About Me

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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


Friday, August 23, 2019

The Trump Administration’s Sustained Attack on the Rights of Immigrant Children

By Jonathan Blitzer

In 1985, two Salvadoran children, ages twelve and fifteen, were held in a squalid, overcrowded room in a rundown motel in Pasadena, California. For weeks, the government denied them food and kept them from seeing doctors or family members. The circumstances, one of the girls later told the Times, were “too painful to remember, to discuss.” A team of lawyers who went on to represent them and two other girls sued the government, in a case that dragged on for more than a decade, well after the initial plaintiffs were released. By 1997, two Presidential Administrations later, the government decided to settle. Doris Meissner, who was then the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said, “If there are real issues surrounding the detention of minors, and the government is being held responsible for poor conditions, why are we litigating in favor of what we are doing wrong?”

For the past twenty-two years, the terms of this legal settlement, known as the Flores Agreement, have been a central tenet of U.S. immigration policy. When dealing with children, the most vulnerable immigrants to enter federal custody, the government must provide certain, baseline protections, including access to food and medical care; it must also promise to detain them for the shortest possible amount of time, in the “least restrictive” settings.

On Wednesday, the Trump Administration announced a sweeping new set of regulations to gut the Flores Agreement. “It is a wholesale attack on kids in custody,” Jennifer Podkul, the policy director of Kids in Need of Defense (kind), told me. The Administration’s immediate target is an outgrowth of the agreement, shored up by a judge a few years ago, which prevents children from being held in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security for more than twenty days. The agreement applies not just to children who came to the U.S. alone but also to those who crossed the border with their parents. This has meant, in effect, that thousands of asylum-seeking families have been released from detention while their cases have moved through the immigration courts. Now, according to Kevin McAleenan, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, the government will detain families together for as long as it takes to resolve their immigration claims. For tens of thousands of families, that could easily amount to months in custody—an especially alarming prospect considering that another critical component of Flores, a requirement that the government keep children in licensed facilities overseen by independent monitors, would also fall away under the Administration’s plan.

In his announcement on Wednesday, McAleenan claimed that “all children in U.S. government custody” would be “treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability.” But his reassurances sound especially hollow at the present moment. In the past year and a half, seven children have died in immigration custody, and there have been widespread complaints about the conditions in which children are being held. Earlier this summer, at a Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, two hundred and fifty infants, children, and teen-agers spent weeks without adequate food and water, and were denied soap and toothbrushes; despite lice and flu outbreaks, authorities skimped on providing medical care. “The Flores monitors are the reason we knew about what was happening at Clint,” Podkul said.

On Monday, a lawyer known as a “special master,” who was appointed last year to investigate potential violations of Flores in facilities run by D.H.S. and the Department of Health and Human Services, filed a report with further details. In Customs and Border Protection facilities, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, “allegations of severe overcrowding and excessive length of custody, lack of appropriate food for minors, inability of detainees to sleep, ambient temperatures outside a reasonably comfortable range, and lack of access to medical treatment remain unresolved,” the special master wrote. At H.H.S. shelters across the country, the average time that children spent in government custody, between January of 2018 and May of 2019, was sixty-seven days. Nearly three thousand children who turned eighteen while in detention were transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement because they “aged out” and were no longer treated as minors.

The Trump Administration has, from the start, attacked Flores as a “loophole” that immigrant families have continually sought to exploit; closing it was part of a broader mission to deter other families from coming to the U.S. to seek asylum in the first place. In August, 2017, a group of Administration officials met at D.H.S. headquarters, in Washington, to devise a series of policies to restrict the number of asylum seekers entering the country. Among the proposals was separating families at the border and a move to end the Flores agreement. Attendees were also tasked with writing ten separate memos with blueprints for how the Administration could implement each policy goal. “I recall being stumped about what we could do by decree or executive action to get around Flores,” one former official, who was present at the meeting, told me. “It was one of the memos that floundered,” the former official added, because of its “questionable legality.”

The White House decided to work around Flores instead. When the Trump Administration began separating families at the border, in the summer of 2017, part of its rationalization was that, by criminally charging parents for entering the country illegally, the government could detain the adults, and their children would be treated as unaccompanied minors and transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services. The government could thus hold the parents indefinitely and penalize the entire family, as the children were kept in conditions that were notionally consistent with the terms of Flores. By late June, 2018, amid a national outcry, Trump promised to stop separating families at the border. But, in the same breath, he announced that the Administration would hold families together instead. Almost immediately, a federal judge in California named Dolly Gee, who is in charge of supervising the government’s compliance with Flores, blocked the Administration. There was a clear precedent for her decision, which the Trump Administration willfully ignored: in 2015, when President Obama responded to a sudden spike in Central American families seeking asylum by trying to detain families in ice facilities, Gee blocked him, too.

In September, 2018, the Trump Administration released a two-hundred-page document outlining proposed regulations that would end Flores altogether. Immigration advocates immediately appealed to Gee, in California, who took the challenge under advisement but withheld final judgment until after the Administration’s regulations were entered in the federal register, which is slated for Friday. “The President is telling [D.H.S.] they must terminate the settlement,” Peter Schey, one of the lead attorneys in the initial Flores class-action suit, told the Washington Post at the time. “They tried it in court, and now they’re trying it through regulations. But they’re in a bind, because the only way the regulations will be valid is if they’re consistent with the settlement, and if they’re consistent with the settlement then they won’t achieve the changes the President has demanded.” Now the Flores plaintiffs will have a week to amend their suit. Jennifer Nagda, an attorney at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, told me, “We’ll have to do a line-by-line comparison between the new regulations and the proposed version from last September to decide how to direct our energy in the next seven days.”

The broader consequences of the Administration’s rollback could extend well beyond detention conditions. When minors travel to the U.S. alone, for instance, they’re categorized as unaccompanied, a designation that affords them additional rights such as the ability to apply for asylum through an asylum officer, as opposed to a judge in the more adversarial setting of an immigration court. “This isn’t just about being detained,” Podkul said. “It’s about the next two to three years an immigrant child spends going through the judicial system.” Earlier this summer, an official at H.H.S.—who at the time suspected that the President’s senior adviser, Stephen Miller, was behind an unprecedented push to reclassify unaccompanied children—told me, “The expectation is that the Administration will change the policy regarding the definition of an unaccompanied child. . . . A child arriving at the border alone will not be declared unaccompanied if they have a parent ‘available’ in the U.S. to care for them. That means the child will be subject to expedited removal.” The idea, the official added, was to skirt Congress by instituting the change in the form of a regulation, while creating yet another pretext for assailing lawmakers for their failure to take some radical action of their own. And that is exactly what has happened: the regulations announced this week will further whittle away the legal rights of immigrant children. “The change will end up in court immediately,” the official had told me. But the Administration wanted to send a message anyway.

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

Hiring Is Very Hard for Restaurants These Days. Now They May Have to Fire.

By David Yaffe-Bellany

Facing one of the most severe labor shortages in decades, restaurants across the country are trying virtually everything to recruit cooks and dishwashers, from offering quarterly bonuses to providing training programs for ex-convicts.

Now, the specter of increased immigration enforcement is putting many of those restaurants in a more fraught situation: let go of trusted employees or risk criminal prosecution.

The problems began in March and April, when the Social Security Administration sent letters to hundreds of thousands of business owners, notifying them that the names of some employees did not match the Social Security numbers on their tax forms.

These “no-match letters” sowed fear and confusion in workplaces that depend on immigrant employees, like farms, factories and construction sites. But few businesses have felt the impact of the government notices more than restaurants, which have long relied on undocumented labor and struggled with high turnover.

“If you ask any restaurant now what’s keeping them up at night, it’s this,” said Carolyn Richmond, an employment lawyer in New York. “We do have a lot more diverse work force than most industries, and unfortunately many of them may be undocumented.”

Over the last few months, the restaurant owners who received no-match letters have divided into two general camps. Some risk-averse employers are planning to fire their undocumented workers or adopt more stringent hiring protocols, like using the federal E-Verify program to check new hires’ documents. Others have done practically nothing, convinced that they have no choice but to ignore the notices because they can ill afford to lose employees in a tight labor market.

After the no-match letters arrived, many restaurant owners were advised by their lawyers to give affected employees a few months to correct the problems in the government’s records.

For some restaurants, the end of that window has already arrived or is fast approaching. That could mean a wave of firings is in store, once it becomes clear that certain employees lack legal status. But with restaurants already struggling to hire enough workers, some owners are likely to ignore the letters, putting themselves at risk of legal penalties.

“We’ve definitely seen every part of the spectrum, from wanting to be compliant to ‘we’re just going to stick our heads in the sand,’” said Becki Young, a lawyer in Maryland who has advised restaurants across the country on how to respond to the no-match letters. “Some of our clients will have some really hard decisions to make.”

A no-match letter from the Social Security Administration is not the same as an immigration audit, which would be conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And some of the Social Security discrepancies involve minor clerical issues, like a missing digit or a spelling mistake in an employee’s name.

“Social Security is not a law enforcement agency,” said Mark Hinkle, the agency’s acting press secretary. “Our role is limited in scope to trying to ensure we credit each employee with his or her earnings.”

But the letters effectively require business owners to check whether the employees identified are properly documented. And in a potential ICE audit, employers who fail to investigate a no-match letter — or to act on what they find — could be deemed to have “constructive knowledge” of an employee’s immigration status, exposing them to hefty fines and possible criminal charges.

The last time the federal government sent a large number of no-match letters was more than a decade ago, when President George W. Bush was in office. Amid a broader crackdown on illegal immigration, the Trump administration has revived the process, at the same time that ICE has upped the frequency of its audits. In fiscal 2018, the agency initiated nearly 6,000 I-9 audits, a more than 400 percent increase from the previous year. And the ICE raids in Mississippi this month, which swept up hundreds of undocumented employees at agricultural plants, underscored the specter of increased enforcement across the food industry.

The experiences of two restaurant owners in New York City show how the pressures that face the industry have elicited strikingly divergent responses. The owners spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to attract attention from ICE.

One of them, who owns a restaurant group with locations in New York and Miami, said he had consulted with five different law firms about how to respond to the no-match letters, which he said named 350 of his employees, or about a quarter of his staff. At the advice of several of those lawyers, he said, he is considering firing employees who cannot produce documentation. He has also hired a company to inspect the I-9 forms of all future employees.

Over the past few months, a number of his employees have left of their own accord, he said, concerned that the no-match letters could portend a federal immigration raid.

The second owner, whose restaurant is in Manhattan, said she received a no-match letter alerting her to issues with almost every member of her kitchen staff, many of whom she had suspected were in the country illegally. Ultimately, she said, she decided not to tell any of her employees about the letter because losing the workers would doom the establishment.

With unemployment at just 3.7 percent, its lowest level in many years, restaurants are hardly the only businesses struggling to recruit low-wage workers. But for them the labor shortage has become especially serious: Restaurants have long been the economy’s largest employer of teenagers, whose participation in the work force has declined in recent years; and Wall Street investment has led to a glut of restaurant openings, oversaturating the market.

Many of the restaurant owners wringing their hands over the no-match letters run local eateries or small to midsize restaurant groups. The larger fast-food chains often require that their stores or franchisees use E-Verify, making them less likely to violate to immigration law.

Chipotle adopted the verification system after an immigration probe in 2011 cut its work force in Minnesota in half. And over the last year, Dunkin’ has taken an especially hard line, suing franchisees that failed to use E-Verify.

“You might start seeing more franchisers perhaps tightening up their employment verification requirements,” said Vikrant Advani, a labor expert at Rutgers University’s business school. “I see that possibly becoming a trend. Franchisers have to be careful.”

At the moment, 22 states mandate that at least some businesses use E-Verify. It’s unclear, however, how many restaurants have adopted the system. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that oversees E-Verify, records the number of “food services and drinking places” that use it, but the agency does not keep track of restaurants specifically.

In the last three years, the number of food-and-drink locations using E-Verify has increased steadily, by about 20,000 to 25,000 a year; a total of 218,375 such locations have signed up over the history of the program, according to government data. And even in some states that do not require it, E-Verify is growing more popular. In Iowa, the local chapter of the National Restaurant Association has not heard any reports of no-match letters, possibly because so many restaurants in the state already use E-Verify, according to Jessica Dunker, the chapter’s president.

In New York, many small, independent restaurants have been reluctant to adopt the system because it can slow down the hiring process, putting employers at a competitive disadvantage. But now, some owners are starting to reconsider, as they wrestle with what to do about the no-match letters.

“There’s a lot of liability for employers, so it puts them in a very difficult position to make very difficult choices,” said Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the city’s hospitality alliance. “Immigrants are the backbone of the city’s restaurant industry. There’s an incredible amount of anxiety.”

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

Federal Shift May Increase Asylum Backlogs in Northeast

PORTLAND, Maine — A Trump administrative directive to shift federal resources from Boston and Newark, New Jersey, could increase delays for asylum seekers in the Northeast.

The temporary reassignments are part of an attempt to reduce a backlog at the southern border, but it will have an impact in the Northeast.

Phillip Mantis from the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project tells the Portland Press Herald that the Boston and Newark offices already have a combined backlog of 40,000 cases. The reassigned staff from the northeast offices will be assisting with initial border interviews.

The newspaper said the move does not affect more than 400 asylum seekers from African countries who’ve come to Maine since June. Those individuals sought asylum at the border and their cases are already in the immigration system.

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

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Trump Revives Suggestion He'd End Birthright Citizenship

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday he was looking “very seriously” at ending the right to citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil.

Trump spoke to reporters as he departed the White House for a speech in Louisville, Kentucky. He said birthright citizenship was “frankly ridiculous.”

“We’re looking at it very, very seriously,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Trump has claimed he’d do away with it — he said something similar in October.

But the citizenship proposal would inevitably spark a longshot legal battle over whether the president can alter the long accepted understanding that the 14th Amendment grants citizenship to any child born on U.S. soil, regardless of a parent’s immigration status.

James Ho, a conservative Trump-appointed federal appeals court judge, wrote in 2006, before his appointment, that birthright citizenship “is protected no less for children of undocumented persons than for descendants of Mayflower passengers.”

But Trump has said he was assured by his lawyers that the change could be made “just with an executive order” — an argument he has been making since his early days as a candidate, when he dubbed birthright citizenship a “magnet for illegal immigration” and pledged to end it.

There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the U.S. specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012 about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the U.S., then left the country.

Places like Florida have seen in a boom in so-called “birth tourism.” Every year, hundreds of pregnant Russian women travel to the United States to give birth, paying from $20,000 to more than $50,000 to brokers who arrange their travel documents, accommodations and hospital stays. Sizable numbers of women from China and Nigeria also come to the U.S. for the same reason.

Trump’s comments Wednesday came as the administration continued to make immigration changes pushed by his hardline advisers that have been in the works for months. On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced it had moved to end a longstanding federal agreement that limits how long immigrant children can be kept in detention. The decision will almost certainly lead to a legal battle over the government’s desire to hold migrant families until their cases are decided.

The rule follows moves last week to broaden the definition of a “public charge” — a burden to the U.S. — to include immigrants on public assistance, potentially denying green cards to more immigrants. There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border.

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

Immigration Advocate Weighs In On Trump Administration's Move To End Flores Agreement



The Trump administration is moving to allow the government to detain migrant families with children indefinitely. The Department of Homeland Security announced today that they plan to publish a new regulation that would eliminate the current 20-day limit on the detention of minors. That 20-day limit stems from a 1997 court settlement called the Flores Agreement that governs conditions for migrant children in federal care.

Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan blamed the Flores Settlement for the influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants at the southern border.


KEVIN MCALEENAN: The driving factor for this crisis is weakness in our legal framework for immigration. Human smugglers advertise, and intending migrants know well that even if they cross the border illegally, arriving at our border with a child has meant that they will be released into the United States to wait for court proceedings that could take five years or more.

CORNISH: The government is set to publish the final rule on Friday. It will require approval from a federal judge before can go into effect. We’re joined now by Wendy Young. She’s the president of KIND, an immigration advocacy group that focuses on migrant children. Welcome to the program.

WENDY YOUNG: Thank you.

CORNISH: First, just your reaction to this change in regulation.

YOUNG: Well, these are kids that are placed into deportation proceedings, facing a very complex legal proceeding to determine whether they should stay or be returned to their home countries. And it’s critical that we provide them with appropriate care pending the conclusion of that case. So for the government to be attempting to strip children and families of these protections leaves the door wide open for abuses and poor treatment during the pendency of their case.

CORNISH: Now, Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan has said that this new rule does have high standards. And he describes a facility with separate living areas for every family, with appropriate furniture, hot meals, classroom learning, medical facilities. Does this sound like a better option?

YOUNG: Well, certainly we don’t see anything in place currently that meets that description. We have worked for many years to improve the treatment of children who arrive alone in the United States – unaccompanied children – to ensure that they’re provided appropriate shelter care.

CORNISH: Now, I’m under the impression there are three such residential facilities. Is that not true?

YOUNG: That’s correct. There are three family detention facilities, but they have proven to provide really inappropriate care to families even for the 20-day period in which the court has said that children can be detained with their parents.

CORNISH: In what way?

YOUNG: Well, for example, there have been very serious reports of very young children being held in these facilities who are actually losing weight because of the conditions in which they’re being held.

CORNISH: Can you talk about this other argument that McAleenan is making about how he thinks this regulation is actually contributing to the number of people coming to the border?

YOUNG: The notion that the Flores Agreement is serving as some kind of pull factor, drawing people to the United States, is simply without basis. This agreement’s been in place for more than two decades. The increase in migration is primarily coming from the so-called Northern Triangle countries of Central America – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The reason for that flow of people to the U.S. border is very simple. It’s violence in Central America that’s driving people – children and families – out of their home countries because they cannot obtain safety in their own country.

CORNISH: You know, our reporters have also spoken to families in Central American countries who have said, we know if we arrive there with a child, we have a chance to stick around while we wait for our case to move through the courts. I mean, this isn’t just coming from DHS.

YOUNG: But the idea that that’s the motivating factor for these families is really – it’s not accurate because why would you, if you were a family, make this extraordinarily difficult, arduous, dangerous trip to the United States simply because you think that’s what’s going to let you through the door? You have to look at what’s motivating that family to move in the first place, which truly is largely violence in Central America.

CORNISH: What’s your main critique of what they’re doing? I mean, what would you tell the White House about this that just raises legal questions for you?

YOUNG: This regulation needs to be understood in the context of a series of actions that this administration has taken over the past couple of years to systematically gut protections that have been in place for very vulnerable children, for families and for asylum-seekers generally.

They’re finding ways through regulation, through policy to basically shut the doors of the United States to refugees who need our protection. You’ve seen them do this in the context of the Flores Agreement currently. You’ve seen them do this to refugee resettlement. You’ve seen them do this through their increased emphasis on detention as a deterrent. They are finding whatever way they can to effect effectively bring about the immigration policies that they’ve sought to bring about ever since they ran for office.

CORNISH: That’s Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense, an immigration advocacy group for migrant children.

Thank you for speaking with us.

YOUNG: Thank you.

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

U.S. Seeks Longer Detentions for Migrant Families

By Michelle Hackman

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration moved to allow the government to indefinitely detain families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and supersede a decades-old court settlement that both limits how long migrant children can be held in custody and sets standards for their care.

The new rules are the Republican administration’s latest effort to tighten immigration laws on its own, with Congress long unable to agree on any legal overhaul. Wednesday’s policy change could permit authorities to detain families through the duration of their immigration proceedings, rather than release them or separate children from their detained parents.

Immigration-rights advocates are expected to challenge the rules in federal court, where they have blocked the administration before. A legal challenge would likely keep the policy from taking immediate effect.

Administration officials say the new rules are intended to discourage family members from attempting to cross the border together in the belief that they will gain an advantage in lodging their asylum claims because of the current detention limits for children. “No child should be used as a pawn to scheme our immigration system,” said acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Wednesday.

President Trump said he hoped the new rules—along with other immigration policies—would deter migrant families from risking their lives on a perilous journey to the U.S. border. “When they see you can’t get into the United States—or when they see if they do get into the United States, they will be brought back to their country—they won’t come,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday.

The administration’s new detention rules seek to bypass a 1997 settlement known as the Flores agreement, which governs the treatment of immigrant children in government care. A court ruling on the settlement during the Obama administration barred the government from keeping children with their parents in immigration detention centers for longer than 20 days.

“This new rule flies in the face of years of clear direction from the courts, and follows this administration’s disturbing pattern of attempting to restrict or outright eliminate legitimate pathways for immigrants to come to the United States legally,” said Todd Schulte, president of Fwd.us, a pro-immigration lobbying group.

The government must next file a brief on the legality of its plan with a federal court in Los Angeles overseeing the continuing implementation of the Flores agreement. The judge in question, U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee, most recently ordered the government in June to drastically improve the conditions of children in its custody, saying among other things that it must provide the children soap and toothbrushes.

The current 20-day detention limit specifies that the government may not detain children beyond that period unless they are housed in a state-licensed facility. The two largest facilities designed to house families, both in Texas, aren’t licensed to house children beyond 20 days.

To circumvent that requirement, the new set of rules would enable DHS to create its own licensing system, effectively allowing the government to house families in any of its detention facilities through their court proceedings until they are either granted asylum, paroled into the U.S. or deported.

Mr. Trump also said he was once again considering an executive order to end what is known as birthright citizenship, the automatic right to citizenship granted to anyone born in the U.S. regardless of their parents’ citizenship status.

“We are looking at that very seriously,” Mr. Trump said. “You walk over the border and have a baby, congratulations, the baby is now a U.S. citizen.”

Mr. Trump, who first raised the idea last year, didn’t offer further details, but most legal scholars have dismissed such a move as unconstitutional. Birthright citizenship, widely seen as a pillar of U.S. immigration law, is protected by the Constitution’s 14th Amendment and unbroken Supreme Court precedent.

The Trump administration has wrestled for more than a year with a surge in families fleeing Central America, largely due to gang violence and economic woes, and seeking U.S. residency. They arrive at the U.S. border and almost always turn themselves in to border agents and claim asylum rather than attempting to sneak into the country. The care needs of the children have posed a particular challenge to facilities at the border.

Mr. Trump and Republicans have argued the Flores agreement’s 20-day detention limit has driven up the number of immigrant families traveling together expecting to be released into the U.S. Mr. McAleenan said Wednesday that 475,000 immigrants traveling as families crossed the border illegally since the start of the government’s fiscal year in October, up from 107,000 through all of the previous fiscal year.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that smugglers in Guatemala offer steep discounts to migrants bringing a child, catering to the belief there that a child is a ticket to enter the U.S.

“People have caught on, people know that bringing a family is a free ticket into the U.S.,” a senior DHS official told reporters on Tuesday.

The DHS official also suggested inaccurately that the housing facilities the government would use under its new plan aren’t locked, and detained migrants can leave if they choose. The government’s current family-detention facilities are ringed by fences and locked gates, and unarmed security officers control the entrances.

Last summer, the government briefly began separating families to deter others from crossing the border, though it quickly dropped the practice for the most part after a public outcry. A federal judge in San Diego also barred the Trump administration from carrying out a family-separation policy and ordered the government to reunite thousands of children with their parents.

Immigration officials have pledged since then to try to detain families together. But authorities have separated more than 900 children from their parents in the past year, some based on claims of abuse or gang ties, according to government data that the American Civil Liberties Union cited in a court filing.

The administration has also tried to deter asylum claims by requiring many families seeking asylum to wait in Mexico while their requests are adjudicated or to lodge claims before reaching the U.S. in countries such as Guatemala. Courts have allowed those policies to go ahead for now.

The government argues longer-term detention is necessary in part because families who are released from Customs and Border Protection or ICE custody tend not to appear in court when they are summoned. But according to immigration-court statistics analyzed by Syracuse University, about six in seven families released from custody do attend their hearings.

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Zuniga v. Barr

Pursuant to 8 U.S.C. §1228, which governs expedited removal proceedings for noncitizens convicted of committing aggravated felonies, and through which non-citizens can request reasonable fear interviews, non-citizens have the privilege of being represented, at no expense to the government, by counsel.

Zuniga v. Barr - filed Aug. 20, 2019 
Cite as 2019 S.O.S. 16-72982 

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

Monday, August 19, 2019

How Trump’s Policies Are Leaving Thousands of Asylum Seekers Waiting in Mexico

By Jason Kao and Denise Lu

For years, migrants arriving in Tijuana hoping to seek asylum in the United States have been told to add their names to a waiting list kept by Mexican immigration officials. Amid a surge in arrivals over the last year, which led to Trump administration policies designed to deter them, that list — kept in a handwritten notebook — has stretched to thousands of names.

In July in Tijuana: About 500 asylum seekers were processed.
About 9,900 were on the waiting list by the end of the month.

By August, the list had grown to more than 10,000 people, according to Al Otro Lado, a legal services organization for migrants. With an average of 34 people allowed to cross each day under a Border Patrol policy known as metering, the waiting time is now estimated to be six to nine months.

Those who have yet to cross will spend weeks or months waiting their turn. Those who are sent back to wait in Mexico may not see a judge for an additional six to eight months. Even then, most cases require lengthy litigation and could last months longer.

The metering and “Remain in Mexico” policies are part of a broader Trump administration effort to push Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to accept more migrants, most of whom come from Central American countries. The administration has also sought “safe third country” agreements with those same countries to absorb asylum seekers bound for the United States. Mexico has refused to sign an agreement. Guatemala signed on July 26, after President Trump threatened it with tariffs.

Shelters and legal services organizations in cities on both sides of the border have struggled to keep up with the influx of migrants. In Mexican cities like Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo, where some shelters have begun turning away migrants because of overcrowding, migrants who cannot afford to stay in apartments or hotels sleep in the streets or on the bridges leading to the ports of entry they hope someday to cross.

Migrants in Mexico face targeted kidnappings and violence, and chances of eventually winning asylum in the United States are much lower with limited access to American lawyers.

In recent months, some migrants tired of waiting have decided to return to their home countries. The Mexican government assisted with 6,400 such returns in June, compared with fewer than 1,500 in January.

Others have sought more permanent refuge in Mexico, where asylum claims this year are expected to reach well above 80,000, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

But far more migrants choose to forgo the waiting lists and court delays and instead risk an illegal crossing into the United States. Since January, about 400,000 unaccompanied minors and migrants traveling as families have been apprehended between ports of entry; most of them are quite likely asylum seekers.

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

Appeals Court Bars Trump Asylum Restrictions for California, Arizona

By Brent Kendall and Louise Radnofsky

A federal appeals court blocked the Trump administration from imposing tough asylum restrictions on Central Americans who arrive at the border in California and Arizona, but it allowed the White House to proceed in other border states.

In a mixed ruling on asylum seekers, the San Francisco-based Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the administration hadn’t made a strong showing that its policy—which effectively bars asylum claims from Central American migrants who pass through any other country on the way to the U.S.—was lawful. It said the restrictions couldn’t be imposed within the West Coast circuit, which includes the states of California and Arizona.

But the court also ruled that a trial judge had been incorrect to block the Trump rules nationwide, and the appeals court refused to do so.

Consequently, the ruling means that, for now, the Trump administration can impose the asylum restrictions in New Mexico and Texas, which are in different judicial circuits. The outcome could create additional confusion at the border in the near term, where Central American families are already navigating a tangle of contradictory policies.

The rules in question, issued by the Trump administration in July, would have effectively cut off access to the U.S. asylum system to those arriving on foot from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The rules said Central American migrants had to seek asylum—and be denied—in another country first. A district judge in California blocked the restrictions nationwide on July 24, hours after a judge in Washington, D.C., decided to leave the Trump policy in place.

President Trump has long railed against the Ninth Circuit, criticizing liberal judges there for blocking his immigration initiatives. But two of the three judges involved in Friday’s case were appointed by Republican presidents: Judge Milan Smith, a George W. Bush nominee, and Judge Mark Bennett, whom Mr. Trump nominated last year.

Those two, plus Judge A. Wallace Tashima, a Clinton appointee, all concluded the administration hadn’t shown that it would likely win its defense of the asylum restrictions when the appeals court gives the case full consideration later this year.

The two Republican appointees, however, formed a majority in concluding that legal challengers—civil-rights and immigration groups—hadn’t demonstrated that they were entitled to have the restrictions blocked throughout the U.S.

“Our approach—granting a more limited injunction—allows other litigants wishing to challenge the rule to do so” in other circuits, the majority said, and would allow those courts to weigh in.

That portion of the court’s order offered a boost for the Trump administration, which has objected repeatedly to court injunctions that blocked White House policies nationwide.

In dissent, Judge Tashima said the “split-the-baby” court order created the prospect that asylum law may be administered differently in Texas than California.

The Justice Department, which is defending the asylum restrictions in court, declined to comment. The White House said it disagreed with the circuit’s decision to uphold the injunction within its jurisdiction but added it would “now be able to apply the rule at issue to curb asylum abuse outside of the Ninth Circuit. We look forward to having the injunction lifted in its entirety on appeal.”

Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing the plaintiffs, applauded the court ruling and said challengers to the restrictions would move to submit additional information in court to show why a nationwide injunction would be appropriate.

“The Ninth Circuit’s decision saying we are likely to prevail is an enormous victory,” Mr. Gelernt said. “The Trump administration argues vigorously that this latest asylum ban, like the first asylum ban, was lawful and in both instances a federal appeals court disagreed.”

Courts last year prevented the administration from implementing earlier restrictions that would have banned asylum claims by migrants who crossed into the U.S. illegally. But the Ninth Circuit earlier this year did allow the administration to implement rules known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, often called “Remain in Mexico.” Under these rules, families have been sent to wait in Mexico for their claims to be adjudicated in the U.S.

Under pressure from the Trump administration, Guatemala also agreed to require migrants traveling through to the U.S. to seek asylum there instead of at the U.S.-Mexico border, signing what White House officials said was a safe third-country agreement. That has already impeded the journeys of many people fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras and El Salvador to the U.S. border.

In other legal action Friday, attorneys general representing California, Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s new “public charge” policy that would deny permanent residence to legal immigrants who use some public-assistance programs and bar U.S. entry for others deemed likely to use the programs.

“This cruel policy would force working parents and families across the nation to forego basic necessities like food, housing, and healthcare out of fear,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, said Friday.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has said the new regulation “lies squarely within existing law and we expect this rule to withstand any legal challenges.”

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

Julián Castro’s Obama Moment

The night before Julián Castro delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention for President Barack Obama’s re-election, he had eaten by himself at the T.G.I. Friday’s not far from the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.

No one recognized the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio. As the other delegates party-hopped around Charlotte, Mr. Castro studied his notes over dinner and went to bed by 9 p.m. He wanted to be well-rested before giving the biggest speech of his political career — a speech that he and his family now remember as transforming everything.

“The next morning, when we walked down the street, he was just mobbed,” said Mr. Castro’s twin brother, Joaquin, who is a United States congressman. “It was this instantaneous example of how things can change so quickly.”

Mr. Castro’s speech, in a prime-time slot, burst him onto the national stage, just like the one that had catapulted Mr. Obama to superstardom in 2004. Mr. Castro symbolized a new moment in American politics: The grandson of a Mexican immigrant with a fourth-grade education, the young mayor talked about his family’s story, one so common for millions of Latinos and yet almost nonexistent at the highest level of national politics. “My family’s story isn’t special,” Mr. Castro said. “What’s special is the America that makes our story possible.”

A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know.

The applause was raucous. The reviews were overwhelmingly glowing (“A Political Star is Born” and “A Latino Obama?” the headlines read). People started to recognize Mr. Castro, even if they often confused him for Joaquin. On the way back to San Antonio, a fan stopped him in a men’s room at the Atlanta airport to shake his hand. (“He wanted to shake my hand in a men’s room!” Mr. Castro said. “I couldn’t believe it.”) Political pundits declared the Castro brothers the future of the party.

“He was this kind of phenom and, you know, was this symbol of the growing diverse country,” David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s chief strategist, said of Julián.

Party leaders waited for him to seize on his “Obama Moment.” And waited. And waited. And waited.

The keynote, as it turned out, became a turning point that didn’t quite turn him.

Now, as Mr. Castro seeks the Democratic nomination for president, he finds himself in a completely different political landscape. In 2012, both parties were courting Latino voters, and an incumbent Democratic president needed help softening his image as the “deporter in chief.” Today, the incumbent Republican president is pushing to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and has separated thousands of migrant families at the border.

Mr. Castro must convince his party that his Latino appeal, his record, his relative moderation and, most important, the themes he laid out in that 2012 speech — family, the immigrant experience, the importance of education — will resonate across a nation more divided than when he had his first star moment.

So far, however, Mr. Castro has mostly languished in polls, eclipsed first by another Texan, Beto O’Rourke, and then by another mayor, Pete Buttigieg. He is currently one qualifying poll away from earning a spot in the September debate.

Some Democrats wondered earlier this year whether Mr. Castro’s problem was that he peaked too soon. One challenge was that there was no clear path forward from the Charlotte convention. His most logical next step, running for statewide office, was all but impossible given his home state: Republicans had dominated Texas politics for more than two decades. The state was changing — by the 2020 presidential election, the Democratic-leaning Latino population could turn it purple. But back then, Mr. Castro seemed stuck.

In 2014, he became Mr. Obama’s housing secretary. Two years later, he stumped for Hillary Clinton and was floated as a potential running mate. Last year he published a memoir, the kind that maybe-presidential candidates often publish. (“In the spirit of a young Barack Obama’s ‘Dreams From My Father,’” the book’s description reads.)

After Mr. Castro’s solid performance in the first presidential debate in June, Democrats asked his finance chair, Scott Atlas, a lawyer in Houston, where he’d been hiding Mr. Castro. Mr. Atlas would go red in the face reminding them of his 2012 speech. “I said, ‘He’s been hiding in plain sight!’”

Even before the speech, Mr. Castro’s record as mayor, particularly his success implementing a universal pre-K program, had earned him national praise. At a 2010 forum on economic development at the White House, Mr. Castro, who was 35 at the time, looked so young that Mr. Obama joked that he thought he was an intern. “This guy’s a mayor?” he asked.

Two years later, Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign saw that his path to defeat Mitt Romney relied on high Latino turnout to hold Nevada and Colorado.

This would be a challenge for the president, who faced criticism from immigration activists and Latino advocacy groups over aggressive deportation policies and his failure to make progress on overhauling the immigration system.

Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, crunched the numbers and called the White House from the campaign’s Chicago headquarters to report that the re-election effort had a Latino problem.

In June 2012, Mr. Obama announced an executive action to protect some young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers. (It also helped that Mr. Romney had stumbled by saying he favored “self deportation.”) The campaign needed something else, though, recalled Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group. The Democratic Party, he said, was asking, “Who is the Obama-like Latino who can electrify the convention?”

Enter Mr. Castro, in one of the most coveted speaking gigs in American politics.

Mr. Obama’s speech at the 2004 convention, a rebuke of a divided red and blue America under President George W. Bush, had been such a sensation that it laid the groundwork for his 2008 presidential campaign. Before the 2012 convention, Mr. Castro hadn’t ever delivered a speech using a teleprompter.

“I’d never been in front of a national audience before, and this would be 19,000 people in the arena and another 25 million watching, so it was literally stepping up to a different league,” Mr. Castro recalled.

The Obama campaign had polled how several potential keynote speakers might go over, but Mr. Castro’s personal narrative — the single mom, the bootstraps, the journey from public schools in a poverty-stricken, predominantly Hispanic area of San Antonio to degrees from Stanford and Harvard — seemed like the best message.

“The Latino thing was important to us because that was one place where we had to run up the numbers against Romney,” Mr. Messina said. But mostly it was Mr. Castro’s biography that appealed. “He was the Latino version of Barack Obama — at least in his story, if not the talent.”

In July 2012, Mr. Messina called Mr. Castro in San Antonio to offer him the keynote address at the upcoming convention. Mr. Castro sent an aide out to scramble around South Texas to find the nearest teleprompter so he could begin to practice.

The Obama campaign sent a couple of speech coaches to run through practice sessions in Charlotte. “He’d start delivering it and they’d say, ‘Don’t yell into the mic,’ and, ‘Don’t lean back and forth from the mic,’” recalled his communications director at the time, Jaime Castillo.

Mr. Castro told Mr. Messina that he wanted to write his own speech, or at least most of it. Ever the student, he studied the greatest hits of convention speeches. There was Ann Richards’s 1988 address (“Poor George, he can’t help it — he was born with a silver foot in his mouth”), Mario Cuomo’s 1984 speech (“This nation is more ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ than it is just a ‘shining city on a hill’”), and, of course, Mr. Obama’s in 2004 speech (“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America”).

“The common theme that connected them was the way you communicate your personal story, your aspirational vision for the future of the country — those things never go out of style,” Mr. Castro said.

The campaign largely agreed to leave it to the Castro brothers, but they did cut “this idea of infrastructure of opportunity we’d both been talking about for a while because they thought it sounded too technical,” Joaquin Castro said. The brothers convinced the Obama campaign to leave the line about the American dream being “not a sprint or even a marathon, but a relay,” passed from one generation or another — a line Julián Castro uses often in his 2020 campaign.

Mr. Castro divided his remarks into three parts: First, there was the story of growing up the son of a single mom, raised partly by his grandmother Victoria, who had left Mexico when she was a child and worked as a maid most of her life, “barely scraping by, but still working hard to give my mother, her only child, a chance in life so that my mother could give my brother and me an even better one.” Then, he criticized Mr. Romney, delivering the red meat that the party and re-election campaign demanded. (“Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it.”) Finally, he told voters why they should choose Mr. Obama.

He’d done several rehearsals on the stage, but 30 seconds after Joaquin introduced him, Mr. Castro clutched the podium, felt the heat of the bright lights and thought he might pass out. (He later confessed that to Mr. Obama, who said that he, too, felt faint before his 2004 keynote.) Mr. Castro got more comfortable as he went on. Watch it on YouTube and you can see his hands unclenching, his expression soften. By the time Mr. Castro concluded, reciting the Spanish words his grandmother had whispered to him — “Que dios te bendiga,” may God bless you — the room roared.

“It didn’t launch him the way it did Barack Obama,” Mr. Messina said. “But he gave a very good speech that was good for us and, for a moment, he was this very big thing nationally.”

In his 2020 campaign, Mr. Castro has led the party left in the immigration debate. He was the first candidate to propose repealing a section of the immigration laws that criminalizes illegal border crossings. It’s a position that some Republicans believe can be used against the Democrats in a general election where “decriminalization” likely won’t play as well as a proposal framed simply around ending family separations. But almost all of the major Democratic candidates have followed Mr. Castro’s lead on border crossing policy, reflecting both where primary voters stand on the issue and a desire to draw a sharp contrast between the party and President Trump’s views.

“Our current president, for whatever reason, has decided to paint brown people as dangerous and dirty and unwanted, so we need brown people represented,” said Patti Solis Doyle, a Democratic operative and one of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign managers in 2008.

The Castro brothers believe that the current climate makes the echoes of that first major speech and their family’s story even more potent. They dusted off the 2012 keynote address to prepare for the first Democratic primary debate in Miami.

During the debate, as his opponents spoke, Mr. Castro scribbled on a notepad a closing statement that what was essentially a 47-second distillation of his 20-minute convention speech. He repeated the story of his immigrant roots, and he declared that the nation would soon say “adiós” to Mr. Trump. “There is a direct line between what I talked about in 2012 and what I am campaigning on in 2019,” Mr. Castro said.

Online donations in the two days after the June debate spiked 3,255 percent from the previous two days, according to the campaign. Caucusgoers started to show up in greater numbers to his town halls in Iowa. The merchandise on his website inspired by the Mexican lottery started to sell out.

“Before the debate, people said, ‘I don’t know why you’re doing this. This guy isn’t ready for prime time,’” Mr. Atlas, the lawyer and finance chair, said. “After the debate, they said, ‘I take it back! I take it back!’”

Mr. Castro delivered a less standout performance in the second debate in Detroit. But he is optimistic about his chances to make the September debate stage, in his home state of Texas. His mom, Rosie, said her son, who doesn’t look or act like most of his opponents, has an advantage. “He’s a calm guy. He’s not a good ol’ boy. He’s not a back slapper. He’s quiet and introspective and likes to read,” she said. “People always end up underestimating him.”

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

Friday, August 16, 2019

Their U.S. roots date back centuries, but these Latinos still wonder if it’s enough to belong

By Esmeralda Bermudez and Paloma Esquivel

It’s a tricky thing, what makes up an American.

There are Latinos whose families have been on this land since long before the Statue of Liberty greeted newcomers from New York Harbor, before the Civil War and the Declaration of Independence.

In the days since the El Paso massacre, many have found themselves reflecting, wrestling with their place in society and asking questions about how their heritage, their language and their skin color has shaped them and the way other Americans perceive them.

Some say the El Paso shooting, which targeted Mexicans, along with the white supremacist rhetoric that led up to it, has put the entire U.S. Latino population under attack.

In California and Texas, two states where people have continually crossed borders and borders have continually crossed people, many families feel they’re living at a time when a painful kind of history is repeating itself.

These are some of their stories.

Angela Sauceda

Down in San Antonio, a 60-foot sculpture bears the name of one of Angela Sauceda’s ancestors.

Galba Fuqua died in the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. His jaw was broken as he fought on behalf of the Republic of Texas at 16 years old.

At that same age, Sauceda led a vastly different life in Hacienda Heights in suburban Los Angeles. She attended private school and lived in a two-story condo, the daughter of two Mexican American professionals.

“My parents always made sure that I was taken care of,” said Sauceda, 33.

When she learned that a gunman had stormed a Walmart in what is possibly the worst hate crime against Latinos in decades, she felt vulnerable. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that her family had been on this land for six generations. None of that would protect her.

She read the gunman’s manifesto on her phone and found herself, angry and hurt, asking the shooter in her mind, “Why do you hate me so much?”

Sauceda’s roots run so deep in the U.S., she can’t recall a time when there was an immigrant in her family. She doesn’t speak Spanish and can’t roll her Rs, at least not as well her boyfriend, who happens to be white.

Many times people see her light skin and label her “Anglo.” Sometimes they say insensitive things about Latinos in front of her.

“It puts me in this awkward situation,” she said. “I have to ask myself: Do I walk away and save face, or do I confront the person and have some sort of conflict with them?”

In recent years, Sauceda, a personal stylist from San Dimas, has struggled to accept how much she’s lost of her Mexican identity, because of decades of political oppression and pressure to assimilate. She tries to fill in some gaps by learning about historic figures like Frida Kahlo, following Latino artists on social media and shopping from Latino vendors online.

“It feels as if all these things that belonged to me, that were my birthright, were stolen from me,” she said.

She also harbors a fear of the police and the military, passed down to her through earlier generations’ encounters with racial harassment and violence. The sight of uniformed men reminds her of her grandmother’s frightful stories of the Mexican repatriation of the 1930s, when hundreds of thousands of Mexicans and Mexican Americans — some of whose families had been living in the United States for decades — were forcibly sent back to Mexico as a wave of angry nativist sentiment swept the country after the 1929 financial crash.

The week of the El Paso attack, Sauceda learned from news reports that the shooter had set free white and black shoppers and purposefully held back those who looked Latino. That thought haunted her. It filled her with guilt to think that she might have been among those who were set free and escaped death.

“It’s a privilege I carry, my ability to pass as white,” she said. “I don’t bring it up because I want any sort of sympathy. I just hope others will stop and acknowledge their own privilege too.”

Monica Ruis Morton

Galba Fuqua died in the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. His jaw was broken as he fought on behalf of the Republic of Texas at 16 years old.

At that same age, Sauceda led a vastly different life in Hacienda Heights in suburban Los Angeles. She attended private school and lived in a two-story condo, the daughter of two Mexican American professionals.

“My parents always made sure that I was taken care of,” said Sauceda, 33.

When she learned that a gunman had stormed a Walmart in what is possibly the worst hate crime against Latinos in decades, she felt vulnerable. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that her family had been on this land for six generations. None of that would protect her.

She read the gunman’s manifesto on her phone and found herself, angry and hurt, asking the shooter in her mind, “Why do you hate me so much?”

Sauceda’s roots run so deep in the U.S., she can’t recall a time when there was an immigrant in her family. She doesn’t speak Spanish and can’t roll her Rs, at least not as well her boyfriend, who happens to be white.

Many times people see her light skin and label her “Anglo.” Sometimes they say insensitive things about Latinos in front of her.

“It puts me in this awkward situation,” she said. “I have to ask myself: Do I walk away and save face, or do I confront the person and have some sort of conflict with them?”

In recent years, Sauceda, a personal stylist from San Dimas, has struggled to accept how much she’s lost of her Mexican identity, because of decades of political oppression and pressure to assimilate. She tries to fill in some gaps by learning about historic figures like Frida Kahlo, following Latino artists on social media and shopping from Latino vendors online.

“It feels as if all these things that belonged to me, that were my birthright, were stolen from me,” she said.

She also harbors a fear of the police and the military, passed down to her through earlier generations’ encounters with racial harassment and violence. The sight of uniformed men reminds her of her grandmother’s frightful stories of the Mexican repatriation of the 1930s, when hundreds of thousands of Mexicans and Mexican Americans — some of whose families had been living in the United States for decades — were forcibly sent back to Mexico as a wave of angry nativist sentiment swept the country after the 1929 financial crash.

The week of the El Paso attack, Sauceda learned from news reports that the shooter had set free white and black shoppers and purposefully held back those who looked Latino. That thought haunted her. It filled her with guilt to think that she might have been among those who were set free and escaped death.

“It’s a privilege I carry, my ability to pass as white,” she said. “I don’t bring it up because I want any sort of sympathy. I just hope others will stop and acknowledge their own privilege too.”

Monica Ruis Morton

A few days after the shooting, Mike Estrada found himself at a dining room table surrounded by family, tiptoeing toward a topic that’s triggered arguments in the past: the politics of Trump.

“It’s like World War III when we go all go there,” Estrada, 43, said. “Everyone takes it very personally.”

To the community college professor from Berkeley, El Paso seemed like a straightforward conversation about a massacre rooted in hate against Latinos, a hate he believes Trump has nurtured.

But to some of his cousins, that hostility had little do with them. The target, they’ve argued for some time, are immigrants who take advantage of the U.S. immigration system. Those who come into the country illegally, don’t work hard enough, don’t pay taxes.

Growing up with a fair mix of Republicans and Democrats in the Central Valley in a Mexican American family that’s been in the U.S. for more than a century, there’s bound to be political differences.

Estrada remembers leaning right in his beliefs as a kid raised in the 1980s. He was shaped by Ronald Reagan’s celebrated speeches, the macho anti-communism of “Rambo” movies and conservative “Just Say No” anti-drug campaigns. In high school, he used to argue against allowing gay people in the military and bought into the idea, to some degree, that immigrants took a toll on U.S. resources.

At home in Fresno, his parents were working class. They grew up picking cotton, grapes and peaches in the fields. His grandmother distrusted la migra.

Some afternoons, driving home from school, his mom, Josie, used to tell him some of the family’s greatest legends — how her grandfather once rode alongside Pancho Villa and how she once marched alongside Cesar Chavez. Estrada knew little about these men, the roles they played in history. But he saw how his mom’s face would light up each time she said their names.

“I felt a deep sense of pride,” he said. “I knew I came from a tough line of people.”

There were his grandparents Catarino Gaeta and Pascuala Mena Gaeta, who immigrated north at age 19 and 14 during the Mexican Revolution. On his father Raymond’s side, the family’s roots reach back to Texas and Spain.

In college, Estrada took a series of courses that gradually helped him understand American history and motivated him to become a political science professor. The more he learned, the more progressive he became and the closer he paid attention to race and politics.

El Paso was a tragedy he had dreaded for some time. It’s left him with a mix of anger, helplessness and fear.

In his classroom, he’s learned to navigate his students’ questions with care, how to help them address their anxiety.

At home, he knows it’s best to show restraint and keep political conversations brief. That way, things don’t blow up and create resentment.

“It hurts that we see things so differently, but it’s also complicated,” Estrada said. “I don’t want to create more distance with my family.”

Arlinda Valencia

In the mid-1950s, when Arlinda Valencia was 4 years old, she and her family were among the first Latinos to integrate the white side of a tiny town called Monahans, Texas.

Her mother was ostracized by other mothers. She remembers the little boy who lived next door and how every morning he used to walk outside, draw a line in the dirt with his shoe and say, “You Mexicans can’t cross this line.”

“Every chance we got we would put our foot on the other side,” Valencia, 66, said.

It was a small act of resistance with deep roots in her family, which has lived on the rugged land of what is now West Texas since the late 1600s.

In 1918, her great-grandfather Longino Flores was rounded up by Texas Rangers. He and 14 other Mexican men and boys were executed in what became infamous as the Porvenir massacre.

The families that survived the attack fled to Mexico. Some never returned. But Valencia’s great-grandmother, Juana Bonilla Flores, did. She fought for years to hold the U.S. government accountable.

“She stood and fought for her family,” Valencia said. “She was a strong woman.”

In the decades after the massacre, Valencia’s family continued to struggle against anti-Mexican sentiment. Her mother was determined to move the family out of the barrio. They saved money and managed to convince a builder to sell them a new home where only white families lived. They thrived there but also paid a price, enduring constant racist slights.

In the 1980s, she and her husband, Ysrael Valencia, became teachers in Monahans. They fought discrimination and retaliation by the school district after Ysrael was passed over for a promotion. Federal officials eventually ruled in his favor, but the battle lasted years and ultimately pushed Valencia’s family to leave town.

In El Paso they found a refuge — a majority-Latino city that can feel just as Mexican as American. And she began to feel like she’d left behind the bigotry that had long beset her family.

Then Trump launched his presidential campaign with an attack on Mexicans and won the 2016 election.

From the moment he called Mexican immigrants rapists, she felt, “You can’t help but know deep down in your stomach that there’s something wrong.”

When she heard that a man had hunted down Walmart shoppers less than three miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, she knew even before reading his racist screed that the attacker had acted out of hate for people like her.

“I didn’t have to hear his words,” Valencia said. “I turned around to my husband and said, ‘It’s here. They’ve come to kill the Mexicans.’”

She sees the violence that hit El Paso as no different from what happened to her family at Porvenir.

“They want us to go back to Mexico,” she said. “What they don’t understand is we were here. They crossed us. This is where we were.”

Despite what her family has endured, Valencia remains hopeful as her four grandchildren grow up in El Paso.

“There are good people in this country,” she said. “There are so many good people.”

Tim Rosales

Several hundred years have passed since Tim Rosales’ ancestors left the Spanish-controlled Canary Islands and embarked on a perilous voyage through Mexico to settle in what is now Texas.

His father, Miguel Rosales, still doesn’t like to speak of his childhood days down South — of being turned away from certain restaurants or swimming pools because of the color of his skin.

“He doesn’t like remembering that old Texas, that old feeling,” said Tim Rosales, 43.

Miguel Rosales came to California in the 1950s and found a more accepting home in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles. He married a blond, blue-eyed woman from North Dakota whose family migrated from Norway more than a century after his. Together they raised eight children, each a different shade of brown and white and with a mix of political opinions.

Tim Rosales, the sixth child, planted Republican Party roots early on. Rather than watch cartoons, he loved listening to “the Great Communicator,” Reagan, on television.

“I felt a closeness with him,” Rosales said. “I liked to hear him talk about hope and opportunity for everyone.”

Most of his life, he’s voted for Republicans. He opened a political consulting firm in Sacramento and has helped steer high-profile campaigns, including one for the most recent Republican candidate for California governor, John Cox.

When Rosales heard about El Paso, he was with his daughter at a swim meet. He thought it was “unfathomable that someone could do something so evil.”

Still, he wasn’t surprised because “there’s a high level of toxicity right now” for a number of reasons: polarized political discourse, anxiety over the news and social media’s ability to stir up people far and wide.

Rosales said he doesn’t like Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. He didn’t vote for him or Hillary Clinton because neither felt like the right choice.

This far into Trump’s term, Rosales won’t say whether he considers the president’s words racist because “I can’t speak to what’s in someone’s heart.”

In order to move on, everyone must look beyond Trump, he said. They also should stop and learn about the contributions made by Latinos like his ancestors.

“Discrimination is part of the history of this country,” Rosales said. “It was here long before the president came and will continue to be here long after he’s gone if we don’t stop now and ask bigger questions.”

We want to hear your story.

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Unequal Outcomes: Most ICE Detainees Held In Rural Areas Where Deportation Risks Soar

By Yuki Noguchi

Yoel Alonso sat in a cell for 10 months before he ever met with a lawyer. His wife had to travel 1,000 miles to visit him at the remote Louisiana facility where he was detained.

Alonso is not imprisoned for committing a crime. In fact, he turned himself in to immigration officials last October, seeking asylum from Cuba. Since then, he has been detained in two rural facilities — first in Louisiana, and now in Adams County, Miss. — where he is faced with daunting legal hurdles. Chief among them: Alonso has met his lawyer only once in his nearly 11 months in federal custody.

And his plight is becoming more common. More than half of immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are housed in remote rural prisons, according to a new NPR analysis, about 52%. That number is increasing.

That is a mounting concern for those who advocate on behalf of immigrants, because detainees in rural areas are facing higher barriers to obtaining a lawyer, more likely to have their asylum cases denied and more likely to be deported to their home countries.

Alonso sought asylum in the U.S. last October, turning himself over to immigration officials in Laredo, Texas. He was soon moved to a rural detention facility in Pine Prairie, La., a four-hour drive from New Orleans and 1,000 miles away from his family.

“I had the chance to visit him [once] even though it was very far away,” says Alonso’s wife, Midalis Rodriguez, a permanent U.S. resident who lives in southern Florida with their two children.

In June, Alonso was transferred to another rural prison in Adams County, Miss., 100 miles from the nearest city of Baton Rouge.

“It’s a very concerning trend that immigration detention is moving to rural areas, remote areas, where it makes it so much harder for a person in detention to get the support that they need,” says Liz Martinez, a board member for Freedom for Immigrants, an immigrant rights group.

In fact, only a minority of detainees have lawyers at all. According to a 2015 study published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, only 14% of immigrant detainees have legal representation. Those in urban areas are at least four times more likely to have an attorney.

Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center sued ICE and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, alleging the agency was deliberately detaining people in rural areas far from legal resources.

ICE, which currently detains 55,530 undocumented immigrants, declined to comment on that lawsuit. In an emailed statement, a spokesman said ICE considers proximity to airports, health care and legal resources when selecting facilities. He also says detainees have access to phones and video teleconferencing and can also meet with their attorneys during visiting hours.

But many immigration attorneys say in reality, there are lots of roadblocks: not enough phones, poor connections, little or no access to interpreters, and restrictive visiting hours.

For Alonso, who is 50, it has led to an excruciating wait. His health is failing; he has severe gout and was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Alonso eventually found attorneys to take his case, pro bono; he is among a very tiny fraction of detainees able to secure such free legal services.

So far, he has been denied humanitarian parole twice. His wife says it has been extremely hard for the family.

“What more could a wife with a sick husband want, other than to be with him?” she says in Spanish. “At the very least, I want to offer him my support, and for my children to offer support.”

Money appears to be one big reason such a large share of detainees are ending up in remote regions.

“That’s because of the hospitable environment in rural areas: cheap labor, cheap land,” says Lauren-Brooke Eisen, acting director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. Eisen says many rural areas view prisons as job engines. Hundreds of new rural prisons were built in the 1990s, when inmate populations boomed. Since then, the U.S. incarceration rates waned, leaving lots of empty beds.

Eisen says now ICE is capitalizing on that available space, contracting with those same rural county jails to house detainees, whose numbers are increasing: Just last week, ICE arrested 680 workers during raids on food processing plants in Mississippi.

“Immigration detention spending has skyrocketed and the rural areas benefited from that,” Eisen says.

Loyola University law professor Andrea Armstrong says she sees that happening across Louisiana. “When criminal justice reforms were enacted, that left empty beds that were ripe for contracting with ICE,” she says.

Those contracts can be lucrative. The state pays local sheriffs $24.39 per day to house someone convicted of a crime. By comparison, the average daily rate ICE pays to house an immigrant detainee is five times as much — $126.52.

ICE confirmed it recently opened eight new detention facilities, seven of which are in Louisiana. All but one are in rural areas.

“I’ve never seen an immigration attorney out there,” says Lisa Lehner, director of Americans for Immigrant Justice. She represents detainees held in Glades County, Fla., about 100 miles northwest of Miami. Glades is the state’s fourth least populated county, surrounded by acres of sugar cane fields.

The detention center in Glades has been the subject of a number of complaints and lawsuits, alleging everything from misuse of pepper spray and solitary confinement to religious persecution. Lehner argues conditions are worse in rural facilities in part because there are fewer people present to witness what is happening.

“If there’s lawyers going in and out, you would imagine that the people who are detaining the immigrants are going to behave in a more careful way,” she says.

Deportation of immigrants held in remote facilities is also far more likely, because it’s hard and expensive for detainees there to find attorneys to represent them in court, immigrant advocates say.

Immigration courts in rural areas deny many more asylum cases than those in cities, sending more detainees back to their home countries. Judges in rural immigration courts denied 87% of asylum cases, compared with 54% in urban areas, according to NPR analysis of data from 2013 to 2018 obtained by TRAC, a research project at Syracuse University.

“It is an issue, because it means if you have the bad luck of being detained and in a certain facility then you’re almost guaranteed to be deported,” says Romy Lerner, associate director of the immigration clinic at University of Miami’s law school.

Mississippi detainee Alonso hopes to beat those odds. He is appealing his asylum case and hopes to reunite with his family.

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