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, November 30, 2018

‘A Critical Time’: Border Businesses Jolted by $5.3 Million Loss in Crossing Shutdown

By Jose A. Del Real and Jennifer Medina

SAN YSIDRO, Calif. — It should have been a bustling Sunday at the sprawling outdoor mall abutting the Mexican border here. The Christmas sales were supposed to pack the parking lot that runs along a barbed wire fence in San Ysidro, one of the busiest border crossings in the world.

But instead of a post-Thanksgiving rush, San Ysidro was a scene of tense chaos over the weekend, with United States border agents firing tear gas over the border at hundreds of Central American migrants trying to storm the fence. The border crossing was shut down entirely for more than five hours, and for the first time in the nearly two decades since the Las Americas outlet mall opened, it closed its doors for the day.

The economic impact was deep and immediate in the border area, where retail businesses depend on cross-border traffic — at least 90 percent of retail customers in San Ysidro come from Mexico, according to the local Chamber of Commerce. Sunday’s shutdown meant a loss of an estimated $5.3 million for the 650 businesses in the area, said Jason Wells, the group’s executive director.

“We’re in a critical time of the year for everyone whose livelihood depends on this,” Mr. Wells said. “It’s surreal, I would say it’s almost at the point that it’s scary. We now have a military helicopter overhead, you see people running through canals. Meanwhile, people here are simply trying to be responsible and live.”

Nearly all of the more than 20 lanes of traffic at the San Ysidro crossing were open Monday morning. Many of the thousands of people waiting in line were among those who drive across the border daily, monitoring wait times the same way commuters in other parts of the country track freeway traffic and train delays. Monday morning’s traffic was unusually light.

“If people are staying home because they are worried, the economic impact is obviously huge — we have 73 million crossings a year and we know that the region’s $255 billion gross regional product depends on cross-border commerce,” said Jerry Sanders, the former Republican mayor of San Diego who now runs the city’s regional Chamber of Commerce. Around 70,000 vehicles and 20,000 pedestrians cross each day, Mr. Sanders said, with roughly one-third of them entering the United States to work.

“If we have an atmosphere where people stop doing business because they can’t come across easily, we are going to have a major problem,” he said.

For weeks now, Mr. Sanders and his staff have been alerted when Border Patrol officials briefly shut down the border for practice drills, which he said has allowed local businesses to plan accordingly. But he dismissed President Trump’s threat to shut down the border entirely if necessary to prevent what he has described as an “invasion” of migrants from Central America, many of them families with children, seeking asylum in the United States.

“That’s simply not reasonable and that’s simply not plausible — you’re talking about north of $600 billion in trade,” Mr. Sanders said. Already, he said, Sunday’s shutdown “made it real very quickly.”

“There is going to be impact if this happens again,” he said.

The San Ysidro shopping centers were mostly empty once again on Monday. Employees and regular shoppers at the outlet mall said they assumed it was because of concern over the chaos on Sunday. Black security helicopters flew low over the border area throughout the afternoon again on Monday, drowning out the amplified holiday music.

Maria Robledo-Sanchez, 50, said she had been trying to return home to the United States from Mexico on Sunday when she noticed foot traffic at the port of entry suddenly grind to a halt, creating a long line. Soon a heavy contingent of law enforcement officers gathered, she said, and she heard loud booms nearby and what looked like smoke rising. Later, she learned it was tear gas fired at migrants who had tried to storm the border fence.

“It was chaos. It was chaos,” she said, growing tearful. “It wasn’t until much later I realized what was happening.”

Ms. Robledo-Sanchez, who was born in Mexico but has lived in the United States for decades, crosses into Tijuana several times a week to visit family and go shopping. It normally takes her about 10 minutes to get through the crossing as an American citizen, she said, but on Sunday, it took about five hours.

Sunil Gakhreja, 43, a San Ysidro perfume wholesaler, said that his business had seen a sharp downturn in customers since an early contingent from a caravan of migrants first arrived in Tijuana, on the other side of the border, about two weeks ago. Ninety-five percent of his customers, he said, come from Mexico to buy perfumes in bulk to redistribute on the Mexican side of the border. He has seen few new customers in weeks, and his core clients, he said, have been skittish about making the trek across the border.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty and a sense of fear going on,” he said.

Ms. Robledo-Sanchez said she was crossing back into Tijuana on Monday to bring several packages of undergarments to some of the Central American migrants whom she had met while she was there. The garments are of better quality and cheaper than what they can buy in Mexico, she said, and she wanted to do what she could to help.

Still, she was bringing some extra money with her — in case the border closed down again. No one, she said, knows what to expect next.

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

Trump Backs Use of 'Very Safe' Tear Gas on Crowd of Migrants

SAN DIEGO — President Donald Trump is strongly defending the U.S. use of tear gas at the Mexican border to repel a crowd of migrants that included angry rock-throwers but also barefoot, crying children.

Critics denounced the border agents’ action as overkill, but Trump kept to a hard line.

“They were being rushed by some very tough people and they used tear gas,” Trump said Monday of the previous day’s encounter. “Here’s the bottom line: Nobody is coming into our country unless they come in legally.”

At a roundtable in Mississippi later Monday, Trump seemed to acknowledge that children were affected, asking, “Why is a parent running up into an area where they know the tear gas is forming and it’s going to be formed and they were running up with a child?”

He said it was “a very minor form of the tear gas itself” that he assured was “very safe.”

Without offering evidence, he also claimed that some of the women are not really parents but are instead “grabbers” who steal children so they have a better chance of being granted asylum in the U.S.

The showdown at the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing has thrown into sharp relief two competing narratives about the caravan of migrants hoping to apply for asylum but stuck on the Mexican side. Trump portrays them as a threat to U.S. national security, intent on exploiting America’s asylum law, but others insist he is exaggerating to stoke fears and achieve his political goals.

The sheer size of the caravan makes it unusual.

“I think it’s so unprecedented that everyone is hanging their own fears and political agendas on the caravan,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that studies immigration. “You can call it scary, you can call it hopeful, you can call it a sign of human misery. You can hang whatever angle you want to on it.”

Trump rails against migrant caravans as dangerous groups of mostly single men. That view featured heavily in his speeches during the midterm election campaign when several were hundreds of miles away, traveling on foot. Officials have said some 500 members are criminals but haven’t backed that up with details on why they think so. On Monday, Trump tweeted that the caravan at the border included “stone cold criminals.”

Mario Figueroa — Tijuana’s social services department director who is overseeing operations at the sports complex where most of the migrants in the caravan are staying — said as of Friday that of the 4,938 staying there, 933 were women, 889 were children and 3,105 were men, which includes fathers traveling with families along with single men.

The U.S. military said Monday that about 300 troops who had been deployed in south Texas and Arizona as part of a border security mission have been moved to California for similar work. The military’s role is limited largely to erecting barriers along the border and providing transportation and logistical support to Customs and Border Protection.

Democratic lawmakers and immigrant rights groups blasted the border agents’ Sunday tactics.

“These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas,” California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom tweeted. “Women and children who left their lives behind — seeking peace and asylum — were met with violence and fear. That’s not my America.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the administration’s concerns about the caravan “were borne out and on fully display” Sunday.

McAleenan said hundreds — perhaps more than 1,000 — people attempted to rush vehicle lanes at the San Ysidro crossing. Mexican authorities estimated the crowd at 500. The chaos followed what began as a peaceful march to appeal for the U.S. to speed processing of asylum claims.

After being stopped by Mexican authorities, the migrants split into groups. On the west side of the crossing, some tried to get through razor-wire fencing in a concrete levee that separates the two countries. On the east side, some pulled back a panel of fencing made of Army surplus steel landing mats to create an opening of about 4 feet, through which a group of more than 30 people crossed, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Others made it over a steel fence farther east.

McAleenan said four agents were struck with rocks but were not injured because they were wearing protective gear.

Border Protection agents launched pepper spray balls in addition to tear gas in what officials said were on-the-spot decisions made by agents. U.S. troops deployed to the border on Trump’s orders were not involved in the operation.

“The agents on scene, in their professional judgment, made the decision to address those assaults using less lethal devices,” McAleenan told reporters.

The scene was reminiscent of the 1980s and early 1990s, when large groups of migrants rushed vehicle lanes at San Ysidro and overwhelmed Border Patrol agents in nearby streets and fields.

U.S. authorities made 69 arrests Sunday. Mexican authorities said 39 people were arrested in Mexico.

The scene left many migrants feeling they had lost whatever possibility they might have had for making asylum cases.

Isauro Mejia, 46, of Cortes, Honduras, looked for a cup of coffee Monday morning after spending Sunday caught up in the clash.

“The way things went yesterday … I think there is no chance,” he said.

Mexico’s Interior Ministry said in a statement it would immediately deport those people arrested on its side and would reinforce security.

Border Patrol agents have discretion on how to deploy less-than-lethal force. It must be both “objectively reasonable and necessary in order to carry out law enforcement duties” — and used when other techniques are insufficient to control disorderly or violent subjects.

Last week, Trump gave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis explicit authority to use military troops to protect Customs and Border Protection agents on the border, with lethal force if necessary. Mattis also was empowered to temporarily detain migrants in the event of violence against the border patrol. Mattis told reporters that this did not change the military’s mission in any way and that he would use the new authorities only in response to a request by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. He said there had been no such request yet.

With the caravan as a backdrop, Trump has used national security powers to circumvent long-standing immigration law to deny asylum to anyone caught crossing the border illegally. However, a court has put those regulations on hold after civil liberties groups sued. On Thanksgiving Day, the president warned of “bedlam, chaos, injury and death” if the courts block his efforts to harden immigration rules.

But it’s also possible that Sunday’s clash was borne of increasing desperation caused by the hardening of the policies, said Rachel Schmidtke, program associate for migration at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Mexico Institute.

“This situation is now escalating to the point of a self-fulfilling prophesy,” she said. “The more you squeeze, the more it artificially creates something that didn’t exist, but now is starting to become a crisis.”

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

Border Drug Cases Hit 20-Year Low as Prosecutors Focused on Migrants

By Richard A. Oppel Jr.

Sometimes two campaign promises can conflict. This happened after the Trump administration poured more resources into prosecuting migrants for crossing the Southwest border earlier in the year. What followed was a significant slowdown in the pursuit of drug traffickers, another key administration priority.

The decline turned around after Trump aides dispatched more lawyers to the border.

But the drop in drug prosecutions was eye-popping. Such cases declined by 24 percent in the six months after the Justice Department imposed a “zero tolerance” policy on migrants in early April, compared to the same period last year.

While the number of cases along the border has been generally decreasing in recent years, the decline accelerated immediately after the new policy, and by June had led to the fewest prosecutions in two decades.

Criminal charges for immigration violations — mostly illegal border crossing, a misdemeanor on the first offense — soared between April and September of this year to 60,684 in the five federal judicial districts on the border from Texas to California, a 121 percent increase from the same period a year earlier.

The drop in drug prosecutions was not because the flow of drugs slowed: While Customs and Border Protection seizures of marijuana and cocaine have declined, the agency seized more heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine over the past fiscal year than it did in 2017, when those drugs helped drive the number of overdose deaths in the United States above 70,000.

“When you decide to ratchet up something like prosecuting people for the attempted crossing of the border, you have to ratchet something else down, and it’s pretty clear that’s what happened to drug smuggling,” said Cecilia Muñoz, head of the White House Domestic Policy Council during the Obama administration.

In other parts of the country, federal drug prosecutions rose modestly between April and September, compared with the same period last year.

The plunge in the border districts was most acute in June — when drug cases dropped by almost half compared with those in June 2017 — but the numbers have since recovered. In September, drug prosecutions were just two percent lower than the same month last year.

The reasons for the rebound were unclear, but it could reflect an reallocation of resources in response to the zero tolerance policy. About two dozen lawyers have been sent to the border districts from the Defense and Justice Departments, according to a Justice Department spokesman. The number of immigration prosecutions has remained elevated, and the number of arrests by the Border Patrol in those districts was higher in September than in April.

Case-by-case records on immigration and drug prosecutions were analyzed for The New York Times by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, known as TRAC, which compiles data obtained through continuing court litigation with the Justice Department.

Researchers said the data were striking. “We cannot say for certain why we saw a dip in those numbers coinciding with the rise in immigration prosecutions, but it is likely that those two things are related,” said Christine Mehta, an assistant research professor at TRAC and Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

The Justice Department spokesman, Steven J. Stafford, disputed any link between zero tolerance and the drop in drug cases, and cautioned against reading too much into the numbers. He said other factors — including the weather and a change in how prosecutors log charges into a database — could explain part of the decline. He also noted that drug charges along the border had already been dropping.

To some experts, the reasons for the steep decline this year were clear: The focus on prosecuting everyone who crossed illegally diverted resources from fighting more serious crimes.

“That has to be it,” said David Iglesias, who served as the United States attorney in New Mexico from 2001 to 2007 as a George W. Bush appointee and is now director of the Center for Faith, Politics and Economics at Wheaton College. “There is a finite number of federal prosecutors, and there’s only a finite number of courtrooms.”

Mr. Iglesias said the new policy reversed what had for decades been accepted practice: pursuing the most consequential cases.

Investigations that require arduous, long-term spadework, like human trafficking prosecutions, took a back seat across the country as agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations were told to shift to immigration cases, said Luis C.deBaca, who served as the State Department’s ambassador for combating human trafficking during the Obama administration.

Mr. C.deBaca said such prosecutions take a long time and vary widely year to year, so the slowdown is not reflected in official data. But he said the feeling that they have been deprioritized is palpable among the agents with whom he stays in close contact.

The immigration cases that have priority, he added, “are like shooting fish in a barrel, and now people are bringing in new barrels everyday — as opposed to having six or eight agents working all year trying to bring a human trafficking network to justice.”

According to TRAC, the biggest decline in drug prosecutions came in the Southern District of California, where they fell by 31 percent in the period from April to September compared with the same six months last year, and in Arizona, where the decline was 37 percent.

In San Diego prosecutors were “definitely” diverted to immigration cases, Shereen Charlick, who was a federal public defender in San Diego, said in an interview last month.

Ms. Charlick, who has since been named a state judge, said the focus on immigration had de-emphasized pursuit of the smugglers, also called coyotes, who take migrants over the border.

“They’re so busy prosecuting people trying to enter that the smugglers are going free,” she said. “Some of the people they’re trying to prosecute are people who would have been material witnesses to the smuggling, but now they are being prosecuted themselves.”

A senior prosecutor in the United States attorney’s office in San Diego wrote in May that the office was “diverting staff, both support and attorneys” to handle immigration cases, while drug cases would be brought only if agents completed them within tight deadlines, according to an email obtained by USA Today, which reported on the decline in border drug cases.

A spokeswoman for the United States attorney in San Diego, Cindy Cipriani, said the office had not taken “attorney resources” away from other prosecutions, including drug trafficking and the pursuit of “leaders and organizers abroad that are responsible for a vast majority of the illegal immigration along our border.”

Ms. Cipriani said the Justice Department and other agencies provided 15 additional lawyers and other staff members to handle border cases. She also suggested it was unfair to cite the drop in drug cases in the time since the zero tolerance policy was announced.

“It is misleading to extrapolate trends based on an isolated window of a few months,” she said.

While the San Diego office said it prosecuted slightly more drug cases in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 compared with a year earlier, officials did not provide a monthly breakdown or say why their numbers differed from data the Justice Department provided TRAC, which showed a 5.4 percent decline over the same period.

Amid outcry over children being separated from their families and sent to shelters or foster care, Mr. Trump scaled back zero tolerance this summer.

But there were still 10,729 new immigration charges filed in border districts in September — more than twice as many as in September 2017.

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

Paul Ryan Lists Immigration, Debt as Biggest Regrets

MADISON, Wis. — Outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday named immigration and the national debt as his two biggest regrets as he prepares to leave office after 20 years in Congress, saying he has no immediate plans to return to public office.

The Republican lawmaker from Wisconsin, the 2012 vice presidential nominee, sat for an interview with The Washington Post as he prepares to step down. Ryan also delivered one of his final floor speeches, thanking his staff and voters of his Wisconsin congressional district, where he first won election in 1998 at age 28.

In a break with the GOP-controlled Senate, Ryan said he opposes a resolution passed there calling for an end to U.S. involvement in the Yemen war, led by Saudi Arabia. Congress has been debating how to punish Saudi Arabia for its role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Ryan said the Yemen resolution “isn’t the way to go” and instead he favored invoking the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which gives the U.S. government the power to impose sanctions for human rights abuses.

“Yes, we have lots of strategic interests in alignment with the Saudis, no two ways about it,” Ryan said. “Still, we can speak with moral clarity. We can take actions that address these issues.”

Ryan sidestepped questions about his sometimes contentious relationship with President Donald Trump. But he bemoaned what he said was Trump’s “hostile” relationship with the media. He said that “tribalism” among Republicans and Democrats is “getting out of control” because “polarization sells.”

“That tribalism in our country, to me, is our undoing,” Ryan said. “Yes, the president has a hostile relationship with the press, no two ways about it. But that’s the new norm in this day and age.”

The interview came in the midst of a budget showdown with Trump over funding for Trump’s promised wall along the U.S-Mexico border. Ryan said he does not think Trump wants a government shutdown and “our hope is that we can get a successful conclusion.” He said the onus will be on the White House and Senate Democrats to find common ground on a budget bill.

“He thinks the issue of border security is a winner,” Ryan said of Trump. “I don’t think he sees a shutdown as a winner. I think he sees border security as a winner. … We don’t want to have a shutdown. I have no interest in doing that. That makes no sense.”

As for his regrets, Ryan cited not paying off the national debt and failing to pass an immigration overhaul. If those can be solved, Ryan said, “we will have a great 21st century.”

Still, Ryan said he thought “history is going to be very good to this majority” because of the tax overhaul passed under his leadership and increased funding for the military. Critics have said the tax changes benefit the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

Ryan was elected speaker in 2015 after publicly saying he had no interest in the job. Ryan said that’s in contrast with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who has been bargaining with Democrats to secure their support for her to succeed Ryan.

“I could do it on my terms,” Ryan said. “This is the benefit Nancy does not now have, and I think it’s regretful. … Our members knew I didn’t need it, didn’t necessarily want it but was happy to do it joyfully and happily and I’m really glad I did.”

Ryan said when he saw Pelosi recently he offered her congratulations and condolences.

Ryan is leaving office as Mitt Romney, who picked Ryan as his running mate in the 2012 presidential election, prepares to join the Senate representing Utah. Ryan said he looks to Romney to be the “standard bearer of our principles.”

Republican Bryan Steil, a corporate attorney and former Ryan aide, won election in November to succeed him in Wisconsin.

Ryan, 48, did not say what he plans to do after leaving Congress, other than to take his wife on a beach vacation. When asked if he would ever be interested in serving as ambassador to Ireland, Ryan, who has Irish ancestry, said: “That’s the only other government job I would aspire to, in my 60s, to be ambassador of Ireland.”

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

Thursday, November 29, 2018

AP FACT CHECK: Trump Spreads False Claims on Immigrant Aid

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is spreading a false claim from supporters that people who are in the United States illegally receive more in federal assistance than the average American gets in Social Security benefits.

Everything about the tweet he passed on to his 56 million listed Twitter followers Tuesday is wrong.

In a tweet of his own, Trump sketched an overly simplistic portrait of the auto industry in suggesting that General Motors plants slated for closure would be chugging along if foreign cars were heavily taxed in the U.S. market.


TRUMP’s retweet: “Illegals can get up to $3,874 a month under Federal Assistance program. Our social security checks are on average $1200 a month. RT (retweet) if you agree: If you weren’t born in the United States, you should receive $0 assistance.”

THE FACTS: Wrong country, wrong numbers, wrong description of legal status of the recipients. Besides that, immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally do not qualify for most federal benefits, even when they’re paying taxes, and those with legal status make up a small portion of those who use public benefits.

The $3,874 refers to a payment made in Canada, not the U.S., to a legally admitted family of refugees. It was largely a one-time resettlement payment under Canada’s refugee program, not monthly assistance in perpetuity, the fact-checking site Snopes found a year ago in debunking a Facebook post that misrepresented Canada’s policy. A document cited in the Facebook post, showing aid for food, transportation and other basics needs, applied to a family of five.

Apart from confusing Canada with the United States, the tweet distributed by the president misstated how much Americans get from Social Security on average — $1,419 a month for retired workers, not $1,200.

Overall, low-income immigrants who are not yet U.S. citizens use Medicaid, food aid, cash assistance and Supplemental Security Income aid at a lower rate than comparable U.S.-born adults, according to an Associated Press analysis of census data. Noncitizen immigrants make up only 6.5 percent of all those participating in Medicaid, for example.

Despite that, the administration wants to redefine the rules for immigrants to further restrict who can receive benefits and for how long.

A retweet is not necessarily an endorsement of the opinion it contains, but Trump does not populate his Twitter feed with views that are contrary to his own.



TRUMP: “The reason that the small truck business in the U.S. is such a go to favorite is that, for many years, Tariffs of 25% have been put on small trucks coming into our country. It is called the ‘chicken tax.’ If we did that with cars coming in, many more cars would be built here … and G.M. would not be closing their plants in Ohio, Michigan & Maryland. Get smart Congress. Also, the countries that send us cars have taken advantage of the U.S. for decades. The President has great power on this issue – Because of the G.M. event, it is being studied now!”

THE FACTS: It’s a stretch to conclude that the plants General Motors plans to close would be spared if foreign-made cars were subject to hefty duties. Tariffs could indeed be an incentive to build cars in the U.S., but the overarching problem for GM is that people aren’t buying cars like they used to. More want SUVs or trucks now.

The 25 percent tariff on pickup trucks imported into the U.S. was put in place years ago to protect the Detroit Three’s major profit centers from imported pickups. It does not apply to trucks imported from Canada or Mexico at present. So GM, for instance, builds pickups in Mexico and exports them to the U.S. without such a tariff. Fiat Chrysler also builds heavy-duty Ram pickups in Mexico, although it plans to move that production to the U.S. next year.

Japanese automakers, mainly Toyota and Nissan, use U.S. plants to build nearly all of the pickups that they sell in the country. Honda switched production from Canada to Alabama. Toyota does sell a small number of Mexican-built Tacoma pickups in the U.S., but most are built in Texas.

So there are grounds to believe car duties could make a difference, but it’s not that straightforward.

Six years ago cars were 49 percent of new-vehicle sales in the U.S., while trucks and SUVs were 51 percent. Through October of this year, it’s 68 percent trucks and 32 percent cars. All the factories GM wants to close make cars that aren’t selling well. The Commerce Department has been studying whether it can use national security reasons to justify putting tariffs on imported cars but has yet to make a decision.

Most automakers, including those based in Detroit, import vehicles from abroad that would be affected by any tariffs. And U.S. car exports would probably be subject to new or higher tariffs overseas.

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

For Migrants on Both Sides of the Border, the One Constant Is a Long Wait

By Miriam Jordan, Kirk Semple and Caitlin Dickerson

SAN DIEGO — In an overcrowded shelter at a sports complex south of the Mexican border, nearly 6,000 migrants from Central America have been waiting in increasingly squalid conditions — and with an increasing sense of desperation — to cross into the United States.

On the other side of the border, though, many of those who have managed to successfully make it across have found that the weeks they spent in Mexico trying to enter the United States have led to even more challenges ahead.

They are waiting, too.

Yarely Elizabeth Palomo, who said she set out from Honduras to the United States six months ago with her young daughter, had to wait behind hundreds of other people for processing when she arrived at the border in Tijuana, and waited two weeks for her number to be called by American immigration authorities.

On Tuesday, two days after a tense standoff in which American authorities fired tear gas at hundreds of migrants who tried to storm the border fence, Ms. Palomo sat in a makeshift shelter in San Diego set up for migrants who have been slowly trickling through the border. She said she was uncertain where she was headed or whether she would be allowed to stay after telling the American authorities about the gang violence that she said drove her from her home.

“I’m here for now. I’m not sure what comes next,” she said.

Most of those at the shelter were not given the traditional screening interviews at the border and said they were not even sure when they would be given the opportunity to apply for asylum in the United States.

“I tried to ask for asylum at the border. They didn’t let me,” said Víctor Manuel Galdamez, a migrant from El Salvador who was waiting at the shelter. “I am still waiting to ask. I have no idea when they will let me.”

The long wait times are partly the product of a Trump administration initiative known as “metering,” which limits the number of people who can be processed through ports of entry each day. Immigration authorities at the San Ysidro border crossing, near San Diego, said they were able to process about 100 migrants each day, though rates have dipped as low as 40 a day. At this rate, it could be five weeks before the first arrivals from a caravan of migrants from Central America could have their interviews for admission to the United States.

For many of those gathered in Tijuana, the wait has become intolerable. On Sunday, several hundred migrants made a run for the border, attempting to scale the fence before American immigration authorities repelled them with volleys of tear gas. Nearly 100 people were arrested by the Mexican authorities and face possible deportation for their participation in the events.

“We know the United States has the resources and capacity to process these asylum seekers much faster,” said Kate Clark, director of immigration at Jewish Family Service of San Diego, which runs an emergency shelter for migrants. “The U.S. government is choosing not to process them.”

Some of those waiting in Mexico have begun to despair.

“The caravan has ended here,” José Mejia, 37, said as he waited — in another line — to register with the United Nations to return voluntarily to Honduras. This was his sixth attempt to enter the United States, he said, and he had seen enough.

“People have a false vision, of something that will never happen,” he said. “The United States is not going to let any of these people in.”

Most of those who had been released to shelters in San Diego this week were migrants who arrived with children. Most of the migrants who crossed alone were being held in detention, and their progress through the system was less clear, said a number of immigration lawyers who had gathered in San Diego to help the new arrivals navigate the asylum process.

Those who hope to remain in the United States must convince American immigration officials that they are worthy of protection, and avoid those factors that can be used to knock them out of qualification, which have grown more plentiful under President Trump.

By the time their individual Judgment Day has come, which can take years, some of the migrants will have paid lawyers to shepherd them through the process. Others will try with no preparation at all, or by drawing on small bits of advice picked up along the journey from smugglers and other migrants.

Even those who prepare for the evaluations say that the process can be grueling, and the results counterintuitive. Ultimately, the majority will be unsuccessful and sent home. Historically, only 20 percent of cases are approved.

“If you don’t know how to present your case, you’re going to lose,” said Eileen Blessinger, an immigration defense lawyer who averages about half-a-dozen asylum cases a week in immigration court in Arlington, Va.

For many, the process will begin with an interview with an American asylum officer to determine whether they have a “credible fear” of returning to their home country. Those who pass the interview will be allowed to proceed with their case. The less fortunate will be swiftly deported.

In court, the migrants can present documentary evidence of their oppression and call on witnesses to support their stories. But they will also be cross-examined by government lawyers, who will look for discrepancies and try to poke holes in their stories.

Since taking office, Mr. Trump has added demands to the process for seeking asylum at each stage, beginning with the “credible fear” interview. Earlier this month, he announced that people would only be able to request asylum in certain places, though that policy has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge. A new proposal under consideration would require asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are adjudicated.

In Mexico, though the mood was less tense than it had been over the weekend, the conditions had become grim.

Nearly every square foot of the increasingly overcrowded sports complex in which the migrants are housed — originally intended for only about 300 people — is covered in a checkerboard of shelters, ranging from high-tech donated camping tents to makeshift bunkers fashioned out of blankets and plastic sheeting.

Everyone is living cheek by jowl. They bathe under trickles of water that fall from temporary showers near rows of portable toilets that line the outfield fence of one of the baseball diamonds. They survive on donated food distributed from trucks out front.

“It’s very difficult because of the number of people, there isn’t food, the number of toilets are insufficient,” said David Vélez, a Honduran migrant, as he whiled away the morning in a small tent where he had been sleeping with two friends. “There isn’t sufficient space but we try to adjust to the facilities we have.”

Among those thinking of giving up and returning home was Enoc Melgar, 18, from Santa Barbara, Honduras. He had planned to seek asylum in the United States, but when he learned how long he would have to wait, he decided to give up and perhaps try again in the future — though not until the commotion surrounding the caravan had dissipated.

“Ever since we left our country, we thought that everything would turn out well,” he said. “But here we see that we’re not going to accomplish anything, so it’s better to go back to our country.”

Adrián Muñoz Mejia was also having misgivings after Sunday’s confrontation.

“We’ve had a great opportunity, but we have to think carefully about what we’ll do next,” he said. “Because if they grab us on the other side, that’s the end to our aspirations.”

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

Report: Number of Immigrants in U.S Without Legal Status Continues to Drop

WASHINGTON — The number of immigrants in the U.S. without legal status has declined to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to a new report released Tuesday.

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center said 10.7 million immigrants lacked legal status in 2016, down from 11 million a year earlier and from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007 before the U.S. economy slumped.

It is the lowest number since 2004, the report said.

The decline stems largely from a drop in the number of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to 5.5 million in 2016 from nearly 7 million in 2007. Some returned to their country to reunite with family, while others were deported.

During the same period, the number of immigrants from Central America without legal status increased to nearly 1.9 million from 1.5 million.

The report comes as the Trump administration has cracked down on immigration and bolstered security on the Southwest border, where thousands of Central American families have arrived to seek asylum.

The report is based on U.S. Census Bureau data. It also noted an increase in the number of immigrants without legal status from India and Venezuela and a decrease in those from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Korea and Peru.

Overall, immigrants without legal status are less likely to be recent arrivals, said D’Vera Cohn, who co-authored the report.

The report also notes that the number of legal immigrants grew to 34.4 million from 28.3 million during the nine-year period, and that more than half of the country’s legal immigrants in 2016 were naturalized U.S. citizens.

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

Monday, November 19, 2018

NYC Lawsuit: Immigration Detainees Denied Day in Court

NEW YORK — A civil lawsuit filed by immigration rights advocates in New York City has accused federal authorities of denying detainees their day in court.

The suit filed Thursday in federal court in Manhattan says the amount of time people accused of immigration violations in New York and New Jersey go before a judge is growing at an “alarming rate.”

The suit was filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union and other groups against Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security. It says the average wait time between arrest and initial court appearance had grown to 42 days last year, up from 11 days in 2014.

The average was 80 days into July of this year, according to the suit.

The ICE office in New York declined comment on Friday.

“While they wait in jail, most detainees lack basic information about the charges and evidence against them, do not know the steps required to prepare to apply for bond or to defend themselves in their removal cases, and do not have lawyers,” according to the suit.

One of the plaintiffs is a man who has lived in New York for nearly two decades. The suit says he was detained last month and still hasn’t been brought to court.

The detainees “have no effective mechanism to mitigate this delay,” according to the suit.

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

Some Tijuana residents rally against migrant caravan

By Joshua Partlow

TIJUANA, Mexico — For the past month, the Central American migrant caravan has been cared for by generous Mexicans who have donated food and shelter for the thousands slowly making their way north to the U.S. border.

Now that the caravan has arrived in Tijuana, a city of immigrants itself, the reception has been noticeably cooler. On the U.S. side, Marines have been fortifying the border with extra barbed wire, and U.S. authorities have warned that they won’t allow large groups of migrants to enter. On the Mexican side, Tijuana’s mayor has referred to the migrants as “bums” and a “horde,” and a small group of residents held a protest Sunday morning shouting “No to the invasion!” and “They are terrorists!”

Jaime Malacara, 48, who works in private security, joined several dozen others at a traffic circle to express dismay at the caravan. He fears that the thousands of Central Americans who have arrived include bad people who will hang around and increase crime in an already violent city.

“Imagine if many of those bad guys — not all are bad, but some bad — start making gangs here?” Malacara said. “Those who break the law shouldn’t be here.”

The protest took place at a statue of Cuauhtémoc, an Aztec ruler, and participants appeared to be outnumbered by the dozens of journalists from around the world who have converged here to monitor the progress of the caravan. The residents at the protest mostly worried about rising crime, a possible confrontation with the United States, and how more caravans might follow if this one is allowed to pass.

“We’re against uncontrollable migration,” said Edgar Martínez, 42, a teacher and dual U.S.-Mexican citizen.

He said he feared that the caravan would eventually try to push its way across the border, prompting the United States to shut down the legal crossing that many in Tijuana rely on for daily work and errands.

“If they bumrush, they’re going to close the border. That is going to affect the people here,” Martínez said. “We wait up to three hours to cross the border sometimes. We don’t want it to become six.”

Across town, residents who support the migrants and their right to apply for asylum in the United States held a gathering.

For the past week, members of the caravan have been trickling into Tijuana, taking shelter at a sports complex abutting a highway and the border fence. Volunteers from church groups and others have given food and medicine, and entertained the migrant children by singing songs and making balloon animals.

Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum has been less supportive. He has described the influx of migrants as a problem for Tijuana and dismissed the claim that many are fleeing violence and political persecution.

“Human rights should be reserved for righteous humans,” Gastélum said last week.

President Trump seized on the mayor’s comments in a tweet on Sunday, writing: “The Mayor of Tijuana, Mexico, just stated that ‘the City is ill-prepared to handle this many migrants, the backlog could last 6 months.’ Likewise, the U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion, and will not stand for it. They are causing crime and big problems in Mexico. Go home!”

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

Friday, November 16, 2018

Martinez-De Ryan v. Whitaker

The void-for-vagueness doctrine does not apply to any grounds of inadmissibility, and the crime involving moral turpitude statute, 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), is not unconstitutionally vague.

Martinez-De Ryan v. Whitaker - filed Nov. 16, 2018 
Cite as 2018 S.O.S. 15-70759 

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

Thursday, November 15, 2018

America Is Rejecting More Legal Immigrants Than Ever Before

By David J. Bier

At his postelection news conference, President Trump said of immigrants traveling to the United States, “I want them to come into the country, but they need to come in legally.” Yet newly released government data show that so far in 2018, the Trump administration is denying applications submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services at a rate 37 percent higher than the Obama administration did in 2016.

This makes no sense: Depriving immigrants of legal immigration options works against the president’s stated goal of increasing economic growth.

A new analysis for the Cato Institute has found that the Department of Homeland Security rejected 11.3 percent of requests, including for work permits, travel documents and status applications, based on family reunification, employment and other grounds, in the first nine months of 2018. This is the highest rate of denial on record and means that by the end of the year, the United States government will have rejected around 620,000 people — about 155,000 more than in 2016.

This increase in denials cannot be credited to an overall rise in applications. In fact, the total number of applications so far this year is 2 percent lower than in 2016. It could be that the higher denial rate is also discouraging some people from applying at all.

In 2018, the D.H.S. turned away 10 percent of applicants for employment authorization documents compared with 6 percent in 2016, and it rejected applications for advanced parole — which gives temporary residents the authorization to travel internationally and return — at a clip of 18 percent, more than doubling the rate in 2016. Even skilled workers are being rejected at higher rates. The denial rate for petitions for temporary foreign workers shot to 23 percent from 17 percent. The application for permanent workers saw denials rise to 9 percent from 6 percent.

The largest increase in the denial rate for family-sponsored applications, for petitions for fiancés, rose to 21 percent from 14 percent.

Greg Siskind, a Memphis-based immigration attorney with three decades of experience, told me that these numbers back up the anecdotes that he has been hearing from colleagues across the country. The increase in denials, he said, is “significant enough to make one think that Congress must have passed legislation changing the requirements. But we know they have not.”

So what is going on?

Last year, the Trump administration increased the length of immigration applications by double, triple or even more, making them more time-consuming and complicated than ever. This made mistakes far more likely. This year, it also made it easier to deny applicants outright without giving them an opportunity to submit clarifying information. The agency has also made moves to police caseworkers who may be, in its view, too lenient.

Mr. Trump’s political appointees to the D.H.S. have also seized on his rhetorical attacks on immigrants, as well as executive orders like the “Buy American and Hire American” order and another mandating extensive vetting of foreigners, as a justification for a crackdown on legal immigration.

As a result of all this, total immigration to the United States has declined under President Trump, and fewer foreign travelers have been entering the country. These trends are surprising, because the economies of the United States and almost all other countries are growing, which usually generates more travel and immigration. The best explanation for this discrepancy is that the president’s policies are having their intended effect: reducing legal immigration to this country.

This is happening at a time when there are more job openings than job seekers in the United States. This month, Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell stated that fewer immigrants and foreign workers would slow economic growth by limiting the ability of businesses to expand.

On some level, President Trump appears to understand this reality, but his policies are making the situation worse.

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

Prison Group Faces Lawsuit Over Immigrant Wages

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The operator of one of the largest private prison systems in the United States paid detained immigrants at a New Mexico prison as little as $1 per day as part of “volunteer” work programs, and refused to pay them minimum wages even though they were not convicted of any crimes, a new federal class-action lawsuit alleges.

Three detained men from the Central African country of Cameroon who came to the U.S. seeking asylum were paid the low wages for janitorial and kitchen work at the CoreCivic-run prison at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico, according to court documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Maryland.

For about six months, Desmond Ndambi, Mbah Emmanuel Abi, and Nkemtoh Moses Awombang were held at the detention center after surrendering to U.S. officials at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas in June 2017, said Joseph Sellers, the attorney for the men and a partner at New York law firm of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

All three men are members of a politically persecuted Anglophone minority in Cameroon and they came to the U.S. fleeing torture and persecution by police, Sellers said.

But it was while they awaiting the hearing for asylum that prison officials offered the men a chance to make money to cover basic necessities like phone calls, food and toiletries while in detention.

The men were sometimes paid around $0.50 an hour or $15 a week regardless of the number of hours they worked in violation of state and federal wage laws, the lawsuit said.

“They had no way of knowing if that was unlawful or not until they consulted a lawyer,” Sellers said. “They were doing real work like the rest of us work. They are entitled to be paid overtime. They are entitled to be paid the prevailing wage. They were paid far below it.”

The Nashville, Tennessee-based CoreCivic did not immediately return an email from The Associated Press.

Sellers said the men were not facing criminal charges and are now U.S. residents living in Maryland and Ohio. The men are seeking an unspecified amount in back pay and damages.

Attorneys said they believe as many as 1,000 other immigrants held at the Cibola County Correctional Center might have worked for similarly low wages and could be entitled to relief.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that Washington state could pursue its lawsuit seeking to force GEO Group — one of the nation’s largest privately run immigration detention centers — to pay minimum wage for work done by detainees.

The for-profit company runs the Northwest Detention Center, a 1,575-bed facility in Tacoma, Washington, where detainees are held pending deportation proceedings.

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

ICE Nominee Seeks Approval Against Democrats’ Demands to Abolish Agency

By Ron Nixon

WASHINGTON — Ronald D. Vitiello’s overarching concern on Thursday at his Senate confirmation hearing may not be whether he becomes the next director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement — but whether the agency remains intact.

Mr. Vitiello is expected to face stiff opposition from at least some Democrats who have demanded that ICE be abolished for enforcing the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies.

The agency has become a political flash point for its role, which has included arresting, detaining and deporting thousands of undocumented migrants — many of whom have no criminal records. Photographs and videos of raids at worksites or of ICE agents arresting undocumented immigrants have incited a backlash.

Those who have worked with Mr. Vitiello, who has been the acting director of the agency since June, said he was a quiet and thoughtful leader willing to engage with people who have opposing opinions. If confirmed, he would be the Trump administration’s first permanent director of ICE.

Mr. Vitiello declined to comment for this article.

“His success will be that he has established a record as a nonpolitical law enforcement officer,” said R. Gil Kerlikowske, who was the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection during the Obama administration. “His decisions will be guided by what’s best from the law enforcement perspective, not politics.”

Among the persistent critics of ICE, Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, who has frequently clashed with President Trump’s immigration officials, is likely to be one of the toughest questioners. Ms. Harris has voted against all of the administration’s nominees for positions at the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency for ICE.

As part of her bid for Congress, Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist from New York, called for ICE to be abolished. The Democratic senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, considered potential 2020 presidential candidates, have joined Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats in demanding that the agency be eliminated.

Legislation is also pending in the House to abolish ICE in a plan pushed by Democratic representatives including Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Pramila Jayapal of Washington State.

ICE officials said Mr. Vitiello met with senators of both parties in recent months and, according to one congressional staff member, impressed some of them. As the acting director, Mr. Vitiello has taken a low-key approach to running ICE and carrying out the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies.

That contrasts with his predecessor, Thomas D. Homan, who became a Fox News contributor after retiring.

Mr. Homan was known for his enthusiastic public support of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies, including telling members of the House Appropriations Committee during a June 2017 hearing that undocumented migrants “need to be worried.” He also issued a public challenge to the transnational MS-13 gang, warning: “My gang is bigger than theirs, and we are going to take them out.”

Internal problems also persist at ICE.

In a June letter to Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, 19 senior ICE investigators demanded that the agency be split up. The investigators are among the more than 6,000 special agents from a division of ICE, Homeland Security Investigations, which focuses on money laundering, drug trafficking, human smuggling, child exploitation and cybercrimes. In the letter, senior investigators said the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented migrants had limited their ability to pursue national security threats, child pornography and transnational crime.

Enforcement Removal Operations, another division of ICE, is responsible for arresting and deporting individuals who are in the United States illegally.

Mr. Vitiello has met with the investigators to address their concerns.

Mr. Vitiello has worked in law enforcement for more than 30 years, starting in 1985 as a Border Patrol agent in Laredo, Tex. He has also served as acting deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, where he was the public face of the agency’s efforts to build a border wall.

Peter S. Vincent, the former top lawyer at ICE during the Obama administration, said Mr. Vitiello had a daunting task in leading an agency that is a key part of the Trump administration’s efforts to stem immigration.

“Ron is measured, careful, thoughtful and not in any way prone to hyperbole or insensitive racially charged statements,” Mr. Vincent said. “All of which makes him a bad fit for this administration.”

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Trump, stung by midterms and nervous about Mueller, retreats from traditional presidential duties


For weeks this fall, an ebullient President Trump traveled relentlessly to hold raise-the-rafters campaign rallies — sometimes three a day — in states where his presence was likely to help Republicans on the ballot.

But his mood apparently has changed as he has taken measure of the electoral backlash that voters delivered Nov. 6. With the certainty that the incoming Democratic House majority will go after his tax returns and investigate his actions, and the likelihood of additional indictments by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Trump has retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment, according to multiple administration sources.

Behind the scenes, they say, the president has lashed out at several aides, from junior press assistants to senior officials. “He’s furious,” said one administration official. “Most staffers are trying to avoid him.”

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, painted a picture of a brooding president “trying to decide who to blame” for Republicans’ election losses, even as he publicly and implausibly continues to claim victory.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who are close allies, “seem to be on their way out,” the official said, noting recent leaks on the subject. The official cautioned, however, that personnel decisions are never final until Trump himself tweets out the news — often just after the former reality TV star who’s famous for saying “You’re fired!” has directed Kelly to so inform the individual.

And, according to a source outside the White House who has spoken recently with the president, last week’s Wall Street Journal report confirming Trump’s central role during the 2016 campaign in quietly arranging payoffs for two women alleging affairs with him seemed to put him in an even worse mood.

Publicly, Trump has been increasingly absent in recent days — except on Twitter. He has canceled travel plans and dispatched Cabinet officials and aides to events in his place — including sending Vice President Mike Pence to Asia for the annual summits there in November that past presidents nearly always attended.

Jordan’s King Abdullah was in Washington on Tuesday and met with Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, but not the president.

Also Tuesday, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis announced plans to travel on Wednesday near the U.S.-Mexico border to visit with troops Trump ordered there last month in what is ostensibly a mission to defend against a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico and still hundreds of miles from the United States.

Trump had reportedly considered making that trip himself, but has decided against it. Nor has he spoken of the caravan since the midterm elections, after making it a central issue in his last weeks of campaigning.

Unusually early on Monday, the White House called a “lid” at 10:03 a.m. EST, informing reporters that the president would not have any scheduled activities or public appearances for the rest of the day. Although it was Veterans Day, Trump bucked tradition and opted not to make the two-mile trip to Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as presidents since at least John F. Kennedy have done to mark the solemn holiday.

Trump’s only public appearance Tuesday was at a short White House ceremony marking the start of the Hindu holiday Diwali at which he made brief comments and left without responding to shouted questions.

He had just returned Sunday night from a two-day trip to France to attend ceremonies marking the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I. That trip was overshadowed, in part, by Trump’s decision not to attend a wreath-laying at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, the burial place for 2,289 soldiers 60 miles northeast of Paris, due to rain.

Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, and Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did attend to honor the American service members interred there. Trump stayed in the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris, making no public appearances.

Other heads of state also managed to make it to World War I cemeteries in the area for tributes to their nations’ war dead on Saturday.

Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin were the only world leaders to skip another commemoration, on Sunday, at the Arc de Triomphe, where about 80 heads of state walked in unison — under umbrellas in the pouring rain — down Paris’ grand Champs-Elysees boulevard. Trump arrived later by motorcade, a decision aides claimed was made for security reasons.

Nicholas Burns, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO under George W. Bush, said the moment, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of a war in which 120,000 Americans were killed, was ripe for soaring words, which Trump failed to provide.

“Not only did he barely show up, he didn’t say anything that would help Americans understand the scale of the loss, or the importance of avoiding another great war,” Burns said. “He seemed physically and emotionally apart. It’s such a striking difference between the enthusiasm he showed during the campaign and then going to Paris and sulking in his hotel room.”

He added, “The country deserves more energy from the president.”

Trump took heavy flak on social media, especially for his no-show at the military cemetery.

“President @realDonaldTrump a no-show because of raindrops?” tweeted former Secretary of State John F. Kerry, a Navy veteran. “Those veterans the president didn’t bother to honor fought in the rain, in the mud, in the snow – & many died in trenches for the cause of freedom. Rain didn’t stop them & it shouldn’t have stopped an American president.”

Nicholas Soames, a member of Britain’s Parliament and grandson of Winston Churchill, tweeted, “They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen.”

Trump, clearly feeling on the defensive days later, tried to explain himself on Tuesday, in a tweet.

“By the way, when the helicopter couldn’t fly to the first cemetery in France because of almost zero visibility, I suggested driving,” he wrote. “Secret Service said NO, too far from airport & big Paris shutdown. Speech next day at American Cemetary [sic] in pouring rain! Little reported-Fake News!”

In that tweet, Trump falsely described the weather at the Sunday visit to another U.S. cemetery. Rather than “pouring rain,” photos showed him standing without a hat or an umbrella under overcast skies.

Just as Trump was returning to Washington on Sunday evening, Pence was heading to Asia in the president’s place, and at his first stop greeted Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Trump’s absence, experts said, is notable, and a glaring affront to many Asian leaders.

“It matters more in Asia than other regions because ‘face’ is so important,” said Matthew P. Goodman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former White House coordinator for Asia-Pacific strategy during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. “Your willingness to go out there is a sign you’re committed and not going is a sign you’re not.”

Putin is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, looking to expand his country’s influence in Asia. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea are also attending regional summits. And China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang are simultaneously attending meetings across the region looking to broaden their country’s influence in the South China Sea and expand multilateral trade agreements.

Although Trump is set to meet with Xi at the G-20 Summit of wealthy countries later this month in Buenos Aires, his absence from the major Indo-Pacific meetings for a second straight year will “have some consequences for our position and our interests in the region,” Goodman continued. “Other countries are going to move ahead without us.”

What makes Trump’s perceived snub to the Asian powers more significant is that it comes on the heels of his brief European trip, which showcased his growing isolation from transatlantic allies. French President Emmanuel Macron rebuked Trump in a speech, stating that “nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism” as the U.S. president looked on sullenly.

Trump’s relations with Latin America, already strained, are little better after the White House last week announced that he was reneging for a second time on a commitment to visit Colombia. He had planned to go there later this month on his way back from the G-20 meetings.

In April, he’d sent Pence in his place to the Summit of the Americas in Peru, citing a need to remain in Washington to monitor the U.S. response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria. He’d planned to visit Bogota on the same trip.

This time around, there appeared to be no extenuating circumstances preventing a visit.

In a statement, the White House simply said, “President Trump’s schedule will not allow him to travel to Colombia later this month.”

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

LGBT Splinter Group From Migrant Caravan Is The 1st To Arrive In Tijuana

A group of LGBT migrants who were part of the massive caravan slowly marching toward the U.S. made it to the coastal border city of Tijuana on Sunday. They are the first of more than 3,600 Central Americans to reach the northern border of Mexico.

About 80 migrants, the majority of whom identify as LGBT, splintered off from the larger group in Mexico City after weeks of what they say was discriminatory treatment by local residents and other travelers, Honduran migrant Cesar Mejia told reporters at a news conference on Sunday.

“Whenever we arrived at a stopping point the LGBT community was the last to be taken into account in every way. So our goal was to change that and say, ‘This time we are going to be first,’ ” Mejia said.

Members of the group in Tijuana include Honduran, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan and Salvadoran men and women, including transgender men and women, and also a handful of children. They are weeks ahead of the thousands who are on foot; the largest group of migrants is in Guadalajara, Mexico — nearly 1,400 miles south of Tijuana.

Most plan to use their status as members of a persecuted class to request asylum in the U.S. as early as Thursday.

“We are fleeing a country where there’s a lot of crime against us,” an unidentified transgender woman, told reporters.

The LGBT migrants gravitated toward one another within the caravan and began organizing en route. An internal count revealed there were more than 120 LGBT people among them, Voice of San Diego reported. Their number emboldened the collective to forge their own path northward, which they did after linking up with an assortment of U.S. and Mexico-based LGBT groups that paid for the asylum-seekers to travel by bus, Univision said.

“When we entered Mexican territory, those organizations began to help us. We did not contact them; they learned from our group thanks to the media and decided to help us,” Mejia said.

On Sunday the group arrived at an upscale neighborhood called Coronado in Playas de Tijuana just a few miles from the San Diego port of entry. They were dropped off in the tony enclave in small groups by Mexican immigration officials who had been alerted of the migrants’ arrival in nearby Mexicali. But upon their arrival they were met with anger from local residents who said they should have been warned by local authorities that LGBT people would be renting the four-bedroom house.

“This is a peaceful neighborhood and we don’t want any trouble,” Jose Roberto Martinez told Mejia. He said he lived in the neighborhood and that families in the area had survived terrible violence that plagued the region in the early 2000s — a result of the vicious drug wars in Tijuana.

“We aren’t safe here,” a woman who lives in the neighborhood said. “There could be someone within your group that could hurt us.”

Another woman demanded to know how the group had come up with the money to pay the rental fee for the expensive house. Mejia assured the community they were not backed by narcotraffickers.

Mejia spoke with reporters about the arduous journey that began on Oct. 12, recounting instances in which many LGBT migrants were denied food and access to showers by other members of the caravan or local groups providing aid.

“There was no physical abuse but there was plenty of verbal abuse,” a transgender woman told reporters, although she added it was nothing compared to the reality of living as a transgender woman in her home country of Honduras.

Erick Dubon told Telemundo 20 that he was forced into prostitution in Honduras. With no options for any other type of work, he said, he had to choose between becoming a thief or sleeping with men for money. He chose the latter and that made him vulnerable to attacks. Telemundo reported Dubon’s body is covered in scars from a violent assault.

Nehemias de Leon shared similar stories about living in Guatemala. He said the trip north was difficult and frightening, and that the chances of obtaining asylum are slim in light of the Trump administration’s rhetoric regarding the caravan and immigrants in general. But Leon said he’ll never go back. “It would be a death sentence,” he said.

Among the few possessions Leon has carried with him along the 2,400 mile journey are documents he said are proof of the danger he faces living as a gay man in his country of origin.

“We want to do things in order, in the right way,” Mejia told reporters. He said the LGBT group plans to request asylum at the San Ysidro or Otay Mesa ports of entry. “We are waiting for our representatives,” he added.

César Palencia, the head of migrant services for Tijuana’s municipal government, told Univision there are more than 2,000 people already waiting for an interview with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. He anticipates anyone who applies now will have to wait until the end of the year for an interview.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Central Americans are fleeing violence. Could Guatemala’s judicial reform model help people feel safer?

By Renard Sexton

Media coverage of the migrant caravan that moved through Guatemala in October diminished after the U.S. midterms — at least until Saturday’s new interim rule by the Trump administration to “channel inadmissible aliens to ports of entry,” with those crossing illegally ineligible to apply for asylum.

Many of these migrants heading toward the United States are fleeing violence and gangs in their countries. What would help make them feel safe to remain in Central America? A new study by the International Crisis Group on Guatemala provides some answers.

Over the past decade more than 120,000 people in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have been killed. Criminal gangs, legacies of civil war and corruption have pushed violence levels higher despite the “tough on crime” policies of the region’s governments, driving ever-higher rates of forced migration north to Mexico and the United States, including this fall’s caravan.

Guatemala has reduced the homicide rate

In Guatemala, however, changes spurred by the International Commission Against Impunity — known by its Spanish acronym CICIG — have achieved what was once thought impossible: major reductions in the country’s homicide rate. A new report estimates that the changes associated with the CICIG have avoided more than 4,500 homicides in Guatemala from 2007-2017 — an extraordinary feat.

These results bring into sharp relief Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales’s endeavors to curtail the CICIG’s mandate in 2019. Ending or substantially weakening the CICIG would be a major step backward for Guatemala and the region. And the evidence implies that neighboring Honduras and El Salvador could greatly benefit from similar justice changes.

How Guatemala changed course

Guatemala’s trajectory looked similar to its neighbors. From 2000 to 2006, the murder rate nearly doubled; in 2006, 93 percent of homicides went unsolved. A U.N. report that year pointed out the rampant impunity for serious crimes meant that Guatemala was “a good place to commit a murder.”

Organized criminal groups — descendants of the 1990s-era counterinsurgent cells that fought the nation’s civil war and developed major illicit interests in the process — exploited a weak justice system. Connected to and protected by the highest levels of government, they could engage with impunity in corruption, racketeering, and human and drug trafficking.

But 2007 was a turning point. Urged by civil society, the Guatemalan congress authorized a unique U.N.-backed justice change to reduce the impunity of postwar organized criminal groups. The CICIG, which attracted more than $150 million in international support over the past decade, helped to radically restructure the justice sector in Guatemala. It has promoted basic investigative coordination between law enforcement and prosecutors, built capacity in the Public Ministry, and pursued and won convictions for massive high-level corruption within the government. From 2006 to 2013, the homicide clearance rate went from 7 percent to 28 percent.

Guatemala’s president has pushed back

But President Jimmy Morales and other politicians have questioned the premise of the CICIG, arguing that the international commission grossly violates Guatemalan sovereignty. Morales’s scrutiny of the CICIG coincided with corruption investigations that breached his inner circle, including an accusation that his presidential campaign accepted at least $1 million in illegal contributions.

Recently, Morales announced that he would seek to end the CICIG’s mandate in 2019 and blocked CICIG Commissioner Iván Velásquez from entering Guatemala. In the United States, historically a staunch supporter of the CICIG, some officials have publicly soured on the CICIG, citing fears of Russian and Venezuelan interference — fears that later were debunked.

How effective has the CIGIG been?

Has the CICIG been successful in reversing the most harmful effect of impunity for serious crimes, namely the meteoric rise in homicidal violence in Guatemala in the early years of the 21st century?

To assess its impact, we use an econometric technique called a “synthetic control.” The idea is to use pre-CICIG data from 2000-2006 to identify a set of neighboring countries, which together form a hypothetical control group that evinces similar trends to Guatemala — but countries in which CICIG did not intervene.

We then can look at the period after the CICIG became operational to learn how the real Guatemala compares to the hypothetical one. The difference between these two (a “difference in differences”) gives us an estimate of the effect that the CICIG had on the country’s trajectory.

The numbers bear out the relevance of the comparison. In the figure below, the homicide trend in Guatemala and in the control group parallel one another in the years before the CICIG became operational. But after the commission begins its work, Guatemala experiences a rapid decline in homicides, even as the control group — the hypothetical Guatemala without the CICIG — continues to rise.

On average, Guatemala after the CICIG went into effect experienced nearly three fewer homicides per 100,000 each year than would have been expected. Extrapolating over the 2007 to 2017 period, the CICIG is associated with a net reduction of more than 4,500 homicides. To get a sense of the magnitude of that reduction, there were about 4,400 homicides in all of 2017 in Guatemala.

Might the reduction in Guatemala’s homicide rate be attributable to a third, unrelated factor? It’s unlikely. Other important economic and social indicators — including GDP per capita, household consumption and infant mortality rates — have not changed in either Guatemala or the comparison group. Qualitative interviews discussed in the report confirm that the CICIG is widely seen as responsible for the changes in the capacity and conduct of prosecutors.

What does this analysis suggest? The bottom line here is that the best available quantitative techniques, backed up by qualitative research, indicate that the CICIG has been associated with a sustained and dramatic reduction in Guatemala’s murder rate. That’s an uncommon achievement, one that stands in the commission’s favor at a time when public attention is being drawn to thousands of Central Americans fleeing violence in their homelands.

Thinking beyond the Guatemalan case, changes that similarly boost the provision of justice could help Honduras and El Salvador. This could include supporting existing international institutions (such as the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras, or MACCIH), or enacting new domestic policies.

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