Category Archives: Immigration

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva tours Tucson shelter for young immigrants separated from parents

“It’s clean, but it’s still a place where kids can’t leave,” U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva says after touring a shelter for migrant children north of downtown. Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star

Nearly 80 immigrant children separated from their parents at the border are housed at a shelter north of downtown Tucson, U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva told reporters Friday after he toured the facility.

Since the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy for border enforcement, there have been 3,000 children reclassified as unaccompanied minors across the U.S.-Mexico border, including about 100 under the age of 5, after their parents were referred for prosecution for crossing the border illegally.

But government officials have refused to provide local numbers.

Casa Estrella del Norte, the shelter visited by Grijalva, is one of about three in the Tucson area. There are at least nine others in the greater Phoenix area, according to a map put together by ProPublica.

“It’s clean, but it’s still a place where kids can’t leave,” Grijalva said after the more than hourlong tour. “At the end of the day it is still disheartening to see kids in legal limbo trying to figure out what’s going to be their status in the future.”

There are about 300 minors currently housed at the shelter — about 60 girls and the rest boys — which is operating at capacity.

Grijalva said the focus at the moment is to expedite the reunifications of those separated from their parents, which is taking about 45 days.

“It’s going to be difficult,” said Grijalva, a Tucson Democrat. “The staff was very honest — the reunification is not going to be an easy task.”

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

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Here’s what’s going on with family separations at the border

In this photo taken in mid-May of 2018, about two dozen people, mostly Guatemalan parents and their children, waited around the pedestrian entrance of the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales to be processed by Customs and Border Protection. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star

Pictures of children behind what appear to be cages, reports of 1,500 children lost, stories of parents being separated from their children to be criminally prosecuted, and photos of long lines of families waiting outside ports of entry have filled the news recently. But what is really happening?

The Trump administration is reacting to rising month-to-month numbers of mostly Central American families and unaccompanied minors coming to the United States. The administration says they are trying to take advantage of the country’s asylum laws.

To deter people from coming in the first place, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced a “zero tolerance” policy in which Border Patrol agents are instructed to refer for prosecution everyone they apprehend, including parents traveling with their children.

The administration is separating children under two situations: one, if the parent can’t prove it’s their child; and two, if the parent is criminally prosecuted, said Ronald Vitiello, acting deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, in a recent congressional hearing held by U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson.

While CBP hasn’t provided numbers of parents prosecuted and separated in Arizona since the policy went into effect, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman said Friday that the Border Patrol along the entire U.S.-Mexico border held 1,995 minors traveling with 1,940 adults between April 19 and May 31 while the adults were prosecuted.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Delays for asylum seekers at Arizona border not explained by traffic data

More than 50 migrants, many from Guatemala, wait in a sectioned-off area at the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales, Sonora. Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star

The days of waiting for immigrants seeking asylum at the Nogales port of entry in May don’t appear to correspond to any significant increase in the number of people presenting themselves at the border.

The Tucson Field Office, which includes all ports of entry in Arizona, deemed inadmissible 1,792 people in May, which includes those seeking asylum, Customs and Border Protection data show. That’s an increase from previous months but similar to December figures. The share of families and unaccompanied minors among them has been between 62 and 67 percent over the last few months after peaking at 72 percent in December.

CBP has not responded to repeated requests for an interview to discuss the process and delays. Initially, it provided the Arizona Daily Star a written statement saying the agency processed people as quickly as possible “without negating the agency’s overall mission, or compromising the safety of individuals within our custody.”

The number of inadmissible individuals CBP is able to process varied based on factors such as the complexity of the case, available resources, medical needs, translation requirements, holding/detention space and port volume, the agency said.

Tucson siblings — separated from Mom by the border for years — find ways to thrive

Family friend Lety Rodriguez, right, was on hand for Naomi de la Rosa’s high school graduation ceremony. Rodriguez has helped support Naomi and her siblings since their mother was barred from returning to the United States for 10 years in 2009. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star

Naomi de la Rosa is undecided about becoming a nurse or a teacher — she just wants to help people, a lesson she’s been learning and putting in practice for almost 10 years now.

“I want to be a teacher because I love little kids. Basically because of Bobby, I had to take care of him,” she says of her 13-year-old sibling. And a nurse, “because of my dad,” who she’s also had to learn how to take care of.

During her recent high school graduation ceremony there were a dozen relatives and friends holding signs with pictures of her, proud of everything she had accomplished. They waited anxiously as she walked on the track field to her seat, and had smartphones in hand when school officials called her name.

But some of those closest to her were missing. Her elderly father was at home with her youngest brother, Bobby. The family feared it would be too hot and chaotic for the frail 85-year-old. Her mother was about 60 miles away in Nogales, Sonora, waiting out a 10-year immigration bar that prevents her from coming back to the United States.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Federal judges in Tucson recommending illegal border-crossing parents, children be reunited

Volunteers from Parroquia del Carmen (a Nogales, Sonora parish) set up a table to serve breakfast to the more than 50 migrants, seated at right, queued at the Mexican side of the DeConcini Port of Entry on May 31, 2018, in Nogales, Sonora. The majority of them are family units from Guatemala. Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star

Federal magistrate judges in Tucson are showing signs of pushing back against a Trump administration practice of separating parents from their children after crossing the border illegally.

In more than two-dozen recent cases, judges in Tucson recommended children, some as young as 7 years old, be reunited with their parents after the parents are released from custody, U.S. District Court records show.

The magistrate judges’ recommendations for reunifications come as the Trump administration employs a zero-tolerance policy in which Border Patrol agents refer for prosecution everyone they apprehend along the border, including parents.

In Southern Arizona, parents and their children illegally cross the border near Lukeville and flag down agents or otherwise surrender, according to the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector.

While those parents face judges in federal criminal courts in Tucson, others immigrants head to a port of entry in Nogales where they spend days waiting to cross over for a chance to ask for asylum in the United States.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Homeland Security secretary visits Nogales, cites ‘lawlessness’ of border

Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of homeland security, right, and Congresswoman Martha McSally at the DeConcini Port of Entry on Thursday. Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star

NOGALES — The border is in crisis and being exploited by smugglers, but the administration is taking steps to put an end to the lawlessness, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Thursday.

People continue to cross the border illegally, she said, “because they can and because they do not face any consequences.”

Nielsen visited Nogales as part of a Southern Arizona tour that included the ports of entry in Douglas and Nogales and roundtable discussions with border community business leaders, ranchers and law enforcement officials. She was hosted by Rep. Martha McSally and accompanied by Rep. David Schweikert, both Republicans from Arizona.

In a brief news conference after Nielsen toured the ports of entry and met with stakeholders, she spoke about the deployment of the National Guard and the administration’s zero-tolerance policy to refer for prosecution everyone apprehended by Border Patrol.

She also said her agency will use funding from fiscal years 2017 and 2018 to build 150 new miles of wall and refurbish other fencing that needs upgrading. Congress needs to support a wall system that will enable agents and officers to keep the community safe, she said.

“It’s a very large and dangerous mission we’re undertaking here to secure the border on behalf of the American people and we couldn’t do it without their support,” she said.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Parents, children ensnared in ‘zero-tolerance’ border prosecutions

A Mexican woman alters her pants at Casa Alitas after being released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and fitted with an ankle monitoring bracelet. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star

Alma Jacinto covered her eyes with her hands as tears streamed down her cheeks.

The 36-year-old from Guatemala was led out of the federal courtroom without an answer to the question that brought her to tears: When would she see her boys again?

Jacinto wore a yellow bracelet on her left wrist, which defense lawyers said identifies parents who are arrested with their children and prosecuted in Operation Streamline, a fast-track program for illegal border crossers.

Moments earlier, her public defender asked the magistrate judge when Jacinto would be reunited with her sons, ages 8 and 11. There was no clear answer for Jacinto, who was sentenced to time served on an illegal-entry charge after crossing the border with her sons near Lukeville on May 14.

Parents who cross the border illegally with their children may face criminal charges as federal prosecutors in Tucson follow through on a recent directive from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute all valid cases, said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Cosme Lopez.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection started referring families caught crossing illegally for prosecution several weeks ago, Lopez said. Those prosecutions unfold both in Streamline cases and through individual prosecutions.

On Thursday, Efrain Chun Carlos, also from Guatemala, received more information than Jacinto when he asked Magistrate Judge Lynnette C. Kimmins about his child during Streamline proceedings.

“I only wanted to ask about the whereabouts of my child in this country,” Chun said.

Kimmins responded she didn’t know where his child was and suggested he ask officials at the facility where he will be detained.

Christopher Lewis, the federal prosecutor at the hearing, told Kimmins that children from countries that are not contiguous to the United States will be placed in foster care with the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“When they will be reunited, I cannot say because that’s an immigration matter,” Lewis said.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.