Migrants seeking safe harbor in the U.S. must first survive shootouts and shakedowns in Mexico

McALLEN — Grisber Calero, a college student from violence-torn Nicaragua, is lying on a hospital bed in this border city, minutes away from surgery. The athletic 21-year-old seems calm and jovial, but he admits he’s scared. He’s fighting a nasty infection from a gunshot wound that has left him numb below the right knee. Harlingen lawyer Jodi Goodwin, who helped spring Grisber from U.S. immigration custody within 24 hours of his arrival in the United States, is doing her best to reassure him that the violence he just fled won’t follow him to Texas. “Now you are in a safe place.

Why did the Trump administration separate asylum-seekers from their kids?

Throughout the spring of 2018, as the number of family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border exploded, President Donald Trump’s administration insisted that the government took thousands of kids from their parents because the families had committed a federal crime. “If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in May, explaining the “zero tolerance” policy that had gone into effect a few weeks earlier. Prosecutions meant sending people to jail — and since children couldn’t go to jail with their parents, they would have to be taken into federal custody. But a Guatemalan mother named Sandy tells a different story on this week’s episode of Reveal, in partnership with The Texas Tribune.

Migrants get a second chance at asylum. But it’s still “an uphill battle.”

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?

“Where is my son?”: A migrant father was deported in May. His son is still in a Texas shelter.

SAN MIGUEL LIMÓN, Guatemala — Before he was deported in May, David Xol, an indigenous farmworker from Guatemala, made an urgent plea to U.S. officials at the immigrant processing center in McAllen. “There is no way I am going to leave my son here,” he told them. Earlier that month, Xol and his 7-year-old son, Byron, had travelled through Mexico for three days in a wooden crate stowed in the back of a tractor trailer, surviving on just an apple apiece and swallowing pills that kept them from defecating. When they reached the U.S. border in mid-May, Xol and Byron crossed the Rio Grande on a raft and were apprehended by Border Patrol officers, at the height of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy. A few days later, at the processing center, Xol was separated from Byron.

“It’s humiliating”: Released immigrants describe life with ankle monitors

MCALLEN — Every afternoon, dozens of immigrant families released by the U.S. government walk three blocks from the Greyhound bus station in this South Texas border city to a migrant shelter run by Catholic Charities. Along with the clothes slung over their shoulders, the migrants sometimes carry government-issued containers — dark-blue receptacles resembling lunch boxes, with plastic handles that shine in the mid-afternoon sun. On the front of each container, the black-and-white logo of the GEO Group, the for-profit prison corporation that operates immigrant detention centers in the United States, hints at the contents: power cords required to charge the electronic tracking bracelets that tens of thousands of migrant adults, including most of the asylum-seekers who come through McAllen, are required to wear around their ankles so that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can monitor their whereabouts between court dates. Migrants are quick to acknowledge that they would rather wear ankle monitors than sit in a detention facility, and those who wear them almost always show up for required hearings, according to ICE data. But the devices can disrupt almost every aspect of daily life, from sleeping and exercising to buying groceries and getting a job, according to more than a dozen attorneys, immigrant advocates and Central American asylum-seekers.

Immigrant advocates say SW detention camps pose toxic threats

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Groups advocating for the rights of children and families detained at the southern border are using the Freedom of Information Act to find out exactly where the Trump administration plans to build migrant detention centers on two military bases in the Southwest. The centers are planned for Fort Bliss and Goodfellow Air Force Base to house immigrants until their cases are resolved. Both sites are known to have toxic waste threats. The Southwest Environmental Center has joined Earthjustice in requesting information on the location of those detention camps. Attorney David Baake with Southwest Environmental Center said Fort Bliss has Superfund sites – polluted locations that require long-term cleanup of hazardous material contamination.

Border cleaves husband from wife – and a father from his children

EL PASO, Texas and VALLE DE JUÁREZ, Mexico – Gabriela Castañeda and Adrián Hernández were lovestruck teenagers when, in 2002, they crossed the border to start a life together far from the violence-plagued valley east of Ciudad Juárez. They never imagined the border would one day keep them apart. The two made a home for themselves in a colonia east of El Paso — Adrián working construction for big U.S. homebuilders, Gabriela keeping house and raising their growing family. But driving long distances to work left Adrián exposed. He picked up traffic violations that led to deportations.

Immigrant youth shelters: “If you’re a predator, it’s a gold mine”

Just five days after he reached the United States, the 15-year-old Honduran boy awoke in his Tucson, Arizona, immigrant shelter one morning in 2015 to find a youth care worker in his room, tickling his chest and stomach. When he asked the man, who was 46, what he was doing, the man left. But he returned two more times, rubbing the teen’s penis through his clothing and then trying to reach under his boxers. “I know what you want, I can give you anything you need,” said the worker, who was later convicted of molestation. In 2017, a 17-year-old from Honduras was recovering from surgery at the shelter when he woke up to find a male staff member standing by his bed.

Immigrant shelters drug traumatized teenagers without consent

Fleeing an abusive stepfather in El Salvador, Gabriela headed for Oakland, California, where her grandfather had promised to take her in. When the teenager reached the U.S. border in January 2017, she was brought to a federally funded shelter in Texas. Initially, staff described her as receptive and resilient. But as she was shuttled from one Texas shelter to another, she became increasingly depressed. Without consulting her grandfather, or her mother in El Salvador, shelter staff have prescribed numerous medications for her, including two psychotropic drugs whose labels warn of increased suicidal behavior in adolescents, according to court documents.

‘I felt like I was dying’: In handwritten letters, detained immigrant fathers describe family separation

In letters scrawled by hand, five immigrant fathers detained in New Mexico describe being separated from their children at the border and the uncertainty of when — or whether — they will be reunited. The men describe their anguish at being taken from their children and not knowing their children’s whereabouts for weeks or months. “I felt like I was dying,” wrote one father, who did not give his name or country of origin. The Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee heard their stories at a hearing July 16 on privately run immigrant prisons in the state. About 70 fathers who were separated from their children are currently being held at Cibola County Correctional Center, according to Allegra Love, director of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, a legal advocacy organization.