child again.” Sometimes mothers—I was talking to one mother, and she said, “Don’t take my child away,” and the child started screaming and vomiting and crying hysterically, and she asked the officers, “Can I at least have five minutes to console her?” They said no. In another case, the father said, “Can I comfort my child? Can I hold him for a few minutes?” The officer said, “You must let them go, and if you don’t let them go, I will write you up for an altercation, which will mean that you are the one that had the additional charges charged against you.” So, threats.

.. AC: In the shelters, they can’t even find the parents because the kids are just crying inconsolably. They often don’t know the full legal name of their parents or their date of birth. They’re not in a position to share a trauma story like what caused the migration. These kids and parents had no idea. None of the parents I talked to were expecting to be separated as they faced the process of asking for asylum.

.. The issue is that the Department of Homeland Security is not the one caring for the children. Jurisdiction of that child has moved over to Health and Human Services, and the Health and Human Services staff has to figure out, where is this parent? And that’s not easy. Sometimes the parents are deported. Kids are in New York and Miami, and we’ve got parents being sent to Tacoma, Washington, and California. Talk about a mess.

.. TM: What agency is in charge of physically separating the children and the adults?

AC: The Department of Homeland Security.

.. We saw the separation take place while they were in the care and custody of Customs and Border Protection. That’s where it was happening, at a center called the Ursula, which the immigrants called La Perrera, because it looked like a dog pound, a dog cage. It’s a chain-link fence area, long running areas that remind Central Americans of the way people treat dogs.

..  So now you’re creating two populations. One is your traditional unaccompanied kids who are just coming because their life is at risk right now in El Salvador and Honduras and parts of Guatemala, and they come with incredible trauma, complex stories, and need a lot of resources, and so they navigate this immigration system. And now we have this new population, which is totally different: the young kids who don’t hold their stories and aren’t here to self-navigate the system and are crying out for their parents.

.. So how long do the kids stay in the facility?

AC: It used to be, on average, thirty days. But that’s going up now.

.. DHS goes to those foster homes and arrests people and puts people in jail and deports them.

Why Trump Is So Angry at His Homeland Security Secretary

Trump has been complaining about her ever since she became head of D.H.S., in December. He didn’t like that she had once served in the Bush Administration, or that Fox News personalities such as Ann Coulter and Lou Dobbs considered her an “open-borders zealot.”

.. illegal border crossings declined, but they began rising last year—as many analysts expected they would, owing to continued violence in Central America.

.. Part of Nielsen’s job also involved talking the President down when he floated his own ideas for curbing immigration, many of which he picked up from Fox News. This didn’t endear her to the President, either.

.. two of her most prominent backers from the Bush Administration—Michael Chertoff, a former head of D.H.S., and Frances Townsend, a former homeland-security adviser at the White House—were part of the “Never Trump” movement.

.. Since John Kelly was a retired four-star general who, at the time, enjoyed good standing with the President, disgruntled immigration hard-liners were reluctant to criticize him; they directed their frustration toward Nielsen, instead.

.. The irony is that, since becoming the D.H.S. Secretary, Nielsen has shown herself to be both an extremely tough-minded enforcer of Trump’s immigration agenda and an enthusiastic spokesperson for his Administration.

.. “You can’t be seen as the lapdog of the White House,” one of them said. “That makes the department into a political football.”

.. Nielsen’s embrace of the President’s rhetoric on immigration had politicized the department’s broader mission.

.. While Trump was questioning Nielsen’s place in his Administration this winter and spring, she was forced to try to prove her loyalty.

.. Earlier this month, D.H.S. and the Justice Department announced a new “zero tolerance” policy at the border, vowing to prosecute all unauthorized border crossers, including asylum seekers, for entering the country illegally. One outgrowth of the policy is that parents and their children will be separated once they’re taken into custody. The Administration initially justified its stance by insisting that breaking up families would act as a deterrent, to scare away other families that might try to cross the border

.. “You have to ask yourself,why is she doing what’s she’s doing?” the official told me. “It’s not because she really wants to do it. It’s all posture.”

.. The border wall was another source of contention. Republicans in Congress skimped on funding it in the omnibus bill earlier this year. “That was an insult to the President,” the official said. “And a lot of that is on Nielsen. It was up to her to convince Congress to fund all this.”

.. there is “a cabal of anti-immigration people sprinkled throughout the government. A lot of them used to work for Jeff Sessions, and they all talked.” This group disliked Nielsen, but she survived, in part, because she has had the support of John Kelly.

.. There are additional similarities in how Kelly and Nielsen have handled confrontations with Trump.

.. Kelly, too, has reportedly threatened to resign at times when he couldn’t corral the President.

.. Nielsen does have some leverage. It will be difficult, if not almost impossible, to find a replacement for her—someone who can both appease the President and get confirmed by the Senate.

.. “The Administration can’t get rid of Nielsen. She doesn’t even have a deputy right now to fill in for her if she leaves.”

Tom Bossert Is Out as White House Homeland Security Adviser

Tom Bossert is leaving as homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, an abrupt departure that comes as President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser moves to establish power.

.. Mr. Bossert’s position was on the same level as that of John Bolton, who just began as national security adviser on Monday. His departure also came days after Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, resigned

.. Mr. Bossert came into the job with high praise from lawmakers from both parties. But after he took the job, current and former staffers at the National Security Council said he repeatedly clashed with former national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, and they said Mr. Bossert failed to develop a cyberstrategy or a counterterrorism policy as planned.

Mr. Bossert is the most recent in a series of staff or administration departures in recent weeks, including

 

.. Mr. Bossert’s departure is likely to empower Mr. Bolton

..  Mr. Bossert’s departure was a sign that Mr. Bolton was quickly moving to consolidate power.

.. “This is an assertion of the primacy of the national security adviser,” the person said.

Another classically ‘Trumpian’ theme is the idea that, while the liberal international order has helped advance U.S. interests in some cases, it has also hurt the United States.

a Trump administration staffer who reviewed a draft of the document—and shared key excerpts with me—describes it as “divorced from the reality” of Trump’s presidency.

.. A few classically Trumpian themes are there—the wall, concern over trade imbalances—but much of the document reflects the values and priorities of the president’s predecessors.

.. These discrepancies render the document practically meaningless—enough so that it’s likely to be “widely ignored,”

.. In the end, Trump’s actions will matter far more than his words. And no matter how much fanfare this strategy document gets, foreign governments will likely continue to take their cues from the president himself.

 .. broken into four pillars:
  1. defending the homeland,
  2. American prosperity,
  3. advancing American influence, and
  4. peace through strength.

.. It was spearheaded by Nadia Schadlow, senior director for strategy on the National Security Council (NSC). Schadlow is regarded as a conservative foreign-policy expert based on her experience in the establishment think-tank world, including stints at the Council on Foreign Relations and the Smith Richardson Foundation. She joined the NSC at Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster’s request

.. a section on promoting the rule of law is undermined by Trump’s own persistent attacks on the U.S. judicial system.

.. Trump’s NSS, like Obama’s, identifies the security of the U.S. homeland, particularly against terrorist threats and weapons of mass destruction, as a priority;

  • both recognize that promoting economic prosperity is core to sustained U.S. global leadership;
  • both highlight the value of preserving an open and liberal international order that has often times benefited the United States; and
  • both underscore the importance of preserving core American principles and values.

.. The draft NSS also highlights “enhanced intelligence sharing domestically and with foreign partners” as a priority for disrupting terror plots. But Trump, through his own words and actions, has done much to undermine these relationships.

.. once accused the British intelligence agency, GCHQ, of helping the Obama administration wiretap Trump when he was running for president

.. He has undermined the rule of law repeatedly, personally attacking specific judges, the federal judiciary more broadly, as well as the FBI, the Justice Department and their leaders, some of whom he picked.

.. there’s been too much in the past year designed to stoke fear and sow schisms to make credible language of unity, however much I do crave such unity.”

.. Another classically ‘Trumpian’ theme is the idea that, while the liberal international order has helped advance U.S. interests in some cases, it has also hurt the United States.