With just weeks before a federal contract to operate a West Texas detention center for undocumented immigrant minors is set to expire, there is still no word whether the Trump administration plans to keep the site open into 2019.
But the shelter operators maintain that another contract extension would be just one more short-term solution to a larger problem that needs a permanent fix.
The contract between the federal Health and Human Services’ Offices of Refugee Resettlement and San Antonio nonprofit BCFS to operate the controversial detention camp at Tornillo is due to expire at the end of this month after being extended several times since the original 30-day contract in June.
“The ball is in their court,” said BCFS spokeswoman Evy Ramos. “We have said to them just recently this week, we can’t just keep extending this, this is not a permanent solution. Something else has to be figured out.”
The facility — a collection of dozens of military-grade tents on the grounds of a federal port of entry surrounded by acres of farmland — has swelled from a few hundred immigrants in June to about 2,300. Its capacity was expanded to about 3,800 after the administration realized the flow of unauthorized minors seeking asylum in the United States did not dwindle despite efforts to deter asylum seekers by turning them away at the international ports of entry and urging the Mexican government to block Central Americans from traveling through that country.
If the government didn’t extend the contract for Tornillo, it would have to build or find another facility that’s designed for long-term detention, Ramos said. But that decision is ultimately up to ORR officials.
Interpretation and enforcement of immigration laws seemingly change as fast as finicky weather patterns under President Donald Trump and his advisers, mostly a group self-styled “immigration hardliners.”
In some cases, the courts have thwarted the administration’s attempts at unilaterally limiting who can enter the United States. Contrarily, Trump, without evidence, continues to tout progress on “The Wall” along the nation’s southern border and, most recently, deployed US military forces to stop what he sees as an “invasion” of migrants from the south. The uncertainty leads to big, philosophical questions on governance such as: How far does presidential power go when it comes to immigration policy? In New Mexico, the charged debate over immigration has raised a narrower question for the state’s legal community. Should people in the United States illegally—regardless of whether they are eligible to hold jobs—be allowed to practice law here as long as they’ve passed the state bar exam?
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.
ByNeena Satija, The Texas Tribune and Reveal and Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, Reveal |
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.
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?
ByJuan Luis García Hernández, The Texas Tribune, Pia Flores, Nómada and David Yaffe-Bellany and Jay Root, The Texas Tribune |
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.
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.
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.
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.
ByMichael Grabell and Topher Sanders, ProPublica |
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.