“Thank you” she said for the fourth time. One of the most polite women I had ever met kept thanking me for doing my job. This LGBT woman from Honduras, full of fear and anxiety, was so grateful to be able to sit in the same Starbucks I nonchalantly came to every morning. I listened to her story. She fled from Honduras for her life for being a lesbian. My client had remained quiet about her sexual orientation her entire life and she was almost grateful to be able to tell her story. The backlash of her community in Honduras if they found out her orientation was a death sentence. Her friend was murdered and tortured. She was scared she would be next.
This was one of my first asylum cases years ago. I remember feeling hopeful, ecstatic, and excited to be in this country that could save this woman’s life. Part of filing an asylum case is looking up the country’s conditions. I spent hours upon hours researching and kept finding news articles about violence and torture against the Gay, Transgender, and Lesbian communities in Honduras. Human Rights watch named the Honduras murder rate as one of the highest in the world with the LGBT community the most vulnerable. 
My Client never wanted to leave Honduras. In fact, she was a brilliant teacher there with a wonderful job, family, and friends. However, word got out about her sexual orientation, and her life changed. Death threats against her life rapidly ensued. Her family stopped speaking to her. Her friends turned against her. She was physically and violently attacked repeatedly, and her fears of being killed became very real. Imprisoned in her home, she was too afraid to grocery shop, work, or even go to the hospital. Her days alive in Honduras were numbered leading her to flee for her life to the United States.
Over the years, I have seen this Client thrive. She is married to a lovely woman, working, and is a wonderful addition to this country. Every year at Christmas, she brings our entire office treats and hugs everyone. I have seen her smile return. She has given as much to this country as it has given her. Seeing people coming to the United States from Honduras fleeing for their lives and being sent back to their deaths is heartbreaking. For many, the journey to get to our U.S. Borders is a scary and dangerous one, but is their last option for survival. For many of us, waking up, drinking our coffee, and going to work is a chore we grumble about. However, there are a group of people in this country — asylees — that take it as not only a privilege, but as a wonder that they are alive. Coming to the U.S. is not a privilege for many of them, it is the choice between life and death. When our United States of America looks at these most vulnerable and brave, welcoming them with open arms, that is the country that I am most in love with. Anything else is a tragedy.
(June 2018: "The only way parents can quickly be reunited with their children is to drop their claims for asylum in the United States and agree to be deported." Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, testifying on Capitol Hill.)
By Shireen Kahlon
[“What’s your Rep up to” is a blog post to help you decipher the legislation of the Representatives in your Districts. While we do not tell you how to vote, we do want to help you make informed decisions when you vote in November 2018]
On Thursday, June 21, Mayor Steve Adler joined twelve other mayors to visit an immigration detention center in protest of the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. Mayors from across the United States — including the mayors of Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami, El Paso, Santa Fe, Albuquerque — went to Tornillo Migrant Facility in Fabens, Texas.
In April of 2018, President Donald Trump began a policy termed the “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. This policy states that anyone who crosses the border illegally will be caught and prosecuted. Once detained, the undocumented immigrant may be placed in a detention center while their kids are taken from them and placed in a children's or a “tender age” (for babies and toddlers) detention center.
ADLER’S REMARKS ON THE POLICY
On June 19, Mayor Adler asked, via twitter, for leaders to stand up, regardless of party. Adler also made an appeal to put an end to Trump’s policies.
While visiting the detention center in Fabens, Adler struck back at President Trump for having yet to visit a single detention center to help protect and reunite the children. Last week, Melania Trump visited the Upbring New Hope Children's Center in McAllen, Texas. She announced she’d like to help the reunification of children and parents happen as soon as possible. Additionally, the White House made a statement on her behalf, saying “her goals are to thank law enforcement and social services providers for their hard work, lend support and hear more on how the administration can build upon the already existing efforts to reunite children with their families." But Mayor Adlor wasn’t swayed by these promises. In a statement, he demanded, “Using children in order to deter or dissuade folks from coming to our border and seeking asylum is unjust, it is wrong, it is immoral, and it is un-American. Children don’t belong in cages…with or without their parents.” (Neely)
ADLER’S REMARKS ON IMMIGRATION
The mayor has spoken up in support of immigration on more than one occasion. After President Trump announced the “Travel Ban” — an executive order signed in January 2018 which stated the United States will not allow refugees from 7 primarily Muslim countries including Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, amongst others — Adler spoke in oppositions to the ban. On January 28th, Adler stated that immigrants are a large part of what makes Austin successful and that immigrants are always welcome in Austin. Throughout his term, he has spoken up for immigrants and sided with the Travis County Sheriff on refusing to arrest nonviolent undocumented immigrants.
Adler has also been a strong proponent for sanctuary cities — cities which limit cooperation with federal authorities surrounding immigration. After President Trump wanted to make sanctuary cities illegal or to cut funding to these cities, Adler hit back stating that he “will oppose anti-immigrant policies, regardless of the personal consequences, because spreading fear and making threats makes us all less safe.” (Statement)
Neely, C. (2018, June 21). Austin Mayor Steve Adler on family separation at the border: 'Children don't belong in cages'. Retrieved from https://communityimpact.com/austin/city-county/2018/06/21/ austin-mayor-steve-adler-on-family-separation-at-the-border-children-dont-belong-in-cages/
Guild, Blair. Melania Trump Visits Detention Center in Texas https://www.cbsnews.com/news/melania-trump-visits-detention-center-in-texas/
Statement by Mayor Adler on ICE Director's Threat to Arrest City, State Officials. (2018, January 03). Retrieved from http://www.mayoradler.com/statement-by-mayor-adler-on-ice-directors- threat-to-arrest-city-state-officials/
By Shireen Kahlon
In April 2018, President Donald Trump announced the “zero-tolerance” policy for undocumented migrants and refugees entering the United States which stated that anybody who crosses the border illegally can and will be arrested and detained. Over the next two months, the National Guard detained 2,000 families. Throughout this period they have separated children and babies from parents, putting the children in their own detention center. The Trump Administration has argued they use the “zero-tolerance” policy to deter other immigrants from illegally crossing the border, and President Trump reiterated that he plans to continue the policy until he gets funding for the border wall. Regardless of the Administration’s justification for their actions, the separation of families and detaining human being in prison-like camps are human rights violations in the vein of the Japanese Internment Camps in WWII and the early stages of the Holocaust.
On June 20th, President Trump signed an executive order to allow families to stay together in detainment camps. However, this executive order does not specify how the over 2,300 children and babies already separated from their families will be reunited with their parents.
In recent weeks, many political leaders have laid out policies to battle the family separation policy. Although he at first defended President Trump’s policy, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) took a step back to call for an emergency policy to end family separations. On June 19th, Senator Cruz stated he would introduce a policy that would require families to stay together, for new temporary shelters to be created to reduce overcrowding, and to expedite the process for immigrants seeking asylum into the United States. This proposed legislation has been supported by numerous Republican senators including senators Marco Rubio (R-FLA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Todd Young (R-IND) amongst many others.
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) announced last week that he and many other conservative senators are working on a piece of legislation that would go hand-in-hand with Cruz’s policy. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) also commented on the family separation crisis, and promising that he and other senators are working on legislation that would be supported by both Democratic and Republican senators alike.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced the “Keep Families Together Act” which has garnered the support of all Democrat senators. This act says that family separations would become illegal except in cases where the child is in danger while being under the care of his or her parents. However, Feinstein’s act has not received bipartisan support, with Republican senators arguing it is too narrowly-based.
Other senators, including Lindsay Graham (R-SC), have expressed their intention to speak with President Trump on ending the family separation policy. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) has strongly opposed Trump’s policy, hitting back by saying that separating migrant children from their parents will cause severe trauma to the children and that they should not be used as pawns in the immigration debate.
Until an act passes, the only person who can make any changes is President Trump.
Update: On Tuesday, June 26, 2018 a Federal Judge in California ordered federal officials to stop detaining parents apart from their minor children, absent a determination the parent is unfit or the parent declines reunification; reunify all parents with their minor children who are under the age of 5 within 14 days and reunify all parents with their minor children age 5 and older within 30 days. As of June 28, 2018, this Order has not yet been followed.
Photo attribution: By PetrohsW CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
By Shireen Khalon
DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, is intended for children who come into the USA undocumented, either with or without their parents. The program allows eligible children to study and work without fear of deportation. To be eligible for the program, applicants should be 31 years of age or younger as of June 15, 2012. In addition, applicants should have entered the USA before the age of sixteen, and lived in the U.S. continuously from June 2007 until present. Another qualification is applicants should either be in school, have earned a diploma of some sort, or be honorably discharged from the U.S. military. Finally, applicants should not have been convicted of any felonies or severe misdemeanors. Although the qualifications are many, more than 690,000 people are currently protected under the DACA provisions.
Unfortunately, DACA is under threat. The Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton (R), sued Donald Trump on May 1st to end DACA. Claiming that Trump has excessive power over immigration, Paxton wants the courts to return this power to the states. Further, he believes the power should be more spread out amongst states. If Ken Paxton were to discontinue DACA, more than 160,000 people in Texas alone would be in danger of deportation.
Ken Paxton is not the only politician in Texas against DACA. In January 2018, Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) stated he does not believe DREAMers (the term for immigrants protected under DACA) should have any path to citizenship. He, also, believes in terminating DACA.
Texas politicians, including Representative Ted Poe (R) and Representative John Ratcliffe (R) believe the DACA program is unconstitutional and should be eliminated immediately. Contrarily, other representatives, including Al Green (D) and Will Hurd (R) support DACA and want to seek out ways to make sure there is a clear path for citizenship for DREAMers.
In many ways, what happens to DACA will also impact H1B dependents, also known as H4 DREAMers. When H4 DREAMers age out and turn 21 years of age, they will be required to find their own method to stay in the USA, whether that’s filing for a student visa, a work visa, J1 visa, DACA, or a number of other visas. When a H4 DREAMer is eligible for DACA, they have a clear path to green card and on to citizenship.
Whatever the path may be and whatever these politicians believe, President Trump will likely make the final decision on DACA’s fate. While he has gone back and forth multiple times on whether he wants to end DACA or not, there has yet to be a genuine bipartisan discussion about the program. We will just have to wait and find out what happens. Until then, we can only hope Paxton’s lawsuit is thrown out.