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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Helping Trump Deport Immigrants Is Just Another Perk Of Your Amazon Prime Subscription

HuffPost (Opinion) Helping Trump Deport Immigrants Is Just Another Perk Of Your Amazon Prime Subscription

By Juan Escalante

It’s not news that the administration has amped up its anti-immigration efforts in President Donald Trump’s second year in office. But he and his White House aren’t the only ones responsible for building the machinery and procedures that arrest, detain and deport undocumented immigrants and their families in the U.S.

Prominent immigration advocates and avid politicos are quick to point out that Trump is only using the features and functions of the same deportation machine that President Barack Obama ― who was labeled the deporter in chief toward the end of his administration ― built over his two terms. And while it’s true that Obama was responsible for some of the most aggressive immigration enforcement tactics this country has ever seen, we now have a whole new group of actors in the game seeking to profit.

Immigration is fast becoming what TechCrunch calls the “hottest new space to disrupt” in the tech industry, with companies lining up to develop applications and software for law enforcement agencies. And if that doesn’t sound troubling to you, then consider how two companies in particular are trying to provide the government with newer and more aggressive tools to aid the Trump administration’s efforts.

Multiple media outlets reported in October that online retail giant Amazon pitched its facial recognition software to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to help the agency “accomplish its mission to protect the United States from cross-border crimes and illegal immigration that threaten national security and public safety,” agency spokesman Matthew Bourke said. The software, called Rekognition, which the ACLU raised concerns about in May over its potential to automate mass surveillance, has not been submitted for review at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This means there’s a strong possibility Amazon’s software could prompt racial bias against or false identification of those scanned by it. In the case of immigration efforts, this means the wrong people ― whether undocumented immigrants or not ― could be detained by ICE agents.

Of course, government agencies have been using mass surveillance technology on Americans for decades. But this Amazon move feels different. Maybe it’s because the same company you’re trusting to deliver the gifts you bought for your loved ones this holiday season wants to turn around and aid the Trump administration’s unshackled deportation force. But perhaps that’s just yet another perk of your Prime membership?

Americans need to start weighing just how much privacy, security and data they’re willing to surrender to the government’s never-ending war on immigrants and refugees.

And Amazon is only one example of big tech trying to infiltrate the immigration landscape. Tech media outlet The Verge reported at the beginning of this year that ICE collaborated with a contractor called Vigilant Solutions to help the agency track down the residences and workplaces of individual immigrants using its license plate recognition software. In July 2018, The Verge reported that license plate images of cars parked in California shopping centers were being collected and supplied to federal immigration enforcement agencies in hopes of mapping “every place a given license plate has been spotted in the last five years.”

ICE claimed it has no intention to “collect nor contribute any data to a national public or private database through this contract.” But given the agency’s poor record in following protocol (like entering homes without warrants), coupled with lack of federal oversight (Congress hasn’t reviewed ICE’s policies and behavior in years), who on earth would take it at its word? I mean, what could go wrong if a federal agency that has attempted to deport U.S. citizens and abused immigrant detainees is given the technology to track and recognize any immigrant it seeks to deport (or worse, any immigrant it wishes to retaliate against)?

Americans need to start weighing just how much privacy, security and data they’re willing to surrender to the government’s never-ending war on immigrants and refugees ― and how doing so affects (unintentionally or otherwise) the rest of this country’s citizenry. The Department of Homeland Security already uses patchy-at-best software to verify whether immigrants are eligible to work in the U.S., and ICE often utilizes biometric information that has, on more than one occasion, caused officials to nab the wrong suspect. Both of these technological so-called solutions are far from perfect and have been known to incriminate U.S. citizens. But they’ve yet to be adequately fixed. This should raise red flags for all of us when the same federal agencies start seeking supposedly newer and greater tech in the name of making their jobs easier and keeping our communities more secure.

Employees, shareholders and you, the customers of these companies, should be the first to repudiate these attempts to make a quick buck (or million) off the hard-working immigrant families who call this country home. After the new session of Congress kicks off early next year, during every applicable committee hearing, tough questions should be raised regarding the application of and the expenditures related to any technology that ICE acquires before the agency enters into additional agreements with technology companies or its budget is increased. This kind of invasive technology has no place in the hands of power-hungry federal agents who have proved time and again that they are determined to deport immigrants at any cost.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Life in Tijuana Means Negotiating ‘La Linea,’ an Always Present Wall

By Elisabeth Malkin

TIJUANA, Mexico — A neighbor of Esther Arias is building a new fence — a very high one — and the construction is taking a bit of a toll.

“Sorry about the mess,” she said, waving at the scrap metal strewn over her back patio, the remnants of the neighbor’s old fence that was taken down to make room for the new one.

Ms. Arias did not seem too bothered by the disruption, but even if she had been inclined to fight, a battle would have been hopeless.

She lives right on the border in Tijuana, Mexico, and her neighbor is known to have a lot of power: It’s the United States government.

United States Customs and Border Protection officials promised she would not be disturbed while the work was being done, she said, adding, “I respect them and they respect me.”

Tijuana is wedged hard against the straight line drawn in 1848 to divide Mexico and California. The city’s urban sprawl now extends some 15 miles east from the Pacific Ocean to the spot where the last houses seem to scatter into the scrub land.

There, the border wall stops short, like a book snapped shut, as the dividing line begins to rise into rugged mountains.

Of all the houses along the border, the cement house where Ms. Arias, 52, raised five children may be pressed up closest of all to the barricade that now defines the border. The United States fence does double-duty as her patio fence.

Subscribe for original insights, commentary and discussions on the major news stories of the week, from columnists Max Fisher and Amanda Taub.

But the divide wasn’t always so stark.

For a long time, the barrier was more of an afterthought, at its most formidable points just some barbed-wire strung between posts. Then in the early 1990s, the United States used Vietnam War-era steel helicopter landing mats to build a wall.

Over the years, that first wall, now splashed with murals, has metastasized.

A second fence stretches behind most of it, and between the two lies a no man’s land of cameras, sensors and floodlights.

This year the border agency began to replace the old metal wall. The new sections, between 18 and 30 feet high, are built of closely spaced steel posts topped with a steel plate designed to deter climbers.

Despite these changes, ask almost anyone in Tijuana about the wall, or “la linea,” and you are likely to be met with a shrug: The wall is always present, but not a preoccupation.

“We live very comfortably here,” said Elizabeth Quintana, 73, who runs a small restaurant from her house on a dead-end street that runs into the wall.

When she moved to Tijuana’s Libertad neighborhood in 1972, the border was just a few shin-high cement markers. Her only complaint about the giant steel bars that mark the line these days: To install them, she said, “they pulled up all the trees.”

Daily life in Tijuana is defined less by the wall as an impenetrable obstacle than by the ebb and flow of movement across it — or, for many, the distant hope for such a journey.

As many as 150,000 people travel north toward San Diego on foot or in cars every day through two border crossings. Thousands of trailers roll through a separate crossing, carrying Mexican-made goods on their way to American stores and factories.

This passage is a daily ritual for many who are United States citizens, or Mexican citizens with green cards or visas that allow them to move freely.

The first commuters arrive hours before dawn, their cars rolling forward along two dozen parallel lanes at the San Ysidro crossing as drivers check email, apply makeup, knit or extend a hand to caress a child snoozing under blankets, bound for school in the United States.

“How do I feel?” said Asheila Ramírez, 40, who shuttles several times a week between her aunt’s house in Chula Vista, Calif., where she works cleaning houses and driving for Uber, and her mother’s house in Tijuana.

“It’s normal for me,” she said. “Really, I’m used to it.”

On their way, these commuters pass vendors selling fruit drinks, churros and burritos, amputee beggars on crutches and merchants hawking religious trinkets.

“I live here,” said José Felix, 49, who drives a cab in California. “I pay my taxes over there.”

The dream of finding a way into the United States to escape poverty, violence and persecution has for decades drawn people to Tijuana from all over Mexico and Central America, and as far away as West Africa.

Some hope to be granted asylum or to enter through a different legal route; a good many will pay smugglers to take them across.

While these migrants are always a presence in the city, every so often, they burst into public attention, as they have in past weeks with the arrival of more than 6,000 Central Americans traveling in a caravan from Honduras.

Their long journey was halted by the wall, and their increasingly desperate situation underscored just how jarring the disconnect is between those who can cross and those who are blocked.

One recent morning, as these migrants lined up to put their names on a waiting list for an asylum interview, a group of day-trippers who arrived on foot from San Diego to begin a Tijuana tour snapped photos of the weary queue.

Then there are moments of genuine menace along the border.

The arrival of the migrant caravan spurred border agents to full readiness.

Dressed in riot gear, they have held several training exercises at the San Ysidro and the Otay Mesa ports of entry in recent days.

On a Sunday in November, several hundred migrants tried to cross the border en masse. The Mexican federal police barricaded the crossing and pushed them back as United States border agents fired tear gas from behind the wall.

While that push for the border played out before the international news media, crossing the border illegally is largely a matter of stealth.

Late one recent afternoon in Tijuana, smugglers could be spotted using four homemade ladders to ferry a couple of migrants up and down both walls in the deceptive light of dusk.

As a border patrol car approached, one of the smugglers, in the no man’s land, darted up a ladder, swung himself over the wall and climbed down back into Mexico.

An officer removed the ladders the smuggler had left behind, but everyone knew they would soon be replaced.

Such elements of the absurd are inescapable here.

A few years ago a Japanese art collective built a treehouse above Ms. Arias’s back patio with a view over the border wall.

The artists gave a cheeky name to their project, where Ms. Arias’s grandchildren now play, looking out over a country they never visit: U.S.A. Visitor Center.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Trump demands border wall money; shutdown showdown nears

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — President Donald Trump said Friday that Congress should provide all the money he wants for his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall, and he called illegal immigration a “threat to the well-being of every American community.”

Trump spoke hours after signing a short-term spending bill that covers key government departments for two more weeks, until Dec. 21, setting up a pre-Christmas showdown over the wall.

The president wants the next spending package to include at least $5 billion for the proposed wall. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California rejected that a day earlier.

At an appearance in Kansas City, Missouri, Trump accused Democrats of playing a political game, and said it was one that he ultimately would win.

“Congress must fully fund border security in the year-ending funding bill,” Trump said as he helped close the 2018 Project Safe Neighborhoods law enforcement conference, which was sponsored by the Justice Department. “We have to get this done.”

“They’re playing games,” he said of Democrats. “They’re playing political games. I actually think the politics of what they’re doing is very bad for them. We’re going to very soon find out. Maybe I’m not right. But usually I’m right.”

He also said money for a program that encourages federal, state and local authorities to collaborate on crime-fighting strategies was increased by $50 million this year. The president said he will ask Congress for more money next year, but didn’t say how much.

Trump said his administration is giving law enforcement officials the resources they need to do their jobs. He said there are more than 200 new violent crime prosecutors nationwide and cities have access to $600 million worth of surplus military equipment.

Introducing Trump was acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Trump announced before leaving Washington that he planned to nominate William Barr, who was attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, to again lead the Justice Department.

The short-term spending bill avoided a partisan fight that had been expected this week as Washington. It was put on hold for ceremonies honoring Bush, who died Nov. 30.

Trump is set to meet Tuesday at the White House with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Republicans control the House and Senate now, but Democrats will retake the majority in the House in January after midterm election victories last month.

The president said the money he is demanding from Congress would fully pay for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, attorneys, detention beds and the border wall, which he said is needed “more than ever.”

Trump has been agitated by multiple caravans of Central American migrants that have made their way to the U.S.-Mexico border. Several times he has threatened to seal off entry into the U.S. He claims many of the migrants are criminals or individuals unwanted in the U.S.

“Every American citizen is entitled to a safe community and a secure border,” Trump said.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Victorina Morales Spoke Out Against President Trump. What Price Will She Pay?

By Miriam Jordan

Victorina Morales, a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., disclosed in an interview with The New York Times this week that she had been working illegally at the facility for more than five years.

Ms. Morales, 45, a Guatemalan immigrant, entered the United States at the California border without inspection in 1999 and settled in Bound Brook, N.J., a community that is about a 20-minute drive from Mr. Trump’s flagship golf club.

Before working there, she packed Huggies disposable diapers, Dove soap and Neutrogena products at a warehouse and cleaned bathrooms at a hotel.

At the Trump golf course, Ms. Morales was often called on to clean Mr. Trump’s private residence. She said he was demanding in terms of cleanliness, but also friendly, sometimes handing out tips of $50 or $100. But she said a supervisor often taunted her about her undocumented status, and she was deeply disturbed when Mr. Trump began publicly railing against undocumented immigrants from Latin America, often characterizing them as criminals.

She described how supervisors at the golf club were not only aware of her undocumented status, but took steps to help keep her and others at work. A manager, she said, helped her procure a phony green card and Social Security card.

On Friday, Ms. Morales, who has now appeared on nearly every major television network, said she was uncertain what the future would bring. “The truth is I’m sad, I feel bad,” she said. “Many people are pointing their finger at me. But I don’t regret what I did.”

Ms. Morales has said she thinks it best that she not return to the club, where she would most likely be immediately fired. The Trump Organization, which owns the golf club, said in a statement Thursday that any employee found to be working without legal authorization would be “immediately terminated.”

She and a second woman who came forward, Sandra Diaz, who was undocumented at the time she worked at the golf club between 2010 and 2013, have been in New York with their lawyer, Anibal Romero, who is trying to make sure they suffer no reprisals. Ms. Diaz is now a legal resident of the United States, but Ms. Morales is more vulnerable.

Any undocumented person can be deported if they are encountered by federal immigration authorities. If a full state and federal investigation is conducted, there are protections that should kick in for Ms. Morales because she came forward with information that raises credible questions of civil and criminal violations by the Trump Organization, according to lawyers.

She and other undocumented workers at Bedminster could be granted visas that protect victims of crime and trafficking as well as witnesses. This means they would not be viewed as perpetrators of illegal activity at the club; their employer would be.

“There are serious questions that need to be fully investigated by federal and state authorities,” said David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, who practices in Cleveland.

“The allegations that someone inside the organization procured false documents for its workers suggest a level of coercion over these workers, which is precisely what federal law protects them from,” Mr. Leopold said. “You can’t hire someone and coerce them to continue working for you.”

Mr. Romero has filed a petition seeking asylum for Ms. Morales and her family. About five years ago, she said, her father-in-law was hacked with a machete by a group of men who invaded his home in Guatemala to extort money they assumed he possessed because he had family members in the United States. They then dragged him to a field and fatally shot him. The assault happened in front of her son, Marvin Gonzalez, when he was a child.

That could give her family some basis for protection under asylum laws, though it is by no means guaranteed.

Ms. Morales has an interview on her asylum petition scheduled for Dec. 17 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. But Mr. Romero said that he plans to request a postponement because the attention generated by her revelations has changed her profile and hampered their ability to prepare appropriately.

“We need more time,” Mr. Romero said. “Experts, psychologists will be required for the case. She is now a public figure in the United States. That puts her more at risk of returning to Guatemala than before.”

Even if Ms. Morales is placed in removal proceedings, the asylum application buys her time. If asylum is denied, Mr. Romero said that he would appeal to an immigration judge. “I can go all the way to the Supreme Court,” he said.

Ms. Morales and Ms. Diaz insist they were not the only undocumented employees at the golf club, but the women said Friday that three co-workers have told them that work there had been continuing as usual.

Ms. Morales received a call from the housekeeping supervisor but did not take the call.

She said she was not certain what she would do next. She has a second job cleaning offices at night, and hopes to continue working there.

A large number of people have spoken out on her behalf on social media; one started a GoFundMe campaign.

“This is a five-foot Guatemalan woman who stood up to the most powerful man in the world,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a national immigration advocacy group. “She exposed the hypocrisy of a president who rails against undocumented workers and then has what appears to be a criminal operation to do that at Bedminster.”

There are nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. About 8 million of them, the overwhelming majority, have jobs. They are vital to industries such as agriculture, hospitality and construction.

Companies in several sectors have been calling for years for Congress to pass immigration reform legislation that would offer some form of legalization to longtime undocumented residents.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Monday, December 10, 2018

Working While They Wait, Migrants Seek Jobs at US Border

December 07, 2018

TIJUANA, Mexico — Before dawn each morning, migrants slip away from a Tijuana shelter within sight of the U.S. border to head to jobs across this sprawling city. Moving solo or in pairs, they are easily recognized by their determined strides as people with someplace to be.

By sunrise, another crowd has gathered at a corner near the shelter to wait for job offers. On a recent morning, a dozen migrants scrambled into the bed of a Dodge pickup, their enthusiasm bringing a chuckle from the driver. The migrants didn’t even know where they were going or when they’d be back — some carried bedrolls — but said the work would be peeling tomatoes.

Facing a likely months-long wait in Tijuana before even getting the chance to request asylum in the United States, many migrants are looking for work. Others who have already decided to stay in Mexico have applied for, and in some cases received, permits to work in Mexico. It’s something the Mexican authorities have encouraged all the migrants to do in the hopes that jobs will help them put down roots here rather than crossing into the U.S.

In most cases the migrants are relieved to have something that takes them away from the miserable conditions in the overcrowded shelter, where the hours pass slowly, and puts some money in their pockets.

“Here you make a little money,” said Nelson David Landaverde, a 21-year-old Honduran who was out looking for food for his 16-month old son when someone approached and asked if he wanted to work at a car wash. He didn’t think twice. He and his pregnant wife have put their names on an informal list of thousands of potential applicants for asylum in the U.S., but in the meantime he’s eager to earn money to make their lives a little easier in Tijuana.

The job pays about 75 cents per car, and by washing as many as 10 cars on a good day he hopes to take in more than Mexico’s minimum wage, which is less than $5 a day.

While authorities have closed the shelter near the border and relocated many of the migrants to another more distant shelter, hundreds have refused to leave the old one and are camped outside. The reason many give is that they have found jobs nearby.

Marco Rosales, a Honduran immigrant who has lived in Tijuana for eight years, stood in the street surrounded by Central American migrants eager for his job advice.

“Don’t come here with the mentality of Honduras,” he said. “This is a new country, a new state where you can change yourself if you want to.”

He only had room that morning for a handful to work at another nearby car wash, but he was sure he could find work for more later if they were willing.

“I’m trying to explain to them that you’ll get ahead doing things the right way,” he said, when asked why he had urged them to work instead of joining a march to the border. “If we do things the wrong way we’re not going to get anywhere. If they want to march to close the border it’s not going to accomplish anything.”

At a downtown location migrants were gathered to start the paperwork to apply for temporary visas in Mexico that would allow them to work legally. Once they get their Mexican identification numbers they can meet with recruiters for assembly plants, where turnover is high and jobs are always available.

Baja California state officials say they have identified thousands of jobs that the migrants could apply for.

Fernando Hernandez said he had just arrived in Tijuana a day earlier, but was there to find work while he awaited a chance to enter the U.S.

“If we can cross (to the U.S.), we cross, but if not, you’ve got to work in the meantime,” said the 24-year-old who has worked in warehouses in his native Honduras.

Attendance at a job fair set up to help the migrants find work has surged since a Nov. 25 march on the U.S. border devolved into chaos when some migrants breached the border and U.S. agents responded by firing tear gas into Mexico. Before the march, only about 100 migrants were showing up each day, a number that has grown to 400-plus or more since.

Among those who have taken advantage of work opportunities in the city is Jared Carnales, who walked purposefully through downtown Tijuana’s darkened but still lively streets, his red wind breaker zipped up against the pre-dawn chill, his red baseball cap pulled low.

The 23-year-old from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, didn’t look at the people still chatting loudly around bar entrances or staggering down the sidewalk. Carnales was on his way to work in a Mexican restaurant across town where the specialty was tripe stew. He didn’t know the name of the restaurant’s street or even the neighborhood, but he had memorized the route.

He waited for 10 minutes on a corner outside a 7-Eleven for a commuter bus, letting several buses pass in order to save 15 cents before boarding the cheapest one available. Carnales, who drove a bus in Honduras’ capital, said transportation in Tijuana was about twice as expensive.

After a 15-minute ride, Carnales got off in a hillside neighborhood and set off walking. Across the street from the restaurant he knocked on the steel door of another of Tijuana’s many shelters. Arriving a couple days ahead of the caravan, he had spent his first couple nights there. That was how he found his job at the restaurant. He left his possessions with someone at the shelter for safekeeping each day while he worked. A Guatemalan couple he met on the long trek to Tijuana saved him a space to sleep under a tarp back at the shelter near the border, but he always took his bags with him.

The restaurant was already humming with activity at 6 a.m. The staff jockeyed for position in front of a mirror adjusting their uniforms and fixing their hair. Pop music blared as Carnales pulled on his work shirt and tied a bandanna around his head.

He took his position in a corner of the kitchen and began pulling tripe from a bin. He dunked them in water, wrung them dry and scraped them on the counter.

Carnales had thought of leaving Honduras for a long time, but the caravan gave him the first opportunity. He said he wanted to make it to the U.S. to work so he could help out his mother and siblings back home, but for now Tijuana was OK.

“There’s work here,” he said. “I’ll spend some time here and then go there.”

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Immigration Is A Public Health Issue, But Not For The Reasons Some Politicians Claim

By Carolina Moreno

As the United States and other global powers discuss immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees through a purely political lens ― implementing policies, physical structures, and restrictions to deter migrants from coming into their countries ― global experts are urging policymakers to rethink restrictions placed on immigrants’ access to health care.

That’s the purpose of a report released this week by the University College London-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health ― a group of 20 experts from 13 countries, including the U.S., who have spent the last two years analyzing past evidence and gathering new data on the subject.

“[It’s] about positioning health within the migration debate ― to make the migration agenda more human and people-centered,” Dr. Mesfin Tessema, senior director of health at the International Rescue Committee, told HuffPost.

Tessema, who was not part of the commission, will be presenting the report’s findings and recommendations to improve the public health response to migration at the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Conference on the Global Compact for Migration in Marrakech, Morocco, this weekend.

Contrary to stereotypes that migrants are a burden on public health services and are bringing diseases with them ― a narrative that’s been repeatedly perpetuated in the United States by President Donald Trump, conservative news commentators and, most recently, Fox News host Tomi Lahren while discussing the migrant caravan at the U.S.-Mexico border this week ― the commission found no evidence that migrants pose a risk to public health in their new country. Instead, they were shown to be generally healthier than non-migrant populations and to contribute positively toward the nation’s sustainable development.

Every time you make immigration policy more punitive or increase the chances of deportation, you’re driving immigrants away from seeking health services.”
Megan McLemore, senior health researcher at Human Rights Watch
In the United States, specifically, research has found that immigrants payed more toward medical expenses than they withdrew, meaning they were a “low-risk pool that subsidized the public and private health insurance markets,” according to a Harvard Medical School and Tufts University report released in August. That same report also found that immigrants made up 12 percent of the population but only accounted for 8.6 percent of total U.S. health care spending.

But despite their contributions to the country, immigrants in the United States face significant barriers to health care. Megan McLemore, senior health researcher at Human Rights Watch, told HuffPost that legal immigrants often struggle to access health care due to a five-year delay in being able to apply for Medicaid, and because undocumented immigrants living in the United States often avoid preventive care for fear of deportation, ultimately relying on emergency health services. “It’s a public health issue,” she said.

Terry McGovern, co-author of the UCL-Lancet report and chair of Columbia University’s Heilbrunn Department of Population & Family Health told HuffPost, “One interesting thing to note is that the immigrant health of Latinos, for example, often declines in the U.S. due to poor health care, health food, total lack of accessible mental health services.”

Despite accumulating evidence of health care needs among immigrant populations, the Trump administration continues to propose policies that could further restrict these communities’ access to health services. In September, the administration proposed making it more difficult for immigrants who have enrolled for public benefits like Medicaid to either enter the U.S. or permanently stay here.

“Every time you make immigration policy more punitive or increase the chances of deportation, you’re driving immigrants away from seeking health services,” McLemore said, adding that Human Rights Watch is set to release an extensive response to this proposal because “it undermines all public health objectives that you can think of.”

McLemore also said her organization is collecting anecdotal evidence that shows immigrants are already hesitant to enroll in public benefits programs for fear that the proposal may take effect.

“All of this is going to become a serious public health problem because whenever you are denying people health services [or] reducing access to health services, you are increasing the risk to the public health,” she said.

The situation is particularly dire for refugees, asylum-seekers, and other displaced populations.

According to the UCL-Lancet report, the majority of migrants that cross international borders worldwide are either students paying for their education or labor migrants who contribute to their host country’s economy. A significantly smaller proportion of this population are individuals forced to leave their home countries due to persecution, conflict or disaster.

However, this small fraction of global migrants ― refugees and displaced populations, of which nearly 53 percent are children ― have the highest risk of exploitation, disease and death because they usually lack access to equitable health services in their home country and initially live in cramped refugee camps or shelters with substandard health services when they first arrive in their host country.

In the United States, this narrative can be seen playing out along the U.S.-Mexico border, where asylum-seekers crossing into the country are often placed in crowded detention centers where adults and children face an increased risk of disease transmission and mental health consequences.

Data on immigrants detained in the United States is hard to come by, but human rights advocates have worked diligently to put together a picture of what health care for these communities look like. A Human Rights Watch report released in June had independent medical experts analyze 15 cases of immigrant deaths in detention from December 2015 to April 2017. In eight of the cases, physicians found “inadequate” medical care had “likely” contributed to the immigrants’ deaths.

While these deaths represent a fraction of the tens of thousands of immigrants in federal custody ― including nearly 13,000 children, according to The New York Times ― the HRW report said the fact that the deaths were due to “botched” emergency responses and “poor quality of care” by officers and medical staff raised serious concerns.

“Human Rights Watch has documented and continues to document inadequate health care in detention and that situation is just getting worse as the numbers of those detained increase and the facilities are overcrowded and are inadequately staffed,” McLemore said, adding that the UCL-Lancet report only confirms what their research has shown in the U.S. for years.

McGovern said the discrimination and restrictions that migrants and asylum seekers face in the United States because of their status leave them vulnerable to negative health outcomes. Not to mention, restricting access to preventive care could mean a higher long-term financial burden on the country.

“I think this report firmly establishes that preventive health care is definitely much more cost-effective than refusing to give people treatment or separating families so that children are traumatized or putting people in detention centers where infectious disease can thrive,” McGovern said. “All of those things are just going to ultimately cause more catastrophic health problems.”

The solution, as far as the UCL-Lancet commission is concerned, is for governments like the United States to implement policies that give all migrants universal and equitable health care.

“When people are excluded from health services, they don’t seek care ― that means that chronic diseases and other conditions go untreated or unaddressed,” Tessema said. “That has long-term consequences for the individuals and for the health system overall, which has to now care for people who would have otherwise been treated earlier with simpler and more cost-effective means.”

McLemore agrees: “Long term, when you have people either avoiding health care or going to emergency services when they get very ill ― that’s the most costly kind of health care there is.”

But for McGovern, it’s clear that neither health costs nor public health concerns are what’s currently driving U.S. immigration policy.

“Unfortunately in the U.S. we are just not dealing with evidence and facts, we are dealing with hatred and racism and xenophobia,” she said. “And the long-term impacts of that on kids, on families, on communities is going to be truly terrible because as we keep showing our economy is very much dependent on labor migrants. It’s kind of a false dichotomy: We are dependent on the people who we are criminalizing.”

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

East L.A. woman is sentenced to nine years in prison for immigration services scam

By ANDREA CASTILLO

An East Los Angeles woman was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison for defrauding 32 people seeking immigration services, according to the L.A. County district attorney’s office.

An L.A. County Superior Court judge also ordered Dalila Moreno, 64, to pay the victims $303,500 in restitution. Moreno will be subject to three years of mandatory supervision after serving her prison term.

Moreno pleaded guilty in August to 12 felony counts: six of counterfeit seal, three of forgery, one of grand theft of personal property, one of attempted grand theft of personal property and one of extortion. She admitted to taking property valued at more than $65,000 in her plea deal.

Moreno operated a fraudulent immigration services business out of her home for several years, according to the district attorney’s office. She told victims she worked for the government and had special connections, prosecutors said.

She promised to expedite the processing of visas, green cards and citizenship petitions, prosecutors said. She pretended to provide those services by creating fake visas and passport stamps, for which she collected payment.

Moreno was arrested Jan. 10 and has been in jail since.

According to the American Bar Assn., people who falsely claim to be qualified to offer immigration advice or services routinely target immigrants. Misrepresentations sometimes result in immigrants being unnecessarily deported.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Friday, December 07, 2018

House passes short-term spending bill, setting up pre-Christmas shutdown fight

By Erica Werner

Congress sent President Trump a short-term spending bill Thursday to avert a partial government shutdown this weekend, setting up a fight over Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall just before Christmas.

The legislation sets a new deadline of Dec. 21 for Trump and Democrats to resolve their standoff over funding for the wall, which is holding up action on spending bills for the Homeland Security Department and other federal agencies.

If the dispute is not resolved, funding for those agencies will expire, and they will begin to shut down and furlough their workers in the middle of the holiday season.

“We don’t want to see the government shut down over Christmas, even though President Trump seems to brag that he wants one,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday on the Senate floor. But, Schumer said, “The wall request is a non-starter.”

Without the bill passed Thursday, the spending deadline would be this Friday, Dec. 7, at midnight, but lawmakers agreed to a two-week extension in light of former President George H.W. Bush’s death and memorial events.

Both the House and the Senate passed the legislation by voice vote Thursday. Trump is expected to sign the measure.

The bill does nothing to resolve the central dispute looming over the final days of the 115th Congress: Trump’s demand for $5 billion to fund his long-promised wall along the border with Mexico.

In their waning days in control of the House, Republicans know it’s their last shot to get Trump the money for the wall that was the signature promise of his presidential campaign. Trump long claimed Mexico would pay for the wall, but he is now asking it be funded by U.S. taxpayers.

“I do believe it’s become more and more of a line in the sand, especially when you have just a week or two left to be able to finalize things and get it across the finish line,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.). “This is a huge issue that not only the president campaigned on, but many other members said, ‘Hey, this Congress we’re going to get this done.’”

Schumber and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are set to meet with Trump on Tuesday. But the party leaders have repeatedly rejected Trump’s $5 billion demand, especially as Democrats prepare to take over the House in January.

Schumer and Pelosi on Thursday proposed extending funding at current levels for the Homeland Security Department through the end of the budget year — which would allocate some $1.3 billion for border security and fencing for 2019.

Schumer said Trump’s other option would be to accept a bipartisan bill negotiated in the Senate earlier this year providing $1.6 billion for border security and fencing, a deal that has been on the table for months.

“The one and only way we approach a shutdown is if President Trump refuses both of our proposals and demands $5 billion or more for a border wall,” Schumer said.

Pelosi, speaking at a Capitol Hill news conference Thursday, said the border wall is “immoral, ineffective, and expensive, and the president — He also promised that Mexico would pay for it. Even if they did, it’s immoral still, and they’re not going to pay for it.”

But there are few signs the president is ready to back off his demand for wall money, especially after being convinced by GOP congressional to leaders to put off a shutdown fight until after the midterm elections. Instead, in a tweet earlier this week, he returned to an earlier demand of $25 billion for the wall.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No 2. Republican Senator, said he “can’t believe” the president would take Democrats’ deal to extend the current $1.3 billion level.

“He wants money for border security, and we’re not going to give him anything other than current level of funding?” Cornyn said. “I can’t see how in the world that would be acceptable.”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said that the last time he talked to Trump, the president was “steadfast” on getting the $5 billion he wants for the wall.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Pelosi Takes Hard Line on Trump's Wall Ahead of Meeting

WASHINGTON — House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday rejected the idea of paying for President Donald Trump’s border wall in exchange for helping hundreds of thousands of young immigrants avoid deportation.

Funding for the wall — a top Trump priority — and legal protections for so-called Dreamers, a key Democratic goal, should not be linked, Pelosi said.

“They’re two different subjects,” she said.

Her comments came as the House and Senate approved a stopgap bill Thursday to keep the government funded through Dec. 21. The measure, approved by voice votes in near-empty chambers, now goes to the White House.

Trump has promised to sign the two-week extension to allow for ceremonies this week honoring former President George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30. But he wants the next funding package to include at least $5 billion for his proposed wall, something Democrats have rejected. Trump is set to meet Tuesday at the White House with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

Pelosi, who is seeking to become House speaker in January, said the lame-duck Congress should now pass a half-dozen government funding bills that key committees have already agreed on, along with a separate measure funding the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the border. Funding for the homeland agency should address border security and does not necessarily include a wall, Pelosi said.

Most Democrats consider the wall “immoral, ineffective, expensive,” Pelosi said, noting that Trump promised during the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for it, an idea Mexican leaders have repeatedly rejected.

Even if Mexico did pay for the wall, “it’s immoral still,” Pelosi said.

Protecting borders “is a responsibility we honor, but we do so by honoring our values as well,” she added.

Schumer said Thursday that a bipartisan Senate plan for $1.6 billion in border security funding does not include money for the 30-foot-high (9-meter-high) concrete wall Trump has envisioned. The money “can only be used for fencing” and technology that experts say is appropriate and makes sense as a security feature, Schumer said.

“This is something Democrats have always been for: smart, effective, appropriate border security,” he said on the Senate floor.

If Republicans object to the proposal because of pressure from Trump, Schumer said lawmakers should follow Pelosi’s advice and approve six appropriations bills and a separate measure extending current funding for Homeland Security.

Either option would avert a partial government shutdown, which lawmakers from both parties oppose, he said.

“The one and only way we approach a shutdown is if President Trump refuses both of our proposals and demands $5 billion or more for a border wall,” Schumer said. He called the wall “a nonstarter” for Democrats, who face increasing pressure from outside groups and liberal lawmakers to resist Trump’s continued push for the barrier, which Trump says is needed to stop an “invasion” of Central American migrants and others from crossing into the country illegally.

Schumer called the spat over the wall unnecessary, noting that the administration has not spent more than $1 billion approved for border security in the budget year that ended Sept. 30. “The idea that they haven’t spent last year’s money and they’re demanding such a huge amount this year makes no sense at all,” he said.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said he prefers to include Homeland Security in an omnibus package containing seven unresolved spending bills for the current budget year.

“I believe the best route is to keep all seven together and pass them,” the Alabama Republican told reporters Thursday. Lawmakers have “made a lot of progress” in recent weeks on the seven spending bills. “I’d like to conclude it,'” he said.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Lawyer: Trump Resort Hired Undocumented Workers

NEW YORK — Two women who cleaned rooms set aside for President Donald Trump at one of his golf resorts in New Jersey say they used false papers to get hired, their supervisors knew it and that many employees there also lack legal documents.

Anibal Romero, a lawyer representing Victorina Morales and Sandra Diaz, said on Thursday that the two used false Social Security and permanent residency documents to get jobs at Trump’s golf resort Bedminster, New Jersey. He also said that a supervisor hurled racial epithets at the women and threatened them with deportation to get more work out of them.

The two are now considering a lawsuit against the Trump Organization for workplace abuse and discrimination. One of them, Morales, who says she cleaned Trump’s clothes and toilet and made his bed, is also seeking asylum.

“This isn’t a hotel with 300 employees — they were both in charge of cleaning the president’s house,” said Romero, referring to a guest house on the property set aside for Trump. He added that Morales, 47, was repeatedly called a “donkey” and “dog” by a supervisor.

The Trump Organization did not answer questions emailed by The Associated Press about the allegations, but said in a statement that it has the highest standards for job applicants.

“We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices,” the company said in an email. “If any employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately.”

The New York Times first wrote about the two women, noting that there is no evidence that the Trump Organization knew they did not have legal documents.

Both women were described by the Times as finding Trump demanding as an employer, but kind.

Morales, who left Guatemala in 1999, says Trump would sometimes give her a $50 or $100 tip. Both told the Times that at least two supervisors were aware of their status and helped them evade detection.

Their lawyer, Romero, said Morales was hurt by Trump’s comments disparaging immigrants here illegally as violent criminals. He says that she believes that Trump’s comments may have emboldened a supervisor at the resort to verbally abusing workers, calling them “stupid illegal immigrants.”

Romero said that Morales believes at least a dozen workers at the resort do not have legal documentation to work.

Morales, who spoke to the Times directly, told the newspaper that she understood that she could be fired and deported but felt she had to speak out.

Romero said that the other worker, Diaz, 46, has legal permanent residency. He said she left the Trump club in 2013 shortly after Morales was hired.

Romero has called for federal and state investigations into the matter.

“This toxic environment was designed to intimidate these women, leaving them fearful for their safety and the safety of their families,” he said in a statement.

Trump has called for a crackdown on immigrants living in the country illegally. In addition to demanding funding for a wall on the Mexican border, his administration has stepped up workplace raids and urged companies to screen workers more carefully.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/


The Department of Justice just took a step to make asylum even more difficult for Central Americans

By KATE SMITH

The Department of Justice took a quiet step earlier this week that could make it even more difficult for some immigrants to seek asylum. One immigration attorney called the decision “deeply troubling” and said it may have sweeping, negative impacts for Central American asylum seekers, a group that’s already been targeted by the Trump administration and has disproportionately high denial rates.

In a one-page Department of Justice filing on Monday evening, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker announced with little fanfare that he would “certify” the a case called the “Matter of L-E-A-“, referring the case to himself for a final decision on its outcome. To aid in his review, Whitaker invited both involved and interested parties to file briefs on the case, particularly “under what circumstances, an alien may establish persecution on account of membership in a ‘particular social group’… based on the alien’s membership in a family unit.”

Here’s what that actually means.

In his home country of Mexico in 2011, “Mr. L-E-A-,” the name given to the otherwise anonymous asylum seeker, had a problem. After his father rejected cartel requests to use his grocery store as a drug distribution center, members of the La Familia Michoacana gang turned their efforts towards Mr. L-E-A- in hopes of changing his father’s mind. Days later, Mr. L-E-A- heard gunshots from a nearby car and believed he was the target of drive-by shooting. He was told his father should reconsider the cartel’s offer.

A week later, after a botched kidnapping attempt by the same cartel members, Mr. L-E-A- fled for the United States in hopes of seeking asylum. The man claimed that his family ties — or in immigration law speak, his “membership to a particular social group,” in this case his family — put him danger in his home country to the point where he could no longer live in Mexico. The story is recounted in previous Justice Department documents on the case.

Although his asylum claim was rejected in 2013, then dismissed again in 2017 on appeal, courts affirmed that Mr. L-E-A-‘s claim that kinship constituted “membership in a particular social group” was legally sound. That decision set a precedent that could apply to future asylum-seekers.

But on Monday, Acting Attorney General Whitaker said, essentially, not so fast.

Stripped of the legalese, in Monday’s filing Whitaker raised Mr. L-E-A-‘s immigration case as an opportunity to reconsider whether persecution based on family ties is an acceptable reason to be granted asylum in the United States. While a decision won’t be issued until at least late January, immigration advocates aren’t optimistic.

Given the administration’s relentless push to limit immigration and Whitaker’s own opinions on the subject, it’s likely that Monday’s filing will result in a new legal precedent that will significantly, if not completely, impair an asylum seeker’s ability to base their claim on kinship, said Camille Mackler, the director of Immigration Legal Policy at the New York Immigration Center, in a telephone interview with CBS News.

Bradley Jenkins, an immigration attorney at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, agreed. “Given the trend of recent attorney general certifications, this particularly case is deeply troubling,” Jenkins told CBS News.

The legal process that Whitaker is using is the same one that former Attorney General Jeff Session deployed in June to severely limit asylum seekers’ ability to claim domestic violence and gang persecution as eligible reasons to be granted the special refugee status.

Kate Voigt, the associate director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, says the process is a way for lawmakers to rewrite immigration laws without having to engage Congress.

“It’s a really unique system, and by unique I mean highly, highly problematic,” Voigt said in a telephone interview with CBS News Tuesday. “These types of certifications basically allow the AG or acting AG to unilaterally rewrite immigration law with little to no oversight.”

Although Monday’s filing requested briefs from both involved and interested parties, Voigt says the process isn’t as simple as it sounds. In previous certifications, exhibits and courts filings could be next to impossible to find. In another instance, specific case information wasn’t made available until days before the filing deadline, making it nearly impossible to construct a well-researched, articulate legal argument, said Voigt.

For the L-E-A- certification, briefs from parties to the case are due on January 4, 2019 and those from other interested groups must be filed on or before January 18.

A call and email to Mr. L-E-A-‘s attorney, Mei Chen, were not immediately returned. Calls to the Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs also were not immediately returned.

Mr. L-E-A-‘s plight is a common one in Central America, where gang violence is rampant and gang members often intimidate citizens by targeting other family members to achieve their desired outcomes. Because of that, kinship is an essential criteria for Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States, said Mackler.

Asylum is a specific immigration process for people of any nation who are fleeing persecution. Asylum seekers must establish that they face a “credible fear” of persecution in their home country based on their race, religion, nationality, political views, or membership in a particular social group. In a majority of cases, they are allowed to stay on U.S. soil while a judge determines the validity of their claim. President Trump and other proponents of stricter immigration laws say the system has been abused by migrants, calling the practice “catch and release.”

Asylum denials hit a record high this year, according to a recent report published by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). Immigration judges rejected 65 percent of asylum cases in the year ending September 30, a 50 percent increase from six years ago, according to TRAC.

Although TRAC pointed out that the increase “largely reflects asylum applicants who had arrived well before President Trump assumed office,” 80 percent of last year’s asylum decisions were for immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Mexico Once Saw Migration as a U.S. Problem. Now It Needs Answers of Its Own.

By Kirk Semple

TIJUANA, Mexico — After taking the oath of office, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador addressed Mexico’s Congress on Saturday, covering all the hallmarks of his Mexico-first politics: combating poverty, social development, strengthening the rule of law and attacking corruption.

Notably absent from his speech was a specific reference to one of the most pressing matters of his young administration: the thousands of migrants who traveled through the region in caravans and are now gathered in Tijuana, at the Mexico-United States border.

Mr. López Obrador campaigned on a nationalist platform focused on helping Mexicans. But the Tijuana crisis has pushed to the forefront the challenges posed by large-scale migration through the region and the pressure it puts on Mexico’s relationships with Central America, from which the majority of migrants are from, and the United States, where most are headed.

The caravans gathered at the border have also highlighted the strain that Mexico faces as it increasingly becomes a destination for migrants, not just a throughway, with requests for asylum and other forms of relief soaring and stressing a system not prepared for the surge.

“This crisis has revealed that the systems to manage and deal with immigration, both in the United States and in Mexico, are dysfunctional and unable to face the great challenge that we have right now,” said Carlos Heredia, a professor at CIDE, a university in Mexico City.

The caravans and the pressure they have put on the region have forced Mexico — and Central America — to reckon with the issue like never before, Mr. Heredia said.

“The economic and political elites of Central America, along with Mexico’s, have been long accustomed to deal with immigration as if it were a United States problem, arguing that people want to go there, so better to not get involved,” he said. “This crisis that has already exploded is forcing Central America and Mexico to not hide beneath that worn-off excuse, and that is a good thing.”

Mr. López Obrador’s foreign secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, was in Washington on Sunday and Monday to meet with Trump administration officials on, among other matters, migration. The governments have been mulling a plan that would require migrants who pass through Mexico and are seeking asylum in the United States to remain in Mexico pending the outcome of their petition, a process that can take years.

The proposed policy, part of a Trump administration strategy to ease the burden on the clogged American asylum system, would represent a radical shift from the way that the asylum system now works. Under current practices, asylum seekers who receive initial approval at the border to proceed with their petitions are allowed to remain in the United States until their cases are adjudicated.

Asylum claims in the United States have skyrocketed in recent years, adding to the burden on American immigration courts, where more than 760,000 immigration cases are pending, according to Syracuse University.

But the plan may be highly unpopular in Mexico.

“Beyond the obvious difficulties of having a saturated immigration system and an insufficient bureaucracy to deal with this, it is going to be a real tough cookie to sell in Mexico, because the question arises: What do we get in return?” said Carlos Bravo Regidor, a CIDE professor.

The López Obrador administration, possibly in exchange for an agreement on the asylum deal, is hoping that the Trump administration will throw its political heft and money behind a proposal to come up with a comprehensive development plan to address the push factors, namely poverty and violence, that are driving much of the migration from Central America.

On Saturday, Mr. López Obrador, the presidents of Guatemala and Honduras, and the vice president of El Salvador, signed an agreement to develop such a strategy, which Mexican officials have likened to the Marshall Plan, the American-led initiative to rebuild Western Europe after World War II.

The approach would “strengthen social development and combat in an integral manner the causes of the migratory phenomenon,” the Mexican government said in a statement.

But these are complicated plans that would take time to develop. In the short-term, the López Obrador administration, with its local and regional partners in the northwestern border state of Baja California, where Tijuana is located, has to deal with the pressing matter of the caravan migrants.

The first of the caravans set off from Honduras in mid-October and eventually grew to include more than 4,000 people, mainly from Central America, who traveled north by a combination of walking and hitching rides. Many had hurriedly joined the procession, betting that it was the safest and cheapest way to make it to the United States border.

The group’s size provided protection against the criminals that prey on migrants, especially in Mexico. And its profile, which rose considerably when President Trump began railing against the group, elicited an outpouring of humanitarian support along its route.

By the time the caravan had made it to Baja California, other such groups were also heading north through Central America and Mexico. In all, the caravans carried around 8,000 migrants to the border, with most ending up in Tijuana.

Local and state officials, aided by civil society groups, scrambled to accommodate them, opening a temporary migrant shelter in a sports complex that quickly filled beyond double its intended capacity.

While local and state officials openly criticized the federal government for not providing humanitarian assistance and money in the early days of the crisis, the federal migration bureaucracies responded quickly to provide the migrants with speedy access to the Mexican asylum process and other forms of relief.

In recent days, the lines have been long at the temporary center in Tijuana where state and federal agencies have been helping the migrants apply for legal status in Mexico and register for jobs.

The government has offered the migrants two options: They can apply for asylum or for a humanitarian visa, which is good for one year and is renewable. Applicants for asylum can legally work while their petitions are being processed, and the humanitarian visa also comes with a work permit.

As of a week ago, more than 600 Central Americans associated with the caravans had received humanitarian visas and more than 400 had applied for asylum in Mexico, the federal government reported.

The rate at which migrants were applying to legalize their migration status increased significantly last week after American border patrol agents used tear gas to turn back hundreds of migrants who had broken away from a protest march and rushed toward the border, officials said.

For many of the migrants, the humanitarian visa option has seemed more attractive because, unlike asylum, it allows them more flexibility in where they can live.

In addition, processing times are far faster: The authorities are promising to process applications for the visas within two weeks. Asylum petitions, on the other hand, are taking upward of six months to process, and often more than a year, officials said, even though the law stipulates a review period of up to three months.

Even before the caravans set off from Central America, Mexico’s asylum system was already under strain as an increasing number of migrants chose to seek sanctuary in the country.

Last year, more than 14,600 people applied for asylum in Mexico, an 11-fold increase over 2013, according to government statistics. And during the first eight months of this year, more than 14,544 migrants applied for asylum, a 50 percent increase over the same period last year.

The United Nations estimates that around 47,000 will apply in 2019.

Yet staffing levels and training in the nation’s migration bureaucracies have not kept pace with the demand, leading to long delays in adjudication and impeding access for many migrants, advocates contend.

The migrants of the caravan have been trying to make sense of their options. But for many, nothing holds the allure of the United States, whose magnetic pull drives so much migration in the hemisphere.

On a recent morning, Oscar López Davila, 31, a migrant from Honduras, was at the temporary government processing center exploring the pros and cons of applying for a humanitarian visa versus asylum.

The bottom line, he said, was that he had his mind set on the United States, and he was hopeful that once all the commotion surrounding the caravans had settled down, he might find a way — legal or not — across the border.

“I can be here and rent an apartment for a year, wait until everything gets calmer,” he mused. “But my dream is American.”

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

He’s a U.S. soldier deployed on the southern border — and an unlawful immigrant

By Alex Horton

The U.S. soldier was ready to deploy across the world at a moment’s notice, but when the orders came down weeks ago to mobilize on the southern border, it sparked a flash of concern.

He knew the mission was in support of border agents combing harsh borderland terrain to arrest anyone unlawfully in the country.

People like him.

“I’m an illegal immigrant,” the Chinese-born soldier told The Washington Post by phone.

His duties do not often intersect with Customs and Border Protection agents, he said, but he has avoided them out of fear they will learn that one of 5,400 troops in their orbit is in violation of immigration law.

That has placed him in the unusual situation of serving a nation that has not recognized him as a citizen, despite promises from the Pentagon to quickly naturalize skilled immigrants in exchange for service, as they had done for thousands of troops since 2009.

The Post is withholding the soldier’s name and certain details, including his duty location, because he fears discipline for speaking to the media.

The soldier, now in his late 20s, began his path to the United States nearly a decade ago, after high school.

His home in southeastern China is beautiful, he said, the region dotted with lakes and towering limestone karst formations. But it is also stifling. He felt trapped by family expectations, and a passion for engineering could take him only so far there.

There were better opportunities in America, he believed.

He joined his sister in California on a student visa and enrolled in college. The military seemed like a place to further his career, he said, and the Pentagon’s immigrant recruit program guaranteed something more than job security: “A sense of pride,” he said.

His enlistment would also harness something that makes him especially valuable to the military — his voice. He speaks Mandarin Chinese, which is among several languages the Pentagon has deemed strategically vital but in short supply among U.S.-born troops.

And as the Pentagon has increasingly worried about China’s military ambitions, it seemed like the perfect time, then, for the Chinese-born soldier to offer his skills. He was scheduled to begin training in August 2016, according to documents obtained by The Post.

That’s about when everything started to go very wrong. The Pentagon program he enlisted through, Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, was beginning its year-long implosion.

Immigrant recruits commonly timed their enlistment so their student and visitor visas could carry them through with enough time to legally protect them. But the Pentagon’s security screening was so slow that “some number of 4,300 MAVNI applicants” had fallen out of lawful status as they waited, according to an internal agency memo dated Sept. 30, 2016.

The agency later said the number crested at 1,000 recruits. That number included the Chinese soldier, whose enlistment date slid back amid the chaos. Many recruits waited months, or years, to move forward.

The Chinese soldier did not even have weeks. In September 2016, the Pentagon introduced vastly more complicated security checks amid fears of foreign infiltrators.

Weeks later, in October, his legal status expired, making him an unlawful immigrant.

He picked up fares as a Lyft driver while he waited for his enlistment to move forward, he said, and took pains to avoid the border when he ventured to San Diego. He wouldn’t risk flying, either.

In August 2017, after nine grueling months under threat of deportation, he was granted deferred action by Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), but that already expired, he said, putting him back into the crosshairs of immigration enforcement.

The MAVNI program was shuttered last fall, crushed by its own bureaucratic inertia, and remaining applicants in the system trickled through enlistment. Military naturalizations plummeted just as the Chinese soldier readied for training.

USCIS closed its offices at three basic training sites in January 2018, BuzzFeed reported, despite laws that mandate faster naturalizations established after a U.S. soldier from Trinidad was killed in Iraq on his way to gather paperwork for his citizenship. A Pentagon spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment on how and why immigrant troops may arrive at their units without being naturalized.

Soon after the January closures, the Chinese soldier made it to basic training.

His drill sergeants told him he would not be naturalized during basic training in Missouri, he said.

He then moved to advanced training in Texas. He said he was told the base was not set up for naturalizations, either.

And then, soon after he arrived at his home station, he was mobilized for the border deployment.

In China, his parents have worried about his status and his safety after seeing images of Central American migrants fleeing tear gas. He feels sympathetic to fellow immigrants, he said, who like him left their home to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

“At the same time,” he said, “a massive group rushing in wasn’t the best way to do so, I think.”

At his new unit, he said paperwork for his naturalization was underway but that the border deployment has paused the process while he is gone.

Troops on the border were scheduled to leave by Dec. 15. But on Tuesday, the Pentagon extended forces there to the end of January, leaving him more time to ponder the risks of interacting with federal agents there.

He has kept busy in his down time by working out, reading and studying for certification tests on his smartphone, he said.

Sometimes he will catch a sunset of brilliant orange and pink.

It’s wondrous out there, he said, in the big, beautiful country not quite his home.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Honduran Woman in Migrant Caravan Gives Birth in US

SAN DIEGO — A Honduran woman affiliated with a caravan of Central American migrants gave birth on U.S. soil shortly after entering the country illegally amid growing frustration about a bottleneck to claim asylum at official border crossings.

Border Patrol agents arrested the woman Nov. 26 after she entered the country illegally near Imperial Beach, California, across the border from Tijuana, Mexico, Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday. She was arrested with her 20-year-old husband and 2-year-old son.

The woman, who was eight months pregnant, was taken to a hospital after complaining about abdominal plan the day after her arrest, Customs and Border Protection said.

The family was released from custody on Sunday, pending the outcomes of their immigration cases.

Univision reported that the family is seeking asylum and hoped to join family in Columbus, Ohio, while their cases are pending.

Maryury Serrano Hernandez, 19, told the network giving birth in the U.S. was a “big reward” for the family’s grueling journey.

U.S. inspectors at the main border crossing in San Diego are processing up to about 100 asylum claims day, leaving thousands of migrants waiting in Tijuana. Some are crossing illegally and avoiding the wait.

President Donald Trump said in October that he could end birthright citizenship with a swipe of his pen. Most scholars on the left and right share the view that it would take a constitutional amendment to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the U.S. to parents who are in the country illegally.

Of the more than 6,100 migrants staying in a temporary shelter run by the city of Tijuana last week, 3,936 were men, 1,147 were women, and 1,068 were children.

Scores of pregnant women traveled with the caravan through Mexico before reaching the U.S. border. In Pijijiapan in the southern state of Chiapas, Dr. Jesus Miravete, who volunteered his services in the town’s plaza, said he treated a few dozen pregnant women, including 16 for dehydration after being on the road for weeks.

In October, a Guatemalan woman gave birth to the first known caravan baby at a hospital in Juchitan. Mexico’s governmental National Human Rights Commission said it had arranged for medical attention for the woman, who was 38 weeks pregnant, and the girl was healthy.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/