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Posted on 01. Jul, 2015 by .

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Child Migrant Crisis on Mexico’s Southern Border

Posted on 01. Jul, 2015 by .

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The following article is in Yahoo News:

Palenque (Mexico) (AFP) – His face lit up every time he mentioned his destination — the United States — but like many Central American children, Juan’s dream ended abruptly when Mexican officers caught him riding a freight train.

d457697e57725cbaa2b881e6074ac98784992111The willowy 16-year-old boy’s story is the same as that of thousands of minors from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala who are still crossing Mexico’s southern border alone despite a crackdown on illegal migration.

Juan was detained once before in Mexico City and deported back to Honduras months ago, but his mother urged him to grab his backpack again and navigate the perilous route north, where criminals often exploit and attack migrants.

“If they kill me, they kill me, and if I stay alive, I just keep going forward,” Juan, whose name was changed for security reasons, said after a failed attempt to hop on the train known as “La Bestia,” which is moving faster these days to prevent migrants from hitching a ride.

“I want to escape my economic situation and the violence. I want to flee the gangs, the drugs, because if I return to Honduras, they can kill me,” he said after walking in scorching temperatures for days.

Initially, he had managed to “only” be robbed in Guatemala, where his shoes and clothes were stolen at gunpoint.

But his trip came to a sudden halt when migration agents raided the train at around midnight recently near Palenque in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas.

This time, his face lit up — in the glare of a flashlight — as officers bundled the frightened teen and a dozen other migrants into a van that would haul him to a detention center.

Juan was caught in a massive dragnet that Mexico’s government launched in July last year after Washington declared an emergency following an influx of unaccompanied minors who were pouring into the United States.

The flow of child migrants has slowed at Mexico’s northern border, with US official figures showing that some 23,000 unaccompanied minors were detained between October and June, half as many as the same period in the previous fiscal year.

For Franciscan friar Tomas Gonzalez, a prominent activist who runs a migrant shelter in Tabasco state, last year’s emergency became an excuse to launch Mexico’s Frontera Sur anti-illegal migration program.

“Minors have been migrating for more than 10 years. This crisis was invented to justify the Frontera Sur program and the wave of repression,” Gonzalez said.

US President Barack Obama has asked the Congress to approve $1 billion in aid to Central American nations, while activists say a structural solution is needed to end the poverty and violence that drive migration.

– ‘I’ll try again’ –

The deportations have not discouraged many Central American children.

Mauricio, a curly-haired 16-year-old, was almost at the Texas border when he was caught and returned to Honduras. He was back in Mexico two months later.

“If they catch me, I’ll try again, until I get there,” said the farmers’ son who wants to give a better life to his mother and four brothers.

Many others are making the journey for the first time.

Carlos Antonio, a 17-year-old Honduran, was resting on the side of a road with others after walking for 48 hours without a bite to eat.

“We have come with God’s good grace,” Carlos said, who had blisters “as big as fingers” on his feet and claimed that police in Mexico had taken his belongings.

Another Honduran named Alberto, 15, hoped to reach Texas where he could find a job that pays more than the $4.50 a day he made back home.

“It’s tough there (in Honduras) with the gangs. Most young people join them. It’s an easy life but a risky one. Better to take risks here than over there,” he said, before swinging his backpack over his shoulder and continuing his journey.

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A Look Inside A Texas Detention Center

Posted on 01. Jul, 2015 by .

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A look inside one immigration detention center

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times

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Alba Veronica Cruz Montano, 32, and daughter Valeria Nicole Escobar Cruz, 3, pose for a portrait after their release from South Texas Family Residential Center to stay with relatives in Houston.

DILLEY, Texas – At the 50-acre compound here holding hundreds of immigrant women and children, the lights stay on 24-7. At night they’re dimmed, but not entirely out. Security, officials say.

The lights are among the persistent reminders that the South Texas Family Residential Center is designed to keep up to 2,400 in custody. Grainy black-and-white mug photos of mothers and children are posted in front of their doors. Even toddlers get ID cards.

The facility an hour south of San Antonio combines institutional coldness with homey touches. It is run by a private contractor, the Corrections Corp. of America, which has given each “neighborhood” of 480 mothers and children a theme color and animal: red bird, yellow frog, blue butterfly. The detainees stay in trailers, not cells, and unlike prisoners, they are allowed to wear shoelaces, officials note.

The Obama administration on Wednesday announced changes to its detention policies, saying it would allow more families to be released on bond. The move came after protests, lawsuits and a judge’s order that the administration stop using family detention as a way of deterring immigrants from crossing the border illegally.

More than 130 members of Congress have called on the administration to close the centers. Some toured those in Dilley and Karnes City, Texas, this week and said that despite the amenities – a chapel, salon and soccer field among them – the centers are prisons and no place for children.

A visit this month to the center in Dilley – the largest of three family detention centers nationwide, including Karnes City and Leesport, Pa. – highlighted its dual nature as a place of confinement and of family life. The average age of a child here is 9. In the library, small children flipped through dinosaur and Hello Kitty books, while across the carpeted room teenagers played video games.

Dilley opened in December with space for 480, and expanded by April to house up to 2,400 with a staff of nearly 700, including teachers, pediatricians and psychiatrists – almost as big as the surrounding town of 3,600. As of June 12, it held 1,735 individuals, about 1,000 of them children.

In the pre-K class, children sat surrounded by bright posters and word and number cards in Spanish and English. Students played counting games on computers, while classmates colored, played with firefighter figurines and flipped through books.

In a nearby middle school classroom, older children gathered around a table for an English lesson. A teacher asked them to spell two English words: “Very bad.”

One of the boys made a face, frustrated.

The teacher patiently wrote the words on a white board, then asked her students to translate. Another boy volunteered, correctly: “Muy mal.”

In another trailer, 45 women listened with their children to a man from the center’s legal orientation program. Some have only a few years of education, speak indigenous languages and cannot read.

“Who has a lawyer?” he asked in Spanish.

Half a dozen raised their hands. In the nation’s administrative immigration courts, run by the Justice Department, there are no public defenders. Lawyers are not guaranteed, even for children.

One who secured a lawyer was Alba Veronica Cruz Montano, a 32-year-old from El Salvador, and on this day she faced her final immigration hearing. She had been deported before, in 2010. She and her 3-year-old daughter, Valeria Nicole Escobar Cruz, had been held at the center for 2 1/2 months.

After they entered the U.S., an agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, found she had a “reasonable fear” of returning home because her boyfriend had abused her and her daughter. But they had to face off against a Justice Department lawyer and persuade the judge.

She had reviewed her story with her attorney, Brian Hoffman, an Ohio-based lawyer who has been coordinating cases here for CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, sponsored by several immigration lawyers’ groups. She was seeking asylum for her daughter and deferred removal for herself, and permission to stay and work legally.

In a windowless trailer courtroom, she and Hoffman appeared in a teleconference with Judge Lourdes de Jongh in Miami. The high demand has meant judges from other jurisdictions hear cases from Dilley. Valeria waited outside.

“You’re going to be telling me your story,” De Jongh said.

Cruz nodded. Hoffman said Cruz had twice been a victim of domestic violence.

After she arrived in the U.S. the first time in 2004, Cruz met a boyfriend in Carmel, N.Y., who beat her. “He used to drink a lot, and with so much alcohol in his head, he used to say the devil was telling him to kill me,” she said. He threatened to stab her with a knife, followed her to work and shattered her car windows. Hoffman offered a police report as corroboration.

After she returned to El Salvador, she met a new boyfriend, got pregnant with her daughter and moved in with him. He was nice at first, but once the baby was born, he refused to give her more than $5 a day unless she had sex with him.

“She didn’t want to go to the police in El Salvador because having gone to the police in the U.S., she knew it could escalate the abuse,” Hoffman explained.

With an interpreter translating his questions into Spanish, Hoffman asked whether Cruz had ever resisted having sex with her boyfriend.

“Yes,” she said. “He would yank me and pull my clothes and tell me he would have sex with me by force.”

“How would he threaten you?” Hoffman said.

“That he would take Valeria away. . He would tell me that if I left, I would leave alone. . He knew that I would never leave my daughter behind,” she said.

At the same time, Cruz said her boyfriend would abuse their daughter: screaming at her, yanking her and slamming her down in a chair.

After she returned to the U.S. in March, Cruz said the boyfriend had tried to contact her through Facebook and her grandmother. If she returned to El Salvador, she said, he would come find her.

The Justice Department attorney asked Cruz whether she told relatives about the abuse.

Not many, she said.

“I would tell his mother what was happening, and she would say, ‘In order to have a home, you have to put up with it,’” she said.

The government attorney asked how much she paid a smuggler to come to the U.S. this time, crossing the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. Cruz said $5,000. Relatives helped raise the money.

The judge listened sympathetically, and when Cruz emerged from the makeshift courtroom, she scooped up Valeria and exclaimed, “We won!” They were released later that day to stay with an aunt and uncle in Houston.

But for many families, the wait at the South Texas Family Residential Center continued.

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Family Detention Detrimental to Children

Posted on 01. Jul, 2015 by .

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The following opinion article was written by Jeanne Atkinson from CLINIC. 

FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2014 file photo, detained immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the  Karnes County Residential Center,  a temporary home for immigrant women and children detained at the border, in Karnes City, Texas. The Homeland Security Department has privately acknowledged that a remarkable number of young families caught crossing the border illegally earlier this year subsequently failed to meet with federal immigration agents, as they were instructed. At the meeting, the ICE official acknowledged the no-show figures while explaining the administration’s decision in June to open a temporary detention center for families in Artesia, New Mexico. A second immigration jail in Texas was later converted for families and can house about 530 people. A third such detention center will open in Texas later this year. Before the new facility in Artesia, the government had room for fewer than 100 people at its only family detention center in Pennsylvania.  (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Two years ago this month Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., proudly announced, “Before the American people give up on the Congress, look at what we achieved today in a bipartisan fashion.” The Senate had just voted 68 to 32 to pass a sweeping immigration reform bill that, while far from perfect, put the country on a path to resolve the situation affecting 11 million undocumented people already in the country and revise the laws for future immigrants. But that effort collapsed in the House of Representatives and now the Senate, far from being part of the solution, is adding to the problem.

Among the many challenging immigration issues facing our country is how to address the large numbers of vulnerable immigrants fleeing violence, poverty and chaos in their Central American homelands. About this time last year, U.S. border immigration officials arrested 162,700 unaccompanied minors crossing our border over the span of six months. Since then the number of unaccompanied minors coming to the United States has significantly dropped, but tens of thousands are still in the United States.

150330_rosas_detentioncenter_apRecently a Senate appropriations subcommittee chaired by Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., slashed $50 million that the Obama administration requested to support local immigrant legal services groups who represent and advise these unaccompanied children on the way our complex process works. This program has been in place for years; the mandates were originally signed into law in 2008 by President George W. Bush. The representatives provide orientations: when to show up in court, what to expect to be asked, and how to avoid relying upon fake “notarios” who will claim expertise and demand money to provide guidance, among other topics. These basic instructions are crucial for kids who don’t speak English and don’t know the law or the court processes. Without assistance, some children who would qualify for asylum will be deported back to the deadly barrios in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala from which they fled, and many will die, as we have already seen.

There is irony here. The government spends millions every day warehousing in private detention centers thousands of indigent immigrant mothers and their young children, the latest wave of asylum seekers. For months these women and children remain detained awaiting hearings on their fate, even though there is no reason to believe detention is necessary to ensure they show up for their hearings. CLINIC has a single full-time attorney at the biggest of these facilities, in Dilley, Texas, which can hold 2,400 women and children. That facility alone, if filled, would cost the government more than $200 million a year to maintain. If fiscal conservative policies are truly at issue here then the exorbitant resources spent on family detention should be first on the list to defund.

While mothers and children languish in detention racking up costs, the Obama administration continues to expedite the cases of unaccompanied children who need time to find pro or low bono counsel. The withholding of funds to provide legal support to unaccompanied children would make an already difficult situation harder and more likely that injustices will take place. The Senate should restore those funds in the final bill.

But even if Congress refuses to fund the necessary legal support, the administration is not powerless. The administration should end its policy of expediting the cases of unaccompanied children through the deportation process, so that they can obtain necessary support rather than being quickly shuffled through court hearings where, without representation, they cannot tell their stories and benefit from the limited legal remedies that exist for them. Even more importantly, the administration can immediately end its flawed family detention policy that only serves to further traumatize asylum-seekers. In the end, we need them both to act on behalf of these young people. Children’s lives are at stake.

jeanne

Jeanne Atkinson is the executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

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Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence

Posted on 01. Jul, 2015 by .

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FUPGV-Web-Header-300x54Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence is a resource to provide information about campaigns, rallies, petitions, and news about gun control and recent events in the news.

Most recently, they released this statement about the racially charged shootings in Charleston, NC:

As communities of faith, it is upon us – as it always has been – to comfort the bereaved, to bury our dead, and to try and answer the evergreen question: “why?” It also falls upon us to raise our voices even higher in addressing the senseless loss of life due to gun violence in our society.

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