Shelters for child immigrants struggle with accountability, consistent monitoring

Emily Macaluso, a former lead teacher at Southwest Key’s immigrant shelter in Tucson, examines a collection of artwork and letters at her home. The collection includes items and writings the children made for her before she left the job. Ron Medvescek / Arizona Daily Star

They’ve been called everything from baby jails to summer camps, but an in- depth look at shelters for immigrant minors reveals a well-intentioned system that had to expand rapidly and that struggles with accountability and consistent monitoring.

The shelters — 100 nationwide — had been working largely out of the public eye until this summer, as news spread that the U.S. government was splitting families at the border and that some of the children were being housed there. Protesters started to show up and increased media scrutiny has since revealed instances of overmedication, sexual abuse and improper use of physical restraints.

In Tucson, the Arizona Daily Star reviewed nearly 100 incident reports to the Tucson Police Department from Southwest Key’s Estrella del Norte shelter, inspection reports from the Arizona Department of Health Services, and spoke with several current and former employees, as well as with long-time experts.

While advocates said the current situation is a vast improvement from prior decades, they added that efforts by the Trump administration to roll back protections for the minors can mean longer stays and increases the likelihood of something going wrong.

The changes, said Michelle Brané, director of the migrant rights and justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, shift the focus from the welfare of children to enforcement.

“All of this combined with larger facilities, more focus on the detention aspect compared to the case management and release aspect, is bound to have more problems,” she said, and to erode “a lot of progress we’ve made in the past 20 years.”

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

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In about-face, US lets Mexican woman visit dying husband in Tucson

Gloria Arellano visits her 85-year-old husband, Arsenio de la Rosa, in a midtown Tucson rehabilitation facility after she was granted a 30-day humanitarian pass to visit him. Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

When Tucsonan Arsenio de la Rosa’s health deteriorated, he stopped visiting his wife across the border in Nogales, Sonora — as he had done every other weekend for years — while the couple waited out her decade-long ban from returning to the United States.

But on Friday, a few hours after the U.S. government reversed its position and gave Gloria Arellano a 30-day permit to travel to Tucson, she was by his bedside, telling him she was there for him now.

“I came to take care of you,” she said, as she took his frail hand. “So you can get strong and we can walk back home.”

Arsenio de la Rosa, 85, has been given a few weeks to live after he was hospitalized on Aug. 6 and suffered a stroke.

Customs and Border Protection initially denied the family’s request Tuesday to allow his wife to visit, citing her prior denial for a permanent residency card and subsequent 10-year ban for being in the U.S. illegally.

But after public outcry — which included a news conference held by U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva and an online petition that amassed nearly 16,000 signatures — additional documentation and support, the federal agency approved the pass on humanitarian grounds.

On Friday, Arellano showed up to the port of entry again, but this time accompanied by immigration attorney Mo Goldman, who assumed responsibility for taking her back to the port once her permit ends. After roughly an hour, they emerged with a thumbs up.

CBP officials said they cannot comment on individual cases.

Outside the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales, Arellano thanked the government and everyone else who supported her family. She said she had wanted to come see her husband one last time, to comfort her children and “be a pillar on which they could lean.”

This decision means “the world” to his family, said Bill de la Rosa, one of the couple’s four children who mobilized after his mother’s first denial.

“I was in complete disbelief when I found out,” Friday morning that the government would approve the humanitarian pass. “I immediately started imagining her on this side, in her old home, and us as a family,” added the 24-year old Oxford University graduate student, who traveled home to Tucson from England last week.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Congressman urges feds to let Mexican woman visit dying husband in Tucson

Bill de la Rosa, right, with U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva at a press conference on Thursday. Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

Local officials called for the federal government to reconsider a woman’s request to enter the United States to see her dying husband in Tucson one last time.

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva sent a request Wednesday to the secretary of Homeland Security asking her to intervene and reconsider the case of Gloria Arellano, who was denied a temporary visit she requested on humanitarian grounds.

Grijalva spoke during a news conference Thursday alongside Arellano’s son Bill de la Rosa, one of her four children who are all U.S. citizens.

“Collectively, as a country, we are going through this divisive, ugly, non-ending debate and struggle around the issue of immigration and the border,” said Grijalva, a Tucson Democrat. “And what Bill and his family are asking is for in the middle of all this is a sliver of compassion, a humanitarian action.”

Friends of the family, Pima County Supervisor Richard Elías, Tucson City Councilwoman Regina Romero and Tucson Unified School District board member Adelita Grijalva were also present to express their support. An online petition, launched Wednesday, has already generated more than 7,600 signatures.

De la Rosa and his mother went to the port of entry in Nogales Tuesday with a letter from a health center saying Arsenio de la Rosa, 85, has only a few weeks to live.

After roughly a five-hour wait, an officer processing the request told them her application for a temporary permit to come back to the United States had been rejected because she was denied legal permanent residency in 2009. “He apologized and said it wasn’t up to him, it was up to his boss’s boss,” de la Rosa, a 24-year-old graduate student, said then.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Mexican woman barred from U.S. denied permission to visit dying husband in Arizona

After the request of Gloria Arellano de la Rosa, left, was rejected, her son Bill vowed that the effort to have her visit her dying husband “isn’t over.” Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

The government rejected a Mexican woman’s petition to cross the border back to Arizona to comfort her children and see her ailing husband for what may be the last time.

“I’m completely devastated and confused” said her son, Bill de la Rosa, after the decision Tuesday in Nogales, Arizona.

He had spent the day trying to navigate the complexities of requesting that his mother, Gloria Arellano de la Rosa, be allowed back in the United States temporarily on a humanitarian basis.

“My father is on the verge of death,” he said. “The least they can do is allow her to be with him during these last few moments, to allow him to see his wife one last time.”

Under very specific circumstances, the government can decide to allow people back into the United States for a certain number of days for humanitarian reasons. But it’s discretionary.

Arellano de la Rosa had been allowed in for a few days in 2011 to help care for her husband, Arsenio de la Rosa, when he had a stroke.

But this time, the officer told them he couldn’t allow it, because she was denied legal permanent residency in 2009, Bill said. “He apologized and said it wasn’t up to him, it was up to his boss.”

“I’m completely confused by these circumstances,” Bill said, shaking his head. “It’s inhumane, cruel, unjust.”

It’s the same type of confusion he felt when he was 15 and his mother was barred from returning to the United States, said the now-24-year-old graduate student.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Following the de la Rosa family:

Tucson man accused of Somali terror ties lied at every turn, government says

Whether Mohamed Abdirahman Osman is a refugee who lied about terrorist links to get immigration benefits or if he’s been wrongly targeted by a flawed government investigation that matches the Trump administration’s rejection of certain refugees is being played out in a Tucson courtroom.

Hearings here last week illustrated the difficulty in finding facts in the case, including whether Mohamed Abdirahman Osman is even his real name.

Osman, 28, is charged with eight counts of making false statements when he applied for refugee status and legal permanent residency. For the sake of consistency, the Star is using the name listed on court documents.

The government alleges Osman lied about his ties to the terrorist group al-Shabab, his name, his nationality, his father’s name, a brother whom the government identifies as an al-Shabab associate, and that he presented a fraudulent Somali passport to obtain immigration benefits.

Osman remains detained pending trial after a magistrate judge ruled last week that although the government did not “prove by clear and convincing evidence” that he is a danger to the community, it showed he’s a flight risk.

“Given the nature and seriousness of the offense charged, the weight of the evidence against the defendant and the defendant’s family and community ties, the court finds that no combination of conditions exist that would reasonable assure defendant’s appearance at future court proceedings,” Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Rateau said.

During the hearing, Osman’s defense attorney, Jonathan Young, told the court that he will prove his client’s real name is Mustaf Adan Arale — the name the lawyer used throughout the hearing to refer to his client — that he was born in Somalia, not Ethiopia as the government claims, and that he was never an active member of al-Shabab.

The deadline for a plea in the case is Aug. 31 and the trial is set for Sept. 18.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Director: Nogales port now keeping up with arrivals of asylum-seekers

Michael Humphries, port director in Nogales. Mamta Popat / Arizona Daily Star

For the past two weeks, customs officers have been processing migrant families seeking refuge almost as quickly as they arrive at the downtown Nogales port of entry, compared to the days or weeks families were waiting before.

Delays in the processing of asylum-seekers were not deliberate, said Michael Humphries, who became the permanent Nogales Area Port director in June, but were the result of managing the various demands that customs officers face — including a spike in hard drug seizures.

“If we have three heroin loads today and a meth load, people are going to be tied up and we have to address that, so we have to move people around,” Humphries said. “But sometimes we get lucky and we are able to do a little more.

“We were doing our job to the best of our ability at all times,” he said.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Missing migrants: “Impossible to not feel responsible to carry on the search”

Robin Reineke, co-founder of the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, pulls out personal effects of a deceased unidentified migrant. Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

Karen Flores never gave up on finding her mother.

She and her father traveled to the Southern Arizona desert in search of Nancy Ganoza, hired attorneys, went to Mexico and followed any lead — no matter how small — hoping to find the 44-year-old mother of two who disappeared on her way to the United States from her native Peru.

When you have a missing loved one, you are not able to become the best version of yourself, said Flores. “It’s something that haunts you every day. You don’t know if they are dead or if they need your help.”

The Tucson-based Colibrí Center for Human Rights has more than 3,000 open cases of migrants who went missing along the border, primarily in Arizona but also in Texas.

While Border Patrol apprehensions are down, the reports to the center grow. Colibrí currently has nearly 300 families waiting to get a call back, including those looking for a loved one who was trying to get back to the U.S. after being deported, said the center’s executive director and co-founder Robin Reineke.

Identifying the missing migrants and connecting them with their families is a hard and time-consuming task and while there are only a few groups in the country that specialize in it, funding is increasingly challenging, Reineke said.

“We are trying to create a centralized system so families don’t feel they have to report to different places, and to help families reclaim their loved ones’ humanity, to stop the deep anguish families feel,” she said.

“We are working really hard to get support to continue this project,” she said, but “our runway is about nine months right now.”

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.