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August 14, 2019
Demand release of Yoel Alonso Leal
Over the weekend, Congress of Day Laborers/Congreso de Jornaleros put out a petition in support of Yoel Alonso Leal, a loving Cuban father and husband, who has been detained for over 10 months in detention centers across Louisiana. As a result of the neglect he has suffered in ICE detention, Yoel suffers severe gout and has developed tumors in his lung. Like so many others, ICE is both refusing to release Yoel on parole or treat him, (including denying access to a biopsy.)
By keeping Yoel imprisoned, ICE is violating its own directive but this is no accident. Since the beginning of 2019, the New Orleans Regional ICE Field Office has expanded the number of detention facilities in Louisiana alone from 2 to 14 while at the same time also essentially eliminating parole.
Every day that Yoel continues in detention is a threat to his health and well-being. Please sign and distribute this petition TODAY demanding Yoel be released.
We are beginning to hear - and will hear over and over between now and next November - a new trope being rolled out by Democrats (Biden in particular) and seized on by Republicans, if only to emphasize the second part: We are a nation of immigrants AND a nation of laws. Somehow this is supposed to honor our tradition of being a welcoming country (I’m not sure when this was to be honest, but it is part of the mythos) while also demanding that people do things the right way.
A nation of laws suggests, at least, a place where there is some sense of due process - or really any clear process - so that people are actually able to understand what the law is and how to abide by it. A nation of ad hoc law seems counter-intuitive. Right?
Enter the border patrol (at least today’s example) and the forms I-213 and I-867 (You can’t have rule of law without forms). What is this?
When an immigrant seeking to make an asylum claim has a run-in with federal authorities — either at the border or once inside the U.S. — the information recorded by those officials on various government forms can have a tremendous impact on their cases. One such form is the I-213, which Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents fill out when they take a migrant into custody. Another is the I-867, a record of sworn statement and a standard part of the intake process. The statements written on these forms — whether or not they bear any resemblance to the truth — are incredibly difficult to disprove or override.
The above is from an article published by the Intercept that demonstrates how Border Patrol and ICE agents improperly fill out these forms, creating a huge problem for people when they get in front of an immigration judge. Are the agents overworked, leading to mistakes? Often, yes. Do they do this intentionally, knowing that discrepancies between the form and later statements can lead to asylum claims being denied? In some cases, likely. Given all of this, do we want Border Patrol agents given the authority to make asylum determinations at the border? Of course not. Do Trump and Stephen Miller? Why, yes, of course they do.
Are we a nation of laws?
Lego Batman GIF from Lego GIFs
So, how does this work?
The Intercept spoke with over a dozen attorneys and immigration experts, all of whom said they regularly encountered incorrect, or sometimes plainly ridiculous, information on their clients’ I-213s. The problem is “super prevalent,” in the words of Andrew Free, an immigration attorney based in Nashville, Tennessee. Kirsten Zittlau, an immigration attorney in San Diego, said she has seen “a million lies” on I-213s. In reviewing dozens of I-213s and cross-checking them with migrants’ own accounts, written testimonies, or attorneys’ explanations, The Intercept confirmed regular instances of erroneous, fabricated, and downright bogus information recorded on these forms. Many of the forms were even internally discrepant — botching or switching names, as well as mangling dates, mistaking gender, and flubbing countries of origin, among other errors.
Border Patrol officers in particular are supposed to ask migrants if they fear returning to their home country, and the answer to that initial question can be key to establishing the basis for an asylum claim. However, research from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom concluded in 2016 that in “86.5 percent of the cases where a fear question was not asked, the record inaccurately indicated that it had been asked, and answered.”
Some of the errors that appear on immigration intake forms would be laughable, if the consequences weren’t so dire. The New Jersey attorney had an ICE agent declare that one of his clients had a sawed-off shotgun in his car, when there was no evidence of any such thing. In a 2015 brief, the American Immigration Lawyers Association highlighted an I-867 where a defendant, identified as Y.F., said that they came to the U.S. “to look for work.” At the time of the interview, Y.F. was only three years old. More than one attorney told The Intercept they’ve seen I-213s for infants as young as a few months old who, according to Border Patrol, claim that they came to the United States to work.
Government documents provided to Human Rights Watch via a Freedom of Information Act request and shared with The Intercept reveal further instances of Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers including erroneous information on intake forms, and they also shed light on abuse of asylum-seekers. The documents, internal complaints filed by asylum officers with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, show that front-line border officials often go to extraordinary lengths to deny the people in their custody the ability to make an asylum claim.
Human Rights Watch’s ongoing investigation has turned up numerous cases of Border Patrol pressuring asylum-seekers not to claim fear, or officers simply lying and saying that people did not fear being returned, when in fact they had stated otherwise.
“The evidence we have gathered raises serious concerns that Border Patrol officers consistently deny asylum-seekers the opportunity to make a claim for protection or falsify records in a way that undercut those claims,” said Clara Long, senior researcher in the U.S. program at Human Rights Watch.
The full Intercept report can be read here.
Partisan enforcement and situational ethics
Below is an excerpt from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse concerning the removal of immigrants through the Secure Communities Program. As it shows, Trump's removal numbers are down - and interestingly, part of the reason may be that Trump encourages opposition on immigration in a way that Obama did not - even in the administration of the same program.
At one time California had the highest number of SC removals compared to any state in the country. At their peak there were more than 3,000 SC removals per month in that state. This record was achieved back in March of 2011. Since then California has shown a precipitous decline, hitting a low point of just 675 in February of 2015. Numbers slowly increased after the Obama Administration changed its focus and worked at rebuilding trust with local communities under the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). When President Trump assumed office, deportations in California climbed back up to around 1,000 per month. But since August of last year they started falling again. By April of 2019 they were down to just 744 - below the level at the end of the Obama Administration under PEP.
While Texas never reached the heights that California had in SC removals, it has experienced much less change under both presidential administrations. Indeed, there is no clear demarcation in SC removal numbers at the transition between the Obama and the Trump administrations. See earlier Figure 2. For the last year or more, SC removals have been fairly level at about 2,000 per month, slightly lower than the peak reached in the Obama years.
Full report from TRAC.