At the Border: Families Torn Apart

From Texas Monthly: "What's Really Happening at the Border" -- an interview with Anne Chandler, "executive director of the Houston office of the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center, which focuses on helping immigrant women and children, she has been traveling to the border and to detention centers, listening to the parents’ stories." What they do:

We run the Children’s Border Project, and we work with hundreds of kids that have been released from ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) care. We are not a legal service provider that does work when they’re in the shelters. To date, most of our work with that issue of family separation has been working with the parents in the days when they are being separated: when they’re in the federal courthouse being convicted; partnering with the federal public defenders; and then in the adult detention center, as they have no idea how to communicate or speak to their children or get them back before being deported.


90 percent of those who are being convicted are having their children separated from them. The 10 percent that aren’t are some mothers who are going with their children to the detention centers in Karnes and Dilley. But, for the most part, 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.

She describes the "credible fear" test for asylum:

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.

On Zero Tolerance:

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.

How they get there:

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.

Jeff Sessions is the one who announced the zero tolerance policy. What's happened since?

[I]mmigration attorneys, starting in October, were like, “Oh my goodness. They are telling us these are all criminal lawbreakers and they’re going to have their children taken away.” We didn’t know what it would mean. 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.

Sometimes they lie to the parent, telling them they are just taking their child to bathe them:

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.

The process of taking the kids away on buses to me is reminiscent of Germany in the 1930's and 1940's and Japanese interment camps in the U.S. during WWII. Ms. Chandler continues:

We know from talking to advocates and attorneys who have access to the shelters, that they think that these kids leave in buses to shelters run by the Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement Department of Unaccompanied Children Services—which, on any given day there’s like three thousand kids in the Harlingen-Brownsville area. We know there are eight, soon to be nine, facilities in Houston. And they’re going to open up this place in Tornillo, along the border by El Paso. And they’re opening up places in Miami. They’re past capacity.

There are two child 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. There are attorneys that get money to go in and give rights presentations to let the teenagers know what they can ask for in court, what’s happening with their cases, and now the attorneys are having a hard time doing that because right next to them, in the other room, they’ve got kids crying and wailing, asking for their mom and dad. The attorneys can’t give these kids information...

That this could happen in America is frightening and an unacceptable human rights violation.

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  • Display: Sort:
    This is an insult to humanity. (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by desertswine on Sun Jun 17, 2018 at 01:36:38 PM EST
    Really, I have no words.

    Two (5.00 / 7) (#4)
    by FlJoe on Sun Jun 17, 2018 at 03:02:18 PM EST
    words, ethnic cleansing. I wish the pundits would call it by it's proper name. The ugly has truly settled upon our country.

    Yes (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Ga6thDem on Sun Jun 17, 2018 at 06:23:15 PM EST
    because there are people who are here with protected status from certain countries and Trump revoked their protected status and removed them from the country. The only way to describe people who have lived here a long time with a protected status being removed is ethnic cleansing.

    Thank you for this information, (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by oculus on Sun Jun 17, 2018 at 03:25:30 PM EST

    Urging all to donate to the ACLU.  

    Commentary (5.00 / 4) (#13)
    by FlJoe on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 08:21:09 AM EST
    from the WH:
    tRump- "It's horrible, why are the Democrats   being so mean?"
    Sessions- "it's horrible, but it's God's will"
    Miller- "it's horrible, that's a feature not a bug"
    K Nielsen- "what kids"

    As camps full of children (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 09:30:13 AM EST
    Proliferate at what point do we move past Godwins Law?

    Being subjective I say we are there.


    Jack Boot (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by FlJoe on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 10:06:10 AM EST
    futures are up, way up. Heil tRump

    Way past, Howdy. (5.00 / 4) (#16)
    by caseyOR on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 10:18:58 AM EST
    Way past.

    Godwins Law? (1.00 / 1) (#31)
    by linea on Tue Jun 19, 2018 at 08:47:29 PM EST
    Nope. The Hitler and Nazi comparisons are as hysterical and ridiculous and as they have ever been.

    My opinion.


    STFU (5.00 / 2) (#37)
    by FlJoe on Wed Jun 20, 2018 at 05:46:43 AM EST
    Linea this is our country, and while we have always been far from perfect, this level of callous cruelty is straight out of the beer halls of Munich.

    The language and tactics displayed by tRump and his enablers is probably closer to stage 1 Nazism than any other historical analogue.

    Once again, Linea STFU or go back to the troll farm from whence you came.

    Apropos of nothing

    I stumble into town
    Just like a sacred cow
    Visions of swastikas in my head
    Plans for everyone
    It's in the white of my eyes

    My little China girl
    You shouldn't mess with me
    I'll ruin everything you are
    You know it
    I'll give you television
    I'll give you eyes of blue
    I'll give you a man who wants to rule the world

     RIP David and long may you live Iggy, today I cry for my country with inescapable visions of swastikas in my head.

    You are a God (none / 0) (#32)
    by CaptHowdy on Tue Jun 19, 2018 at 08:50:28 PM EST
    Among insects

    Nazi comparisons (1.00 / 1) (#33)
    by linea on Tue Jun 19, 2018 at 09:09:01 PM EST
    are always bad.

    For example, millions of people in the northern and eastern European countries were murdered, enslaved, and brutalized for 50 years and severely suffered under Soviet Russian domination. In many ways, they suffered more profoundly than the few years of World War 2 under Nazi occupation. But it's different. You can't compare the the Nazi totalitarian regime with the Soviet Russian totalitarian regime. Comparisons don't work and are always misplaced and they always diminish the actual suffering under both regimes.

    My opinion.


    Godwin suspends (5.00 / 3) (#34)
    by leap on Tue Jun 19, 2018 at 10:34:22 PM EST
    Timely (none / 0) (#38)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Jun 20, 2018 at 04:39:25 PM EST
    You don't sht about Nazis. (5.00 / 5) (#35)
    by Chuck0 on Tue Jun 19, 2018 at 10:40:59 PM EST
    Every comparison to Nazis and this administration and how they got here is fair and valid. You seem to only relate to the WWII Nazis. The concentration camp Nazis. Read a friggin book. You know with paper and typography and ink and bindings. Read about the 1930s Nazis. The political Nazis. Tbe party and how it came to power. The big lie. Brilliant and relentless propaganda. A lot happened long before Hitler invaded the Sudetenland and and Poland.

    You know what I was remembering? (5.00 / 3) (#36)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jun 19, 2018 at 11:01:10 PM EST
    There was this General who ran Gitmo, and he got caught in emails trying to defy President Obama's orders about how he could treat Gitmo prisoners. His name was John Kelly.

    Miller is not the only inspiration for this policy.


    We are already beyond (none / 0) (#20)
    by Zorba on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 03:28:03 PM EST
    Godwin's Law.  It's here, definitely here, and anyone who thinks that Trump is doing the right thing is totally complicit in human rights violations.
    And I don't know how they can sleep at night.

    what happened to rules? (1.00 / 7) (#8)
    by thomas rogan on Sun Jun 17, 2018 at 09:03:45 PM EST
    My parents waited six years for a visa and I was born here after they legally immigrated.  My wife's parents waited five years for a visa and did not bring her over as a child until they legally came as a family.
    Everyone knew that Trump would actually enforce immigration laws on January 20, 2017.  If someone brings their family across the border illegally then it's on them.  I suppose in the 1950's an illegally entering family would be instantly deported instead of being allowed to wait for a hearing, and that would prevent family separation, but I don't know if that is what people are asking for here.

    You say (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by MKS on Sun Jun 17, 2018 at 09:19:04 PM EST
    you are a forensic psychiatrist and ask a question like that?

    First, I wonder if you really are a psychiatrist--your posts certainly do not betray such.

    Second, you of course know that your question will not elicit a favorable response here.  But yet, you just had to post a "rules are rules" post and we should punish the children accordingly.  

    Your question is not sincere.  This is trolling.


    Do you really not know (5.00 / 6) (#10)
    by MKS on Sun Jun 17, 2018 at 09:34:08 PM EST
    that rules or laws can constitute Crimes Against Humanity?

    Here, in this case, it is not really a law or even a rule, but just Trump's sadistic interpretation of such to take the children hostages in his attempt to cram down his new immigration law.

    Moreover, our tradition, culture and laws recognize that a country's laws can result in Crimes Against Humanity.  Look it up.


    According to the Nuremberg (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by MKS on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 11:11:01 PM EST
    definition, Trump's policy of separating children from their parents constitutes a Crime Against Humanity.

    So, The Secretary of Homeland Security would appear to have some legal liability.  The Hague should draw up charges.

    Is not committing a Crime Against Humanity a High Crime and Misdemeanor?


    Do you (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 06:00:30 AM EST
    realize that we have different laws for different people regarding immigration? A friend of mine is going through citizenship for her husband from Mexico. If you come from Mexico you have to have a sponsor.

    Not picking on you Ga6thDem but what does (none / 0) (#17)
    by vml68 on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 10:53:38 AM EST
    this mean?

    we have different laws for different people regarding immigration?

    By different people do you mean the category (H1B, Family, etc.) they are applying for their green card?


    Cuban refugees are (none / 0) (#18)
    by MKS on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 11:22:45 AM EST
    treated differently.   Maybe there are other examples too.

    Here in Hawaii, certain requirements have ... (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Jun 19, 2018 at 01:42:32 AM EST
    ... been waived and expedited by DHS and ICE exclusive to our islands regarding entry visas, etc., in order to facilitate the easy entry of Japanese and Chinese tourists into our state. And that's because we're special.

    94 years ago, Congress was passing laws prohibiting Japanese and Chinese from entry into the United States. Now, we apparently can't get enough of them. Ain't it funny, it's all about money.



    Yeah, that's why I asked Ga6thDem what she (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by vml68 on Tue Jun 19, 2018 at 01:38:21 PM EST
    meant. I am no expert on this but everyone in my family is an immigrant and quite a few of my friends are immigrants and we all qualified/applied under different categories.

    As far as I am aware, the requirements for qualifying for a green card/residency depends on the category you are applying under and not your country of origin.
    There are a few exceptions like your Cuban refugees example. They are treated differently than other refugees/asylum seekers.

    The country of origin and speed of approval comes into play depending on category. For eg., India and China have the highest number of applicants for Green Cards. So people from those countries applying for residency under the H1B category even if they fulfill all the requirements (income, assets, job, education, etc.) might potentially have to wait 20 years to get their Green Card. A person from Norway or Iceland applying under an H1B visa might have to wait a year or two.
    The concept is the same as the diversity visa that CST mentioned, the US does not want all immigrants to come from just a handful of countries, so they limit the number of approvals annually from each country.

    On the other hand, a spouse, minor child or parent from India or China, of a US citizen who meets all the requirements could get their Green Card in a year or less. Chain Migration ;-)!

    Since,  Ga6thDem mentioned her friend sponsoring the husband from Mexico, I am assuming that he is trying to qualify under the immediate family category. In that case, his country of origin does not matter, the US citizen spouse/family member always has to sponsor the relative which is why Ga's comment confused me. I am not aware of citizens of Mexico having to jump through any more hoops than people from other countries who are applying under the immediate family category.


    I know that (none / 0) (#19)
    by CST on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 02:04:59 PM EST
    The diversity lottery is only available to people from certain countries.  The requirement is that there can't be a lot of immigrants from that country.  Pretty sure that takes most, if not all, of Latin America off the list.

    According to her (none / 0) (#21)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 03:30:55 PM EST
    the laws to immigrate from Mexico are different than the laws from other countries. I guess it's like MKS says below that the rules are different for people from Cuba. Maybe there's someone here who knows better about all this. I would guess that some that come here are sponsored by employers.

    Requesting Asylum (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by CST on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 07:37:58 AM EST
    Is not illegal.

    O.M.G. (Cue eye roll.) (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 09:29:39 PM EST
    My in-laws, who presently reside in Corpus Christi TX, were undocumented residents for 28 years, until the last round of comprehensive immigration reform afforded them an opportunity to gain citizenship.

    In the meantime, they worked and paid their taxes like any good American resident, and they raised ten children, eight of whom were born in this country, and six of whom served their country in the U.S. military.

    Immigration is not a "one size fits all" proposition. Personally, what I find unconscionable and even offensive about your remarks is that like Sen. Marco Rubio, you are a child of immigrants, yet now that you have yours, wants to raise the drawbridge on everyone who comes after you.

    Have a nice life.


    democracynow.org (none / 0) (#2)
    by linea on Sun Jun 17, 2018 at 02:18:51 PM EST
    Abolish Washington's immigration Gestapo! (none / 0) (#3)
    by Andreas on Sun Jun 17, 2018 at 03:00:24 PM EST
    The WSWS writes:

    The policies of the Trump administration are extensions of the policies of the Democratic Party and the Obama administration. The Democratic Party's role is not one of insufficient opposition but of active involvement in planning and enforcing the anti-immigrant policies Trump is now implementing with unprecedented ferocity.

    The Democrats have not lifted a finger to prevent or even stall the ongoing attack on immigrants, as evidenced by their decision to abandon efforts to protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Trump administration attorneys cite the Obama administration as precedent for each of their xenophobic measures. And in California, a center of the war on immigrants, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown agreed to send the state's national guard to the border with Mexico.

    Abolish Washington's immigration Gestapo!
    Stop the persecution of immigrants!

    My opinion (1.00 / 2) (#6)
    by linea on Sun Jun 17, 2018 at 05:05:26 PM EST
    From your linked article: `the immediate abolition of ICE, CBP and all associated agencies responsible for the deportation of immigrants.'

    Personally, I would first like to see the policy of separating children from mothers stopped. Second on my list would be the eliminatiion of ICE roadside checkponts on public roads (occurring up to 100 miles inside the US border).

    It is my opinion that the current trend to call for the complete elimination of ICE and CBP, the activism for open borders, and the recent seeming defence of MS13, are all anti-Trump overreactions that can only hurt the Dem Party in the 2020 Presidential election.


    "Seeming (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Yman on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 05:49:22 PM EST
    ... the recent seeming defence of MS13, are all anti-Trump overreactions that can only hurt the Dem Party in the 2020 Presidential election.

    Or, just a laughable right-wing talking point.  It is my opinion that no one who is even semi-rational could make the ridiculous claim that Democrats (or anyone) are defending MS13.


    "anti-Trump overreactions" (none / 0) (#22)
    by Andreas on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 03:40:43 PM EST
    Your comment proves again that the Democratic Party is trying to prevent a serious struggle against the far right and fascism.

    The "complete elimination of ICE and CBP, the activism for open borders" are necessary to defend the interests of the American and international working class against capitalism.

    I do not know where you have seen a "recent seeming defence of MS13". But racist demagogy such as that originating from the government does not become progressive when it is attacking such gangs and comparing there members to animals.

    The right wing politics of the Democratic Party has prepared the path for Trump. And now it is moving even further to the right.


    Her comment does not prove (none / 0) (#23)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 04:10:05 PM EST
    anything about the Democrats. It is her opinion, and her opinion almost always differs with the position of other commenters here, as well as with TL's positions.

    That said, Andreas, you have been commenting here longer than Linea, but have been gone for a while. I doubt Linea  knows you are an active member and affiliated with the WSWS (World Socialist Web Site).


    My poor word choice (none / 0) (#27)
    by linea on Mon Jun 18, 2018 at 10:25:22 PM EST
    Sorry. Rather than seeming italicized, a better word choice would have been `mischaracterization.'