Trump May Shake Up Refugee Office Amid Caravan Furor

Lynn Johnson, a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the refugee resettlement program, is conducting a “top to bottom” review of the program, three months after the migrant crisis paralyzed the agency.

The Trump administration is eyeing a shake-up of its refugee operation and scrutinizing its controversial director as President Trump steps up his call for another crackdown along the U.S.-Mexico border, Politico reports. Lynn Johnson, a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the refugee resettlement program, is conducting what she called a “top to bottom” review of the program, three months after the migrant crisis paralyzed the agency. That includes examining the leadership of Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Lloyd gained attention for his efforts to prevent teen migrants from getting abortions. Johnson’s review has taken on new urgency as Trump rails against the caravan of Central Americans heading across southern Mexico toward the U.S. border. The group has swelled to more than 5,000 people. “It’s a horrible thing. And it’s a lot bigger than 5,000 people,” Trump said on Monday. “And we got to stop them at the border.”

The refugee resettlement office came under fire last summer after the White House and the Homeland Security Department began separating families at the border. The health department was responsible for caring for separated children, and then for trying to reunite them with their families under a court order. Facing a public outcry over the children’s plight, HHS Secretary Alex Azar removed Lloyd from day-to-day operations. Azar has empowered Johnson, a longtime Colorado human services official, to make changes at the refugee office. At the height of the crisis, the HHS refugee office was caring for more than 2,000 migrant children that the Trump administration separated from their families at the border. Nearly 250 children separated at the border still remained in HHS custody as of last week. About 13,000 other migrant children also are in agency custody — the highest number ever.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Immigration Issue Key to Trump’s Strategy of Fear

The president is focusing on a caravan of 5,000 migrants traveling north to cross the U.S. border, a group he has darkly characterized as gang members, violent criminals and “unknown Middle Easterners” — a claim for which his administration has provided no concrete evidence.

President Trump has settled on a strategy of fear — laced with falsehoods and racially tinged rhetoric — to help lift his party to victory in the coming midterms, the Washington Post reports. Trump’s messaging offers an apocalyptic vision of the country, which he warns will only get worse if Democrats retake control of Congress. The president has been especially focused on a caravan of 5,000 migrants traveling north to cross the U.S. border, a group he has darkly characterized as gang members, violent criminals and “unknown Middle Easterners” — a claim for which his administration has so far provided no concrete evidence. “You’re going to find MS-13, you’re going to find Middle Eastern, you’re going to find everything. And guess what? We’re not allowing them in our country,” Trump said. “We want safety.”

The approach in many ways seeks to re-create the 2016 playbook that lifted Trump to the presidency, in which cultural flash points and controversies, like the specter of mass illegal migration, helped energize Trump’s supporters. The president believes his best contrast with Democrats is on immigration and is looking for a way to keep the issue in the news until the midterms, advisers said. Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy adviser who has long espoused hard-line immigration policies, is one of the chief authors of Trump’s rally messages, though the president often goes further than his prepared remarks. Unlike two years ago, Republicans are now more eagerly following the president’s cues, including in their own campaign rhetoric and ads. The overall strategy, Trump advisers and political operatives said, is to paint a portrait of a chaotic, dangerous world — with Trump and Republicans as the panacea.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Tech Firms Amazon, Palantir Key to Immigration Enforcement

A report commissioned by advocacy groups finds that tech companies, including Amazon and Palantir, are of special importance to immigration authorities “due to their involvement at multiple points in the profiling, tracking and apprehension of undocumented persons.”

A new report commissioned by advocacy groups finds that tech companies, including Amazon and Palantir, are of special importance to immigration authorities “due to their involvement at multiple points in the profiling, tracking and apprehension of undocumented persons,” Axios reports.

Contracts between major tech companies and immigration enforcers have drawn attention from the companies’ employees, some of whom object to playing a role in the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown. The report was backed by Mijente, the National Immigration Project, and the Immigrant Defense Project and produced by Empower LLC, an outside research firm.

It says that, “Recent changes in policy and contracting at ICE have heightened the importance of two key tech companies: Amazon, as the primary cloud service provider for the agency, and Palantir, as a provider of case management that can be integrated with key DHS fusion centers and local and state law enforcement agencies.

The report describes how the companies work with immigration authorities: Palantir provides “management and analysis software for local, regional and federal law enforcement, including key ICE systems” and Department of Homeland Security facilities in California. Amazon hosts “numerous state and federal data systems key to immigration enforcement, including Palantir’s Integrated Case Management system at ICE,” the report says, and works with state and local law enforcement that feed into DHS systems.

Winning government contracts typically requires authorizations for handling government data in the cloud, and Amazon has far more of those than many of its competitors. “[Amazon] has made wide use of these authorizations, serving as DHS’s database for immigration case management systems and biometric data for 230 million unique identities, mostly fingerprint records, as well as 36.5 million face records and 2.8 million irises,” said Mijente in a blog post.

from https://thecrimereport.org

AZ Immigrant Activist Arrested in Mexican Caravan

At least 5,000 migrants from Central America illegally crossed into Mexico from Guatemala. President Trump has condemned the caravan and has threatened to send the military to shut down the southern border if Mexico doesn’t stop it before it reaches the U.S.

An immigrant activist from Phoenix has been arrested in southern Mexico while taking part in a large caravan of several thousand migrants from Central America headed for the U.S. border, the Arizona Republic reports. Irineo Mujica was one of the organizers of last spring’s migrant caravan that prompted President Trump to order the deployment of National Guard troops to the border. Mujica was arrested Ciudad Hidalgo in the Mexican state of Chiapas after the latest caravan made up of at least 5,000 migrants from Central America illegally crossed into Mexico from Tecun Umam, Guatemala. Video on Twitter and Facebook showed Mexican federal police and immigration authorities roughly pulling Mujica out of a crowd of migrants, walking him away and then shoving him into a white van.

Mujica was not involved in organizing the most recent caravan, said Alex Mensing, on organizer with Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the binational group that organized last spring’s caravan. He was there to help coordinate humanitarian assistance after the caravan ballooned in size and approached Mexico, Mensing said. Mujica was jailed and has been charged with obstructing authorities, according to information distributed to media outlets on WhatsApp, a messaging app. In a series of Tweets, Trump has condemned the caravan and has threatened to send the military to shut down the southern border if Mexico doesn’t stop it before it reaches the U.S. Trump has also threatened to withhold billions of dollars in U.S. aid to the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras unless the governments of those countries take steps to stop the caravan.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump Threatens Military Call-Up to Close Mexican Border

The president expressed mounting frustration with a large caravan of migrants from Honduras that has been making its way toward the U.S. The number of migrant parents entering the U.S. has surged to record levels in the three months since President Trump ended family separations at the border.

President Trump threatened Thursday to summon the military to close the U.S.-Mexico border and upend a trade deal, expressing mounting frustration with a large caravan of migrants from Honduras that has been making its way toward the U.S., the Washington Post reports. Trump repeated vows to halt U.S. aid to Central American countries that do not disband the caravan and issued a fresh threat to the Mexican government, which said that it would treat those in the caravan no differently than it does other migrants. “I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught – and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!” Trump said in one tweet.

His comments come as Trump has been urging fellow Republicans to make immigration a central issue in the closing weeks of their midterm election campaigns and blaming Democrats for his failure to pass immigration legislation in the GOP-controlled Congress. Trump warned that the latest group of immigrants includes “MANY CRIMINALS.” The number of migrant parents entering the U.S. has surged to record levels in the three months since President Trump ended family separations at the border, dealing the administration a deepening crisis three weeks before the midterm elections. Border Patrol agents arrested 16,658 family members in September, the highest one-month total on record and an 80 percent increase from July. Large groups of 100 or more Central American parents and children have been crossing the Rio Grande and the deserts of Arizona to turn themselves in, and after citing a fear of return, the families are typically assigned a court date and released from custody. “We’re getting hammered daily,” said one Border Patrol agent in South Texas.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Immigrants Without Criminal Records In Fear of ICE Arrests

From January to October 2017, ICE arrested 37,670 people who had no criminal convictions. That’s a 125 percent increase from the year before, when ICE arrested 16,673 people with no criminal convictions.

When Nak Kim “Rickie” Chhoeun arrived at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office in Los Angeles last October, he thought it would be a routine check-in. Instead, he was arrested and detained for six months, unsure whether he would ever see his family, friends or apartment again. Chhoeun, 43, is one of the nearly 12 million people in the U.S. who are looking over their shoulders for ICE, the Guardian reports. ICE agents show up announced at workplaces, door steps and courthouses, ready to arrest anyone without legal papers and send them through the agency’s detention centers and back to the country they came from.

A year after his arrest, Chhoeun has learned that under Trump life is dramatically different for the millions of other undocumented people, just like him, who have spent decades building lives in the U.S. “I’m actually living like I’m still locked up because any minute they could come and pick me up and deport me,” says Chhoeun, who came to the U.S. as a Cambodian refugee in 1981. Five days after taking office, Trump signed an order that effectively stopped ICE from prioritizing criminals for deportation. Instead, they are now going after all the estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. at once – drawing little distinction between hardened criminals and productive community members who have started businesses, bought homes and paid taxes. Lawyers and advocates said a “papers, please” mentality has led to ICE targeting more people at sensitive locations such as schools and hospitals, more vulnerable populations and more people eligible for immigration relief. From January to October 2017, ICE arrested 37,670 people who had no criminal convictions, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. That’s a 125 percent increase from the year before, when ICE arrested 16,673 people with no criminal convictions.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The ‘Assembly-Line Justice System’ of Federal Border Cases

The Guardian analyzed more than 3,500 criminal cases filed by border district federal prosecutors during a single week of the Trump administration’s tolerance policy and found thousands of hastily accepted guilty pleas.

In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told federal prosecutors along the U.S.-Mexico border “to adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy” for violations of a federal law barring “improper entry” into the U.S. Over the next six weeks, 2,654 children were taken from their parents or guardians in order to fulfill the mandate that they be prosecuted for a criminal misdemeanor. As of September 27, 219 children whose parents had already been deported remained in government custody. Zero tolerance pushed serious fraud, drugs and weapons trafficking offences out of the courtroom to make way for the flood of people whose only crime was crossing the border, The Guardian reports. Between March and June, federal prosecutions referred by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the five districts along the south-west border rose by 74 percent, from 6,368 to 11,086.

The Guardian analyzed more than 3,500 criminal cases filed by border district federal prosecutors during a single week of the zero tolerance policy, May 13-19. The conclusion: Zero tolerance churned thousands of migrants through an assembly-line justice system with copy-and-paste criminal complaints converted to hastily accepted guilty pleas. Just 12.8 percent of the criminal cases filed by federal prosecutors were for serious crimes like corruption, fraud and trafficking. Sentence lengths for migrants charged with the same crimes varied dramatically depending on the state where they were arrested. Four months after thousands were charged, only 23 people continue to fight their cases. The overwhelming majority have pleaded guilty, and only one case has actually gone to trial, where the defendant was found guilty. “I don’t think this is really about justice anymore,” said Cesar Pierce, a New Mexico defense attorney who represented 18 cases in the sample. “Justice really factors very little into it.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Chicago: DOJ Won’t Release Aid in Immigration Dispute

Chicago says U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions still refuses to release millions in federal policing funds because the city will not cooperate with the Trump administration’s immigration policies, despite a nationwide injunction declaring such withholding unconstitutional.

Chicago contends that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions still refuses to release millions in federal policing funds because the city will not cooperate with the Trump administration’s immigration policies, despite a nationwide injunction declaring such withholding unconstitutional, reports Courthouse News Service. The Justice Department still has not released 2017 federal funds earmarked for law enforcement to Chicago under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, and the city has not received an award letter for 2018 because its “welcoming city” policies do not align with the Trump administration’s demands that it help the federal government detain undocumented immigrants, says to a complaint filed Friday in Chicago federal court.

“Chicago has repeatedly beaten the Trump Justice Department in court, and Chicago is proud to fight the Trump Justice Department again,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Instead of inviting lawsuits and attacking immigrants, the Trump DOJ should immediately stop placing illegal conditions on these grants, quit withholding grant funding, and allow Chicago to use these grants to improve public safety. We will not be bullied, intimidated or coerced into making a false choice between our values as a welcoming city and the principles of community policing.” The city says it has not received $2 million in 2017 Byrne Grant funds, despite victories in court, or $3 million owed for a 2017 COPS Hiring award. Last year, Sessions said DOJ would no longer award $385 million in grants to cities and states that refuse to help federal agents detain undocumented immigrants at local jails. Chicago sued over the move last fall. Federal courts in Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco have  declared unconstitutional Sessions’ attempt to punish so-called sanctuary cities for refusing to enforce federal immigration laws by withholding federal funds for policing and other criminal justice programs.

from https://thecrimereport.org

500 Border Workers Charged With Crimes in Two Years

More than 500 employees of the Customs and Border Protection agency were charged with drug trafficking, accepting bribes and a range of other crimes in 2016 and 2017, agency reports show.

More than 500 employees of the main federal border security agency were charged with drug trafficking, accepting bribes and a range of other crimes over a two-year period, the New York Times reports. Reports on the charges released by Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Human Resource Management and its Office of Professional Responsibility, covered the years 2016 and 2017. The most common arrests related to misconduct involving drugs or alcohol; 109 employees faced those kinds of charges in 2016, and 119 in 2017. Domestic or family misconduct was the second most common reason for the arrest of border agency employees — 51 in 2017, up from 44 the previous year.

Customs and Border Protection has a budget of over $15 billion and is the parent agency of the Border Patrol. It employs more than 60,000 people, making it the largest single U.S. law enforcement agency. Agency officials said the release of the annual reports underscores their commitment to transparency and swift actions to weed out employees who violate the law or internal policies. Customs and Border Protection has been accused of using excessive force against migrants. In 2017, the reports showed, the agency opened 252 cases involving use of force by border agents, down from 338 in 2016. Twelve excessive force cases last year resulted in the serious injury or the death of an individual, down from 23 in 2016. Several high-profile acts of violence this year by Border Patrol agents around Laredo, Tx., focused national attention on the agency. Last month, an agent who had worked at the Border Patrol for 10 years was charged with killing four women and assaulting a fifth over a two-week period. Agent Juan David Ortiz, 35, was arrested after fleeing Texas state troopers who had confronted him at a gas station; he was found hiding in a hotel parking garage.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump May Restart Family Separation to Control Border

A ‘binary choice’ option is for the government to detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days, then give parents a choice — lengthy stays in family detention with their children as their case proceeds, or allow children to be taken to a government shelter so other guardians can seek custody.

The White House is considering plans that could again separate parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border, hoping to reverse soaring numbers of families attempting to cross illegally into the U.S., the Washington Post reports. One option is for the government to detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days, then give parents a choice — stay in family detention with their child for months or years as their immigration case proceeds, or allow children to be taken to a government shelter so other relatives or guardians can seek custody. That option — called “binary choice” — is one of several under consideration amid the president’s frustration over border security

President Trump has been unable to fulfill key promises to build a border wall and end “catch and release,” a process begun under past administrations in which most detained families are quickly freed to await immigration hearings. The number of family members arrested and charged with illegally crossing the border jumped 38 percent in August and is at a record level. Officials say they are not planning to revive the chaotic forced separations carried out in May and June that spawned a political backlash and led to a court order to reunite families. White House adviser Stephen Miller is advocating for tougher measures, saying the springtime separations worked as an effective deterrent to illegal crossings. At least 2,500 children were taken from their parents over six weeks. Crossings by families declined slightly in May, June and July before surging again in August. September numbers are expected to be higher. “Career law enforcement professionals in the U.S. government are working to analyze and evaluate options that would protect the American people, prevent the horrific actions of child smuggling, and stop drug cartels from pouring into our communities,” said deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley.

from https://thecrimereport.org