All posts by Ray Garrido

An Asylum Update

Earlier this week we represented a 17 year old girl at her individual hearing before an immigration judge. From the time she was five until she was thirteen her family was persecuted by the country’s security forces, suffering death threats, beatings and rape. Her parents fled to the US with their younger children leaving my client with her grandparents. Her grandparents then let a gang member take her to be his woman. She was 13, he was 22. For the next two and a half years he repeatedly beat and raped her and forced her to work for him. After being hospitalized from her last beating she fled to the US. She was pregnant when she got to the border and gave birth while in detention. The gang member continues to search for her.
We believed that the statutes and case law supported our application for asylum and when we entered the court the ICE attorney praised the quality of our pre-hearing brief and commented that “six months ago this would have been a slam dunk”. What he was referring to was the recent ruling by the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, known as Matter of A-B-. In that ruling he essentially said that victims of gang violence or domestic violence did not deserve asylum. It is a clear example of the inhumanity and flawed legal thinking of this administration.
In the past a case like this would have easily been granted asylum but our immigration judge deferred to the Attorney General’s ruling and ordered this child deported. At the close of the hearing he said it’s unfortunate that bad things happen to nice people.
We will appeal this decision and know that it is the first of many. Most of the cases we represent are for clients who faced similar situations in their home countries. We are working with others around the country through CLINIC and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies to combine cases for litigation against this attack on due process and asylum law.
In the meantime we are getting reports of more young people arriving in our area every day who have fled similar circumstances and who need representation.

The nightmare of family separation

A boy and a father from Honduras are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents June 12 near Mission, Tex. (John Moore/Getty Images)

You have probably been reading or hearing about the thousands of asylum seeking families who are being separated and detained by our government. KIAC is working with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project to recruit volunteers who can help these moms and dads prepare for their asylum interviews – the first step in gaining asylum. This preparation is critical to their having a chance to gain safety from the violence they fled and to be reunited with their children. We will start working with the first family tomorrow and are hoping to recruit several local attorneys to take on other families.

As this cruel situation continues we are striving to do what we can to help. Here in our own community four year old Juan depends on us to represent him in his deportation proceedings. Juan came to the US with his mother, fleeing violence in their home country. They were apprehended at the border and placed in deportation proceedings. In another of the debacles of our “justice” system, Juan’s mom was deported while he was left here with a sponsor. Without our help Juan would be representing himself in his deportation proceedings. Yes, that’s right, even a four year old doesn’t get a legal representative unless they can pay for one or someone volunteers. We went to immigration court with Juan on this last Tuesday and found that the deportation assembly line has been speeded up. Juan will likely be facing an immigration judge at his individual hearing (trial) in September. We will be by his side to ensure that justice is really done.

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Immigrant Mothers Separated From Children Are Being Held in a SeaTac Prison

by Heidi Groover • Jun 7, 2018 at 3:19 pm || The Stranger

The Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, where immigration lawyers say asylum seekers are being held. FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS

The Trump administration’s latest crackdown on immigrants has reached the Northwest.

Seattle area immigration lawyers say the Department of Homeland Security may have transferred more than 100 people seeking asylum, including women who were separated from their children at the southern border, to the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac. UPDATE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed to The Stranger that the agency is transferring detainees to federal prisons, including the facility in SeaTac. The agency has entered an agreement with the Bureau of Prisons to access 209 beds at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center. Asked whether that means 209 detainees have in fact been transferred to SeaTac, ICE spokesperson Danielle Bennett said, “I don’t have any additional info on that.” In total, ICE will now have access to more than 1,600 beds in five federal prisons across the country. Bennett said the move was due to “the current surge in illegal border crossings and implementation of the U.S. Department of Justice’s zero-tolerance policy.” The agency intends to use the federal prisons as “a temporary measure until ICE can obtain additional long-term contracts for new detention facilities” or until a decline in border crossings, Bennett said.

Staff at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project are still working to understand the exact situations of the detainees in SeaTac. They have spoken to several asylum seekers at the facility and are currently working to talk with more, said NWIRP Legal Director Matt Adams. Based on what they know so far, they believe the inmates were first detained in Texas. There, NWIRP staff believe they were separated from their children, charged with unlawful entry (a federal misdemeanor), and sentenced to time served. Rather than being released to continue the asylum seeking process, they were recently transferred to SeaTac and remain detained.

The three women NWIRP staff have spoken to so far are from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Their children are 15, 16, and 11.

The Trump administration has instituted a “zero tolerance” policy on families who enter the country illegally. That has resulted in parents being detained in federal prisons while their children are sent separately to shelters.

Simultaneously, the government has begun holding people seeking asylum from violence in their home countries in prison. That has drawn legal challenges from the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups. The ACLU is also challenging the process of separating parents from their children.

Much of this crackdown has played out on the southern border. The asylum seekers at SeaTac are “the first group we’ve seen [in the Seattle area] that have been affected by the administration’s new policy,” Adams said. A representative for the Federal Detention Center did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

NWIRP staff have spoken with three women at the facility, each of whom described being separated from their children in Texas and then transferred to SeaTac. The women also shared what they know about other detainees, Adams said. The women said they were part of a group of 60 women. NWIRP believes there is a second group of 60 people being held in another part of the detention center. NWIRP staff planned to meet with nine more detainees today, Adams said.

“The women we talked to didn’t even know where their children were,” Adams said. “That is what is brand new: this naked display of power by the government, using the misery of separating families in order to deter other asylum seekers from trying to come to the United States.”

Adams said it is “very unusual” that the asylum seekers were transferred to SeaTac instead of to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. That also makes it more difficult to reach them and learn about their conditions. NWIRP does not have the same presence at the SeaTac facility as it does at the 1,500-bed Tacoma detention center, which holds immigrants facing deportation. There, NWIRP regularly conducts legal trainings and works with immigrants on their cases. The organization first learned of the women at the facility in SeaTac through a lawyer who worked on their cases in Texas.

“They’re kind of hidden away there,” Adams said. “They were not getting access to the services that we provide.”

Adams said NWIRP may release more information about the detainees in coming days after learning more.

The Mexican Revival of Small-Town America

Around half of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania residents are from Mexico and they’ve contributed significantly to the economy and vibrancy of this community.  Anti-immigrant conservative America is shooting America in the foot with its exclusionary policies and practices. 

The Mexican Revival of Small-Town America

By Alfredo Corchado |
The New York Times Opinion Section
Mr. Corchado is the Mexico border correspondent for The Dallas Morning News.

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. — Amid all the anti-immigrant fervor, nativists have overlooked a fundamental fact: In recent years, Mexican immigrants and their Mexican-American offspring have been rescuing the most iconic places in America — its small towns.

In the past 10 years, the number of Mexican immigrants living in the United States has declined by more than one million; some left by choice but tens of thousands more left through deportation. Americans who dream of an America without Mexicans should consider Kennett Square.
A town of more than 6,000 people, about an hour outside Philadelphia, Kennett Square proudly calls itself the mushroom capital of the world. The $2.7 billion mushroom industry in southeastern Pennsylvania employs 10,000 people. On New Year’s Eve, Kennett Square drops a bright mushroom cap. These days the festivities are overshadowed by fear.
“Mexicans are leaving, and that’s bad news for everyone,” Chris Alonzo, president of Pietro Industries, one of the biggest mushroom companies, and a third-generation mushroom farmer, told me. “All the negativity, the fearmongering, the anti-immigrant feeling is hurting our small town. We’re seeing labor shortages, and that threatens the vibrancy of our community.”
Kennett Square isn’t an anomaly. Across the country, cities of all sizes are coping with the loss of immigrant labor, but the impact is felt strongest in small-town America. From the meatpacking plants of Lincoln, Neb., to the service industry in Lake Geneva, Wis., immigrants and their employers are increasingly nervous. It may get worse if the trend continues. The birthrate in the United States has dropped to a 30-year low. Rumors of the presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents force immigrants to plan for the worst.
In Lake Geneva, I heard a longtime gardener talking to his family of four, half of them living without proper work documents. Should he and his wife be deported, he told their children, they must continue the family landscaping business. If not, their livelihood was at stake.
Overall, immigrants have helped both wealthy and poorer rural towns cope with an aging, declining population. They’ve rescued abandoned communities, some that had been losing population since the 1920s. Immigrants make up 13 percent of the national population and 16 percent of the labor force, but they constitute 18 percent of small-business owners, according to one of the most comprehensive reports on the subject, which was done by the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative. Nationally, immigrant-owned small businesses employ 4.7 million people and, according to the report, generate $776 billion in receipts.
In the Midwest, immigrant renewal includes neighborhoods overrun by heroin and meth addiction. These same illegal drugs fuel violence in the hometowns of these immigrants back in Mexico.
Trouble back home resonates here in Kennett Square. When I discovered the quaint town by chance on an early wintry evening in the 1980s, the men were just lonely workers, coming mostly from the central Mexican state of Guanajuato. I was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal looking for a story.
Then and now, the most compelling sight in the town was its white steeple church. The town was part of the land owned by William Penn, the Quaker who also founded Pennsylvania. In the background, the music from Los Bukis, a Mexican band, played, as we gathered outside one of the shacks, next to a fire, waiting for grilled cabrito (goat), tortillas and jalapeños. I was appalled by their poor living conditions — rundown trailers and outhouses tucked into the landscape, as if they weren’t part of the town.
The men talked about leaving. They didn’t integrate, much less assimilate. Most were desperate to reunite with their families back home. Thanks to President Ronald Reagan’s landmark Immigration Reform and Control Act, though, an estimated 2.7 million people were legalized beginning in 1986, enabling Mexicans and other immigrants to roam freely in greater numbers in search of opportunities.
In Kennett Square, instead of leaving as they had originally hoped, the men saw the value in an industry that provided year-round work. In rural America they saw the ideal place to raise a family. Today, about half of Kennett Square’s residents are Hispanic, of whom an estimated 80 percent are Mexican, according to La Comunidad Hispana, which provides medical, educational and legal services for immigrants.
For more than three generations, the newcomers have contributed to the renewal of Kennett Square. Some Mexican immigrants have started their own mushroom farms. Some own hair salons. Others own Mexican grocery stores. There’s even a taco war, as locals debate who makes the best tacos: Are they downtown or in nearby Avondale? Hundreds of children are now high school graduates, and many went on to earn college degrees.
“The Mexicans changed the community for the better,” Loretta Perna, program coordinator of the Walk in Knowledge Program at Kennett High School, told me. “They became part of not just the mushroom community but part of the overall community, bringing color, richness to an otherwise bland life.”
One of Ms. Perna’s students is Sofia Soto, 18, daughter of Jaime Aguilera, a veteran mushroom worker who built his own landscaping business. Mr. Aguilera now sits in a detention center, waiting for an immigration judge to decide his fate, that of his family and in a more general sense, the future of his adopted hometown. Ms. Soto, like her two siblings and her mother, is an American. She’s determined to attend West Chester University this fall, a promise she made to her father. But she said: “If he’s deported, it won’t be easy. He’s my inspiration.”
Such stories worry Mr. Alonzo, the mushroom grower. Workers aren’t applying for jobs. In fact, many of them avoid walking or driving in town, afraid of giving authorities any reason to check their documents.
Surprisingly, on my most recent visit, some of the newcomers were Central American. At first glance, the immigrant story seemed to be repeating itself. But with the climate of fear, Mr. Alonzo isn’t so sure. “If this continues,” he told me, “the vibrancy of this small, rural community will be gone.”
Alfredo Corchado (@ajcorchado) is the Mexico-border correspondent for The Dallas Morning News and the author, most recently, of “Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration.”