Daily Dispatch 12/17/2019: “Compromise” budget enables abuse

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Daily Dispatch

December 17, 2019

We have a budget - and it stinks.

As noted yesterday, House Democrats working with Senate GOP leaders, managed to cobble together a mammoth spending bill - well several bills, but mostly presented as a single package. As we feared, the Department of Homeland Security budget - according to the Associated Press, bundled with the Department of Defense budget by House Dems to ensure passage if some members of the caucus vote no because of wall funding. There is no reduction in the detention budget. And no restrictions on transfer authority - even though the administration has blatantly abused this process. There is a lot one could say about this, but our friends at the National Immigration Law Center have already said it in a . We concur!:

Spending Compromise Hurts Immigrant Communities

WASHINGTON, DC — Ahead of the vote in the House of Representatives on a governmentwide spending bill, Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“The final U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bill will ultimately allow this administration to continue to inflict widespread harm on immigrant communities and flagrantly abuse its power right under Congress’s nose. We applaud the work of our Defund Hate coalition partners and members of Congress who fought to ensure that the bill did not concede to more of President Trump’s wish list.

“Unfortunately, because the bill gives the administration continued permission to transfer funds however it chooses, this makes any attempts to set limits on the number of people in detention and the amount of funds spent on a border wall meaningless. While the bill tries to mitigate some of this harm by including important oversight provisions, it ultimately does shamefully little to outweigh the dangers of Congress writing a blank check to DHS.

“The fact that House Democrats are poised to pass articles of impeachment based partially on this president’s abuse of authority makes it even harder to accept that they would consider a DHS spending bill that they know will invite more abuse of authority.

“Congress is meant to serve as a check on government spending — to ensure that the executive and his cabinet don’t misuse funds on pet projects or an agenda that is out of sync with our values. But this deal weakens our system of separate and coequal branches of government and opens up the country’s bank account so that Trump can abuse taxpayer dollars however he likes in order to fulfill his racist agenda — which includes a wasteful and xenophobic border wall and locking up immigrants in horrific detention conditions that have resulted in record numbers of deaths.

“This deal tacitly signals that Congress has conceded to the wall and to locking up record numbers of immigrants. Anyone committed to ending this administration’s abusive policies and practices must vote no on this bill.” (emphasis added).

This is what we are paying for….

The Trump administration has pursued many immigration policies that have been controversial and thus publicly debated. There have also been a number of policies (or their impacts) that have slid beneath the radar. Quartz . They include:

Social media tracking: In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its plan to require migrants list their social media accounts on immigration forms. The goal is to monitor and keep records of their social media activity.

Expanded de-naturalization efforts: According to the ACLU (pdf), since 2017, the administration has been investing in a far-reaching denaturalization campaign. The government is investigating naturalized citizens searching for inconsistencies in their applications or activity in their lives that my allow the government to strip them of their citizenship and deport them.

Public Charge rule changes: In a move that will hit low and middle-income immigrants most, the administration expanded the definition of “public charge,” which describes a condition in which immigrants are denied entry because they are likely to require financial support from the government.

Removal of domestic violence as grounds for asylum: In 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that, contrary to international asylum law, migrants who were victims of “private” crimes in their home countries would no longer qualify as refugees in the United States.

“Secret rules” governing credible fear interviews: [Credible fear interviews] are preliminary interviews made to determine whether asylum seekers have a good reason to need asylum in the United States. These interviews are supposed to be conducted by experts. Until July, those experts determined that 97% of asylum applicants had enough standing to start their application (which doesn’t mean they would ultimately be granted asylum). Since July, only 10% have been allowed to start their applications.

To emphasize a point we try to make every chance we can - none - NONE of these rules impact unauthorized immigration. All of these policies target authorized immigration and immigration processes in order to limit the ability of people to enter the United States, or limit their ability to naturalize their citizenship status once here. Once again, Trump is not concerned at all about unauthorized immigration, crime and gangs. He knows this is a chimera. His administration, under the tutelage of people like confirmed white nationalists Stephen Miller (and Bannon before him), are seeking to transform immigration laws in order to limit overall migration to the United States. Be clear about that. The result of shutting down authorized avenues to immigration actually makes it more likely that unauthorized immigration will increase. 

Remain in Mexico

Under the policy the administration calls the Migration Protection Protocol, people seeking asylum at the southern border are forced to wait in Mexico (in some cases returned to Mexico) for a court date with an immigration judge. To date close to 50,000 people have been so ordered.

We have also discussed the quality of the hearings that have taken place in border towns in Texas. Volunteer attorneys working on MPP cases wrote an op-ed in The Hill in October, discussing what a farce these hearings were, as they were clearly “designed to fail.” They :

As volunteer attorneys we were allowed to cross the border exclusively in a group during daylight hours. We conducted our work within 100 yards of the border crossing point which makes client confidentiality impossible. In case of cartel violence, we were instructed to drop everything and sprint for the crossing on our group leader’s signal. 

The harms refugees suffer due to our official U.S. government policy of rendering them homeless includes deaths by drowning in the Rio Grande (even while bathing), multiple documented instances of kidnappings within minutes or hours of being returned from the U.S. The toll of surviving on the streets of Mexico is amplified by the due process farce refugees face in post courts.

As tempting as it is, we cannot give in to our exhaustion and cynicism: We must hold this administration accountable for the ongoing illegality that is engulfing the border. It may take decades or longer to repair what we have lost under this administration and there is no time to waste. 

Now, the impact of all of this coming clear. People who go through this entire process, are not getting asylum. Reported this week, only 11 people were granted asylum out 9,500 processed cases!  

The U.S. asylum policy has been dramatically amended this past year; the new Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), colloquially known as Remain in Mexico, instructs asylum seekers with pending immigration court cases to spend the duration of their legal proceedings in Mexico. 

Experts say the policy has made it nearly impossible for Central American immigrants to receive asylum in the U.S. These procedures include “metering” or “turnbacks,” further meant to control and deter immigrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. 

The San-Diego Union Tribune reported that as of September, out of 47,000 people who applied within the MPP, approximately 9,500 completed their cases. Out of that number, 5,085 cases were issued orders of removal while 4,471 cases were dismissed. This leaves 11 cases being granted asylum, amounting to 0.1 percent of all completed cases. 

Designed to fail indeed! And thanks to Congress - Democrats and Republicans - you are paying for it.