UPDATE: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily STAYED a federal court injunction of the Trump administration’s policy to keep migrants in Mexico as they wait for their asylum claims to be processed.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Trump administration asked an appeals court Friday to let it continue returning asylum seekers to Mexico, hours before a U.S. judge’s order was set to go into effect blocking the unprecedented change to the U.S. asylum process.
Judge Richard Seeborg’s ban was set to go into effect at 5 p.m. Pacific time, but the government has now asked an appeals court to keep the policy in place while it is litigated. It’s unclear when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would rule on the government’s request.
Either way, immigration attorneys who had argued the policy was putting the lives of asylum seekers at risk by forcing them to wait in violence-plagued Mexico said the ruling was already having an effect.
Since the judge issued his order, immigration officials stopped returning asylum seekers south of the border after they attended their hearings in the United States.
“I haven’t heard of anyone who’s been sent back since the judge’s order on Monday,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Judy Rabinovitz.
The order marked another defeat to President Donald Trump’s intent to radically alter U.S. immigration policies. Families seeking asylum typically have been released in the U.S. with notices to appear in court.
The new policy started in January at the nation’s busiest border crossing in San Diego and the government was starting to expand it.
At a hearing in El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday, Nicolas Palazzo, an attorney for Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, told a judge that his Salvadoran client feared returning to Mexico.
In similar cases in San Diego, Department of Homeland Security attorneys said authorities would interview the asylum seeker to determine if fears of Mexico were credible enough to avoid going back. But attorneys on Wednesday assured a judge that the man would remain in the United States, signaling a change ahead of Friday afternoon’s ban.
The Mexican government says more than 1,300 people were returned to Mexico under the program.
If the policy remains blocked, it’s unclear whether asylum seekers will have to wait until their next hearing date in U.S. courts to return to the United States, or if they will be allowed to simply appear at a border crossing before then, Rabinovitz said.
The order came after a lawsuit by 11 Central Americans and legal advocacy groups who argued the lives of asylum seekers were being put at risk by forcing them to stay in Mexico, where crime and drug violence are prevalent.
The judge agreed, saying the policy lacks sufficient protections to ensure migrants don’t face “undue risk to their lives or freedom.”
After the ruling, Trump tweeted that the ruling was “unfair to the U.S.”
The Trump administration says the policy responds to a crisis at the southern border that has overwhelmed the ability of immigration officials to detain migrants. Growing numbers of families are fleeing poverty and gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Attorneys representing asylum seekers say the government is ignoring the law to try and simply stop immigrants who have a legal right to be in the United States.
“These people are facing very serious dangers in Mexico — including the danger that they just might be sent back to their home country,” Rabinovitz said. “That’s not the way we should be treating asylum seekers. …. We’re glad the court is standing up to the Trump administration and saying ‘no, you’ve got to follow the law.’”
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Trump administration is asking an appeals court to let it continue returning asylum seekers to Mexico to await court hearings while it challenges a San Francisco judge’s order that would block the policy.
The government requested a stay with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to prevent the lower court order from taking effect Friday afternoon.
Judge Richard Seeborg ruled Monday in favor of civil liberties groups to halt the practice while their lawsuit moves forward challenging the policy. His order will take effect at 5 p.m. Friday unless a stay is issued.
Seeborg said the policy violates U.S. law by failing to adequately evaluate dangers migrants face in Mexico.
The government says Seeborg’s order is erroneous and endangers the public during a humanitarian crisis at the border.
Bernie Sanders, House Progressives Release Bill To Cancel Student Debt
WASHINGTON (AP) — Days before the first Democratic presidential debates, Sen. Bernie Sanders and House progressives rolled out legislation to cancel all student debt, going farther than a signature proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the two jockey for support from the party’s liberal base .
By canceling all student loans, Sanders says the proposal would address an economic burden for 45 million Americans. The key difference is that Warren’s plan considers the income of the borrowers, canceling $50,000 in debt for those earning less than $100,000 per year and affecting an estimated 42 million people in the U.S.
Questions face both candidates about how to pay for all of that plus their proposals for free tuition at public colleges and universities. But the battling ideas highlight the rivalry between senators who have made fighting economic inequality the cornerstones of their 2020 presidential campaigns.
Sanders vowed at a Monday news conference that his plan “completely eliminates student debt in this country and the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation, the millennial generation, to a lifetime of debt for the crime of doing the right thing. And that is going out and getting a higher education.” He appeared alongside the proposal’s House sponsors, Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten also in attendance.
His bill and Warren’s plan are part of their broader appeal to liberal voters on issues such as health care, technology and education.
That appeal is likely to be fleshed out this week during the first Democratic debates. Twenty candidates are set for the showdown, with Warren part of the lineup on Wednesday and Sanders appearing a day later. The events come as Warren appears to be cutting into Sanders’ support from the left.
Sanders’ effort at one-upmanship on student loans, named the College For All Act, would cancel $1.6 trillion of debt and save the average borrower about $3,000 a year, according to materials obtained by The Associated Press. The result would be a stimulus that allows millennials in particular to invest in homes and cars that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. It would cost $2.2 billion and be paid for — and then some — by a series of taxes on such things as stock trades, bonds and derivatives, according to the proposal.
The universal debt relief is designed partly around the idea that it would mostly benefit Americans who can’t afford college tuition without loans, according to a senior Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the legislation wasn’t yet public.
Warren’s plan, which she plans to introduce as legislation alongside Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., would be paid for by imposing a 2% fee on fortunes greater than $50 million. Warren projects the levy would raise $2.75 trillion over 10 years, enough to pay for a universal child-care plan, free tuition at public colleges and universities, and student loan debt forgiveness for an estimated 42 million Americans — with revenue left over. Critics say top earners would find ways around such penalties.
One key difference between Sanders’ and Warren’s plans is their differing treatment of high earners: Warren wrote that her plan would offer “no debt cancellation to people with household income above $250,000,” or the top 5%. Sanders would extend the benefit even to wealthy borrowers.
Asked on Monday about that decision, Sanders told reporters that he believes in “universality” and added: “In other areas we are going to demand that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share in taxes.”
Attorneys: Texas Border Facility Is Neglecting Migrant Kids
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A 2-year-old boy locked in detention wants to be held all the time. A few girls, ages 10 to 15, say they’ve been doing their best to feed and soothe the clingy toddler who was handed to them by a guard days ago. Lawyers warn that kids are taking care of kids, and there’s inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at the Border Patrol station.
The bleak portrait emerged Thursday after a legal team interviewed 60 children at the facility near El Paso that has become the latest place where attorneys say young migrants are describing neglect and mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. government.
Data obtained by The Associated Press showed that on Wednesday there were three infants in the station, all with their teen mothers, along with a 1-year-old, two 2-year-olds and a 3-year-old. There are dozens more under 12. Fifteen have the flu, and 10 more are quarantined.
Three girls told attorneys they were trying to take care of the 2-year-old boy, who had wet his pants and had no diaper and was wearing a mucus-smeared shirt when the legal team encountered him.
“A Border Patrol agent came in our room with a 2-year-old boy and asked us, ‘Who wants to take care of this little boy?’ Another girl said she would take care of him, but she lost interest after a few hours and so I started taking care of him yesterday,” one of the girls said in an interview with attorneys.
Law professor Warren Binford, who is helping interview the children, said she couldn’t learn anything about the toddler, not even where he’s from or who his family is. He is not speaking.
Binford described that during interviews with children in a conference room at the facility, “little kids are so tired they have been falling asleep on chairs and at the conference table.”
She said an 8-year-old taking care of a very small 4-year-old with matted hair couldn’t convince the little one to take a shower.
“In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,” said Holly Cooper, who co-directs University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth.
The lawyers inspected the facilities because they are involved in the Flores settlement, a Clinton-era legal agreement that governs detention conditions for migrant children and families. The lawyers negotiated access to the facility with officials, and say Border Patrol knew the dates of their visit three weeks in advance.
Many children interviewed had arrived alone at the U.S.-Mexico border, but some had been separated from their parents or other adult caregivers including aunts and uncles, the attorneys said.
Government rules call for the children to be held by the Border Patrol for no longer than 72 hours before they are transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services, which houses migrant youth in facilities around the country.
Government facilities are overcrowded and five immigrant children have died since late last year after being detained by Customs and Border Protection. A teenage mother with a premature baby was found last week in a Texas Border Patrol processing center after being held for nine days by the government.
In an interview this week with the AP, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders acknowledged that children need better medical care and a place to recover from their illnesses. He urged Congress to pass a $4.6 billion emergency funding package includes nearly $3 billion to care for unaccompanied migrant children.
He said that the Border Patrol is holding 15,000 people, and the agency considers 4,000 to be at capacity.
“The death of a child is always a terrible thing, but here is a situation where, because there is not enough funding … they can’t move the people out of our custody,” Sanders said.
The arrival of thousands of families and children at the border each month has not only strained resources but thrust Border Patrol agents into the role of caregivers, especially for the many migrant youth who are coming without parents.
But children at the facility in Clint, which sits amid the desert scrubland some 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of El Paso, say they have had to pick up some of the duties in watching over the younger kids.
A 14-year-old girl from Guatemala said she had been holding two little girls in her lap.
“I need comfort, too. I am bigger than they are, but I am a child, too,” she said.
Children told lawyers that they were fed oatmeal, a cookie and a sweetened drink in the morning, instant noodles for lunch and a burrito and cookie for dinner. There are no fruits or vegetables. They said they’d gone weeks without bathing or a clean change of clothes.
A migrant father, speaking on condition of anonymity because of his immigration status, told AP Thursday that authorities separated his daughter from her aunt when they entered the country. The girl would be a second grader in a U.S. school.
He had no idea where she was until Monday, when one of the attorney team members visiting Clint found his phone number written in permanent marker on a bracelet she was wearing. It said “U.S. parent.”
“She’s suffering very much because she’s never been alone. She doesn’t know these other children,” said her father.
Republican Congressman Will Hurd, whose district includes Clint, said “tragic conditions” playing out on the southern border were pushing government agencies, nonprofits and Texas communities to the limit.
“This latest development just further demonstrates the immediate need to reform asylum laws and provide supplemental funding to address the humanitarian crisis at our border,” he said.
Dr. Julie Linton, who co-chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics Immigrant Health Special Interest Group, said CBP stations are not an appropriate place to hold children.
“Those facilities are anything but child friendly,” said Dr. Julie Linton. “That type of environment is not only unhealthy for children but also unsafe.”
The Trump administration has been scrambling to find new space to hold immigrants as it faces criticism that it’s violating the human rights of migrant children by keeping so many of them detained.
San Francisco psychoanalyst Gilbert Kliman, who has evaluated about 50 children and parents seeking asylum, says the trauma is causing lasting damage.
“The care of children by children constitutes a betrayal of adult responsibility, governmental responsibility,” he said.
Train Derails Near Nevada-Utah Line, Closing Interstate
WELLS, Nev. (AP) — A 60-mile stretch (96 kilometers) of U.S. Interstate 80 in northeast Nevada has been closed while emergency crews respond to a train derailment. Authorities were investigating whether any hazardous materials were aboard the train.
There’s been no immediate report of injuries.
Nevada Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meg Ragonese says the interstate was closed along the Utah state line shortly after the derailment was reported at about 11 a.m. Wednesday.
A dispatcher at the Elko County Sheriff’s Office says rail cars containing military munitions are on the train, but not near the site of the actual derailment.
Ragonese says interstate traffic is being rerouted.
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