Immigration
October 2, 2019

The U.S. government wants to start collecting DNA from detained immigrants to include in a national criminal database, senior Department of Homeland Security officials told reporters on Wednesday.

The database is maintained by the FBI and used by law enforcement authorities as they attempt to identify suspects. DNA is usually collected from people who have been arrested, charged, or convicted of major crimes.

The Justice Department is working on a federal regulation that gives immigration officers authorization to collect DNA from migrants at detention facilities containing more than 40,000 people, The New York Times reports. Under these new rules, the government would also be able to collect DNA from kids and asylum seekers who cross the border at legal ports of entry.

"That kind of mass collection alters the purpose of DNA collection from one of criminal investigation basically to population surveillance, which is basically contrary to our basic notions of a free, trusting, autonomous society," Vera Eidelman, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, told the Times. Collecting genetic material would also have ramifications for family members of the immigrants who are U.S. citizens or have legal residence, she added. Catherine Garcia

September 17, 2019

The United States wants Cuban migrants who pass through Honduras to seek asylum there, rather than in the U.S., Honduran Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales said Tuesday.

Rosales told reporters that over the last year, thousands of Cubans have made their way through Honduras, headed to the United States. Negotiations are ongoing between the U.S. and Honduras on what to do about migrants, and "one of the topics discussed in the deal with the United States is precisely that if Cuban migrants are interested in seeking political asylum ... they do so in Honduras," Rosales said.

Looking for ways to stop the flow of migrants to the U.S., the Trump administration has worked out an agreement with Guatemala, so migrants headed toward the United States can first apply for asylum there. The Guatemalan government has not yet ratified this deal. Thousands of Hondurans and Guatemalans are leaving their countries every year for the United States, fleeing poverty and violence. Catherine Nichols

July 1, 2019

Several posts in a secret Facebook group provide a troubling behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of Border Patrol agents, ProPublica reports.

The group, called "I'm 10-15," is meant to serve as a forum for "funny" and "serious" discussion about work with the patrol for roughly 9,500 former and current agents. But ProPublica received images of several recent inappropriate discussions on the page.

The content includes one member encouraging agents to throw a burrito at Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) during their planned visit to a border facility near El Paso, conspiracy theories about the drowning of a father and daughter who were trying to enter the United States, jokes about deceased migrants, and a vulgar illustration depicting Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, was reportedly angered by the Facebook discussions. "It confirms some of the worst criticisms of Customs and Border Protection," Castro said. "These are clearly agents who are desensitized to the point of being dangerous to migrants and their co-workers." Read more at ProPublica. Tim O'Donnell

May 19, 2019

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told host Margaret Brennan on Sunday's Face the Nation that, yes, his organization is relocating migrants to sanctuary cities. But it's not part of President Trump's self-described "sick idea" to anger those cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Instead, McAleenan said the transport efforts are based on "necessity and capacity" to safely process the migrants. For example, due to overcrowding at facilities in Texas, the agency has begun flying hundreds of migrants to San Diego to increase efficiency. While several of the cities and states that will take in the relocated migrants are, in fact, "sanctuaries," McAleenan said that their selection was not intentional or politically motivated.

But not everyone's buying it. While not responding directly to McAleenan's comments, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) later told Brennan that he thinks the Trump administration is sticking to the sanctuary city idea with the intention of sending migrants to states they "don't care about," implying that it is, indeed, politically motivated. He said that the only reason White House backed out of a decision to send migrants to Florida cities is because the state's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, called the idea "unacceptable." Tim O'Donnell

April 13, 2019

A federal appeals court in California on Friday temporarily blocked a judge's order that would have halted the Trump administration from returning asylum seekers to Mexico.

The decision follows the White House's emergency motion filing on Thursday to allow the government to continue forcing migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum cases remained under review. On Monday, Judge Richard Seeborg ruled in favor of three civil liberties groups suing the government over the practice.

His ruling would have put a stop to it on Friday, but the appeals court has now set a Tuesday deadline for the groups to submit arguments as to why the order blocking the Trump administration should take effect. The Trump administration, meanwhile, will have until Wednesday to argue why the policy should remain in place.

Per NBC News, since the policy was implemented in January, 1,323 Central American migrants have been returned to Mexico, including 308 families and 428 children under the age of 18. Tim O'Donnell

April 13, 2019

A court settlement announced on Friday will allow up to 2,700 children in Central America to reunite with their parents living under protected status in the United States.

The settlement follows a lawsuit that challenged the Trump administration's 2017 decision to end a program that began in 2014 and allowed children living in Central America to reunite with their parents residing legally in the United States. The case was brought against the government by 12 children and parent applicants to the program. Under the terms of the settlement, which must be approved by a judge, the government must finish processing the children who were in the final stages of their applications when the program was ended.

"We are so pleased that after many years apart our clients will finally have the opportunity to reunite with each other in safety," said attorney Linda Evarts, who works for the International Refugee Assistance Project, which represented the plaintiffs.

The government reportedly anticipates most applicants will be approved and allowed to travel to the United States. Tim O'Donnell

April 7, 2019

The Trump administration says it may need up to two years to find potentially thousands of children who were separated from their parents at the southern border when the White House was operating under a "zero tolerance" policy, prosecuting all those who crossed the border illegally before a judge put an end to the practice last year.

In a court filing on Friday, the Department of Justice said that it will take at least one year to review about 47,000 cases of unaccompanied minors taken into government custody between July 1, 2017 and June 25, 2018. But the task is expected to be difficult, especially because the children are no longer in government custody. Per The Associated Press, the government will prioritize locating and reuniting children who are not currently living with relatives.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued to reunite families separated at the border, criticized the government's timeline.

"The government was able to quickly gather resources to tear these children away from their families and now they need to gather the resources to fix the damage," Lee Galernt, the ACLU's lead attorney, said. Tim O'Donnell

March 31, 2019

The Trump administration followed through on a plan to cut aid to three countries in Central America on Saturday, just one day after President Trump threatened to close America's southern border next week.

The State Department announced it would no longer send aid — which estimates predict would total somewhere between $500 million and $700 million — to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras as punishment for the large amount of migrants leaving those countries to go north to the United States. Trump has accused the nations of having "set up" migrant caravans.

The State Department, however, said it would "engage Congress in the process" of ending the funding, likely signaling that it will need congressional approval to do so.

Per BBC, aid advocates argue the best way to curb migration is to address the root causes in the country of origin — that is, stimulate economic activity and help reduce violence. Adrian Beltrán, a director of citizen security at the Washington Office of Latin America human rights group, told The New York Times that the Trump administration's decision is akin to "shooting yourself in the foot."

Several Democratic members of Congress have already condemned the announcement, such as Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who called it "reckless." Tim O'Donnell

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