Quadrupling-down on a failed policy

by Brian Best, Executive Director, BorderLinks

On Monday, June 11, US Attorney General Jefferson Sessions issued a precedent-setting decision that will prevent almost all asylum seekers from claiming asylum in the US due to gang violence or domestic sexual abuse. This decision pulls the rug out from under the feet of tens of thousands of asylum seekers and will inevitably lead to thousands of deaths.

Since the mid-1990s, the official US government policy to prevent unauthorized migration has been Prevention Through Deterrence: we’ll make the journey so dangerous that people will decide against migrating to the US. In Arizona, walls along the border in easily-traversed valleys force migrants into mountainous regions, and inland Border Patrol checkpoints force migrants to walk dozens of miles farther to avoid detection.

The policy has been a failure. No matter how dangerous the journey has become, people continue to seek to enter the US. Many are propelled by threats of gang violence or by love of family, motivations that are more powerful than the possibility of death in the Arizona desert.

And the journey is incredibly hazardous. Over 7,000 bodies of migrants have been recovered in the last twenty years on the US side of the US/Mexican border. Thousands more migrants are missing and likely have perished. Even though Prevention Through Deterrence has killed thousands of people seeking a better life, it has failed to reduce the number of people attempting to find family, safety, or economic opportunities in the US.

But failure is apparently no reason for the US government to adopt a different approach. In fact, the Trump Administration has taken Prevention Through Deterrence to new levels.

All detained migrants are now receiving criminal charges, instead of civil charges. Why? To deter others from entering the US. This is a “one strike and you’re out” approach: no one with a US criminal conviction can ever apply for any type of visa.

Families fleeing threats of violence and presenting themselves to US authorities at Ports of Entry are being separated. Why? To deter others from entering the US. Parents are given criminal charges and are tried, convicted, and deported, sometimes after serving jail time either in immigration detention facilities or in federal prisons, while their children are placed into foster care or immigration shelters. Our government has yet to articulate how children will be reunited with their parents. Our government thinks that causing psychological harm to families is a legitimate tool to prevent migration.

And now the Trump Administration has instructed all immigration judges that only abuse by government actors can be considered grounds for asylum, reversing a policy adopted under the Obama Administration which said that persecution of classes of people that governments cannot protect is sufficient to claim asylum. Why? To deter others from entering the US. In addition, the decision from Sessions means that most asylum seekers who present themselves at the Ports of Entry can now be turned away by immigration officials; they would not even be able to make a case for asylum before an immigration judge. Tens of thousands of asylum seekers in the US now face a choice:  disappear from the radar or return home and face the threat of death.

This is not deterrence. This is a monstrous policy, inhumane and cruel.

What will you do to help stop the ever-increasing threats our government is making against some of the most vulnerable people in our midst? Will you lend your help to efforts almost certainly underway in your community, led by migrants or organizations closely aligned with migrants? Will you use your vote and your financial resources to support candidates who seek new and more humane policies? Will you learn more, perhaps by organizing a BorderLinks delegation? Will you become a migrant justice activist?

Lives hang in the balance.

ProPublica: BorderLinks recommends this news site

The independent newsroom ProPublica has a major focus on immigration, having published over 50 well-researched, hard-hitting articles on this topic to date. These are some of the best articles being written today about this issue, and BorderLinks highly recommends this source.  Recent stories include “Who polices the immigration police?” and “In Pennsylvania, it’s open season on undocumented immigrants.”  You’ll find all of the articles here.

·  “An investigation by ProPublica and the Philadelphia Inquirer found numerous cases in which ICE agents and police officers allegedly engaged in racial profiling, conducted warrantless searches, detained people without probable cause, fabricated evidence, and, in … one extreme instance, solicited a bribe. But in none of these cases have agents or officers been put on the stand to respond to the allegations.” (From “Who polices the immigration police?”)

·  “Since Trump’s election, the Suffolk County Police Department has stepped up its cooperation with ICE, targeting suspected MS-13 members for deportation. Shipping suspects back to Central America is easier and quicker than proving they have broken the law; even if suspects have committed no crime, ICE can petition to have their immigration bail revoked. In effect, it is a repeat of the same failed strategy that led to the creation of MS-13. The gang first spread to El Salvador from Los Angeles amid a wave of deportations in the1990s... Now, by deporting children who have come to America seeking escape from MS-13, the Trump administration is only intensifying the cycle that drove them here in the first place...” (From “A Betrayal”)

·  “Now that he had helped the police, Henry assumed his witness protection papers would be coming through any day. When he turned 18, he started telling friends and teachers he trusted that he would soon disappear to California. Then one morning in August, as Henry was making lunch for his shift at the toilet paper factory, the federales finally came for him. But they weren’t from the FBI or the witness protection program. They were from ICE. The same unit that Henry had helped to arrest members of MS-13 was now pursuing a deportation case against him, using the information he had provided as evidence.” (From “A Betrayal”)

Delegation for Individuals and Small Groups

Taryn Kearns participated in BorderLinks’ August 2017 Delegation for Individuals and Small Groups.  Normally BorderLinks works with pre-existing groups, but twice a year we offer an opportunity for individuals and groups of less than five to participate in a delegation.  Taryn  had heard about BorderLinks through a friend and believed it to be a great way to learn about issues she cares about.
 
“Being able to connect with people that were willing to express their stories, that is something I would have been able to do without BorderLinks,” she said.
 
Taryn reports her experience as “being challenging in a good way”. She met a variety of people with different personalities and perspectives and said that BorderLinks’ practice of creating brave spaces allowed people in the group to be vulnerable with each other. What Taryn liked most about her experience was being introduced to new perspectives on social justice issues, allowing her to further her own personal, academic, and professional goals.
 
In the half-year since her delegation experience, Taryn has maintained contact with people she met in a detention center visit, drawn on her BorderLinks experience in her graduate school studies, and led a BorderLinks peer-to-peer fundraising drive.
 
Taryn recommends that interested people participate in a Delegation for Individuals and Small Groups. “What BorderLinks experiential learning does is very powerful. There is no better way of learning something then putting yourself in the environment.”
 
Upcoming Delegations for Individuals and Small Groups take place August 6-10, 2018, and February 4-8, 2019. More information can be found here or by emailing info@borderlinks.org.

BorderLinks Community Fund

Community partners are essential to the BorderLinks experience, and BorderLinks has developed one more way to give back to those who give so much to us: the BorderLinks Community Fund.

Representatives of our community partners meet with BorderLinks delegations, taking time and energy from their regular duties. We give back to them in many ways, including this new Fund, which we expect will continue in future years. The Fund is available from the beginning of the fiscal year until funds run out and provides grants in two amounts, $500 and $200. We started the fiscal year (July 1st) with $4,000 in the Fund; at this point, $900 remains.

Among this year’s grants: 

  • Derechos Humanos: $500 for their Abuse Clinic, where undocumented people can receive advice about wage theft, landlord maltreatment, and other problems.
  • Indivisible Tohono and the Emerge! Center for Domestic Violence: $500 to help pay for meals during a 2-day workshop called “A Call to Men,” addressing domestic violence on the Tohono reservation.

More information about the BorderLinks community fund can be found here

Help Derik remove his monitoring bracelet

Derik Alvarez, who has told many BorderLinks delegations about his migration experience, can have his ankle monitoring bracelet removed if he pays 80% of his $12,000 bond.

BorderLinks invites your financial support for Derik, who left Honduras when gangs threatened his life and who was detained by the Border Patrol when he crossed into the U.S. to seek asylum.  He was released from detention on the condition that he wear the bracelet. He is required to pay a monthly fee of $420 for the bracelet, but if he raises $10,000, he can have the bracelet removed. A community member has pledged $4,600 towards that cost, and Derik is now attempting to raise the additional funds.

You can make a donation -- and read some of the harrowing events that transpired in his journey to seek safety in the US -- on his fundraising page.

BorderLinks summer internship

BorderLinks seeks a talented and energetic person who is interested in migrant justice to intern with us in the summer of 2018.

The primary duties of the summer intern will be to maintain the delegation follow-up program. In the course of that work, the intern will learn a great deal about BorderLinks, migration justice issues, and other Tucson-based organizations led by or working as allies with people directly impacted by border enforcement or immigration policies.
 
The internship is unpaid, but BorderLinks will provide housing and food or prepared meals at no cost in the BorderLinks dormitory.
 
The internship lasts a minimum of six weeks but can be longer if the intern wishes. Those weeks can take place at any point between the end of May and the middle of August. Read more about the internship on our jobs page.

Application deadline is March 1. To apply, send a cover letter and resume to employment@borderlinks.org.

BorderLinks delegation for individuals and small groups

Normally BorderLinks delegations are pre-existing groups of five or more people. But what about individuals or smaller groups? How can they take part in what BorderLinks offers? By joining our August delegation! 

The Delegation for Individuals and Small Groups will begin on Monday, August 6 and end on Friday, August 10. Participants will likely want to arrive the Sunday before and depart the Saturday after. 

The cost is $900 per person ($750 for delegates who sleep elsewhere – but we don’t recommend that option), not including travel to and from Tucson. Reduced rates are available. 

For more information, see our delegation information page. To reserve a space in the delegation, send an email to info@borderlinks.org.

Trump Administration ends protections for thousands

The decision this week to end Temporary Protected Status for 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants who have lived in the United States for many years -- even decades -- would leave them with no legal status.

This decision comes following the Trump administration's decisions to end TPS for Haitians and Nicaraguans and may indicate similar decisions lie in store for Hondurans and for others.  

Temporary Protected Status is a protection from deportation and authorization to live and work legally for nationals of countries that have suffered from war, epidemics, or natural disasters. TPS typically includes two-year protections, but it was extended by previous administrations due to conditions in those countries. But now the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claims that TPS depends on the original reason for designation, not current conditions. 

In the case of El Salvador, a serious of earthquakes led to the TPS designation in 2001. The administration says earthquake-related problems have been sufficiently resolved to terminate the protections. This view does not take into consideration current violence and economic conditions in El Salvador nor how ingrained in U.S. culture and society these Salvadorans have become. TPS protectees have until September 9, 2019 to find a different way to stay in the United States or prepare to leave, unless Congress acts to extend deportation protection.

Please call your congressional representative and senators (202 - 224 - 3121) and ask them to sign onto H.R.4253 - American Promise Act of 2017, introduced by Nydia Velasquez of New York, and S.2144 - SECURE Act introduced by Senators Van Hollen and Cardin of Maryland. Both pieces of legislation would grant further protection to the hundreds of thousands of people at risk of deportation due to the termination of TPS.

BorderLinks Fall Fundraising Campaign

Friends,

I arrived in Tucson a year and a half ago and immediately jumped into migrant justice work. I volunteer with Keep Tucson Together, helping people fill out citizenship applications. I volunteer with the Tucson Samaritans in efforts to prevent more people from dying in the treacherous journey across the Sonoran desert and am currently tracing a trail that appears to be heavily used and does not have water or food drops. But those efforts don't address the injustices that cause so many people to migrate in the first place. As Executive Director of BorderLinks, I am directing more of our resources towards efforts to building a national migrant justice movement, strengthening efforts to change the policies driving migration in the first place.

BorderLinks has been a vital part of migrant justice efforts since its conception in 1988. Since then, we have held fast to our mission of raising consciousness and inspiring action in the borderlands. Now we want to increase and improve our communication with delegates once they've returned home. To do this, we need to raise more revenue from individual donations. You can make a difference by donating to my fundraising campaign right now.

Help our campaign succeed. Your money goes to BorderLinks' unrestricted fund, which means the money can be used in a variety of ways. Our fundraiser this year is dedicated to strengthening the local and national migrant justice movement. We need to strengthen our relationships with local community migrant justice organizations like Mariposas Sin Fronteras and ScholarshipsA-Z, and we need to dedicate staff time and resources to see what has come of the actions delegations planned, and to connect delegations with migrant justice activists across the country.

I've made a donation to this campaign, and I invite you to do so as well. Click here to donate today. My fundraiser runs through November 10, with a goal of $10,000. While we need large donations, small ones are important too. Can you give $500? $100? $25? Give what you can and help strengthen the national migrant justice movement today.

Mil gracias,

Brian Best
Executive Director
brian@borderlinks.org