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


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Trump condemns Cuba but closes the door to many trying to flee

By Molly O'Toole

JUAREZ, Mexico — The hotel charged by the hour, but the two young Cubans — dirty, hungry and dazed after being released from detention in the United States and pushed back into Mexico — had nowhere else to go.
The pair and some fellow Cubans detained with them pooled a few crumpled pesos that U.S. officials had returned in Ziploc bags along with notices to appear in court. Together, they crowded into an upstairs room with a single dirty mattress at the Hotel Sevilla.

They may wait six months to see a U.S. immigration judge just across the border in El Paso. And they face narrowing odds under President Trump that they’ll be allowed to stay in the United States.

Trump has returned to Cold War-era policies against Cuba, reversing his predecessor’s rapprochement with the government in Havana. But, in contrast with decades of bipartisan U.S. policy, administration officials not only no longer welcome Cubans to the United States, but are also pushing them out, forcing them back to Mexico and ramping up deportations to the island.

In 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, the U.S. deported 64 Cubans. Last year, the Trump administration deported 463. This year, officials are on pace to deport around 560. The number of Cubans showing up at the southern border without prior permission to enter, categorized as “inadmissibles” by Customs and Border Protection, has continued to mount, with more than 20,000 expected to seek entry this year.

The two young Cubans were among the first returned to Mexico last month under an expansion of a policy that had already required thousands of Central Americans to go back across the border while their asylum cases were proceeding in the United States. They insisted on remaining anonymous, fearful of harming their asylum cases, or putting themselves and their families in danger. Most Cuban asylum seekers have relatives in the U.S. and are prime targets for kidnapping and extortion in dangerous Mexican border cities like Juarez.

The two had arrived in Juarez on separate buses, the end of a journey begun with a plane flight to Nicaragua. At the advice of smugglers, both headed directly to the viaduct marking the U.S.-Mexico border and easily crossed the trickling Rio Grande, immediately turning themselves in and claiming asylum with U.S. Border Patrol agents waiting on the other side.

They thought they’d be allowed to stay.

“The coyote told us he’d get us into the U.S.,” said one, a 24-year-old from Bayamo, Cuba, “but it wasn’t correct.”

“It was all a lie,” interjected the other, a 19-year-old from Villa Clara who said his father was a U.S. citizen. U.S. officials overseeing their detention misled them, too, he added, telling them they’d be released in the U.S.

His father first applied to sponsor him to come to the United States eight years ago, he said. But now that he’s no longer a minor, “he says this is the only way.”

“They changed the laws as we were coming,” the first young man said heavily. “It was very bad luck for us.”

‘Holding the lid down on the pot’
Trump has quickly and quietly shifted U.S. policy toward Cuba beneath the feet of thousands of Cuban migrants, but the change began years before the two young men set out on their journey.

Starting in 1966, the Cuban Adjustment Act served as a virtual guarantee of legal residency and citizenship for Cubans who made it to the U.S. The law was part of the long-standing U.S. effort to undermine Fidel Castro’s Communist government by welcoming tens of thousands of Cubans who fled the island.

For decades, the U.S. followed a policy known as “wet foot, dry foot” under which Cubans caught at sea would be returned, but those who set foot on U.S. soil could stay. Under the 1966 law, after a year and a day, they could seek permanent residence.

But in January 2017, President Obama abruptly ended the“wet foot, dry foot” rule: Cubans would now be subject to deportation if they were detained at the border without a visa. Thousands of Cubans rushing to the U.S.-Mexico border in anticipation of the change were stranded, drawing criticism from Republicans.

But Obama had an unlikely supporter in ending “wet foot, dry foot” — Donald Trump, who entered the Oval Office a week later.

As president, Trump has reversed Obama’s moves to warm relations with Cuba. He has courted conservative Cuban Americans who largely opposed the thaw, particularly those in Florida, always an electoral battleground.

He has reinstated crippling sanctions that have worsened the island’s economic slide, banned cruises to Cuba, and allowed U.S. citizens who said their Cuban property was illegally confiscated decades ago to file lawsuits. He’s threatened the Cuban government over what he terms interference in Venezuela, on whose oil Cuba relies heavily. His national security adviser puts Cuba in a Western Hemisphere “troika of tyranny,” along with Venezuela and Nicaragua.

But he repeatedly says he stands with Cubans.

Yet Trump has not reinstated the wet foot, dry foot rule and, further, has ramped up removals of would-be Cuban immigrants.

The “explicit” goal of Trump’s Cuba policy is “making Cubans miserable enough to overthrow the government,” said William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University. “It’s contributing directly to the increase in Cuban migration.

“We are intentionally holding the lid down on the pot so that people who are discontented can’t leave,” he said. “The hope is that the pot blows up.”

Trump’s hardline rhetoric against Cuba masks quieter cooperation with Havana, particularly on removing Cubans from the United States.

The State Department still labels Cuba “uncooperative” in taking back its citizens but has not levied penalties against the country as it has against other nations, according to the Homeland Security inspector general’s office.

“These actions are part of the ongoing normalization of relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba,” Customs and Border Protection says of Cuban removals, “and reflect a commitment to have a broader immigration policy in which we treat people from different countries consistently.”

With the primary legal avenue that once welcomed Cubans to the United States now effectively closed, many would-be migrants believe that claiming asylum at the border is the only way to get in. For the first time, Cubans rank among the top nationalities making claims of “credible fear” that they will be persecuted at home — the first step toward claiming asylum.

As of June, 882 Cubans had received asylum decisions in U.S. immigration courts this year, compared with 59 in 2016, according to Syracuse University’s TRAC database. The Cubans currently have a denial rate of about 50%, an improvement of their record under prior administrations — if they get that far.

So far, Trump has paid little political price for deporting Cubans or impeding them at the border.

Asked about the sharp increase in Cubans sent back under Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a Foreign Relations Committee member and the child of Cuban exiles, called the removals “terrible.”

But with the volume of migration at the border today, he said, Cubans can’t get special treatment.

“It’s terrible it’s happening, because they’re going back to a country where there truly is repression,” Rubio said. But, he continued, “if you are arriving at the U.S. border and you don’t have a visa to enter the country — and there is a visa for Cubans that is backlogged because we don’t have enough people there [to process] — it’s hard to differentiate from one country to another.”

Sebastian Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, said that “the reaction against this policy of returning Cubans to Mexico and to the island hasn’t reached a level significant enough that it could make a difference to the elections” in Florida, which is crucial to Trump’s chances.

Most longtime Cuban residents, he said, are “still happy with President Trump’s policies.”

‘He is closing the door’
At a shelter in the hills of Tijuana, Lazaro Guzman Castro and Adonis Barrera Sosa talked over each other, railing against political oppression in Cuba. Adonis said he was jailed for 36 hours and beaten after being arrested at a protest in Havana.

Adonis said Cuban police told him, “This is your last chance. We’re going to disappear you.”

The two friends, 32 and 31, raised like brothers, fled shortly after.

For all their bravado, they were open about their fears.

“We don’t go out at all,” Lazaro said. With their 20-day Mexican transit documents long ago expired, “they can deport us at any time to Cuba, and that means jail, torture.”

“Here, I’m very afraid,” he added. “We hear about robbery, murder, assault, kidnapping — especially for us, who have family in the U.S.”

They support Trump’s approach toward the Cuban government, even as his policy has forced them to wait almost two months in Tijuana on an unofficial list to claim U.S. asylum at the San Ysidro port of entry.

Lazaro hoped to join relatives in Albuquerque and Louisiana, and Adonis had family in Miami. Sharing No. 2943 on the list, the two likely have months before they have to think about splitting up.

“With one hand, he is putting pressure on the Cuban government,” Lazaro said of Trump. “But with the other hand, he is closing the door.”

The Cuban group in the Hotel Sevilla in Juarez appeared to have been the first Cubans to be sent back to Mexico under the administration policy of requiring asylum seekers to wait south of the border until their cases could be considered in an immigration court.

Shortly after, the administration expanded the policy border-wide, forcing Cubans and others who’d sought asylum at ports of entry from San Ysidro to Brownsville, Texas, to wait in Mexico. They join the more than 30,000 migrants already waiting in northern Mexico, either for a U.S. court appearance or to register their claims at ports of entry.

Melba Raquel Rivera, a 32-year-old from Varadero, Cuba, worked as a doctor for nearly a decade in Brazil as part of a Cuban government exchange program. Now, she works as a server at a Cuban restaurant in Juarez, where she has waited two months with her husband, holding No. 11654.

She’d heard U.S. officials were starting to return Cuban asylum seekers back to Juarez, and she was worried they’d begin sending them all the way back to Cuba.

Asked what she’d say to Trump if given the chance, she answered, “In Cuba, there is no freedom like you live.”

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

Immigrants taking sanctuary in churches hit with huge fines

By Regina Garcia Cano

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Devotional candles to St. Jude, the Holy Trinity and the Virgin of Guadalupe sit on a bookshelf by the door of a classroom in a United Methodist church. A sewing machine is a few feet away between a bed and a set of wicker furniture. In a corner, an electric skillet warming chicken thighs acts as a kitchen.

It is from these makeshift quarters that Maria Chavalan-Sut, an indigenous woman from Guatemala, has spent 10 months staving off a deportation order to a country that she says has scarred her life with violence, trauma and discrimination. Her fight for asylum could now cost her at least $214,132.

Chavalan-Sut is among a number of immigrants taking sanctuary at houses of worship who have received letters from immigration authorities threatening them with huge fines under the latest move by the Trump administration. It’s unclear how many immigrants have been targeted, but Church World Service, an organization that supports refugees and immigrants, is aware of at least six who’ve received letters.

“Where am I going to get (money) from? I don’t know,” said Chavalan-Sut, who worked for a while at a restaurant after arriving in Virginia more than two years ago but hasn’t been able to hold a job since seeking sanctuary. “God still has me with my hands to work, and they’re the only thing I have. If God thinks that with my hands I can pay that, give me a job.”

Chavalan-Sut began living at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church on Sept. 30, the day she was told to report to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office for deportation. She crossed the border into the U.S. and was detained in November 2016 near Laredo, Texas, after a weekslong journey that started in Guatemala’s capital. She said her decision to emigrate and leave her four children behind came after her house was set ablaze.

Chavalan-Sut, 44, doesn’t know who set the fire while she, her children and their father were asleep inside. But she believes it was linked to a dispute over land rights because she is an indigenous woman, her immigration attorney, Alina Kilpatrick, said.

Chavalan-Sut said an area fire official declined to investigate because there were no fatalities.

Immigrants have sought relief from deportation at houses of worship because immigration officials consider them “sensitive locations” in which enforcement action is generally avoided. Forty-five people currently live in sanctuary at churches across the U.S., up from three in 2015, according to Church World Service.

Among them are Honduras native Abbie Arevalo-Herrera and Edith Espinal-Moreno, of Mexico. Arevalo-Herrera took sanctuary at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Richmond, Virginia, in June 2018, while Espinal-Moreno has been living at the Columbus Mennonite Church in Columbus, Ohio, since October 2017.

Like Chavalan-Sut, both women received notices of fines. The three letters were signed June 25. Arevalo-Herrera’s fine is for $295,630, and Espinal-Moreno’s was set at $497,777.

Attorneys, activists and faith leaders have decried the fines. Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, characterized them as a “scare tactic.”

“So long as ICE continues to respect its own policy of avoiding sensitive locations like churches, which may not be a given, the agency will have to continue to resort to psychological games to coerce families out of their legal protections,” she said.

Wesley Memorial joined the sanctuary movement after an immigrant rights activist contacted the Rev. Isaac Collins asking for help. The church’s 31-year-old pastor said that while he has heard from other pastors who have expressed concern over mixing religion and politics, for him making Wesley Memorial a sanctuary was not a political move: It was a decision based on Christian ethics.

“When you start at, ‘Maria is a human being who’s in trouble and needs a place of safety,’ OK, (that’s) very firmly in the realm of ideas in Christianity about hospitality and human rights and loving our neighbors,” he said. “The church is a space that can provide that safety and that neutral space while she figures out due process. … It doesn’t get political until your political party is the one saying ‘Actually, Maria doesn’t deserve all these things.’”

Since seeking sanctuary, Chavalan-Sut has been able to talk to her children, now ages 7, 11, 14 and 21, for an hour a day, making sure the youngest ones do their homework. The oldest is now pursuing a degree in civil engineering. She left them all under the care of a family in Guatemala City. She weeps thinking about them.

The devout Catholic participates in Sunday services at Wesley Memorial with the help of a Spanish translator. She prays daily, and tends to a garden of flowers, herbs and vegetables. She sews headbands and bags using fabric that a son mailed from Guatemala. She can’t sell the items, but she accepts donations in exchange. She occasionally cooks tamales and other traditional foods at the church’s large kitchen.

At least one volunteer guards the church property around the clock. People take turns buying her groceries. Some are helping her learn English. All volunteers have been instructed to ask for a signed warrant should immigration officers show up.

The church has also provided Chavalan-Sut with a mental health therapist. The fire at her home is only one of many traumatic events she says she has experienced for being Kaqchikel, an indigenous Mayan group. As a 7-year-old living in Guatemala’s highlands during the country’s 1960-1996 civil war, she saw her cousins buried alive.

Indigenous communities disproportionally suffered during the 36-year conflict. Rachel Nolan, an assistant professor at Boston University whose research includes Central American civil wars, said the Kaqchikel experienced enormous discrimination and violence. While the peace accords signed in 1996 ended large-scale massacres for the most part, she said, indigenous people continue to face lower-levels of violence, including land dispossession.

Carissa Cutrell, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said a judge ordered Chavalan-Sut to be deported after she failed to appear for an immigration hearing in July 2017. Kilpatrick, the immigration attorney, said that was because the notice to appear did not have a date and time, something immigrant rights activists say is common.

Chavalan-Sut’s motion to reopen her case was denied in July 2018. An appeal filed in December is pending in the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Cutrell said the Immigration and Nationality Act allows the agency to impose civil fines on individuals “who have been ordered removed or granted voluntary departure and fail to depart the United States.” The fines are calculated at $799 a day, from the date the immigrant took sanctuary to avoid removal.

Immigrants like Chavalan-Sut who have received fine notices have 30 days to dispute them in writing or request an interview to respond, which would mean risking leaving their sanctuaries. It’s unclear whether any of the immigrants, including Chavalan-Sut, have filed paperwork to fight the fines.

For now, Chavalan-Sut has turned to self-help books to try to cope. The Spanish versions of the New York Times best-seller “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown and bilingual evangelist’s Jason Frenn’s “Power to Persuade” are among the stack of books in her room.

In sanctuary, she said, she has begun to heal.

“So, I say, I’m just an example of the decisions that governments make,” she said. “They do not measure the damage that they are making. They are the ones who plant the seeds, and then many people leave their countries. … Why do they leave their country? Because they cannot stand it anymore.”

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

ACLU: 911 children split at border since 2018 court order

By Elliot Spagat and Astrid Galvan

SAN DIEGO — More than 900 children, including babies and toddlers, were separated from their parents at the border in the year after a judge ordered the practice be sharply curtailed, the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday in a legal attack that will invite more scrutiny of the Trump administration’s widely criticized tactics.

The ACLU said the administration is separating families over dubious allegations and minor transgressions including traffic offenses. It asked a judge to rule on whether the 911 separations from June 28, 2018, to June 29 of this year were justified.

In June 2018 — days after President Donald Trump retreated amid an international uproar — U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered that the practice of splitting up families at the border be halted except in limited circumstances, like threats to child safety. The judge left individual decisions to the administration’s discretion.

Since then, a parent was separated for having damaged property valued at $5, the ACLU said. A 1-year-old was separated after an official criticized her father for letting her sleep with a wet diaper.

In another case, a 2-year-old Guatemalan girl was separated from her father after authorities examined her for a fever and diaper rash and found she was malnourished and underdeveloped, the ACLU said. The father, who came from an “extraordinarily impoverished community” rife with malnutrition, was accused of neglect.

About 20% of the 911 children separated from in the year after the judge’s order were under 5 years old, the ACLU said.

Most parents went weeks without knowing where their children were, and some weren’t even clear on why they had been separated. Roughly a third of the 900 children who have been separated from their families since the judge’s order have been in the care of Catholic Charities Community Services, which says only three children have been reunited with the parent with whom they traveled.

The organization says 185 children were released to sponsors after weeks or months in government shelters and 33 were returned to their home countries.

The separations occurred during an unprecedented surge of children from Central America that has overwhelmed U.S. authorities, most coming in families but many unaccompanied. Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan told a Senate committee Tuesday that the agency encountered more than 300,000 children since Oct. 1.

More than 2,700 children were separated at the time of Sabraw’s 2018 ruling, which forced the government to reunify them with their parents.

The judge later ordered the government to find children who were separated since July 1, 2017, a group that an internal watchdog report estimated numbered in the thousands but has not yet been determined. The administration didn’t have adequate tracking systems at the time.

The ACLU, which based its findings on reports that the administration provided, asked Sabraw to order the government to justify separations over the last year and to clarify its criteria for doing so.

“It is shocking that the Trump administration continues to take babies from their parents,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said. “The administration must not be allowed to circumvent the court order over infractions like minor traffic violations.”

The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 218-page court filing details separations that are sure to raise scrutiny of Customs and Border Protection. They include 678 separations of children whose parents faced allegations of criminal conduct. Others faced allegations of gang affiliation, child safety concerns, unverified familial relationships or parent illness.

Six parents were separated for convictions of marijuana possession. Eight were split up for fraud and forgery offenses.

The ACLU said a 4-year-old boy was split from his family because his father’s speech impediment prevented him from answering questions, despite evidence that he was the parent.

A 2-year-old girl was split from after Customs and Border Protection questioned a birth certificate’s authenticity. The father, who speaks an indigenous language and didn’t have an interpreter, was reunited after a DNA test confirmed he was a parent.

The government also took children from women whom they believed had gang ties but had been gang targets, the ACLU said.

One woman from El Salvador said a gang member forced her to be his girlfriend until he was arrested in late 2018. She came to the U.S. in February and was separated from her 3-year-old son for three months while an attorney tracked down Salvadoran documents showing she had been a victim, not a criminal.

Another Salvadoran woman was separated from her 2-year-old daughter on the toddler’s birthday because of suspected gang ties. But the woman’s attorney says her client had been raped repeatedly by a gangster who forced her to deliver marijuana inside a prison. The woman refused and turned the pot into authorities, but she was arrested anyway.

In other cases, families were separated for minor crimes that, if committed by people living in the U.S., would never result in a child being taken away.

A 7-year-old girl has been in custody since June after being separated from her father because he had a conviction of driving without a license and had previously entered the country without authorization.

The ACLU said 14 parents were separated based on immigration convictions combined with driving under the influence or unspecified traffic offenses.

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

These women are driving a truck of supplies to the U.S.-Mexico border to help migrant families ‘feel human again’

By Hannah Natanson

The 300 toothbrushes proved too much for Margaret Dimond.

She stopped what she was doing: sorting through heaps of donated supplies meant for migrant families detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. Standing in a friend’s living room in Potomac, Md., on Thursday, Dimond lifted the lumpy plastic bag above her head and launched into a “happy dance.”

“Wow!” she exclaimed, when she finished pumping her arms, shaking her head and stomping her feet. “Doesn’t that make you want to cry? Three hundred toothbrushes at one go!”

The half-dozen women around her smiled and laughed — but then all of them quickly got back to work. For good reason: They faced mountains of diapers, fluffy gray towels, multicolored bedsheets, even a small mound of Kleenex packets.

The team of volunteers carefully organized the items: backpacks by the staircase, face wipes on the couch, toothpaste near the piano. They helped Dimond, 53, and Jordana Carmel, 55, load the haul into both of their cars so the two women could take it to a rented storage unit in nearby Kensington.

Soon, Dimond and Carmel will take a much longer drive. In early August, they will pack all they’ve gathered into a rented truck and drive 20 hours to Laredo, Tex. They will give the supplies to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Laredo, which will distribute them to individuals and families released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facilities.

Congress approved a $4.6 billion border aid package in June meant to improve poor conditions at detention centers, which government watchdog groups have decried as overcrowded and unsanitary. Several children have died in federal custody at the border over the past year.

“Our hope is to provide the necessities to help these people feel human again,” Dimond said.

She came up with the idea at 1 a.m. late last month. Dimond, who works out of her Rockville, Md., home as an Internet and technology consultant, had just wrapped up the day’s assignments. She was about to fall asleep when she spotted a New York Times headline on her iPad: “‘There Is a Stench’: Soiled Clothes and No Baths for Migrant Children at a Texas Center.”

The word “stench” was arresting.

“So I read the article, and beyond the thought of the horrible conditions, I just thought, ‘This is so solvable!’” Dimond said. “There’s a need that can be met. I know the private sector — small businesses, individuals — can meet that need.”

It was too late to do anything that night. So Dimond set her alarm for 6 a.m. and — after imbibing “significant amounts” of coffee — sketched out an action plan in brown ink on a white legal pad. Her mission was clear: Deliver toiletries, clothes and other hygiene items to incarcerated migrant families and children. But how?

First up, research and outreach. Over the next few weeks, Dimond read everything related to detention centers that she could find online — especially useful, she said, were small Texas-based news outlets. She also contacted lawyers and nonprofit organizations working along the border to discuss what was needed and what was possible.

Soon, Dimond began zeroing in on Catholic Charities-Diocese of Laredo (CCDOL). Benjamin de la Garza, executive director of the nonprofit social services agency, said CCDOL has seen about 70 people exiting detention centers every day over the past month, though the number can sometimes rise above 200. Border Patrol agents direct families approved for release to the Catholic Charities shelter, where staff members care for them and help them find a place to stay as they await hearings in immigration court.

“These people come to us in need of showers, in need of personal hygiene, in need of clothes, in need of food — they even have medical needs sometimes,” de la Garza said.

He added that efforts such as Dimond’s are vital: “Without donations and support from all over the U.S., it would be very hard for us to sustain this crisis,” he said.

As she gained a clearer understanding of the situation at the border, Dimond — drawing on her background in coding — whipped up a website detailing her project. She also reached out to family, friends, current and former clients, people from past professional lives ⁠ — anyone and everyone she thought might be able to help. Everybody was more than willing to pitch in, often by donating items such as shampoo and hairbrushes.

One of the people she contacted was Jordana Carmel, a longtime friend and her former yoga instructor.

Carmel, who works as a life and health coach and massage therapist in addition to teaching yoga, was feeling “deeply depressed” by news reports about the detention centers, she said. She often sat in her car and wept as she listened to radio updates from the border. The dilemma made Carmel think of her 100-year-old grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, who immigrated to the United States from Germany during World War II.

“We must all remember where we came from,” Carmel said. “None of us are that far removed from the moment of immigration.”

Carmel, who wanted to help migrant families but had no idea how, was thrilled to hear from Dimond. She signed on to co-lead the project almost immediately.

“Well, actually, I just didn’t give her a choice,” Carmel said. “It became a ‘we’ without us ever discussing it.”

Around the same time Dimond and Carmel joined forces, the two women also connected with KindWorks, a Maryland-based nonprofit organization that collaborates with other organizations and government agencies to engage Washington residents in community service. Carmel found Deb Lang, the executive director of KindWorks, through a former massage client. With that, the twosome morphed into a trio. Lang is on the phone with Dimond and Carmel every day and helps with “whatever comes up,” she said.

Once they started using KindWorks’ web of contacts and resources — and publicizing their collection effort on social media and over neighborhood email lists — the three women found themselves deluged with supplies, offers of help and money.

“That’s what KindWorks does — we take someone with an idea, like Margaret, and we blow it up,” said Lang, who hosted Thursday’s sorting party at her Potomac home. It was the second such gathering that KindWorks has held.

“We could not have done this without KindWorks,” Carmel said. “Deb has been amazing.”

Dimond, Carmel and Lang set up collection sites in homes, churches and synagogues across the region. All of these, whose addresses are listed on Dimond’s and KindWorks’ websites, will accept supplies until July 31. After consulting, in part, with CCDOL, the three women published a catalogue of the items most useful to migrants, including shoelaces, water bottles, deodorant and baby formula.

They also rented a storage unit. Until then, Dimond had kept the supplies in her home. As of Thursday, the 15-by-30-foot storage room was about one-third full. The rows of shampoo and stacks of blankets will remain there until Aug. 8, when Dimond and Carmel — and possibly Lang, who’s still deciding — will embark on their road trip.

In addition to Laredo, the women will visit the Texas cities of McAllen and Brownsville. They expect the tour to take about five days. All costs will be covered by donations. Dimond and Carmel haven’t checked the amount of money sent in so far but said they think it will be sufficient.

Both women have driven trucks before, so neither is nervous, they said. Nor do they feel so hopeless when they read news from the border anymore. Instead, Dimond, Carmel and Lang wake up most mornings feeling “amazed” and “inspired” by D.C.-area residents’ “overwhelming response” to their project, Carmel said.

One such resident is Mariam Afzal, 37, who drove from her home in McLean, Va., to drop off a car’s worth of supplies at Lang’s house on Thursday morning. Afzal’s family immigrated to the United States as refugees from war-torn Afghanistan when she was 9 months old.

“It is a very personal thing to be able to help with this,” Afzal said, pointing to her refu­gee status. “But no matter who you are, all human beings should have dignity.”

She shrugged. “That’s really all there is to it.”

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

An American Middle Schooler, Orphaned by Deportation

By Vivian Yee

After color-guard practice one fall Wednesday, Fanny’s coach caught her in the parking lot getting into an Uber and wanted to know why. Fanny was still in seventh grade, a cadet on the junior team, and in the Atlanta suburb where she had spent her whole life, parents, not taxis, usually waited in the school parking lot. Coach Stephanie was concerned that a stranger was picking up a 13-year-old, but Fanny didn’t feel like explaining that she rode with strangers all the time now, or that “home” was with people who, until recently, had more or less been strangers, too. Her mother had been gone for months. Her father hadn’t been around for years. Her 22-year-old brother lived a 45-minute drive away.

“It’s fine,” Fanny said. “My brother’s tracking me on his phone, see?” She held up her iPhone. “Don’t worry,” she kept saying, and Stephanie relented, telling Fanny to text when she got home.

Fanny had practice in the local high school’s band room twice a week and competitions every few Saturdays. Sometimes she skipped when she was feeling sick or sad, but other days she wouldn’t stop rehearsing even after she got back to the quiet neighborhood where she now lived, casting her green flag up toward the yellow streetlights in the dark. In color guard, time moved in orderly counts of eight. You couldn’t stop and think; there was always a next count, a next step to get to. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, Fanny whispered.

The sounds of practice shushed all thought: the artificial swish of bare feet on floor mats, the swoop of flags shearing the air, the clatter of wooden rifles hitting the ground. “Can I get a whoop-whoop?” Stephanie called out every few minutes. “Whoop-whoop!” the girls chanted back. All through their routine — more modern dance than military, set to Demi Lovato’s “Warrior” — Fanny kept count under her breath. Stephanie wanted her middle school cadets to channel the emotion of the music. “Think of a sad, hard moment in your life, like a problem with your friend, or a hard math test,” Stephanie called out as they warmed up at one practice. Fanny listened, hands on hips, nodding slightly. “I want you to think you’re a warrior,” Stephanie went on. “Think of that superhero in your mind.”

Fanny had wanted to be a captain, but she never told Stephanie, and two other girls were chosen instead. Still, she couldn’t help taking charge now and then, demonstrating a tricky move to some of the more timid-looking girls, pointing out corners that needed unwrinkling when it was time to roll up the vast floor mat at the end of practice. As Stephanie issued instructions for their next competition — call times, eye-shadow color, topknots, hair spray — Fanny interjected with some practical footnotes, confirming that they had to show up at 6:45 a.m. and dispensing tips for cleaning newly pierced ears. Then Stephanie handed out invoices to the girls who still owed money for the program, and Fanny fell silent as she looked hers over. “Oh, wow,” she said. “Oh, wow.”

She shifted away from the knot of other girls, her brow scrunched. “O.K.,” she said to herself. “I’m going to do some accounting.” From his paycheck working construction, her brother, Alejandro, gave her between $50 and $100 a week for Ubers, food and anything else that came up. She’d already had to buy nude tights for Saturday’s competition, and she’d devoted another chunk to a couple of trips to Walmart for tubs of Mayfield Creamery cherry-vanilla ice cream, Chick-fil-A for chicken sandwiches and the pizzeria where her mother, Rosario, used to work, for slices. Sometimes the couple who owned the pizzeria tried to give them to her free, but she always insisted on paying; Rosario had taught her to earn whatever she got. Next week, she’d have to save more.

Outside, the other girls were dispersing into their parents’ waiting cars. Fanny planned to order an Uber as usual. Alejandro worked all day, including on Saturdays, so he’d never seen her color-guard routine except in videos she showed him on her phone, and he couldn’t leave to pick her up unless there was an emergency.

Fanny folded up the invoice as she went over to talk to her coach. “I just wanted to let you know that my mom was deported,” she announced. “So it’s just me and my brother.”

Stephanie laid a hand over her heart, her mouth open. “Oh,” she said, groping for words. “That … that hurts my heart. Just because … just because I know as well. My parents are both immigrants. So I can’t imagine.”

Fanny looked at her, her face unreadable. “See you Friday,” she said, and headed to the parking lot.

Until Rosario was deported, it was always Rosario and Fanny together. (For their protection, The Times is withholding their last names and identifying Rosario by her middle name.) Fanny and Alejandro’s father left the family three years after Fanny was born in Georgia, only to be deported later on. Alejandro never finished school and moved out of the house when he was still a teenager. Rosario was frequently absent, too, working two or three jobs for as long as Fanny could remember. But Fanny would wait up for Rosario to get home from her late shift, as a cleaner at a local private school, so they could get a bite at Waffle House; Rosario would get up early enough to tell Fanny, “I’ll see you soon,” as her daughter left to catch the school bus. That was the last thing she would say to Fanny before the arrest, in May 2017, that would eventually lead to her deportation.

Fanny was at home, waiting up for Rosario, when a county police officer pulled Rosario over as she drove home, even though she was sure she had done nothing to attract attention. The officer booked Rosario into the county jail for driving without a license — the same consequence most immigrants living illegally in Georgia risk every day to get around — and after a few days, the jail turned her over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Rosario pleaded that she had a 12-year-old daughter struggling with depression at home; Fanny had tried to kill herself earlier that year, after bullying by her sixth-grade friends. After a few more days of detention, ICE let Rosario go with a clunky ankle monitor that she tried her best to hide under her skinny jeans.

With Rosario back at home, Fanny managed to convince herself that her mother was edging out of danger. She thought Rosario’s lawyer would manage it, that a visa was on its way. Rosario kept wearing the ankle bracelet and showing up to the ICE office in Atlanta for check-ins, certain she was following the rules, until the morning four months later when she was arrested again. Rosario called Fanny from the detention center a day later: ICE agents knocked soon after Fanny left for school, she said. They told Rosario she was going to come back home, but they also said to call Alejandro and tell him to pick up Fanny.

Rosario spent two weeks in detention in rural Georgia, too far away to visit. Fanny and Alejandro pleaded with her lawyer to do something, but the lawyer was out of options. The day her mother was deported back to Mexico, Fanny was with the family of one of Alejandro’s old friends from school, Laura, whom Alejandro trusted to look after Fanny while he was at work. Alejandro came to see her there when he heard the news.

“I want you to be strong,” he told her. “Mom called earlier. She’s already on the border.”

“Please tell me you’re playing,” Fanny said, and she started to hyperventilate in Alejandro’s arms.

Laura’s mother came outside. “Everything’s going to be O.K.,” she promised, and some days Fanny could almost believe it, and some days she couldn’t.

The first few weeks after Rosario’s deportation, Fanny and Rosario used FaceTime or WhatsApp to speak at least once a day, but Fanny wasn’t used to talking to her mother like this. Fanny had known for years that her mother didn’t have legal status, but that hadn’t seemed to matter, at least until Rosario’s arrest. One day, a daughter’s citizenship and a mother’s lack of it amounted to little more than a piece of paper; the next, it was an iron barricade.

Stories like theirs had been common for years in the fast-diversifying Atlanta suburbs. Long before the Trump administration began separating immigrant children from their parents at the border, deportation was dividing immigrant parents from their American families, never more so than under the Obama administration. But a case like Rosario’s most likely could have occurred only after Trump took office. Rosario was a single mother who had not broken any criminal laws since crossing the border; ICE used to prioritize those with serious criminal offenses and often agreed not to deport someone if a child who was a United States citizen, like Fanny, would be left parentless. But the Trump administration erased such stipulations soon after Trump took office, allowing a single parent, or both parents in a family, to be deported. Which meant that the government was no longer only dividing families but also effectively orphaning American children.

Deportation was throwing together new families too — kitchen-sink households in which an aunt, a family friend, a grown-up sister or an older brother who had just barely reached adulthood was suddenly raising someone else’s child. This is happening often enough that last year, New York and Maryland made it possible for immigrant parents to designate another adult to step in if they are detained on immigration charges. A handful of other states, including Pennsylvania, Illinois and Connecticut, have taken similar steps or are considering them. More than half a million children from immigrant families are being raised by extended family members, one study found in October, but there are no reliable estimates of how many children of immigrants live with people who are not related to them.

For a while after Rosario was detained, Fanny and Alejandro tried to keep it together. Rosario had long trusted Fanny with the bank-account and credit-card numbers and passwords, which, as Fanny had correctly guessed years ago, were various combinations of her own name and birth date, so Fanny kept paying the bills out of her mother’s savings. Alejandro moved back into their apartment and learned to shop for them both — a task that came to include buying Fanny’s sanitary pads, which she was too embarrassed to get herself — but he was still working the same long hours, so Fanny moved in with Laura’s family, who were from Mexico, too. She called them “family friends,” but in truth, she hadn’t spent much time with them before going to live with them.

When Alejandro told her she could start calling Laura’s mother “Mom,” Fanny made a face that said, That’s not right. It was weird in October, just a few weeks after Rosario was deported, when Fanny turned 13 and the family took her out to the local diner for dinner and cake, even though she didn’t really know them. It was still weird over Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, which was especially hard. She and Rosario had always dressed up nicely and posed for photos in front of their tree; these people pulled on ugly sweaters. Rosario decorated only the tree; this family, her new family, did the whole house, decking the living room and kitchen with tinsel and paper snowflakes while Christmas music blasted from Fanny’s dinged-up speakers — the mother; the father; the sisters, Laura and Ana; the brother, Nando; and Laura’s young daughter, Leila. To a girl who had grown up mostly without others around, it was amazing how quickly the small ranch-style house could fill with sound and people.

At first, she didn’t tell most people what had happened to her mother — not her teachers, not even most of her friends — and some people she never told. It had never been hard for Fanny to convince grown-ups that she had everything under control, and by the time Rosario had been gone three months, Fanny’s air of competence, combined with her careful imitation of YouTube makeup tutorials, often seemed to make adults forget that she was in seventh grade. Friends’ moms would keep chatting with her long after their own kids became bored and disappeared into their phones. Managers offered her minimum-wage jobs. A man asked for her number.

There were days when a prickling sensation would spread out from her right foot and left hand, like a limb falling asleep, except it was her entire body vibrating in an anxiety attack, and she passed out in the school cafeteria and woke up in the nurse’s office. Days when what Fanny called “the feelings” overwhelmed the antidepressants she was on, and she took an extra pill to see if it would help. Whenever she got sick or had a panic attack, and her brother couldn’t pick her up from her middle school, she had to wait in the office until the bus was leaving. The staff there wouldn’t let her call Ubers. Alejandro, resigned but nervous, always told her not to fall asleep in the Ubers she did take — “just listen to music and look outside or something” — but she didn’t sleep much at night, so she often remembered his warning only when she was waking up at the end of the ride.

Alejandro gave her an allowance, filled in at her parent-teacher conferences and tracked her whereabouts when he remembered to look at his phone. But it was clear to Fanny that the only person fully responsible for her was herself. So she kept making her own appointments with the therapist she’d been seeing regularly since her suicide attempt the year before. She kept handling her own finances. Now, however, Fanny slept on a heap of blankets on the floor of the bedroom of Laura’s teenage brother, Nando. She tucked the pile under Nando’s bed every morning and dragged it out every night. “fanny and nando!” the door to the room announced in colorful sticker letters, but Nando had a bed and she didn’t, and Nando had two parents and she had none.

Rosario wouldn’t stop talking about coming back, and it made Fanny anxious every time she thought about it. Where would her mother get the money for the smuggler’s fee? What if she were deported again? People could be sent to federal prison for illegally re-entering after being deported. Even if she did make it back, what kind of life would they have, with Rosario all but in hiding? But Rosario just said Fanny was being negative; she had to trust her. A few days after one of their fights about it, Fanny fainted again. The feelings were back.

As the weeks stumbled on, Fanny stopped saying things like “I want you back” and “I wish you were here.” “Mom, I can’t talk,” she’d say instead. “I have to go to the mall.” Or she’d say she was at a friend’s house. Or she’d ask her to stop mapping out her return to America, which was the only thing Rosario thought about now — that, and Fanny. Who was Fanny with? What was she doing? Where was she going? If Laura’s mother was taking care of Fanny, and Fanny thought she could take care of herself, where did that leave Rosario?

After a while, Rosario stopped telling Fanny about her plans to return, though she kept Alejandro updated. She didn’t want Fanny to worry, but she agonized over keeping it secret. “If something bad happens to me,” she thought, “Fanny won’t know.”

Two days after Christmas, Fanny went to stay at Alejandro’s place, where she sometimes shared a bed with Max, their dog. She didn’t know what time it was when she half-woke in darkness. Someone was in the room with her. No, someone was in bed with her. Someone who had put arms around her. Someone who was crying.

“Oh, my God,” Fanny said. She turned over, disbelieving, needing to make sure. She had told her not to come. She couldn’t have come. But somehow, almost exactly three months after Rosario left, here she was.

“I missed you, I missed you,” Rosario whispered through her tears, stroking her daughter’s hair, because now Fanny was crying, too. “Nothing was going to keep us apart. I love you. I love you. I love you.”
While Fanny had been celebrating Christmas at Laura’s that week, Rosario had been jammed in the back of a smuggler’s car for the daylong drive from Mexico City to Nuevo Laredo, then walking across the border into Texas, then riding a bus to Dallas. She had hired the same smuggler she had used the first time but decided on a route safer than the desert hike through Tijuana she took before, paying him extra for a fake green card to show to the immigration agents who checked everyone’s IDs on the bus. The trip had cost her $7,000, money she’d borrowed from a close friend, her brother and her old boss at her janitorial job in Georgia. Once she made it to Dallas, another car arranged by the smuggler took her to Georgia.

Now that she was back, though, Rosario didn’t want anyone to know, in case it somehow got back to ICE. She dreaded another knock on the door. She dreaded being sent back again to depend on her brother’s generosity, to the isolation and the poverty, to the dreary past. Refusing to take any chances, Rosario didn’t tell anyone she had returned except the people who helped pay for the smuggler. She made Fanny and Alejandro keep her secret, even if it meant lying to the family who had been caring for her daughter. So they did.

For months, Rosario laid low in her old apartment, afraid to leave the house even to walk the dog when her kids visited. What if ICE came back to check the place? She asked Fanny if she wanted to move back in with her, since she was living with a family she barely knew, but Fanny said she would be fine, and Alejandro pointed out that it would be tough for Fanny to live with someone who was in hiding. Fanny was relieved: Her furtive visits to her mother meant hours stuck inside. Then she felt guilty. She was trying not to say too much to Rosario about the other family. She didn’t know how, exactly, to tell her mother that she had come to think of somewhere else as home.

When Laura came through the door after work one afternoon in January, Fanny greeted her with a “Hi, sister!”

“Hi, sister,” Laura replied, plopping down next to her on the brown couch, where Fanny sat cross-legged in skinny jeans and a school-logo hoodie. Laura put an arm around her, tapping at her phone as they talked. Within a few minutes, Fanny had given up on her homework. “So yesterday, me and Mom had the conversation about why I don’t talk to Jesús anymore,” Fanny said to Laura. Jesús was a boy who had been texting Fanny.

“Which mom?” Laura asked.

“Mom Mom. Mom 2,” said Fanny, holding up two fingers. She meant Laura’s mother. “I said Jesús is the kind of dude who watches ‘SpongeBob.’ ”

Laura was the one who talked to Fanny about friends and boys, about who was having a baby and who was going out. The other sister, Ana, was the one with the closet full of clothes Fanny was always borrowing even though they didn’t quite fit her yet, the one with the bag full of makeup she was teaching Fanny how to use, the one with the independence and wherewithal to help with the household bills, the one Fanny could see herself growing up to be — ideally not too long from now. Nando, 15, was the one she swapped marching-band gossip with, the one she stayed up talking to long after they were supposed to be asleep, the one who shared her belief that Fanny had brought a small ghost from her old house to his. And Mom 2, who cleaned houses for a living, was the one who teased Fanny about her sweet tooth, cracked her back when it felt funny and taught her to do her own laundry. “You’re turning into a woman,” she said. “You have to learn how to do your own stuff.”

At dinner around the oval kitchen table that night, Fanny sniffled quietly over her foam plate of pork stew, refried beans and chicken flautas. “I think I’m getting sick,” she said, as the adults around her chatted in Spanish. She laid her head on the table. “I’m going to hate going to school tomorrow, and they’re going to check my temperature and say, ‘Oh, you got a fever, we’re going to have to call your parents.’ Like, who are you going to call?”

“What about brother?” Laura asked.

“He’s going to have to get out of work.” The school wouldn’t let her leave on her own, so Alejandro would have to pick her up, but he couldn’t always get permission from his boss to leave. Rosario didn’t want to risk being seen.

“If you have a fever, there’s no point in going to school,” Laura said.

“I’m going to go to school,” Fanny said, head still down, flinching at the idea of staying home alone. “If they send me back, they send me back.”

Getting up from the dinner table now, Fanny threw away her plate and resettled on the couch with Nando, their eyes flicking back and forth between their phones and the TV. Nando eventually disappeared into their room, and it was just Fanny on the couch, still sniffling, her throat aflame with what would later turn out to be strep. The Disney Channel was playing the final episode of “Jessie,” a show about four siblings and their beloved nanny, Jessie. Onscreen, the kids were saying a tearful goodbye to Jessie. “Family members are like planets,” Jessie told one girl. “The force of love keeps them together,” the girl replied, nodding. Fanny let her head droop against the back of the couch, blinking rapidly at the ceiling. “I guess that was the last episode,” she said. “It counts as the last episode if it made me cry.”

“Which one?” Laura texted Fanny from the bakery one day after school in March, six months after Fanny moved in, sending photos of cakes.

“Wait, why are we getting cake?” Nando asked, as he and Fanny examined the options. Fanny realized before he did: “Today is Mom and Dad’s anniversary!”

“Is it bad I didn’t know that?” Nando asked, giggling.

Fifteen minutes later, Nando’s father walked through the door carrying flowers, cake and a balloon that read “Happy Anniversary,” surprising Mom 2 in the kitchen. They kissed. Their children cheered. Fanny was recording the whole scene on her phone to post on Snapchat, her face rapt and smiling, while the chocolate cake was enthroned on the kitchen table. She reached for it as Leila hopped on the balls of her feet behind her, and Mom 2 mock-batted their hands away, shouting, “It’s my cake!”

Fanny, doubling over with giggles, had to drag Leila off the table. Mom 2 cut a slice for each of them. How long had she been married? she wondered aloud. She couldn’t remember.

“I know how many years, and you don’t?” Fanny said. “It’s 24!”

Soon Laura arrived, carrying a feast of Bojangles’ fried chicken, biscuits and sweet tea; after her came an aunt, an uncle and some cousins, here for dinner. “Ay, felicidades!” they exclaimed. As Fanny watched, Mom 2 gave the aunt’s pregnant belly an affectionate rub. Fanny ran over to rub it, too.

By late March, Rosario felt safe enough to rent a room. Fanny announced to Mom 2 and Laura that her mom had just come back from Mexico. Alejandro had alerted them first, so they weren’t surprised. Instead, they just said: We’ll always be here for you if you need us. We’re just a phone call away. Fanny had resigned herself to leaving, but she would miss them. After goodbyes, she headed out with her clothes, her school supplies and her color guard flag.

On her first day out of the house with her daughter, Rosario got up early to watch Fanny’s color-guard competition. She passed the booths selling bedazzled hair ribbons that said “fierce” and T-shirts that read “train like a beast, look like a beauty” and scanned the high school gym for a good seat. She had already missed so many of her daughter’s competitions. She wasn’t going to miss this.

A herd of adolescent girls dressed as unicorns tossed rainbow flags in the air while Rosario, out of practice with English, tried to decipher what the announcer was saying in his Southern accent. As soon as Fanny took the floor in a sequined periwinkle blue leotard, Rosario started filming with her phone. Fanny’s eyebrows were impeccably shaded and shaped. Gray eye shadow shimmered on her lids, which were fringed with fake eyelashes. Winged black eyeliner traced her eyes, and bronzer contoured her cheeks. When did she learn to do that? Rosario wondered.

She filmed the whole performance, and then the awards ceremony, in which Fanny’s team won first place. When it was over, parents clattered down the bleachers to reach their children. Fanny was talking to teammates and adults Rosario didn’t know. Rosario nodded at them, saying nothing. Then she got busy around her daughter, tugging off Fanny’s hoodie for the team photo, taking pictures of Fanny with the team trophy, tucking a few stray hairs behind Fanny’s ears. She noticed Fanny’s jacket hood was inside out and fixed it as they walked out of the gym. She rubbed Fanny’s back and smiled. As they headed to the parking lot, Fanny turned almost imperceptibly toward her mother, her arm extending just an inch, and Rosario slid her arm through her daughter’s as they pushed the doors open under a roof of gray sky.

Fanny and Rosario had to share their new apartment with roommates — a married couple; the woman’s 20-something, TV-hogging son; and a small yapping dog that tended to leave a trail of urine across the off-white living room carpet — so they kept to themselves and went out for almost all their meals. They couldn’t drive, and Uber funds had to be conserved. So mostly they walked, and mostly to the Waffle House a few worn-out strip malls away.

It was almost noon one Saturday in April when Fanny made her way down the weedy sidewalk for breakfast, double- or triple-jabbing the walk buttons as she went, bolting across the five-lane main road where there was no crosswalk. Rosario was supposed to meet her there after a doctor’s appointment, but 15 minutes passed, then 30, then 45, and still no Rosario. Fanny ordered some food and waited.

She had gotten used to waiting. She used to spend hours home alone during Rosario’s work shifts. When she moved back in with her mother, she wondered whether that would change. Fanny hated to be alone. “She hasn’t changed at all,” Fanny said now. Rosario was working as much or more than ever, determined to pay back the thousands she owed as quickly as possible. Her cleaning shifts ran late and through most weekends, and Fanny went to school early. Rosario had started taking Fanny with her to work sometimes; if she didn’t, they might go two days at a time sharing the same bed but barely seeing each other.

Today they were supposed to go to the nail salon after breakfast, before Rosario had to go to work again. Fanny sat staring out the Waffle House’s big window at the 50-mile-an-hour traffic whooshing by. She hadn’t seen Nando or Laura or Ana or Leila in weeks. At their house, someone was always around. Fanny could see friends more or less whenever she wanted. Now Rosario wouldn’t let her go out more than once a week, and not at all if boys were in the group.

Fanny’s phone buzzed. Change of plans: Rosario didn’t have much time, and for them, manicures trumped breakfast. Fanny paid the bill and walked over to the next strip mall to meet her mother at the salon. Less than 15 minutes elapsed before they began bickering about a recent episode in which Fanny had worn track pants to school, a dress-code violation that would earn her an in-school suspension unless she changed into acceptable pants. She had called Rosario, pleading for a new pair from home.

“If you knew you weren’t supposed to wear those pants, why did you wear them?” Rosario said in the nail salon, trying to keep her voice down.

“I’ve worn them multiple times before and not gotten into trouble, that’s what you’re not understanding,” said Fanny, her voice dropping into surliness. “This is why I don’t argue with you anymore.” She pulled out her phone and started flicking through Instagram, looking for a photo of the polish color she wanted. Rosario tapped at her own phone. She was amazed when Fanny talked back. She never used to. Time to go, she said after a few minutes, and left.

Alejandro called while Fanny’s nails were drying. “I’m triggered,” she told him, “because Mom went to the doctor, and it was $130 plus medicine. She should’ve told me so we could save up for it, $50 and then $50. Now it’s one big payment, and we won’t have as much for other stuff we need.”

Rosario tried to be patient when Fanny started telling her how much of her paycheck to save, how much to spend and what to spend it on, but sometimes she lost it and threatened to take away Fanny’s phone for a few weeks, or to cancel her quinceañera. Rosario dreaded Fanny’s obvious desire for financial control. If Fanny wanted things Rosario couldn’t afford, she would want to work, even though she was barred by law from employment until she turned 14. If she got a job, she might want to take on more hours. If she worked more, she might want to drop out of school.

“Live your childhood now, because the minute you’re an adult, you’ll miss it,” Rosario sometimes told Fanny.

“You’re just exaggerating,” Fanny would say, addressing her mother in Spanish with usted, the formal “you” that Spanish speakers usually reserve for authority figures and strangers. Underlying this habit was the private assessment Fanny had formed of Rosario: “My mom is not the type of person you can actually talk to.”

Fanny sometimes felt as if they fought about everything now: about money, about going out and, more and more, about makeup. Fanny had taken to leaving the house with a full face of makeup, complete with novelty contacts that magnified her brown irises into green, pink, gray or purple discs. “I don’t even have that much makeup on,” Rosario said. Maybe it was the makeup or maybe it was the way Fanny sat up straight and had a quick answer for every question he posed, but Rosario and Fanny were pretty sure that the elderly manager at the diner across the road from their apartment hadn’t known how old she was when he offered her a summer job waitressing a few days a week. Rosario didn’t stand in her way.

Some days that summer, Fanny woke up in their 8-by-10 room, and Rosario was still asleep, because she’d worked late the night before. Some nights she went to bed after her shift at the diner, and Rosario wasn’t there, because she was still at work. And sometimes she woke up because her mother had cranked up her favorite Latin music on Fanny’s old speakers and was dancing in her pajamas. “Wake up, Fanny!” Rosario would say, shimmying at the foot of the bed. “Come dance.” Fanny would laugh and join her.

Mostly, though, they saw little of each other, except in passing. It felt weird to Fanny. “Mom, I’m going out,” she would say. Or: “Mom, I’m going to work, I’ll be out late.” Or: “Mom, I’m going to Walmart — do you need anything?”

By the fall, Fanny had dropped the diner shifts because of school, but she would soon find new ways to avoid being home. She got a fake ID and started sneaking out of the house to go clubbing. When Rosario first caught her, she said that if she couldn’t stop Fanny from going out with her friends, she at least didn’t want her to drink. The second time, she was suspicious that Fanny had been drinking anyway. Their fights turned louder and more vicious. Rosario couldn’t stop herself from saying to Fanny: I gave you everything, and this is how you behave? One night after Fanny had been out late, not wanting to face her mother at home, she was sexually assaulted. She didn’t tell her mother. Fanny’s mental health, already fragile, took a sharp turn for the worse, and she was in and out of school all year. She spent time in a mental health facility, and only just managed to pass eighth grade.

By the summer after middle school, Fanny had moved out of the room she’d shared with Rosario and in with her brother, who lived in a neighboring county with a couple of friends and their girlfriends and kids. Come this fall, Fanny had decided, she would enroll in high school in another town; maybe she would pick up shifts with a housecleaning crew after school. After graduation, maybe she’d get a business degree and start doing other people’s makeup for a living, or maybe she’d become an auto mechanic. She didn’t talk much to Rosario about what she was thinking. She and Alejandro were moving in with a friend of his who lived in the new school district. It would be her fifth home in two years.

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

Attorney General Blocks Asylum Applications Based on Family Ties

By Alicia A. Caldwell and Louise Radnofsky

WASHINGTON—Attorney General William Barr is moving to cut off asylum for people whose claims are based on being related to persecuted family members in the Trump administration’s latest effort to restrict who is eligible to seek refugee status in the U.S.

Mr. Barr overturned a decision on Monday from the Board of Immigration Appeals, which had ruled that a Mexican man could apply for asylum on the basis of his father being targeted by a Mexican cartel.

Federal law gives the attorney general the authority to overrule the immigration appeals board’s decisions. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people Monday’s ruling could affect.

Asylum eligibility usually hinges on whether people are afraid to return to their country of origin because they face persecution on the basis of factors such as race, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Membership in a family, Mr. Barr said, didn’t count as membership in a social group that might make the Mexican man eligible for asylum.

“An applicant must establish that his specific family group is defined with sufficient particularity and is socially distinct in his society,” Mr. Barr said. “In the ordinary case, a family group will not meet that standard, because it will not have the kind of identifying characteristics that render the family socially distinct within the society in question.”

Immigrant-rights advocates have regularly accused the Trump administration of stretching its authority to change immigration policy in ways Congress wouldn’t allow.

David Leopold, an Ohio-based immigration lawyer, said he saw Mr. Barr’s latest ruling in that light.

“It’s kind of a surreptitious attempt to change the asylum law because they are not changing the law, they are prejudging the facts and that is not the job of the attorney general,” Mr. Leopold said.

The ruling expands on a similar decision from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Central American women who were the victims of domestic violence would no longer be considered members of a particular social group for purposes of asylum law. In that 2018 ruling, Mr. Sessions said domestic and gang violence constituted “private violence.”

In December, a federal judge blocked the administration from immediately disqualifying such asylum seekers and moving to quickly deport them.

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

Monday, July 29, 2019

Senator intervenes at border to help Mexican family apply for asylum

By Robert Moore

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — A pregnant Mexican woman suffering complications was told by immigration officers that they couldn’t process her family’s asylum claim at the U.S. border on Saturday before a U.S. senator intervened to persuade the officers to take the woman to a Texas hospital.

While visiting a migrant shelter Saturday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he grew concerned about a woman who was 38 weeks pregnant and suffering from preeclampsia and other complications. The senator and his staff decided to take the woman, her husband and 3-year-old son to a port of entry to make their asylum claim.

At the Paso del Norte Bridge linking Juarez and El Paso, the family approached two Customs and Border Protection officers, presented their identification and said they wanted to request asylum. They then heard the words that tens of thousands of asylum seekers have been told for more than a year at the U.S.-Mexico border: “We’re full,” a CBP officer told them.

Wyden, who had followed behind the family along with an entourage of staff members and friends from Oregon, then stepped forward and identified himself. He told the officers that Mexicans are exempt from the “metering” program CBP has used to strictly control the number of people allowed to request asylum at ports of entry. He also told the officers the woman was late term in her pregnancy and suffering complications.

The officers called a supervisor, who arrived minutes later, and allowed the family to go to the port of entry to make their asylum claim.

Wyden was clearly shaken by his two-day visit to the border, which included a tour of CBP holding cells and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility. At the Juarez shelter, he met a 3-year-old boy who had stopped speaking after being held with his father by the U.S. Border Patrol and then sent back to Mexico. Wyden spoke with families who were required to stay in Mexico for six months before their first U.S. immigration court hearing.

The experimental U.S. policy requires migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed. (Luis Velarde/The Washington Post)
“These policies that I’ve seen are not what America is about. And in fact, what we saw with respect to the woman who is here today is just a blatant violation of U.S. law,” Wyden said, referring to the pregnant woman. He said he believed the CBP agents would have turned away the family if he had not intervened, a sentiment echoed by Taylor Levy, an El Paso immigration attorney who took Wyden and his staff to Juarez.

“I feel very confident that if the family had tried to present alone, they would not have been allowed in,” Levy said.

A CBP spokesman said the officer would not have told the family that asylum processing was at capacity if they had explained that they were Mexican and that the mother was pregnant. However, the family gave the officer, whose uniform identified his last name as Loya, a folder that contained their Mexican birth certificates and identification.

Shaw Drake, the policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union Border Rights Center in El Paso, said he asked the officer afterward whether the family had identified themselves as Mexican asylum seekers, and the officer said they had.

Wyden was also critical of a CBP officer who told the senator’s staff they were not allowed to take photos or video on the bridge. The ACLU’s Drake said the officer, whose name tag identified him as Castro, was wrong, and he told the staff they could continue to record.

“Certainly it looked like it had the potential for not going well. The ACLU folks talked about their legal rights to be able to record the [processing], and one of the officers said, ‘We have a situation,’ ” Wyden said. “So having done this for a while, those are the kinds of things that concern you and might suggest it’s not going well.”

Metering is used as a way to cap the number of people allowed to apply for asylum at ports of entry. Mexicans are supposed to be exempt from metering under U.S. asylum laws, Drake said. He said he had seen CBP agents turning back Mexican asylum seekers before.

“If someone arrives on our border and expresses a fear of return to their home country, the government is barred from returning that person to their home country until a process has been followed to determine whether they have the right to remain in the United States as an asylee or a refugee,” he said. “And so turning a Mexican away at the border, back into Mexico, is directly returning an asylum seeker to the country from which they’re fleeing persecution with no process to determine whether they have a fear of returning to that country.”

Wyden met the family, who asked not to be identified, at a shelter that houses about 250 migrants in Juarez. They were sharing a small room with 11 other migrants. They said they were from the Mexican state of Guerrero and wanted to seek asylum because they feared violence from drug cartels and their government allies.

“There’s a lot of insecurity, and the government is involved and corrupted with the cartels. There’s just no way to survive,” the father told Wyden.

The family showed Wyden their number for the metering list, which is kept by the Chihuahua State Population Council in Juarez. The number 17,647 was handwritten on a slip of paper. More than 5,000 people were ahead of them on the list, meaning they faced a four- or five-month wait before being allowed to come to a U.S. port of entry and seek asylum.

The family said they had not previously gone to a port of entry because they thought they had to get on the metering list.

Lauren Herbert, an Oregon pediatrician who accompanied Wyden on the border tour, said she became concerned when talking to the mother.

“She had a previous diagnosis of preeclampsia, which already places her at high risk,” Herbert said after the family crossed the border. “And then she described two days of leaking fluid,” which could indicate a ruptured membrane that threatened the life of mother and unborn child. “This is a high-risk pregnancy, and she needs to be seen by a doctor. Now.”

After Wyden met the woman and her family, Levy, the immigration attorney, and Drake urged the senator to push CBP to get the woman to a hospital as soon as possible.

“The U.S. government keeps saying that they don’t put Mexicans on the metering list and that Mexicans will always be accepted because they’re fleeing Mexico,” Levy said. She suggested Wyden approach the border officers along with an ACLU representative and lawyers.

“That’s what we’re going to do,” Wyden said.

About an hour later, the family was undergoing initial processing by CBP to begin their asylum claim. CBP officials told Wyden that the mother would be quickly taken to a hospital for evaluation. Their status was not clear Saturday night.

Ian Philabaum, program director for the legal group Innovation Law Lab, said the family’s plight would have been much different without Wyden’s assistance.

“If not for the presence of a U.S. senator, another asylum seeker would have been sent back to dangerous conditions in Mexico, the same country she is fleeing, and despite the fact that she is pregnant and in dire need of medical attention,” said Philabaum, who accompanied Wyden on his two-day border tour.

US, Guatemala Sign Agreement to Restrict Asylum Cases

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration signed an agreement with Guatemala that will restrict asylum applications to the U.S. from Central America.

The “safe third country” agreement would require migrants, including Salvadorans and Hondurans, who cross into Guatemala on their way to the U.S. to apply for protections in Guatemala instead of at the U.S. border. It could potentially ease the crush of migrants overwhelming the U.S. immigration system, although many questions remain about how the agreement will be executed.

President Donald Trump on Friday heralded the concession as a win as he struggles to live up to his campaign promises on immigration.

“This is a very big day,” he said. “We have long been working with Guatemala and now we can do it the right way.”

He claimed that “this landmark agreement will put the coyotes and smugglers out of business.”

The announcement comes after a court in California blocked Trump’s most restrictive asylum effort to date, one that would effectively end protections at the southern border.

The two countries had been negotiating such an agreement for months, and Trump threatened Wednesday to place tariffs or other consequences on Guatemala if it didn’t reach a deal.

“We’ll either do tariffs or we’ll do something. We’re looking at something very severe with respect to Guatemala,” Trump had said.

But on Friday, Trump praised the Guatemalan government, saying now it has “a friend in the United States, instead of an enemy in the United States.”

Trump added that the agreement would protect “the rights of those with legitimate claims,” end “abuse” of the asylum system and curtail the crisis on the U.S. southern border.

He said that as part of the agreement, the U.S. would increase access to the H-2A visa program for temporary agricultural workers from Guatemala.

It’s not clear how the agreement will take effect. Guatemala’s Constitutional Court has granted three injunctions preventing its government from entering into a deal without approval of the country’s congress.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said via social media that the agreement allows the country to avoid “drastic sanctions … many of them designed to strongly punish our economy, such as taxes on remittances that our brothers send daily, as well as the imposition of tariffs on our export goods and migratory restrictions.”

Earlier Friday, Morales questioned the concept of a “safe third country.”

“Where does that term exist?” he asked reporters. “It does not exist, it is a colloquial term. No agreement exists that is called ‘safe third country.'”

Human rights prosecutor Jordán Rodas said his team was studying the legality of the agreement and whether Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart had the authority to sign the compact.

Guatemala’s government put out a six-paragraph, Spanish-language statement Friday on Twitter. It does not call the agreement “safe third country” but “Cooperation Agreement for the Assessment of Protection Requests.”

The Guatemalan government said that in coming days its Labor Ministry “will start issuing work visas in the agriculture industry, which will allow Guatemalans to travel legally to the United States, to avoid being victims of criminal organizations, to work temporarily and then return to Guatemala, which will strengthen family unity.”

The same conditions driving Salvadorans and Hondurans to flee their country — gang violence, poverty, joblessness, a prolonged drought that has severely hit crop yields — are also present in Guatemala. Guatemala also lacks resources to adequately house, educate or provide opportunity to potential asylum seekers, observers say.

In Guatemala City, social and student organizations spoke out against the agreement in front of the Constitutional Court, on the grounds that the country is mired in poverty and unemployment and has no capacity to serve migrants. They called for a protest rally Saturday.

Advocacy groups condemned the move Friday, with Amnesty International saying “any attempts to force families and individuals fleeing their home countries to seek safety in Guatemala are outrageous.”

“The Trump administration must abandon this cruel and illegal plan to shut doors to families and individuals trying to rebuild their lives in safety,” said Charanya Krishnaswami, the group’s advocacy director for the Americas.

Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said Trump’s decision to sign the agreement was “cruel and immoral.” ”It is also illegal,” he added. “Simply put, Guatemala is not a safe country for refugees and asylum seekers, as the law requires.”

Homeland Security officials said they expected the agreement to be ratified in Guatemala and would begin implementing it sometime in August. Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan said it was part of a long-standing effort with Guatemala to address migration and combat smuggling. He cautioned against calling the country unsafe for refugees.

“It’s risky to label an entire country as unsafe. We often paint Central America with a very broad brush,” he said. “There are obviously places in Guatemala and in the U.S. that are dangerous, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a full and fair process. That’s what the statute is focused on. It doesn’t mean safety from all risks.”

Guatemalans accounted for 34% of Border Patrol arrests on the Mexican border from October to June, more than any other nationality. Hondurans were second at 30%, followed by Mexicans at 18% and Salvadorans at 10%.

Trump was asked if he expected to reach similar agreements with Honduras and El Salvador. He replied, “I do indeed.”

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