Tag Archives: borders

Immigrants’ rights must be protected from further attack

Earthjustice, Sierra Club, NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife are calling for an end to the Trump administration’s attacks on immigrants. Earthjustice also is supporting the Bridge Act, which would extend Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals for three years.

The statement from Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen:

Earthjustice holds as a foundational principle that every human being has a fundamental right to a clean and healthy environment.

Inherent in that right is the ability to participate in democratic decision-making affecting one’s health and access to a fair and impartial judiciary to ensure that the laws and rules meant to protect public health and the environment are enforced with fairness and equality.

Unfortunately, millions of individuals are denied this ability to protect their own health and that of their children because to do so would risk retaliation, incarceration, deportation and separation from their families.

The short-sighted measures taken yesterday by the Trump administration will bring dire consequences and compromise the future of mixed-status households with U.S. citizens who depend on their undocumented family members and share the fears, apprehensions, and exclusions with their loved ones.

In 2014, we applauded the Obama administration for taking steps to eliminate the threat of deportation for millions of immigrants who have become an intrinsic part of our communities and the nation as a whole. Their contributions to this country exemplify the best in our values. We stand firmly by the belief that without the fear of intimidation or removal, immigrant communities will be better positioned to stand up for their fundamental rights, including a right to a safe and healthy environment for their families. To shut down their voices by planting fear with ill-conceived walls, counterproductive enforcement procedures, and by trying to defund sanctuary cities undermines basic rights and is inherently un-American.

Rather than try to tear families and communities apart, the administration and Congress should step up to its responsibility to provide relief. This is why we are joining in solidarity with our partners in the Latino and civil rights community in urging Congress to pass the “BRIDGE Act;” a bill that would provide Dreamers with a temporary reprieve from deportation on terms similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

This bill would protect many of the millions of aspiring Americans whose ability to secure justice and thrive is hampered by their immigration status. Immigrants play a fundamental role in our country, they live, work, and pray among us yet they are forced to remain in the shadows.  Silence and inaction are breeding grounds for injustice, and Earthjustice will not stand by while this reality continues.

‘High threat’ Texas border busts aren’t always

Drivers in Texas busted for drunken driving, not paying child support or low-level drug offenses are among thousands of “high-threat” criminal arrests being counted as part of a nearly $1 billion mission to secure the border with Mexico, an Associated Press analysis has found.

Having once claimed that conventional crime data doesn’t fully capture the dangers to public safety and homeland security, the Texas Department of Public Safety classified more than 1,800 offenders arrested near the border by highway troopers in 2015 as “high threat criminals.”

But not all live up to that menacing label or were anywhere close to the border — and they weren’t caught entering the country illegally, as Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is Texas’ chairman for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, has suggested.

In response to the AP’s findings, the Department of Public Safety said it will recommend removing child support evaders from the list and signaled a willingness to stop classifying other arrests as “high threat.”

However, it defended the data overall, saying it isn’t intended to measure border security, even though the figures are included in briefings to lawmakers.

“It’s deceptive to say the least,” Democratic state Rep. Terry Canales, from the border city of Edinburg, said of the data. “I would say it’s shocking that a person arrested with a small amount of cocaine in Odessa is used to show supposedly high-threat criminal arrests on the Texas-Mexico border.”

The AP used open records laws to obtain a list of 2015 Texas Highway Patrol arrests classified as “high threat” in a broad 60-county area that the DPS has defined as the border region, then reviewed online court and jail records for cases in Hidalgo and El Paso counties, which had the most such arrests.

Among the “high threat” incidents was a trailer that unlatched from an RV and rolled into oncoming traffic, killing another driver in a town more than 150 miles from the border. Other crimes lumped in with suspected killers and human traffickers were speeding teenagers and hit-and-runs that caused no serious injuries.

Republican leaders have used crime, smuggling and immigration data to justify an intensified deployment of troopers, armored boats and spy planes to the border since 2014. And Trump’s promises to wall off the border with Mexico resonate with many in Texas, where Republican lawmakers tripled border security spending last year, and in 2017 will consider approving another $1 billion.

A threat overview published by DPS in 2013 defined high-threat criminals as “individuals whose criminal activity poses a serious public safety or homeland security threat.” But about 40 “high threat” offenses can be overly broad. For instance, nearly half the 2015 arrests were for possession of a controlled substance, but DPS doesn’t distinguish between a gram of cocaine and a drug smuggler’s 50 pounds of marijuana. And failure to pay child support is included with sex crimes under offenses against the family.

High-threat arrests, which are tracked statewide, are among nearly three dozen “border security related” metrics collected by DPS, according to agency briefings given to lawmakers.

But DPS Director Steve McCraw told the AP that high-threat data isn’t used to assess border security but rather is included in briefings for the sake of transparency. McCraw said the term “high threat” was never meant to suggest only the worst of the worst, but rather to distinguish more serious crimes.

“I don’t care, we can change the name,” McCraw said. “Just so long as, internally, we have a way of differentiating.”

Hidalgo County, in the Rio Grande Valley, is one of the busiest corridors for drug and human trafficking in the U.S., and where Texas deployed an influx of troopers, National Guard patrols and camera surveillance. While dozens of 161 high-threat arrests for drug possession were alleged pot smugglers, about 1 in 5 were charged with having less than a gram or other low-level drug charges. Drunken drivers who didn’t pull over are also counted the same as fleeing traffickers.

In El Paso County, more than half of 190 high-threat arrests last year were for drug offenses. Of those, about three in 10 were arrests for less than a gram of drugs such as cocaine or small amounts of marijuana.

Some lawmakers, including members of Texas’ House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, said they didn’t pay attention to high-threat arrests and that the data isn’t included in high-level briefings.

But following a border visit in March, Patrick incorrectly tweeted that DPS had arrested about 14,000 high-threat criminals in the previous year. Patrick senior adviser Sherry Sylvester said the lieutenant governor had been “unintentionally unclear,” but then herself falsely described the arrests as “criminal illegal aliens” who she said pose a “serious threat to public safety in Texas.”

Trump reveals few details on ‘extreme vetting’ of immigrants

Donald Trump is calling for “extreme” vetting of immigrants seeking admission to the United States, but he’s offering few specifics about how that might work, how long it might last or how taxpayers would foot the bill.

Trump, who had previously called for an unprecedented temporary ban on immigration by Muslims, has now vowed to overhaul the country’s screening process and block those who sympathize with extremist groups or don’t embrace American values.

“Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into our country,” Trump said in a foreign policy address in Youngstown, Ohio. “Only those who we expect to flourish in our country — and to embrace a tolerant American society — should be issued visas.”

The GOP presidential nominee has made stricter immigration measures a central part of his proposals for defeating the Islamic State — a battle he said is akin to the struggle against communism during the Cold War. He called for parents, teachers and others to promote “American culture” and encouraged “assimilation.”

But he didn’t say which countries or regions would be subject to the “extreme” vetting, and his announcement that government agencies would create the list suggested that would not happen before the election in November.

The candidate’s aides said federal agencies would use questionnaires, social media, interviews with family and friends or other means to vet applicants’ stances on issues including religious freedom, gender equality and gay rights. Trump did not clarify how U.S. officials would assess the veracity of responses to the questionnaires or how much manpower it would require to complete such arduous vetting.

He did say that implementing the policy overhaul would require a temporary halt in immigration from “the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”

“We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures,” Trump said.

The address comes during a trying stretch for Trump’s presidential campaign. He’s struggled to stay on message and build a consistent case against Democrat Hillary Clinton, repeatedly roiling the White House race with provocative comments that have deeply frustrated many in his own party.

Clinton has seized on Republican concerns about Trump, highlighting the steady stream of GOP national security experts who’ve said their party’s nominee is unfit to serve as commander in chief. She kept up that argument as she campaigned alongside Vice President Joe Biden in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a working class area where both have family ties.

Biden called Trump’s views “dangerous” and “un-American.” He warned that Trump’s false assertions last week about President Barack Obama founding the Islamic State extremist group could be used by extremists to target American service members in Iraq.

“The threat to their life has gone up a couple clicks,” Biden said.

Trump has since said he was being sarcastic in accusing Obama of founding the Islamic State. Still, he directly blamed the president and Clinton, who served as Obama’s secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, for backing policies that “unleashed” the group, including withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in late 2011.

He also challenged Clinton’s fitness to be president, declaring she lacks the “mental and physical stamina” to take on the extremists.

Trump was vague about what he would do differently to decimate the Islamic State in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria. He vowed to partner with any country that shares his goal of defeating the extremist group, regardless of other strategic disagreements, and named Russia as a nation he would like to improve relations with.

Russia and the U.S. have been discussing greater coordination in Syria, where the Islamic State is part of a volatile mix of groups fighting for power. But they have been unable to reach an agreement on which militant groups could be targeted.

Trump also vowed to end “our current strategy of nation-building and regime change” — a criticism that extends to policies of both parties. He panned the long, expensive Iraq War started under Republican President George W. Bush, as well as Obama’s calls for new leadership in some Middle East countries during the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings.

Obama has held up Bush’s years-long commitment to setting up and securing a new government in Iraq after the initial invasion as a reason to avoid U.S. military intervention in countries like Syria.

Trump’s most specific anti-Islamic State proposals centered on keeping those seeking to carry out attacks in the West from entering the United States. He said attacks involving “immigrants or the children of immigrants” underscore the need to implement “extreme vetting.”

Trump first announced his call for banning Muslims last year during the GOP primary. He introduced a new standard following the June massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, vowing to “suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we fully understand how to end these threats.”

That proposal raised numerous questions that the campaign never clarified, including whether it would apply to citizens of countries like France, Israel, or Ireland, which have suffered recent and past attacks.

Reaction to Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering U.S.

Here’s what people are saying about Donald Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering the U.S.:

“This is reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive. @realDonaldTrump, you don’t get it. This makes us less safe.”

— Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and Democratic candidate for president, via Twitter.

“Demagogues throughout our history have attempted to divide us based on race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin. Now, Trump and others want us to hate all Muslims. The United States is a great nation when we stand together. We are a weak nation when we allow racism and xenophobia to divide us.”

— Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator and Democratic candidate for president.

“Donald Trump is unhinged. His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious.”

— Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and GOP candidate for president, via Twitter.

“Well, that is not my policy. I’ve introduced legislation in the Senate that would put in place a three-year moratorium on refugees coming from countries where ISIS or al-Qaida control a substantial amount of territory. And the reason is that’s where the threat is coming from.”

— Ted Cruz, Texas senator and GOP candidate for president.

“There are folks in this race who don’t care about what the law says because they’re used to being able to just fire people indiscriminately on television. So, they don’t have to worry about what laws say or not say.”

— Chris Christie, New Jersey governor and GOP candidate for president.

“Trump’s overreaction is as dangerous as President Obama’s under-reaction.”

— Carly Fiorina, former technology executive and GOP candidate for president.

“Everyone visiting our country should register and be monitored during their stay as is done in many countries. I do not and would not advocate being selective on one’s religion.”

— Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and GOP candidate for president.

I think this whole notion that we can just say no more Muslims, and just ban a whole religion goes against everything we stand for and believe in. Religious freedom has been a very important part of our history and where we came from. … It’s a mistaken notion.

— Dick Cheney, former vice president, speaking with radio host Hugh Hewitt.

“That does not reflect serious thought. Just when you think he can’t stoop lower, he does.”

— Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.

“As a conservative who truly cares about religious liberty, Donald Trump’s bad idea and rhetoric send a shiver down my spine. American exceptionalism means always defending our inalienable rights, not attacking them when it’s politically convenient.”

— Matt Moore, chairman of the Republican Party of South Carolina, via Twitter.

“There are some issues that transcend politics. While my position is certainly political, I am an American first. There should never be a day in the United States of America when people are excluded based solely on their race or religion. It is un-Republican. It is unconstitutional. And it is un-American.”

– Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the Republican Party of New Hampshire.

“Is Trump talking about Muslim-American citizens? If so, the right to enter one’s country of citizenship is an internationally guaranteed human right.”

— Leti Volpp, an expert on immigration law at the University of California at Berkeley.

“You have an issue with people coming in. Imagine it’s a human body and you have this thing that’s entering the body breaking it down and creating illnesses. All he is saying is don’t let anything else in right now and fix the problem before we do. It shouldn’t be religion-related, but unfortunately it is religion-related.”

— Trump supporter John Metzer, who works in real estate in Atlanta, at a Trump rally Monday night in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

“Anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty will denounce the reckless, demagogic @realDonaldTrump plan for Muslims.”

— Russell Moore, president of the ethics and religious liberty commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, via Twitter.

“I thought long ago that things he said would hurt his prospects, and he continues to go up.”

— Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who called Trump’s plan “just foolish.”

Human migration is unstoppable

I’m a history buff, and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that the history of the world is the history of migrations. A look at North America is instructive.

The tribes we call “native” to the United States and Canada are descendants of people who crossed the Bering Strait from northern Asia, spreading south and east into the continent. Many centuries later, European migrants seeking greater opportunity — some of them religious zealots, others freethinkers — settled the East Coast. They moved westward over the next two centuries, displacing and, in some cases, annihilating native tribes. 

For centuries, slave traders captured and exported millions of Africans to the “New World” where they were sold as slaves. They were doomed to work as slaves their whole lives as were generations of their descendants. It took one of the most devastating wars in history to end slavery in the U.S. Decades after emancipation, millions of African Americans in the South joined what became known as “The Great Migration,” seeking better jobs and fairer treatment in the North and West.

In the mid-1800s, West Coast businessmen recruited Chinese to lay railroad tracks and work in fields and mines for little pay. Asian women were trafficked as prostitutes to serve men in the bustling cities and mining towns of the West. About 1.5 million Irish fled to the eastern U.S. to escape famine in Ireland.

Some Mexicans who have come to the U.S. in recent years may be the descendants of the Spanish-speaking people who conquered the American Southwest, which became part of New Spain, then Mexico. 

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans migrated to Florida in the wake of the 1950s revolution there, and tens of thousands of Vietnamese “boat people” who fled their ravaged land were welcomed to the U.S. in the 1970s and ’80s.

Every continent and region of earth has its own history of migration, some of it voluntary, some coerced. Migrations are caused by displacement from natural disasters or flight from war or persecution. They result from conquests and coerced resettlement of populations. They are also undertaken for adventure, opportunity and profit. 

Migration occurs without respect to procedures issued by governments. Laws do not deter them. Walls do not block them. Armies cannot shoot them all. Migrants brave deserts, seas, mountains and border guards. Human migration is inexorable.

The refugee crisis caused by chaos in Iraq and Syria has been years in the making. It requires a coordinated plan by the European Union, where refugees are now fleeing, and the United Nations. Negotiations over Syria must resume in Geneva. Until some measure of order is restored in Syria and Iraq, the exodus of millions will continue unabated.

Given the U.S. role in destabilizing the region, it is shameful that we’ve agreed to take in only 2,000 Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, hysteria about undocumented migrants in the U.S. is being fanned by many Republican candidates for president. Some want to spend billions on a massive wall along our border with Mexico, while our own bridges and schools are deteriorating around us. 

Instead of wasting money and sowing hatred, all candidates should address how migrants and their children can be integrated into American life. All Americans should get used to the inevitability of a more fluid and diverse society.