ByJulián Aguilar and Jay Root, The Texas Tribune |
“”All we want is for them to listen to us”: In Mexico, Trump’s latest asylum policy stirs anger, fear and confusion” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO — Last Wednesday in this border city, Carmen, a Cuban woman who’s been stuck here since May, fought to contain her rage and desperation. “I feel like an idiot,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen now. Do you know what’s going to happen?”
About the same time — and more than 900 miles away in the Mexican city of Matamoros — Jorge Luis Gutierrez, also from Cuba, was reeling from what he said was a trap laid for asylum seekers by the Mexican and American governments.
Perhaps the most far-reaching idea was to reclassify the more than 40,000 Border Patrol agents and customs officers as “national security employees,” just as all FBI agents and employees at a number of other Homeland Security agencies currently are. Taking away their status as civil servants, the thinking went, would make it easier to fire corrupt and abusive employees. It was, to be sure, an extreme measure. But the panel, a subcommittee of a larger Homeland Security advisory council, had been created late in President Barack Obama’s second term because U.S. Customs and Border Protection seemed in crisis, and the panel subsequently determined that the agency was plagued by a system that allowed bad actors to stay on the payroll for years after they’d engaged in egregious, even criminal, misconduct. Because of civil service protections, a Border Patrol agent who’d been disciplined for bad behavior could challenge his or her punishment through four rounds of escalating appeals before taking the case to an arbitrator or a federal hearing board.
Ruby Powers didn’t rush to celebrate when her client, a Honduran mother who has been separated from her 15-year-old son and detained for four months, passed her second “credible fear” interview to restart the asylum process. Although the president and the American Civil Liberties Union have come to an agreement giving migrant families separated at the border this summer a second chance to make their case for staying in the country, immigration lawyers say the Trump administration is still working overtime to upend the nation’s asylum process. And while a few hundred people may get a second chance at asylum, there are likely tens of thousands of asylum-seekers who will be subject to a tightened asylum process. “It’s infinitely harder on all levels,” Powers said. “With the chipping away of the asylum law, it’s an uphill battle to try to get an approval.”
The primary source of their unease?
Despite a legal team that includes celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, an eight-year-old Guatemalan boy separated from his father under Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy remains in a shelter in Baytown with no end in sight. Byron Xol Bol, who was detained with his father after crossing the Rio Grande into Texas in May, is one of 416 separated children who have yet to be reunited with their parents, as attorneys scramble to untangle the details of the cases and the government fails to meet court-ordered deadlines to reunify the children with their families. The Trump administration launched a zero-tolerance policy earlier this year that led to more than 2,500 children being separated from their families, including the Xols. President Trump walked back the policy in June after public outcry, and signed an executive order on June 20 that essentially reverted to the prior “catch and release” policy that the president had criticized. Byron Xol is among more than 300 children whose parents have been deported, making reunification even more challenging.
New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009, and it is not coming back this year. A legislative committee on Saturday quashed a bill that would have reinstated capital punishment for the murders of children, police officers and correctional officers. The 3-2 party-line vote was no surprise, but it brought out some of the most visceral testimony yet of this year’s 30-day legislative session. The recently discovered death of 13-year-old Jeremiah Valencia of Santa Fe County and stories of his tortured life loomed over the discussion. But so, too, did the story of a former lawmaker’s son who was wrongly accused of murder and locked in jail until his exoneration.
State lawmakers did not know Jeremiah Valencia during his short, tormented life. But 13-year-old Jeremiah’s death dominated debate at a lengthy legislative hearing Thursday. At issue was a bill to make intentional child abuse resulting in death a first-degree felony that carries a life prison sentence, regardless of a child’s age. Under current state law on child abuse, life sentences can only be given to defendants who intentionally kill a child younger than 12. Someone who abuses and kills a child between 13 and 18 can receive a sentence of up to 18 years.
Few people were surprised last week when the Trump administration issued a rule to make it easier for some religious employers to opt out of offering no-cost prescription birth control to their female employees under the Affordable Care Act. But a separate regulation issued at the same time raised eyebrows. It creates a new exemption from the requirement that most employers offer contraceptive coverage. This one is for “non-religious organizations with sincerely held moral convictions inconsistent with providing coverage for some or all contraceptive services.”
So what’s the difference between religious beliefs and moral convictions? This story originally appeared on Kaiser Health News, a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
New Mexico’s Secretary of State still says she will not give up information to a controversial voter task force put together by President Donald Trump, after a second request. “As I’ve said before, I will never release the personally identifiable information of New Mexico voters protected by law, including their social security number and birthdate,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. “Because the Commission has still not demonstrated that the data will be used for a lawful purpose under New Mexico law, provided any plan for ensuring that voters’ personal data will be secured, or explained how comparing insufficient data will produce any meaningful conclusions, I won’t release any New Mexicans’ voter information.”
The commission’s letter cited a federal court ruling on a case against the commission seeking to bar it from receiving the information from states throughout the country. The court ruled against that attempt. This is the second time Toulouse Oliver has denied a request from the president’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham will be among the Democrats travelling this weekend to Mexico to meet with military veterans who were recently deported from the United States. The veterans are among the noncitizens who served in the United States armed forces. They are currently staying at the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana, Mexico and the members of Congress will meet with them this Saturday. While the veterans fulfilled their military service, they did not finish the expedited citizenship application process made available to noncitizens who serve in the United States armed forces. There are currently 10,644 noncitizens serving in the United States Armed Forces, and about 608,000 living veterans who were born in foreign countries.
Hector Balderas joined 18 other attorneys general across the nation in filing an amicus brief in a case centering on transgender student rights scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court this month. The New Mexico attorney general, in a statement, said that transgender students “should feel safe and protected in their schools just like any other children, it’s just that simple.”
The case, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., involves Virginia student Gavin Grimm, who with the American Civil Liberties Union sued the school board for violating his Title IX rights when the board created a policy to require students to use school bathrooms that fit their “biological sex.” Grimm, a high school senior, was born female and identifies as male. A lower court ruled last year that the school board’s policy did violate Grimm’s rights, and the school board appealed to the Supreme Court. The amicus brief, which is a legal argument made in a case by people not directly involved in it, argues that discriminating against gender identity violates Title IX, the federal law that bars discrimination in the schools. “Discrimination on the basis of gender identity causes real and significant harm to both transgender people and to the amici States,” the brief reads.