Tag Archives: central america

Update on Refugee Situation and Opportunities

LUPE, the Rio Grande Valley group who called for a Facebook bomb of Wendy Davis’ FB page, has pulled its call after a letter from Davis to President Barack Obama was released.

In the letter was a call by Davis for the Obama administration to provide more attorneys guardian ad litem to ensure fair legal representation of the refugee children while they go through the process.

“First, by [the administration] providing a sufficient number of immigration judges and attorneys guardian ad litem for unaccompanied minor children immediately. This will assure a sufficient number of judges and ad litems so that adults and children processed by the border patrol will receive an immediate and fair hearing on their immigration requests and, where appropriate, be repatriated to their native country.”

This is different than the letter she sent to Rick Perry, which called on him to ask Obama for more immigration judges to expedite proceedings, but not ad litems. According to LUPE, they believe legal representation will at least provide the children a fighting chance to win their asylum/refugee cases, rather than get swept up by a punitive mass deportation program. This seems to have been enough for LUPE to end its Facebook bomb request. Other activists are still on a holding pattern as to what is next. My opinion is that this is a long process in a challenging system in which there are few winners, and is clogged by delays that even doubling the amount of immigration judges will not relieve. Immediate needs must be addressed.

Davis also explains her request to Rick Perry to call a state of emergency and special session to discuss the humanitarian needs  of refugees provided by local first-responders and charities. Perry has already stated that allocating the money without a session to law enforcement is enough, which means he has no desire to respond to humanitarian needs of the refugees.

Finally, Davis calls on the Obama administration to reimburse state and local governments for all expenses incurred during this crisis. We all know this is easier requested than actually obtained, considering the Republicans Congress would rather lay blame on policies such as Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, than actually attempt to come up with and pay for a sensible solution that doesn’t require armed militias and border walls.

That said, this is an ongoing crisis that requires immediate assistance for relief of overcrowded facilities, health risks within these facilities, and developing alternatives to detention that will lessen the burden and cost of warehousing these refugees. Long-term solutions, though, will continue to be a challenge as long as President Obama and Congress continue their political games on immigration reform and deportations that do little to include challenges such as refugee crises. Considering we have known of these refugees since at least 2006, it can be said that ignoring the problem began with George W. Bush in office, if one wants to go on playing games.

In the political sense, Wendy Davis has an opportunity to go above the current conversation and help craft a strong Texas-Latin America policy campaign plank that could serve as a model for the nation that concentrates on improving conditions on both sides of the border–economically and socially–given our economic power and diversity as a state, without the need for punitive, enforcement-only notions. Obviously, the alternative in Abbott-Patrick is not only bad, but a threat to the future of Texas and relations with Latin America.

As has been stated previously, State Senator Wendy Davis has been a defender of the Texas DREAM Act, which allows for in-state tuition for children of immigrants who have been in the state for a certain amount of time. Signed into law by Rick Perry, this can hardly be blamed on President Obama. Davis has also supported a call for comprehensive immigration reform. Abbott-Patrick are obviously more interested in blame games and right-wing rhetoric. Refugee situations, though, have hardly ever been addressed by state governments.

Texas is in need of cooler heads that don’t cause panic; while panic is all the Republicans are interested in causing. Obviously, the refugee/asylum system is not part of a governor’s job description, but our state elected officials must be proactive in addressing these situations toward a positive end for all involved, rather than play politics. That’s the bigger challenge, and if we follow the words of Bishop Doyle, we should come out just fine.

History instead will note how Texas took care of the children that came to her. History may yet tell a tale about how we were made stronger by facing our crisis courageously instead of casting blame for political gain. History may tell how innovative Texans resolved to ensure the health and safety of all those who sought her aid while increasing the economic success of their society. It is my hope that history will tell future generations about how this generation remembered the Texas motto of friendship.

 

 

 

 

 

Obama: I’ll See Your Surge

While the Republicans in DC are talking and talking and talking about immigration, it is President Obama who has called for a border surge. I guess he didn’t want to get outdone by Rick Perry’s $1.3 million per week surge. But this whole game of “quien es mas anti-immigrant” is enough to make one ill–and quite cynical about the offerings of both political parties. The “surge” part is mostly about judges to speed up deportations, since the Border Patrol seems to be catching all these kids; although, Republicans blame Obama’s DACA for the surge, which is a bunch of BS, but great stuff for the TV talking heads.

As children from Central America keep pouring across the nation’s southwest border, the Obama administration announced Friday that it will respond with a “surge” of immigration judges and U.S. attorneys to speed up the deportation of some undocumented immigrants.

The other part of the “surge,” basically, has the President throwing money to Central American countries considered “friendly,” yet whose problems have long been simmering and cause for the influx of these Central American children.

• A $9.6 million grant to the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to build and improve their “repatriation centers,” where deported immigrants are received after they’ve been flown back home.

• The creation of a $40 million program run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, to improve citizen security in Guatemala. Administration officials say the violence in Central America is one of the main reasons so many kids are racing to the U.S.

• A new $25 million USAID program to curb violence in El Salvador.

• An $18.5 million grant to Honduras to help community policing and gang-prevention programs there.

That first dot means that kids and their parents will be deported. The grant programs mean that as long as these countries’ leaders stay in place and do as told by the U.S., they’ll keep getting these dollars. Or, at least that’s how “aid” money is usually doled out. How effective this cash will be is up in the air, obviously.

Elise Foley at HuffPost has more information on the “surge,” which includes opening more “family” prisons, like that God-awful one in Taylor, TX.

Family detention of undocumented immigrants was widely criticized when it was used more commonly. The T. Don Hutto facility in Texas hosted families and wasdescribed in 2007 as prison-like, with few services like education or recreation for children. The government announced in 2009 that families will no longer be housed there.

Immigrant advocates argue that the government should not detain families, and instead should use alternatives to detention, until their deportation cases are settled.

“It’s a real step backwards for immigration policy,” said Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, which advocates for alternatives to detention. “Detention should always be used as a last option … the harm that comes from children from being detained is well-documented, and if we don’t have to do this, we shouldn’t be doing it.”

Just because Dubya Bush isn’t running ICE doesn’t make these new concentration camps, I mean “family” centers, kinder and gentler.

It is safe to say that as we move toward November, 2014, both political parties are in a political crisis when it comes to immigration reform and Latin American affairs. It doesn’t help for 2016, either.

 

 

 

Texas Republicans Declare War on Central American Kids

Rick Perry and his lot have been funneling money to the DPS for “border” purposes for a few years now. Never has the effectiveness of this tax money ever been questioned or even measured, but it has made for great political theater for the Republicans–and political ads filmed on something that looks like the border.

Now, Rick Perry and the Republicans have declared war on Central American kids who have been escaping their home countries for a safer locale. At the same time the Republicans call it a humanitarian crisis (which it is), they’re also doing their best to criminalize these kids who are escaping cartels, poverty, and even government threats.

Unfortunately, this influx of taxpayer cash to the DPS will not get a debate or a vote in a special session of the Texas Lege, as Dan Patrick had requested. Frankly, I was looking forward to film of right-wingers talking about Latinos, in general, not to mention diseases and made-up stories whose only purpose is creating fear. Of course, I expect Dan Patrick and other Republicans to make something up as they go.

The Democratic response thus far?

“What is needed are not more “boots on the ground” or any other euphemisms for the militarization that both impacts border residents’ daily lives and is inadequate to deal with the specific issue at hand,” state Sen. José Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said in a statement last week in response to Abbott’s request.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte added: “Washington must tackle the root causes of this crisis: weak governments, entrenched poverty and the growing power of violent criminal actors in Central America. Texans have a long tradition of looking after our neighbors in times of need. These too are children of God. State and federal government should follow suit, and partner with our faith-based organizations, nonprofits, food banks, and health providers to help these children.”

I wholeheartedly agree with both senators, but as I mentioned to a Facebook friend the other day, the only way to tackle root causes is for Washington to stop meddling in other countries’ affairs-political and economic. The influx of kids mostly comes from El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala; all countries whose governments are or have historically been supported by the U.S. because they elected whom the U.S. wanted (or placed in power by coup), as our friends at Latino Rebels remind us. The Central American Free Trade Agreement and meddling in these countries’ elections has certainly taken its toll to the point where cash-rich criminal enterprises easily yield power. And let’s not forget that some of these right-wing governments are quite oppressive, as well, particularly toward the poor. What do you think is the socioeconomic status of the kids coming over? So, if these governments are weak, we can definitely point to US Latin American policy as a root cause.

As things stand, there is a crisis and it’s growing. With 90,000 kids expected to come over and be apprehended by the end of 2014, facilities and manpower are already busting at the seams. As we heard recently, the Border Patrol was complaining about doing diaper duty and babysitting. If only the DPS dollars were for humanitarian aid, rather than a weak attempt at border militarization. Because all of this just seems to be another dose of Republican theater–$40 million worth of bad theater.

The Texas Civil Rights Project released this statement:

TCRP Director Jim Harrington today condemned Gov. Perry’s “typical militaristic response” to the humanitarian crisis along the border caused by the surge of 47,000 children into the country. “Perry shouldn’t make them pawns in his ongoing politically-driven antipathy toward the federal government,”said Harrington

Perry has announced plans to spend $1.3 million/week to send Texas law enforcement officers to enforce border security. He has not offered any assistance for the children who are already here or to local shelters that are struggling to house and care for them.

“Obviously, it’s important to protect the border; but it’s equally important to protect and provide for the thousands of children who are now in the country. Texas and the border states can come up with more creative ways to deal with the crisis and turning it around. It would be a better and more productive use of taxpayers’ money,” said Harrington. “We’re dealing with young children, not adults. This is not the children’s fault, and we have a humanitarian duty to them until we can figure out how to respond appropriately to the situation. They should not be victimized further by the situation into which they have been thrust by desperate parents.”

This is a good time for Rick Perry, Greg Abbott and the Republicans to do some praying, rather than preying.