Immigration news update, March 2019

Compiled by the staff of the Corporate Responsibility office of the Benedictine Sisters, Boerne,Texas

San Antonio Express-News: About 300 Migrants Were Apprehended in the Valley, the Largest Group So Far This Year


A group of 289 immigrants, all family units and unaccompanied minors approached a levee just north of the U.S.-Mexico border near McAllen, U.S. Border Patrol agents met them early Tuesday, March 12, and one by one apprehended the largest group it’s seen so far this year. Tuesday’s encounter comes on the heels of a surge of apprehensions —more than 76,000 — in February, the highest for that month in more than a decade. In all, CBP reported more than 1,000 migrants had been apprehended within a 24-hour period Tuesday.

New York Times: Border at ‘Breaking Point’ As More Than 76,000 Unauthorized Migrants Cross in a Month

More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February, 2019, an 11-year high. The nation’s top border enforcement officer painted a picture of processing centers filled to capacity, border agents struggling to meet medical needs and thousands of exhausted members of migrant families crammed into a detention system that was not built to house them — all while newcomers continue to arrive, sometimes by the busload, at the rate of 2,200 a day. More than 50,000 adults are currently in ICE custody, the highest number ever.

Washington Post: Nielsen Says Homeland Security is On Track to Detain 900,000 Migrants This Fiscal Year


Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the U.S. is on track to apprehend more than 900,000 migrants at border this fiscal year (2019). After a major spike in border crossings, CBP is on track to detain far more than the 521,000 taken into custody in fiscal 2018, she said. Nielsen also said smugglers are encouraging families to file false asylum claims that virtually guarantee them entry into the U.S., and she urged Democrats to support increased enforcement. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the migration system is “at a breaking point,” with soaring numbers of families surrendering in groups of 100 to 300 at a time. CBP detained 76,103 migrants last month, the highest February since 2007, when almost 80,000 were apprehended. Of those who were detained last month, about 40,000 were parents and children traveling together, a 67 percent increase from January.

Mexico Daily News: 19 Men Removed From Bus in Tamaulipas and Kidnapped"

"Nineteen men were kidnapped at gunpoint from a bus traveling from Tampico to Reynosa in Tamaulipas on March 7. The victims are believed to have been Central American migrants traveling to the United States."

"According to a report given by a member from RAICES on March 12, on a biweekly call hosted by the Family Detention Coalition, mothers at the South Texas Family Residential Center located in Dilley have voiced their concerns regarding the purity of the water. A number of them have stated that tap water in the detention center is dirty and potentially unsafe, as it is making them sick and feel itchy after taking a shower.

San Antonio Express-News: Immigration Advocates Say More Infants Are Being Held In Dilley


Immigration advocates say they’ve noticed that more infants under age 1, most of them sick, are being held at Dilley’s family detention center. Eleven mothers with babies ranging from 5 to 11 months have arrived at the South Texas Family Residential Center since last week, according to the Dilley Pro Bono Project. Two were released this week. The Dilley facility, which can hold up to 2,400 people, has held families and children — most of them recently apprehended at the border — since it opened in December 2014.


ThisIsInsider: Babies Under The Age Of 1 Are Currently In ICE Detention Centers


Detention facilities for immigrant families are currently holding 18 infants under the age of one, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Seventeen of the babies are being held in the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, and one is in the Karnes County Residential Center. ICE stated that the detention facilities — there are only three in the entire country that detain migrant families — are all "open environment" facilities, and include "medical care, play rooms, social workers, educational services, and access to legal counsel." The news comes shortly after immigration groups released a letter expressing "grave concerns" about the infants held in the Dilley facility, one of whom was just five months old. The letter, jointly written by the American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, demanded that the agency immediately release the babies and their mothers, arguing that ICE "repeatedly has demonstrated an inability" to met basic standards of care for children. ICE said it provides comprehensive medical care to all those in its custody. "Staffing includes registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, licensed mental health providers, mid-level providers that include a physician's assistant and nurse practitioner, a physician, dental care, and access to 24-hour emergency care," the statement said.

NPR: Sexual Assault Of Detained Migrant Children Reported In The Thousands Since 2015

In each of the past four years, 1,000 or more immigrant children who arrived at the southern U.S. border without their parents have reported being sexually abused while in government custody, according to federal records released Tuesday, February 26. The data from the Department of Health and Human Services was made public by Rep. Ted Deutch, before a congressional hearing on the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families. As NPR's John Burnett reported, "The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is in charge of caring for under-age immigrants, received more than 4,500 allegations of sexual abuse and sexual harassment between 2015 and 2018. The reporting begins under the Obama administration. Of those complaints, some 1,300 were serious enough to refer to the FBI, but an official says 'the vast majority' proved to be unfounded. "Most of the assault allegations involved one minor abusing another. But 178 of the complaints were against staff at the shelters — in particular, youth-care workers who escort the children everywhere they go. The complaints range from inappropriate romantic relationships between children and adults, to touching genitals, to watching children shower."


Time: Trump Administration Will Ask Military To Shelter Up To 5,000 Migrant Children"

"Federal officials intend to ask the Pentagon for help sheltering up to 5,000 migrant children crossing the U.S. southern border without a parent, marking an expansion of the Defense Department’s role in the Trump Administration’s hardline policy toward undocumented immigrants. The request is expected to come not long after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released new data showing that unauthorized crossings, especially of family units, along the Mexico border had surged to record levels in recent months. Last month, roughly 6,500 unaccompanied minors crossed the U.S.-Mexico border — a nearly 120% increase over February 2018. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the federal agency responsible for migrant children until they can be given to an adult relative, currently holds about 11,500 migrant toddlers, children and teens at U.S. government detention and processing centers across the country. A child’s average length of stay under the agency’s custody was 89 days during the first four months fiscal 2019, compared to 60 days in fiscal year 2018. Last summer, HHS completed assessments of facilities at military bases in Texas and Arkansas. Last June, the Defense Department also identified Fort Bliss and Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas as potential locations for the growing number of migrants swept into the federal system due to the Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of referring all border-crossers for prosecution. Neither base ended up being used to house the migrants and it’s not clear whether they would be considered eligible again this year. CPB figures show that in February, authorities detained 76,103 migrants illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. In fiscal year 2018, the Department of Heath and Human Services held 49,100 unaccompanied children.



New York Times: Border Patrol Facilities Put Detainees With Medical Conditions At Risk"

"An average of 2,200 migrants a day are now crossing the nation’s 1,900-mile border with Mexico, many after grueling journeys that leave them injured, sick or badly dehydrated. Yet most of the nation’s Customs and Border Protection facilities along the border lack sufficient accommodations, staffing or procedures to thoroughly assess health needs or provide more than basic emergency care, a situation that has led to dangerous medical oversights. Six adults died in CBP custody in the fiscal year ending in October, 2018, at least three of whom had a medical emergency shortly after being apprehended. Another, who had serious chronic diseases and was hospitalized, died from health complications last month. In December, two migrant children — Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, and Felipe Gómez Alonzo, 8 — died within three weeks of each other after showing signs of illness. Migrants crossing the border from Mexico may be injured scaling barriers, in vehicle accidents, by gunfire or from nearly drowning. Some require medications for chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure. Yet Border Patrol facilities until now have failed to provide comprehensive health screenings for those in their care. Medications are routinely confiscated.


Reuters: Mumps, Other Outbreaks Force U.S. Detention Centers To Quarantine Over 2,000 Migrants"

"In early January, a mumps outbreak at the privately-run Pine Prairie U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center, located in Pine Prairie, Louisiana, put hundreds of detainees on lockdown. Since January, the 1,094-bed Pine Prairie facility has had 18 detainees with confirmed or probable cases of mumps compared to no cases in 2018, according to ICE. As of mid-February, 288 people were under quarantine at Pine Prairie. ICE health officials have been notified of 236 confirmed or probable cases of mumps among detainees in 51 facilities in the past 12 months. Last year, 423 detainees were determined to have influenza and 461 to have chicken pox. All three diseases are largely preventable by vaccine. As of March 7, a total of 2,287 detainees were quarantined around the country, ICE spokesman Brendan Raedy told Reuters.

USA Today: Third Migrant Dies In Border Patrol Custody In As Many Months

A 45-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico died in Border Patrol custody Monday, February 18, after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas, marking the third person to die in the agency's custody since December. The immigrant illegally crossed the border and was arrested by the Roma (Texas) Police Department on Feb. 2, requested medical attention and was taken to a local hospital, according to a statement released Monday (Feb. 18) night by Customs and Border Protection. The immigrant "was cleared" by officials at the Mission Regional Medical Center and was handed over to Border Patrol officials at the Rio Grande City Border Patrol Station, according to the CBP statement. The following day, after receiving a welfare check by CBP officials, the immigrant again requested medical attention and was taken to the McAllen Medical Center, where the immigrant was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure, CBP said. The immigrant remained at the hospital before dying on Monday (Feb. 18) morning. In the past four months, a monthly average of 24,975 members of family units and 5,031 unaccompanied minors have crossed the southern border, according to CBP data.

Associated Press: Judge Extends Authority To More Families Separated At Border

Federal Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered that more than 2,700 children be reunited with their parents has expanded his authority to potentially thousands more children who were separated at the border earlier during the Trump administration. On late Friday, March 9, he ruled that his authority applies to any parents who were separated at the border on or after July 1, 2017. Previously his order applied only to parents whose children were in custody on June 26, 2018. The judge says he will consider the next steps on March 28.

NBC News: House Targets Family Separations Policy In First Trump Subpoena

A House committee voted Tuesday, February 26, to subpoena Trump administration officials over family separations at the southern border. The decision by the Oversight Committee will compel the heads of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to deliver documents to lawmakers. The Oversight Committee is seeking details on the children separated, location and facilities where they were held, details on their parents, information on efforts to restore children to their parents and whether parents were deported. However, the subpoenas only ask for the accounting of children separated under zero tolerance, which lasted from May to late June 2018, and do not include the potentially thousands of others separated prior. Most of these zero tolerance children have already been reunified or released to sponsors per court order. More than 2,800 children were separated from their parents at the border last year under the zero-tolerance immigration policy imposed by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Under a federal court order, Health and Human Services has released 2,735 out of the 2,816 children who were separated from their parents under the zero-tolerance policy in May and June 2018. Most of those children, 2,155, were reunited with their parents while others were sent to live with sponsors or turned 18.


Washington Post: Trump to Request $8.6 Billion For Border Wall In 2020 Budget

President Trump plans to seek $8.6 billion for additional barriers along the southern U.S. border as part of his budget proposal to be released Monday, March 11. The White House budget document will propose $2.7 trillion in cuts to nondefense discretionary spending over the next decade. The $8.6 billion request for barrier funding—$5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security and $3.6 billion for Defense Department military construction—would enable the Trump administration to complete its plans for new or replacement barriers for 722 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. Of that, 122 miles of barriers are complete or under construction. The southern border is about 1,991 miles in length overall. Separately, the proposal would also restore $3.6 billion in funding for military construction that the president tapped as part of his emergency declaration. Last month, just before declaring the national emergency, Mr. Trump signed a spending bill that allocated $1.38 billion for barrier funding the rest of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. In declaring his emergency, Mr. Trump designated other funds that he said would enable him to pull together $6.7 billion from the military and other sources for new barrier construction.


Los Angeles Times: Bulldozers Sit Idle At Border Amid Legal Confusion Over Trump's Emergency

In the Rio Grande Valley, two contractors surveyed a 150-foot-wide, half-mile-long stretch of land that had been cleared of brush so crews could build the first new border barrier. But a large excavator nearby sat idle in the dirt. Half a dozen lawsuits and constraints contained in the spending bill Congress passed earlier this month have combined to throw the planned construction into confusion and doubt. No construction for Trump’s wall has begun anywhere, although officials have started or completed fence replacement projects in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Trump, who made building a border wall a central promise of his campaign, declared the emergency on Feb. 15 to bypass Congress and shift up to $6.6 billion, mostly from the Pentagon budget, to build — or rebuild — 234 miles of fencing. Trump acted after Congress had appropriated only $1.375 billion for 55 miles of border barrier in the Rio Grande Valley, far less than he wanted. But the 1,169-page appropriations bill Trump signed into law when he issued his emergency declaration also contained restrictions on construction in specific towns, parks and wildlife reserves along about 150 miles of the border in the Rio Grande Valley, which is the administration’s top priority for building new barriers. The legislation bars federal funding for fencing in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, La Lomita Historical Park, the National Butterfly Center and part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. It also spares a SpaceX-owned facility and a tiny Catholic chapel. The bill additionally limits spending for barriers in five border towns: Roma, Rio Grande City, Escobares, La Grulla and Salineno. Construction cannot begin before Sept. 30 unless they reach an agreement earlier. Homeland Security has offered some landowners $36,200 for small parcels of land along the Rio Grande.


Yahoo News: Congress Passed A Mixed-Bag Of Immigration Policy While Trump Was Focused On The Wall

After months of back and forth negotiations, congress allocated $1.4 billion for the construction of new barriers along the border and provided funds to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to increase immigration detention capacity to record levels. In negotiations with congressional Republicans and the White House, Democrats unsuccessfully sought to impose a limit on the number of detention beds. Furthermore, in addition to imposing various limits on where and how new border barriers can be constructed, the legislation includes several provisions intended to restrain the administration’s harsh immigration enforcement tactics. Among them is a specific appropriation to increase the frequency of inspections at immigration detention facilities, many of which have been reported to harbor unsanitary conditions, poor treatment and even abuse of detainees. One measure prevents funds from being used to block members of Congress from inspecting DHS facilities where children are held or “to make any temporary modification at any such facility that in any way alters what is observed by a visiting member of Congress.” Another provision states that “no funds made available by this act may be used to destroy any document, recording, or other record pertaining to any potential sexual assault or abuse perpetrated against any individual held in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security.” The legislation also includes new requirements for ICE to publicly report statistics on the detained immigrant population, including a daily accounting of numbers in custody and where and how they were detained. Another provision limits the use of restraints on pregnant women in ICE custody.


Washington Post: House Democrats Make Broad Immigration Proposal Offering 2 Million To Apply For U.S. Citizenship

House Democrats reintroduced a broad immigration proposal Tuesday, March 12, that would allow more than 2 million immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship, including “dreamers” and those with temporary work permits who could soon face deportation. The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 would offer green cards and a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children or teens and to people now in the country on temporary permits that prevent them from being deported. It is unclear how many immigrants would benefit from the bill should it become law, but congressional aides said the number of dreamers likely would be similar to the 2.1 million people who would have been covered under a bipartisan measure that was proposed in 2017. The bill also would cover people with temporary protected status, which has allowed people from El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Somalia and other countries to avoid being deported. The proposed bill lays out different paths to citizenship for dreamers and those with temporary status. Dreamers would be able to apply for 10-year conditional green cards if they came to the United States when they were 17 or younger and if they have lived in the country for at least four years, among other requirements. They would be able to obtain full green cards after completing at least two years of postsecondary education or military service or after working for three years. Immigrants would not be allowed to apply if they have been convicted of crimes punishable by more than a year in prison or if they have been convicted of three or more offenses that carry sentences of longer than 90 days in jail. The measure also calls for dreamers to be allowed to apply for federal financial aid to pay for college — which is currently prohibited — and would be allowed to apply to return to the United States if they were previously deported but meet all the other requirements. Immigrants with temporary protected status or deferred deportations could immediately apply for green cards if they have been in the country for at least three years, had their status as of September 2016, and pass background checks. Five years after obtaining a green card, both groups could apply for citizenship.


Washington Post: U.S. Has Sent 240 Migrants Back To Mexico Under Experimental Policy

Homeland Security officials said Tuesday, March 12, they have sent 240 migrants back to Mexico since January under an experimental new policy called “Migrant Protection Protocols,” that requires Central American asylum seekers to wait outside U.S. territory while their asylum claims are processed.