Daily Dispatch 6/6/2019

Trump administration cuts educational and legal services for unaccompanied minors

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Daily Dispatch

June 6, 2019

There are 13,200 migrant children currently being held in facilities around the country (almost half in Texas). These facilities operate under contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Children in these facilities are held an average of 48 days while waiting for sponsors - usually family members - to be located, so they can be released to await trial dates on their immigration status. The vast majority of these children arrive in the United States unaccompanied, and are transferred from Border Patrol custody to ORR. A smaller number are children who have been separated from family members upon arrival at the border.

Facilities contracted by ORR have to meet federal legal requirements for the care they provide, and are also required to meet state licensing requirements for the provision of child care. State licensing typically means a requirement to provide education and recreational activities. Under new directives from the Trump administration, these facilities will no longer be reimbursed for these activities. Legal services, such as know your rights trainings so that the children are prepared for immigration court hearings, will also no longer be paid.

Rochelle Garza, a staff attorney with the ACLU Texas, works in Brownsville, Texas, near Casa Padre, the former Walmart that has been converted into a shelter for approximately 1,500 boys ages 10 to 17, :

an average day for children housed in a regular security shelter [is] comparable to a full day of school that includes English, math, science and reading classes. The children get periods of outdoor activity and often play basketball and soccer. There are even sporadic outings to a nearby church, park or zoo.

She said without those programs, housed children are "going to be sitting in prison like conditions." She noted many of the minors are vulnerable children from Central America who have escaped violence.

Trump has requested an additional $3 billion in emergency budget support to deal with an increase in arrests along the U.S./Mexico border. These funds, if approved, would go to expanding detention capacity - not to funding services for those held.

Mexico and the U.S. in Discussions on Migration

Last Thursday, Trump announced (on twitter no less) that the U.S. would begin assigning tariffs on all products coming from Mexico unless the country did more to stop migration to the U.S. border. As we explained last week, Mexico has expanded its enforcement activities steadily since 2014. What Mexico is supposed to do is not clear - though the administration’s point person on these discussion, Peter Navarro, identified three “specific” items they are looking to Mexico to commit to:

  • Mexico should crack down on asylum seekers.
  • Mexico should strengthen its enforcement of its own southern border with Guatemala, he added.
  • And Mexico should put an end to government corruption at immigration checkpoints in the country.

Where to start….

On asylum, Navarro explained in a :

The “No. 1” issue on Navarro’s list would be for Mexico to “commit to taking all the asylum seekers and then applying Mexican laws, which are much stronger than ours.”

“Look, here’s the thing,” he said. “If the people who are moving up with scripts to claim asylum from their narco-trafficker, human-trafficker handlers simply understood that that script ain’t gonna work anymore getting into America,” then the stream of migrants coming up to the southern border to claim asylum “will go to a trickle.”

The administration continues to argue that people are being coached to make certain statements to get into the country under asylum laws, and that their asylum claims are unsubstantiated. If this were actually true, then maybe this would work. But it’s not true. Most of the people arrested at the U.S./Mexico border recently are from Honduras and Guatemala, where violence and political instability are widespread. One of the reasons for the unauthorized border crossings is that regular ports of entries are now largely blocked, as the administration makes asylum seekers wait in Mexico - many for months, extending to over a year in some cases. With ports of entry blocked, people are crossing elsewhere in larger numbers in order to make asylum claims from within the U.S. So, the “crisis” of an increase in arrests is not the result of bogus asylum claims, but this administration’s failure to put sufficient resources toward processing claims for what is a very real refugee crisis at our border. Expecting Mexico to crack down on false claims makes no sense. It is not clear what Mexico could actually do, and the claims themselves are not false. People will keep coming.

Mexico has already expanded enforcement along its southern border significantly. Detentions of people migrating through Mexico has increased, and Mexico deports many more people each year than the United States. We more about this last week.

Ending corruption at border crossings might well be a good thing. But the administration creates a cartoonish image of the problem and, we might add, is so clearly indifferent to corruption in its own ranks that speaking out about this elsewhere seems highly disingenuous.  

At this point, talks have faltered. Tariff increases of 5 percent are scheduled to go into effect on Monday, and will increase 5 percent each month (up to 25 percent in October) until Trump gets what he wants from Mexico - and what he wants is unrealistic. Navarro indicated yesterday that tariffs may no longer be necessary because the administration now has Mexico’s attention. The whole episode may well be a bluff to deflect attention from many other problems Trump is facing.