Defend the Rights of Refugees and Immigrants
Broad Resistance to Trump’s Wholesale Attack on Human Rights of Refugees and Immigrants
Across the country numerous demonstrations, petitions, and meetings are taking place rejecting President Trump’s wholesale attack on the human rights of immigrants and refugees. A national Day of Action is planned for June 30, with actions at the White House and dozens of cities and towns across the country. The breadth of resistance can be seen in the fact that nurses, youth, women, workers for the Office of Refugee Resettlement which is responsible for the families and children, mayors, clergy, as well as people from all walks of life, are taking their stand. The issue is one of rights and many see that by defending the rights of all problems can be solved.
Both in separating children from their parents and now in calling for indefinite detention of families, Trump is acting to eliminate human rights law, especially as it concerns refugees. The large majority of those being detained are refugees from countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where U.S. political and military interference has created conditions of anarchy, violence and terror for many. Refugees have the right to enter the country, turn themselves over to Border Patrol Agents and ask for asylum as most families are doing. Trump is instead criminalizing and terrorizing them. He is using his police powers to ensure no discretion is used in terms of dealing with each case, the legitimacy of the asylum cases, the conditions the families have faced, the traumas they have already endured, and so forth. That is what is actually required by law and what the executive actions are eliminating. There is to be only the dictate of the executive, not the upholding of rights and laws concerning them.
This is further evidenced by actions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who proclaimed that the U.S. will reject asylum claims based on gang violence or domestic abuse. The gangs, many of them instigated and armed by the U.S., are inflicting violence, against trade unionists, human rights organizers and many families. Yet now the U.S. is arbitrarily deciding, again with no concern for the facts, that such claims are not valid. It is interesting that Trump is using the excuse of gang-violence of MS-13 to target young people in the U.S. for deportation, yet people in El Salvador cannot use the violence of this same gang as a basis for asylum.
The police powers being imposed by the executive are arbitrary and a means for the government to broadly and openly act with impunity, all in the name of upholding the law. As well, Trump had no need to issue an executive order, as whether and how to deal with immigrants and refugees is at the discretion of the executive, in accordance with human rights and refugee law. He did so in part to target Congress, and quell resistance by giving the appearance that he is taking action.
The executive order serves primarily to try and impose and justify indefinite detention of families and to do so on the basis of a misdemeanor infraction. This sets the stage for targeting and detaining far more people, such as striking teachers or demonstrators, also using misdemeanor infractions.
Civil War Scenario
One of the serious issues being ignored with the Trump actions is the need for the federal government to control all military and policing agencies. Trump is using the current situation in part to test the loyalty, to the president, of Border Patrol, ICE, and the military, especially the National Guard. A key problem is resistance among the states and their striving for control, as conflicts within and between the military, president and state forces increase. This is evident, for example, in New York Governor Cuomo filing a lawsuit against the federal government concerning due process for the refugee children. As well many states are withdrawing or refusing to send their National Guard troops to the border, as Trump is requesting.
The National Guard is state-based and can only be federalized by the executive with the consent of the state governor. Trump is in part testing the loyalty of the governors, as their control of large numbers of troops is a serious concern. This is particularly true given that fear is growing among all these contending factions that the festering civil war — which always exists behind the scenes based on their contending for power — will break out into open violence.
The intensifying clashes within the governing factions of the ruling elite were not sorted out by Trump’s victory in the presidential election. And Trump’s efforts to use immigration to unite the various forces have so far failed. Instead we continue to witness conflicts within the presidency and between the executive and the intelligence agencies, military and various state officials all becoming sharper with increasing tempo and instability. The refusal of states like New York to send National Guard and the withdrawal of the Guard by many states, are examples of this. So too is resistance by mayors. Many, like the mayors of New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, control huge, highly armed police forces.
Trump is trying to secure federal control of all military and policing agencies, including those at the state and local level — so far, with only limited success. Texas and Arizona are providing large numbers of troops, but many other states are not. Mayors are sending a delegation to Texas rejecting Trump’s executive order as not solving the problems at hand.
Striving to Impose Acceptance of Military and Inhuman Actions
Both in law and tradition, the U.S. military cannot be used for law enforcement inside the country. Yet by organizing to send 4,000 National Guard troops to the southern border, Trump is setting up conditions for just that. At the very least it is a means to get people in the border areas used to having military forces in their towns and communities. At the moment, the troops are not to be armed, but just as Trump arbitrarily changed the policy concerning family separation, he can also order the military to be armed. Already there has been an increase in the numbers of Border Patrol Agents and the militarization of the border using drones, fencing and spy towers with cameras directed both sides of the border.
In addition, Trump’s actions are a means to train border agents and the military to conduct inhuman activity, like tearing children from the arms of their parents and putting them in concentration camps. Or overseeing arbitrary actions against refugees who they readily know have already suffered tremendously. As one border agent put it these families “have risked rape, robbery, assault, murder, have spent their life savings and given it to a criminal cartel to get them to the United States.” Nothing in Trump’s actions or executive order are directed to these cartels. Rather, the agents, including those with refugee resettlement, are being trained to take inhuman actions against their fellow human beings, treating them as if they have no rights.
Nurses in El Paso are showing the way, refusing to submit. They say, “Not in Our Name,” and stand with the refugees and immigrants refusing to treat them as criminals.
The Organized People Can Defeat the Civil War Scenario by Demanding a New Direction
These efforts to condition people to accept and even implement what is unacceptable are an indication that all the warring factions of the ruling elite are greatly worried about what could be described as the largest and potentially most powerful faction, which is the people and their drive for a new direction for the country.
In this respect, the broad and persistent resistance is showing that this greatest of factions demands its rights and stands for the rights of all. The claims of all on society, like women, children and refugees, must be respected and recognized as inviolable. Given this is also an election year where people are supposed to line up behind one or the other of these ruling factions, the issue of changing the electoral setup so as to empower the people is also on the minds of many. The U.S. has a long history of separating children from their families, as occurred with Native Americans and enslaved Africans. The demand today is for all such brutality here and abroad to stop. The rights of all are being defended. Developing a system of governing that is of, by and for the people in the modern conditions, where the people decide, in opposition to the present unrepresentative governments of the warring factions of the ruling elite, is being taken up for solution.
As the many collectives of the people — youth, women, immigrants, workers — strengthen their organized resistance and many others come forward to defend rights, this battle to win political power for the people is advancing. The necessity now is to stand with the peoples in opposition to the ruling elite, and to look at the social and political conditions from the people’s own vantage point, one that favors their interests and the finding of a new direction. Political power belongs in the hands of the people themselves to govern and decide. By addressing this problem of political power and working to obtain it, the faction of the large majority, the people, will prevail.
Trump Calls for Indefinite Detention of Families
On June 20 President Donald Trump issued an executive order concerning detention of immigrants. It followed widespread actions and anger across the country and worldwide opposing the brutal attacks on young children and families at the southern border. More than 2400 children, including infants and toddlers, have been separated from their families and then imprisoned or sent to shelters far from their parents and with parents often not knowing where they are. While the large majority are refugees seeking asylum, the order specifically refers only to immigrants.
Trump, like Obama, has long been implementing a policy to criminalize people, especially refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. Refugees have the right to enter the country and present themselves to Border Patrol agents, which is what the majority of those crossing are doing. However, Trump has now decided to criminalize all of those seeking entry, with no discretion as to the legitimacy of their asylum case and with many being women with children.
In his executive order, titled “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” Trump emphasizes that, “It is the policy of this Administration to rigorously enforce our immigration laws.” He references section 1325(a) of title 8. But he leaves out that the crime referred to is a class B misdemeanor and that the executive has complete discretion in how and whether to charge individuals. Commonly no action is taken for a misdemeanor or a fine is given, but certainly it is not the basis for removing children.
Further, the parents are generally not being charged with this crime but rather detained for deportation. There is also nothing requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Department of Justice (D0J) to separate families in order to enforce the law. Indeed the laws, both U.S. and international human rights law concerning refugees, are that they are to be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHH) within 72 hours and provide support and assistance in pursuing their asylum claims. It is also against the law to imprison the children involved.
Trump, like Obama before him, has been acting against the law and court rulings by detaining the parents and families in detention camps, often for years. The main difference now is the open and brutal manner in which he is separating the families and the wholesale attack on all.
The order says “The Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary), shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, maintain custody of alien families during the pendency of any criminal improper entry or immigration proceedings involving their members.” As indicated such proceedings can take many months and even years. The order, far from solving the problem of family detention provides the basis for indefinite detention.
Further, there is a qualifier, whereby the Secretary “Shall not, however, detain an alien family together when there is a concern that detention of an alien child with the child’s alien parent would pose a risk to the child’s welfare.” In this manner the president is setting up a situation where the government can claim the parents or guardian are gang members and still remove the children. Already, false branding as gang members is used in prisons to justify solitary confinement, especially for those who resist. As well, government actions on Long Island falsely branding youth from El Salvador as MS-13 members subject to deportation are also occurring. So this qualifier is a means not to protect the children, but target them and their parents.
Expanding, Not Eliminating Family Detention
The reality that Trump will continue wholesale attacks on the human rights of parents and children alike is further indicated with the calls for expanding detention facilities, using military bases. The order states “The Secretary of Defense shall take all legally available measures to provide to the Secretary, upon request, any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families, and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law.” It also calls on heads of executive departments and agencies to “make available to the Secretary, for the housing and care of alien families pending court proceedings for improper entry, any facilities that are appropriate for such purposes.” These “court proceedings,” for asylum can take years.
The DoJ and DHS will also no doubt contract out to private agencies, as is already occurring. Many of these agencies, already housing thousands, are guilty of serious violations, including death and forced use of powerful psychopathic drugs on the children. Conditions in the concentration camps are horrendous, with poor food, lack of medical care, insufficient schooling and recreation and threats and blackmail against children and parents alike. Mothers in these camps, some with children, some separated from them, have organized several hunger strikes to protest these conditions and demand their release. Trump’s insistence in expanding such concentration camps and keeping both parents and children incarcerated intensifies these problems, especially given the wholesale nature of the current attack on human beings, the children guilty of no crime and only some of the parents at the most of a misdemeanor.
Trump also asks the DoJ to intervene to change a court ruling that specifically limits detention of children to twenty days. The executive, including Obama, has long violated this and the order does not call for this law to now be enforced. Rather, Trump wants the requirement waived, even though all refugee families are supposed to be removed from the policing agencies, like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol and their detention camps turned over to Health and Human Services, one of the few agencies without an armed police force.
It is also significant that in the order, Trump makes no mention at all of refugees, but only to immigrants. This is a means to hide the specific laws and norms governing refugees, such as their right to enter the country to seek asylum. The large majority of the refugee families entering are turning themselves over to Border Patrol and asking for asylum. This is not a crime. Yet Trump is striving to make it one and divert from the fact that the government is the criminal acting against refugee and human rights law and using police powers to eliminate rule of law.
Do Not Do This In Our Name
The following statement is from registered nurses who work in hospitals across El Paso, Texas. The nurses are members of National Nurses Organizing Committee-Texas, an affiliate of National Nurses United.
As the nurses of El Paso who care for the border community in the middle of Chihuahuan desert we wish to express our outrage and horror that the U.S. government is preparing for children to be separated from their parents and housed in tents in the middle of Fort Bliss.
Fort Bliss is a desert military base that is larger than the state of Rhode Island and inaccessible to the general public and to local services including healthcare, education and community. In the summer temperatures routinely exceed 108 degrees. There is no water in this harsh arid landscape; there are not even trees for shade.
On a regular basis, we see the effects of the heat, dryness, lack of shade and lack of water on our patients who present in local hospitals, even without being detained in tents in the desert. This is not a forgiving environment, and not one in which children thrive without support.
Children, and all people, require more than simply a mat to sleep on and basic food rations in order to thrive. Children require love, family, safety, education, community, play, and physical and mental healthcare in order to grow to be healthy, well-adjusted adults. The proposed program does not appear to allow for these conditions; indeed, proposed as tents behind razor wire guarded by personnel with military weapons, it replicates the conditions of prisons.
Children who are presenting themselves to apply for asylum are not here in violation of immigration law. They are likely traumatized as a result of the conditions that led them to flee with their parents from their home countries and seek asylum in the United States. They have fled across harsh terrain, likely from places where they didn’t have access to medical care, and their medical needs are likely overwhelming.
As nurses, we demand that these children have access to appropriate pediatric care and that their needs are met. Fort Bliss has a limited capacity to treat children, and this concerns us.
People in El Paso have a long and proud history of housing immigrants and asylum seekers. Many here in our city, including some of us, have already indicated that we would take a child into our homes in lieu of this proposed human rights atrocity which threatens to take place on the outskirts of our community.
As a border community, we have seen many immigrants and asylum seekers arrive in our city, and we as a community are proud of our welcoming, inclusive, compassionate, and nonviolent response to people seeking a better life. We have numerous programs and churches that have welcomed these populations for decades.
Do not do this in our name, and do not do this in our community.
Do not let Trump’s latest move fool you: Children are still being jailed, and they’ are still being separated from their families — both at the border and at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities across the country. Demand the Trump Administration stop caging children and jailing their parents immediately — and reunite jailed children with their families. [TOP]
The U.S. is well-known for using prisoners, soldiers, those held at Guantánamo and others under their control as guinea-pigs for experimentation with various drugs and using drugs as a means to control and incapacitate people. Sometimes it is done using blackmail, sometimes in secret, but always in violation of basic human rights and for the benefit of the government and military. Now the targets are the refugee children being separated from their parents.
A recent lawsuit and investigations now provide hundreds of pages of medical records detailing how the government is creating a zombie army of children forcibly injected with medications that make them dizzy, listless, and even incapacitated.
Children held at Shiloh Treatment Center, a government contractor south of Houston that houses immigrant minors, described being held down and injected, according to the federal court filings. The lawsuit states that children were told they would not be released or see their parents unless they took medication and that they were only receiving vitamins.
Parents and the children themselves told attorneys the drugs rendered them unable to walk, afraid of people and wanting to sleep constantly, according to affidavits filed April 23 in U.S. District Court in California.
One mother said her child fell repeatedly, hitting her head, and ended up in a wheelchair. A child described trying to open a window and being hurled against a door by a Shiloh supervisor, who then choked her until she fainted. One child was prescribed 10 different shots and pills, including the antipsychotic drugs Latuda, Geodon and Olanzapine, the Parkinson’s medication Benztropine, the seizure medications Clonazepam and Divalproex, the nerve pain medication and antidepressant Duloxetine, and the cognition enhancer Guanfacine.
Shiloh is among 71 companies that receive funds from the federal government to house and supervise immigrant children deemed unaccompanied minors.
A recent investigation found that nearly half of the $3.4 billion paid by the government to those companies in the last four years went to homes with serious allegations of mistreating children. In nearly all cases, the federal government continued contracts with the companies after serious allegations were raised.
The records were filed in connection with an ongoing class-action status lawsuit opposing poor treatment of immigrant children in U.S. custody.
I work for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) with children who are coming to live here in the United States. The process goes like this: when a child comes to the United States by crossing the border and gets apprehended by immigration officers, he or she eventually comes to live in one of the many shelters across the United States funded by ORR.
ORR is responsible for providing basic care to the child, such as food, clothes, caretaker supervision, shelter, school, medical care and love/care/respect. At the same time, ORR undergoes a process of finding a sponsor with whom the child wishes to live in the United States. This sponsor is usually a family member, and ORR is responsible to verify that the sponsor’s home is a safe place for the child to live. For instance, the sponsor should be able to provide adequate supervision, access to a nearby school, parenting capability, as well as any basic care needs for the child.
ORR is a good organization doing good work, even though it resides in the midst of a broken and inhumane system. Despite all the hardships within the immigration process, I have witnessed incredible care and support shown to children within the ORR system. I have been proud to play a supportive role in the children’s lives as they continue on their journey to live in the United States.
However, things are changing. The Office of Refugee Resettlement is turning its back on the children for whom they are responsible.
Right now, ORR is working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE) in a way that will very likely lead to an increase in deportations and more children being stuck in government programs. ORR signed an agreement with DHS to provide them with the personal information of potential sponsors for the children with whom I work. These sponsors are often undocumented themselves. The children they hope to sponsor are often their biological children, nieces, nephews or family friends.
Now our case managers are obligated to inform the sponsors that by sponsoring a child, they have to give their personal information and location to DHS, and therefore, to ICE as well. If they surrender their personal information to ICE, they could potentially get deported.
Personally, I believe that the deportation of sponsors is a very possible outcome. I cannot understand why else DHS would be asking for their information. According to DHS, the purpose is to safeguard against the children being sent to would-be human traffickers, but that’s surely a lie. We already do a very large amount of checks, including background checks, fingerprints, and continual case management services. This is all done in order to prevent a situation such as human trafficking from occurring, and the involvement of ICE does not appear to add any extra protections to the process.
This situation provides a moral conundrum for the sponsors: either they abandon a child who is placing their hope in them, or they put themselves at a high risk for deportation, in which case the child would be left alone in the United States without their family, unless they are deported as well.
There’s more: sponsors will inevitably be far less likely to sponsor children with this new policy in place, and foster programs usually have a long waiting list. This means that there will not be any open beds in the ORR-run shelters because kids won’t be leaving. Meanwhile, children continue to cross the border every day.
The border is already filled with children waiting to get moved into a shelter. Do you know what’s happened in the past when ORR shelters have been full? Children get sent to military bases which have been opened up as emergency “shelters.” This practice, which began during the Obama administration, has been rekindled under the Trump administration. Sleeping on cement floors, aluminum foil for blankets and very minimal food for the children…
Is this really what the United States stands for?
My coworkers and I want to fight back, but as employees of ORR, our hands are tied. That’s why I’m reaching out to the community. I view it as my moral responsibility as a citizen, but more simply, as somebody who cares about children.
Family separation is a form of child abuse. While this may or may not be true in the legal sense, research shows (and every counselor agrees) that the separation of children from their parents has a devastating emotional and developmental impact on a child. This practice is a new form of family separation which we will now be witnessing, in addition to the well-publicized family separations which have been happening at the border.
Please share this letter with your community, or post articles yourself, or if you can think of any other way to help, please do it. Call your representatives. Make sure the Attorney General for your state is aware that this is happening, and aware of your strong opposition. Talk to your friends and family and spread the word, because we are grasping at straws. We need media attention and massive pushback.
(The author wishes to remain anonymous for protection. This letter was obtained and edited by William Lopez, Ph.D, MPH. Lopez is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and National Center for Institutional Diversity. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @lopez_wd.)
Governors from eleven states have cancelled agreements to send members of their National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico Border, as Trump has requested. Trump has to have the consent of the Governor of each state to federalize the Guard. Some, like New York, Massachusetts and Colorado, refused to deploy their troops, while others are recalling them. The rest of the states so far are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia.
Massachusetts, Maryland and North Carolina had already sent troops to the border but are recalling them.
In some cases, like Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina, only a few troops and a helicopter are involved. Nonetheless, the actions indicate that Trump’s effort to secure the loyalty of the governors is facing opposition.
In other instances, Governors are not only refusing to have troops involved, but are also issuing orders forbidding any state agency or resources to be used for separating families. These include Colorado, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Others, like governors for Delaware and Massachusetts, have said that if the Trump border policy changes, then they would send troops.
Illinois Governor Rauner said he opposes Trump’s policy at the border but did not comment on sending troops. Nebraska Governor Ricketts said “While there seems to be a lot of misinformation and propaganda regarding the situation on our border, one thing is clear: Children should not be separated from their families.”
Some states, mainly border states, are sending troops, with Arizona and Texas sending the largest delegations. Arizona already has more than 300 National Guards at the border and is expected to deploy about 600 by September. Texas has pledged 1,000 and has already sent more than 300. California has agreed to send 400. According to Governor Brown, though, the California Guardsmen “cannot handle custody duties for anyone accused of immigration violations, build border barriers or have anything to do with immigration enforcement.” New Mexico has pledged 250 troops and the governor has expressed support for Trump’s border actions. Recently however, New Mexico State Senator Linda Lopez called on Governor Susana Martinez to withdraw the state’s National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border. So far she has not. Mississippi and South Carolina are also sending troops.