The Trump administration proposes sweeping changes that endanger the lives of immigrant families, including families with children born in the United States. The proposed “public charge” rule changes would strongly prejudice immigration pathways toward higher-income people, while raising new high barriers for prospective immigrants if they have lower incomes, or have used government benefits.
On September 7, 2018 the Trump Administration published a draft of new regulations concerning the detention of families which, if finalized, will increase family detention and eliminate protections for children who arrive with their parents. You can take action!
Condemn the crisis manufactured by Trump administration “Zero Tolerance” policy; Call on local, state and federal officials to block abusive conditions and family separation
Houston, TX – Today, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner publicly opposed a new Houston immigrant children’s facility. The mayor joins calls by Houston immigrants, legal advocates and service providers to local officials, state representatives, and members of Congress to take explicit action to block considerations for any new immigrant child facilities. The proposed facility is the result of the new federal practice of tearing apart and imprisoning asylum-seeking families, a practice condemned by the immigrant community, advocates and people of conscience.
Kate Vickery, Executive Director, HILSC, said:
“We are in the midst of a manufactured crisis that is creating a false need for a new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelter in Houston. While the service providers stand ready to help families impacted by family separation and we welcome these families in Houston, we reject the notion that we should enable the build-out of the detention system. The Mayor seemed to suggest he would be okay with parents and children being detained together, but we strongly believe that asylum seekers should never be imprisoned while seeking refuge in the United States, and separating children from their parents is a cruel tactic to deter immigrants from exercising their rights to seek asylum.”
Damaris Gonzalez, Lead organizer, United We Dream Houston, said:
“There are children in detention facilities left to fend for themselves, trembling and traumatized, because of an administration that has chosen to pull them from the arms of their parents to make a political statement. Children will not be used as pawns, and Houston will not allow kidnappers to set up in our city and continue destroying families. We call on Harris County and Texas leadership to take any and all action against facilities like this that exist solely because the Trump administration has made the callous and unthinkable decision to separate and imprison families seeking refuge from terror. Families deserve to be reunited immediately and granted the asylum they seek. Family destruction is what happens when ICE and CBP continue to go unchecked and they must be abolished now.”
Claudia Aguirre, President and CEO, BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers, Inc.), said:
“BakerRipley does not support families being torn apart who are fleeing to our southern border for safety. Our organization is committed to providing direct legal representation to separated families housed in Houston area detention centers. And we are working with state-wide and national coalitions to educate the community about the impacts of this policy. BakerRipley will continue to advocate for the families who come to this region – taking action to keep welcome alive. As a nation, we desperately need sensible and comprehensive immigration reform. We need pragmatic solutions to address this issue- end the immediate cruelty to children and deal fairly and justly with people seeking asylum.”
Astrid Dominguez, Director, ACLU Border Rights Center, said:
“We stand firm with Mayor Turner in his opposition to President Trump’s monstrous and morally irredeemable family separation policy, and we will continue to work until that policy is consigned to the scrap heap of history where it belongs.”
Mary Moreno, communications director of the Texas Organizing Project, said:
“On a day when we’re celebrating the delayed ending of slavery in Texas, Juneteenth, it’s heartbreaking that we’re still fighting for liberation, and even sadder that it’s the liberation of children. This is America’s eternal struggle, living up to its values. Although we have never achieved that aspiration of equality and fairness for all, we’ve never stopped fighting, hoping. Today, we stand with Mayor Turner in rejecting Trump’s manufactured crisis, and stand with the immigrants who are running from danger and despair.”
Daniel J. Cohen, President, Indivisible Houston, said:
“Accepting the overflow from Trump’s concentration camps and housing them on Emancipation Avenue, down the street from Minute Maid Park, home of the world champion Houston Astros, is the most unwelcoming, anti-family statement Houston could possibly make. The People are rightfully enraged by the murder, mass trials, and terrorizing of communities and anti-Constitutional commoditization of children for political gain. We are organized to fight the deportation machine.”
Mario Salinas, Civic Engagement Coordinator, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, said:
“This is a manufactured crisis resulting from the administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy, which has seen a record number of children stripped from their loved ones and put into rushed facilities, that may not be equipped to deal with their needs. The trauma these children are experiencing could be lessened by the administration today. Yet they choose to play political games with young people who are seeking refuge in a nation that was once known for compassionate values. We, as the most diverse city in the nation, must fight back.”
Natalia Cornelio, Criminal Justice Reform Director with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said:
“Every day, since May 2018, the federal government has been arresting migrating families and taking children away from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border. Thousands of children have been taken from their parents under this policy. This is unprecedented, unnecessary, and cruel. We oppose this unconscionable policy, and we must oppose the building of additional facilities that enable it to continue. Thank you, Mayor Turner, for taking a step in the right direction on this national, humanitarian crisis. We hope that our other local, state, and national leaders join you, that this policy stops immediately, and that the separated families be reunited at once.”
The Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC) is a consortium of immigration legal services providers and immigrant rights advocates and stakeholders. More information is available at www.houstonimmigration.org.
Additional information about United We Dream is available at unitedwedream.org
Texas Organizing Project organizes Black and Latino communities in Dallas, Harris and Bexar counties with the goal of transforming Texas into a state where working people of color have the power and representation they deserve. For more information, visit organizetexas.org.
Under public and congressional pressure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will “un-pause” funding for the Legal Orientation Program
April 25, 2018 – During testimony to the Senate Appropriation’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would allow funding for the Legal Orientation Program to continue while the “efficiency audit” is ongoing. This is a relief to the agencies providing critical “know your rights” information to the more than 30,000 immigrants in 12 of Texas’ immigration detention centers. Sessions had previously announced that the program would end on May 1 while the audit took place.
The announcement means that the YMCA International Services will be allowed to continue its legal information program in the Houston area’s three detention centers, reaching more than 6,000 individuals per year. This program guarantees access to accurate and essential legal education for immigrants facing deportation in immigration detention centers, more than 80% of whom are without legal representation. Moreover, these programs improve the efficiency of the immigration court system and ultimately produce a net savings for taxpayers.
Nevertheless, the temporary cessation of LOP funding underscores the vulnerability of low-income immigrants, particularly those in detention and facing deportation.
Kate Vickery, Executive Director of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative said,
While this is wonderful news today, we worry that we will be facing the same situation in the future if the DOJ’s audit does not support the continuation of the program. As a community, we need to recognize the importance of supporting programs that provide due process and information for immigrants facing deportation. The basic information provided by the LOP program should not hinge on a single funding stream, and the fact that this program could end anytime should motivate us to create additional programs and systems, such as our new Deportation Defense Houston project.
The Collaborative’s Deportation Defense Houston program will provide full representation to immigrants currently detained in the Houston region.
WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Human Rights First, and Covington & Burling LLP filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the Trump administration’s arbitrary detention of asylum seekers fleeing persecution, torture, or death in their countries of origin.
All the plaintiffs have passed credible fear screenings — meaning a U.S. asylum officer has determined their fear of persecution is credible, and that they have a significant possibility of receiving full asylum. Government policy stipulates that asylum seekers be granted humanitarian parole as they await their immigration proceedings, provided they meet a series of stringent requirements. Instead, the Trump administration is categorically jailing them indefinitely, in violation of the Constitution, U.S. immigration laws, and the Department of Homeland Security’s own written policy.
“The Trump administration wants to make life so miserable for asylum seekers that they give up and return to their home countries, even at the risk of torture or death,” said Michael Tan, an attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The administration is wielding indefinite detention as a weapon to deter future asylum seekers, which is both cruel and unconstitutional.”
The class-action lawsuit targets five U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement field offices that have almost entirely stopped granting parole since early 2017. Those offices are Detroit (which covers Michigan and Ohio), El Paso (which covers New Mexico and West Texas), Los Angeles, Newark (which covers New Jersey), and Philadelphia (which covers Pennsylvania).
“This case is about respecting human life and human rights, and about ensuring our nation remains a beacon of justice, democracy, and freedom,” said Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “Indefinitely detaining those who seek asylum on our shores goes against the Constitution and our values as a nation. It is our duty to welcome the stranger, not add to her suffering by locking her up.”
In 2013, nine out of 10 asylum seekers in the five field offices were found to meet the government’s criteria and were promptly released from immigration custody. In 2017, under the Trump administration, parole grants by the ICE offices named in this lawsuit dropped to nearly zero. More than 1,000 asylum seekers are estimated to have been denied parole in those five ICE districts alone.
“For many asylum seekers, prolonged detention unjustly denies freedom to those who fled to us for justice. The Trump administration’s attack on parole is part of its ongoing assault to undermine the asylum system, a cornerstone of our nation’s identity since its founding. Exacerbating the suffering of individuals to deter future asylum seekers is simply un-American,” said Human Rights First’s legal director, Hardy Vieux.
Lead plaintiff Ansly Damus — an ethics teacher from Haiti — has been locked up in Ohio for one year, four months, and counting. Damus committed no crime. Rather, he had spoken out against a government official and was then forced to flee violent, political persecution. When he arrived in the U.S., he presented himself to immigration authorities and requested asylum. He passed his credible fear interview and was granted asylum by a judge — not once, but twice. Despite that, he has remained behind bars while the government appealed his grants of asylum. The Trump administration has put Damus behind bars indefinitely alongside thousands of other asylum seekers like him. ICE has not allowed him outside even once in over a year.
“I have not breathed fresh air or felt the sun on my face, and I never know if it is cold or hot outside, if the sun is out, and if the seasons are changing,” Damus said.
Other plaintiffs include:
- Alexi Ismael Montes Castro, 18, detained at York County Prison in Pennsylvania. He fled Honduras after being beaten and held at gunpoint for being openly gay.
- A husband and wife detained separately at the El Paso Processing Center in Texas and the Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico. The couple fled Mexico after being targeted and threatened with death by a criminal cartel.
- A 22-year-old detained at El Paso Processing Center in Texas, who fled El Salvador after being threatened with death for refusing to join a gang. He has been locked up for more than 21 months and has been denied parole despite posing no flight risk or danger to the public.
“Individuals fleeing persecution have a right under U.S. and international law to seek asylum from our government,” said Eunice Lee, co-legal director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies. “They should not be locked away and punished simply for doing so.”
The case, Damus v. Nielsen, was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. It names the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice as defendants.
The complaint is at: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/damus-v-nielsen-final-complaint
More information is at: https://www.aclu.org/cases/damus-v-nielsen
Rapid Response & Reporting Infrastructure Builds as Anti-Immigrant Law SB 4 Turns Local Police into Deportation Agents and Congress Misses Deadline to Protect Millions of Immigrant Youth
The Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC), with the help of Boat People SOS, BakerRipley, United We Dream, and other partners, announced expansion of its Immigrant Rights hotline. The updated hotline capacity will ensure that cases of profiling are brought to the attention of legal advocates, and will connect callers to local action and advocacy opportunities in order to fight against deportations abuse from enforcement agents. These are in addition to the hotline’s current capacity as a connection point to free and low-cost immigration legal services, and up-to-the-moment information about current immigration law and the policies that affect non-citizen residents of the greater Houston region.
HILSC and its partners announced the expansion as a countermeasure to the profiling effects of Texas’s Senate Bill 4 (SB4), and the continued voluntary collaboration of many city police departments in the region as well as Harris County Sheriff with ICE—a practice that has led to some of the country’s highest deportation rates in Houston. The group expects the hotline to serve as a network of information and protection for people of color facing discrimination, and the region’s 500,000+ undocumented residents, including thousands of immigrant youth currently fighting for permanent protections from deportation.
The hotline (833-HOU-IMMI) takes calls from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Operators are bilingual in Spanish and English, and interpretation is available in Vietnamese, Mandarin, Arabic, and other languages.
The hotline is made possible through the efforts of ACLU of Texas, Boat People SOS, BakerRipley, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, Tahirih Justice Center, and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative.
Kate Vickery, Executive Director, HILSC, said:
“The Immigrant Rights Hotline received more than 5,000 calls in 2017, and has become an important access point to help our community find resources and legal services, particularly as anti-immigrant state and federal policies change on a near daily basis. We are incredibly grateful to all of the partners who helped develop and staff the Hotline throughout its first year, including Tahirih Justice Center, ACLU of Texas, Vinson & Elkins, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, and more than 100 volunteer attorneys. This cohort of dedicated individuals laid the groundwork for the expanded Hotline, staffed by BakerRipley, Boat People SOS, and United We Dream.”
Janette Diep, Executive Director at Boat People SOS and said:
“The hotline will give our community members the resource and support they need in the midst of changing immigration policies and during a time of many uncertainties.”
Damaris Gonzalez, Lead organizer, United We Dream Houston, said:
“An organized community is a powerful community, and the expanded capacities of the Hotline are one more way that we are building networks of information and organizing movement toward justice for the immigrant community in our region. The Hotline will connect our community to opportunities to take action and advocate at the local, state and national levels because despite the attacks on immigrants of all ages, we are here to fight and we are here to stay.”
Jill Campbell, Managing Immigration Attorney, BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers, Inc.), said:
“The hotline will bring a sense of empowerment to the immigrant community and assure them that Houston will continue to be a welcoming city that is here to help.”
Edgar Saldivar, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU of Texas, said:
“In these troubling times, immigrant communities face great uncertainty and angst. Genuine questions abound, specifically, over DACA and SB4, and, generally, over the increasing intrusions by law enforcement agents into safe spaces for immigrant communities. For these reasons, it is important for Texans to have access to real-time information. With immigrants, refugees and travelers being targeted with new or more aggressive enforcement tactics, the ACLU and its partners on this hotline are committed to helping people understand their constitutional rights.”
The Collaborative plays a critical convening, coordinating, and communication role in the legal services community. Through our work, more immigrants are receiving low-cost, high-quality legal services for immigration issues in Houston. Our work has become even more urgent in 2019, as the policy environment in which we work becomes increasingly hostile to immigrants. We have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for immigration legal services and education & outreach efforts in Houston’s diverse immigrant communities.