The Monitor by Alicia A. Caldwell and Christopher Sherman (AP)
McALLEN (AP) — A federal judge in Brownsville said in a recent order that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is assisting in criminal conspiracies to smuggle children into the country when it helps reunite them with parents who are known to be in the U.S. illegally.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen made the comments in a 10-page order last Friday, at the conclusion of an immigrant smuggling case. Hanen expressed his frustration in having four cases in which a child who arrived in the U.S. illegally alone was reunited with a parent who was herself in the country illegally pass through his court in the past month.
In the most recent case, Hanen sentenced a smuggler to 10 months in prison. But he saved his most withering words for the U.S. government for not arresting and deporting the mother who hired the smuggler.
The order doesn't have the power to change policy, but it offers harsh criticism from a judge who regularly handles border issues but isn't known for being outspoken on immigration.
The case involved a woman who was arrested at an international bridge in Brownsville trying to use her daughter's birth certificate to smuggle in a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador. The girl was then reunited with her mother who was living illegally in Virginia.
"Instead of arresting (the child's mother) for instigating the conspiracy to violate our border security laws, the DHS delivered the child to her — thus successfully completing the mission of the criminal conspiracy," Hanen wrote.
Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in a prepared statement that the agency follows the laws when dealing with unaccompanied minors.
"DHS screens unaccompanied alien children for human trafficking, notifies the proper authorities, and then transfers children into the custody of Health and Human Services," she said.
The U.S. government for years has made it a priority to reunite unaccompanied children with parents regardless of their immigration status while awaiting their cases in immigration courts. Hanen's order did not mention that the children remain in deportation proceedings after they are reunited with their parents. Sending them to family members in the U.S. gets them out of government-funded shelters, which have been overwhelmed.
In recent years, the number of children apprehended by U.S. authorities without their parents has skyrocketed.
Between 2008 and 2011, the number of unaccompanied minors who landed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, fluctuated between 6,000 and 7,500 per year. That number shot up to 13,625 in 2012 and surged even more — to 24,668 — this year. Those figures do not include thousands of Mexican children who are routinely returned to that country through coordination with its consulates at the border.
The issue received national attention last year, when about 100 children were temporarily housed in a barracks at a U.S. Air Force base in San Antonio because sufficient beds weren't available in the shelter network.
Most of the children come from Central America. Nonprofit agencies that help provide the children legal representation say widespread violence perpetrated by gangs and drug cartels in their home countries are prompting more children to strike out on the dangerous journey north.
"It's not necessarily just because a family member is here and a family member is facilitating their travel to reunify," said Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense, a nonprofit organization that coordinates pro bono legal representation for unaccompanied children in the immigration system. "It's typically because the child is really compelled to leave the country because of conditions in the home country."
Hanen has been on the federal court since 2002, after being nominated by President George W. Bush. He spent several years handling the federal government's land condemnation cases to build the border fence, many times compelling government lawyers to slow down and take necessary procedural steps.
Hanen's Dec. 13 order said that when he brought up his concerns with federal prosecutors they referred him to a 1997 case Flores v. Reno, a settlement of which laid out guidelines for how the government would deal with unaccompanied minors. He said there's nothing in that agreement to keep the government from trying to deport parents who are in the country illegally and hired smugglers to bring their children.
The judge pointed out the incredible dangers for migration through Mexico. Human smuggling is a lucrative business controlled by organized crime groups — the same cartels that smuggle drugs into the U.S. By helping kids get to their parents in the U.S., Hanen says the government is providing additional customers, and thus revenue, to the cartels and putting children at risk.
Young said the so-called Flores agreement was put in place for a reason.
"What are the alternatives, locking kids into facilities for months and months?" Young said. "You have to look at the issue also from a child welfare perspective and what's good for the child."
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiary, Josue Alberto Rodriguez was allowed to return to the United States last week. He entered Mexico by mistake on August 12, 2013, while trying to pick up his sister at the border.
Good work by El Paso attorney Carlos Spector who was able to facilitate Rodriguez's return.
There is no denying that Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has a vivid imagination. As he sits in Border Patrol vehicles at night, he apparently sees hundreds of DREAM Act-eligible drug mules with muscular calves hauling heavy loads of marijuana across the border. How does he know these drug mules would meet the rather stringent criteria for legalization under the DREAM Act? Hard to say. How does he know these drug mules outnumber their valedictorian counterparts by a ratio of one hundred to one? No one can say. What is certain is this: when it comes to the topic of immigration and crime, nativists like King have no need for facts when there is so much fear and innuendo at their disposal. Perhaps this is because the facts are so stacked against them.
As numerous studies over the past 100 years have shown, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are not associated with higher rates of crime.
As King’s tales of riding with the Border Patrol illustrate, advocates of the nativist cause usually rely upon anecdotes to support their oft-repeated claim that immigrants, especially unauthorized immigrants, are dangerous criminals. This mythical claim is usually based on rhetorical sleight of hand in which individual stories of crimes committed by immigrants are presented as “proof” that we must restrict immigration in general or “get tough” on all of the unauthorized in order to save the lives of U.S. citizens. While these kinds of arguments are emotionally powerful, they are intellectually dishonest. Anecdotes are not the same as evidence, and sound public policy is based on hard data, not storytelling prowess.
Texas Tribune Guest Column by Beto O'Rourke U.S. representative from El Paso makes the case that the provisions in the current Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill that militarize the Mexican border are not good for the U.S., Texas or our border communities.
I am pleased that we are closer to comprehensive immigration reform, but I am concerned that key border security provisions in the Senate bill will harm the border and, by extension, Texas and the rest of the nation.
Throwing another $46 billion in taxpayer dollars toward so-called border security, including more walls and untested technology and doubling the size of the Border Patrol, will have profound consequences for the city I represent, El Paso, and the entire state. If you want a jobs bill for the defense contractors that will build the wall and deploy various technologies, the Senate bill is for you. If you want a truly secure border, the Senate bill needs a lot of work.
Officials have noticed an unusual trend along the border recently: more undocumented immigrants turning themselves in. Though the exact cause is unclear, some say the sequester might have something to do with it.
The growing importance of “multimodal” biometrics in the security field -- in which more than one biometric method is used to capture identifying information about the same individual – is demonstrated by an important 60-day pilot program has just been launched by DHS at a U.S. Border Patrol facility in McAllen, TX.
The biometrics team at US-VISIT, which is part of DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), began on July 31 what it calls a “limited production pilot” to test the efficiency, speed and operational effectiveness of two different types of iris recognition equipment as well as two different types of facial recognition gear. Using these biometric systems, Border Patrol employees will capture images of approximately 200 alleged illegal aliens per day (or about 12,000 aliens during the course of the two-month pilot), explained Will Graves, the chief biometric engineer helping to oversee the US-VISIT project. While the results from the facial recognition portion are important, Graves told GSN at a biometrics conference in New York City on August 1, “We are focusing primarily on iris recognition.”
On March 7, 2012, the Republican incumbent District 56 Representative Charles "Doc" Anderson and the challenger, Chistopher DeCluitt, participated in a debate in Waco at University High School. They discussed several questions that deal with immigration:
(1) In-state tuition for undocumented students (4:15-7:41). If the law were up for a vote again, Chris DeCluitt would vote against the in-state tuition law as it is now because he has concerns about the ability to verify 3 year residence for students to qualify. Mr. Anderson supports the law as it is (I think).
(2) Border Security (34:56-38:30). This was a broad question that included what should be done with the undocumented that are on this side of the border. Neither candidate addressed the undocumented question but both focused on Border Security. Mr. Anderson emphasized the increased funding and resources that Texas has spent on border security under Governor Perry. Mr. DeCluitt is of the opinion that Texas should let the federal government secure the border and that the resources should be redirected to fight the drug crime that occurs on the Texas-Mexico border.
When the Obama administration announced in December that it would draw down the number of National Guard units that patrol the southern border, critics said the decision would leave Texas vulnerable to spillover violence from Mexico.
The administration, which last month reduced the number of guard troops on the border from 1,200 to about 300, defended the move as a step toward better efficiency. The mission of the guardsmen was shifted from ground surveillance and assisting the U.S. Border Patrol to primarily aerial surveillance efforts.
But as the debate on how to best secure the border with Mexico continues, a new government report says that the use of National Guard troops on the border can hinder recruitment efforts and pose a challenge to long-term border security planning.
The report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, also says that the presence of active duty guards on the border may lead to the perception that the border is militarized, which could hinder binational agreements between the U.S. and Mexico aimed at fighting organized crime on the border.
Officials also cited benefits associated with the effort, including filling in personnel gaps until potential Border Patrol agents were trained and deployed, and providing necessary training for military personnel in an environment similar to those they would see in combat and helping to build relationships with other law enforcement agencies.
Inhee Park's comfortable, middle-class life a world away in South Korea was shattered by gunfire at a Houston apartment complex early in the morning after the Independence Day celebrations of 2008.
His son Dominic, a student at the University of Houston, was returning home when two young men robbed him of his wallet and car keys, shot him in the throat and left him for dead in the parking lot.
Dominic survived, barely, but was left paralyzed from the chest down and unable to care for himself.
His parents rushed to his side. They sold their condominium in Seoul and their cars and dipped deeply into their savings to pay for Dominic's enormous medical bills. For nearly four years, they have crisscrossed the Pacific Ocean every six months to keep their tourist visas valid so they can provide the round-the-clock care their son requires.
He was deported back to Korea on the next flight and has not yet been able to obtain a new visa.
Inhee Park, a former executive in a Seoul printing company, was Dominic's heavy lifter. He wrestled his son's 6-foot, 200-pound body in and out of bed. He picked him up and settled him in his wheelchair, loaded him in the car to take him to his appointments with his doctors, helped him with the bodily functions a 28-year-old man should be able to perform on his own.