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.

Rotten meat. Chicken pox. Tearful separations. Migrants describe their experience in federal custody.

Rotten sandwich meat that’s turned green or black; noodle soup cooked so little that the noodles are still hard; drinking water that smells like chlorine, Clorox or “just bad.” Cramped, cold conditions; tearful separations of children and mothers; guards who said Mexicans won’t ever receive asylum in the United States. In more than 1,000 pages of new court declarations from children and adults in federal custody, several hundred migrants who crossed the border seeking asylum describe long waits for medical care, outbreaks of chicken pox and untreated diaper rashes. The documents detail minimal access to legal services, with obstacles like language barriers and migrants’ confusion about their own rights. Some migrants say they are told they aren’t welcome in the United States; others are told it doesn’t matter what they try, they’ll be deported in a matter of days. Many of these families were separated under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, a now walked-back practice of sending parents into federal custody to be criminally charged for illegal border entry while their children were held in federally run shelters.

Listen to children who’ve just been separated from their parents at the border

Este articulo pronto estará disponible en español. The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream “Mami” and “Papá” over and over again, as if those are the only words they know. The baritone voice of a Border Patrol agent booms above the crying.

Beto O’Rourke, Veronica Escobar lead Father’s Day march on tent city housing separated immigrant children

TORNILLO — World Cup soccer and backyard barbecues were set aside Father’s Day morning for hundreds of people who chose instead to descend on this small West Texas outpost that’s become famous the last 72 hours for being home to an immigration detention center for children. Lawmakers, political candidates and members of the faith-based community joined people from across the country here to express their outrage toward the Trump administration’s practice of separating immigrant children from parents who are seeking asylum. “We decided there wouldn’t be a more powerful way to spend Father’s Day than with children who have just been taken from their fathers, children who have been taken from their mothers, children who won’t be able to be with their family,” said U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, who spearheaded Sunday’s protest with former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar, the Democratic nominee to succeed O’Rourke in Congress. Others attending the demonstration included Lupe Valdez, the Democratic nominee for governor; Democratic state Reps. Mary González of Clint and César Blanco and Lina Ortega of El Paso; and Gina Ortiz Jones, the Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes; and Julie Oliver, the Democrat running to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Williams.
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, speaks to the crowd marching on the tent city where children separated from their parents at the border are being held at Tornillo Land Point of Entry, on June 17, 2018.

U.S. Supreme Court tosses cross-border shooting case back to lower court

The nation’s highest court on Monday sent a case involving the cross-border shooting death of a Mexican teenager back to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration. 

That leaves the question of whether the teen’s family can sue the U.S. Border Patrol agent who fired across the Rio Grande and killed him unanswered.  

The case involves the 2010 death of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca during what officials called a “rock-throwing incident.” The teen was shot and killed by agent Jesus Mesa Jr., who was patrolling the banks of the Rio Grande in El Paso. Hernandez Guereca was on the Mexican side of the border, in Ciudad Juárez, when Mesa fatally shot him from the Texas side. 

The teen’s family initially sued the U.S. government, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Homeland Security and Mesa, alleging the teen’s civil rights had been violated. A district judge dismissed the charges because Hernandez was a Mexican national and was on Mexican soil when the shooting occurred. 

An appellate court ruled in 2014 that Mesa could be sued in his individual capacity although the American agencies could not. Then, in April 2015, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Mesa, saying he was entitled to immunity because Hernandez was south of the Rio Grande when the shooting happened.  

The teenager’s family appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in October 2016, the high court agreed to consider the case. On Monday, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the 5th Circuit, ordering the court to revisit its previous ruling in light of other court decisions that have happened since.  

“The facts alleged in the complaint depict a disturbing incident resulting in a heartbreaking loss of life,” the court wrote.