Did You Know The Border Extends to the Beach?

Reportedly, hundreds of families who were unjustly deported or were forced to leave the U.S. are coming back home from South America, Central America and Mexico on March 10, 2014 through the San Diego, Tijuana border. Some of these families include the Valencia family, who lived in Arizona for 16 years and built a life there until they were forced to return to Mexico after the father was deported from the United States in 2010.

The protest, organized by The National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), is the third “Bring Them Home” action, which serves to highlight the 2 million deportations under the Obama Administration, and reunite families.

Dulce Guerrero, an undocumented organizer from Georgia, is in-charge of this campaign. She can be reached at dulce@theniya.org

Undocumented Activist Infiltrates El Paso Detention Center, Documents Rampant Abuse

Video Credit: The NIYA


I don’t know how Santiago Garcia-Leco managed to get detained, given he is eligible for Barack Obama’s deferred action program. But inside the El Paso Detention Center, Santiago, a queer undocumented organizer, found hundreds of cases of asylum seekers who had won credible fear, but were detained for months to await trial. The National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), joined by leading civil rights organizations such as GetEqual, Texas Civil Rights Project, and the Detention Watch Network, is demanding a full review of the detainees El Paso Detention Center.

In a video released by the NIYA, Santiago reports that “when no one is watching, ICE does whatever they want.” To give an example, he reveals how federal agents tried to get him to sign his own voluntary departure papers. Inside the detention facility in Texas, Santiago also found over 60 cases of individuals who have been granted credible fear, but denied parole into the United States, in violation of of Directive No.: 11002.1, as laid out by former ICE Director, John Morton. This directive went into effect January 4, 2010; however, the ICE leadership from the El Paso sector continues to ignore it:

“…[W]hen an arriving alien found to have credible fear establishes to the satisfaction of DRO his or her identity and that he or she presents neither a flight risk nor danger to the community, DRO should, absent additional factors, parole the alien on the basis that his or her continued detention is not in the public interest.”

NIYA organizers state that “it is alarming to hear of numerous instances where immigrants are being detained at the El Paso Detention Center despite the fact that they do not pose any security risk, are not a flight risk, and their detention is contrary to the public interest.”

This is not the first time that NIYA has infiltrated a detention center to uncover rampant abuse of detainees and immigration procedures. Marco Saavedra and Viridiana Martinez from the NIYA infiltrated Broward Detention Center in Florida last summer. Through that action, the NIYA found hundreds of cases of abuse, which led to the release of many detainees and a Congressional letter demanding review of the facility.

After NIYA revealed the identity of the infiltrator, ICE at El Paso Detention Center kicked Santiago out of the facility. If Santiago, who does not have any paperwork authorizing him to live in the U.S., can be released into the general population, why not release all the parole eligible people?

Emerging Issues for LGBT Immigrants, Asylees and Refugee Seekers CLE

I’ve been working on this for quite a while and will also have a practical comprehensive “know your rights” guide for everyone who attends the CLE, which focuses more on transgender issues. I worry that discourse around LGBT immigrants, refugee and asylum seekers is so U.S.-centric, so we’ll also speak to how other jurisdictions deal with this issue. On a related note, I’m working on a paper that articulates how queer migrant bodies and violence against potential LGBT asylum seekers is used to propel a particular civilizational discourse that functions as a way to justify and extend U.S. colonialism.

Monday, August 8 · 5:00pm – 7:30pm

Location: Room 3211 at Golden Gate University in San Francisco
By National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter
2 Hours California MCLE credit will be provided. $40 for nonmembers; $20 for members (No one turned away for lack of funds). Free for non-credit seekers.
Register Online: http://crm.nlgsf.org/civic?rm/event/register?reset=1&?id=9

Co-Sponsors: Immigrant Legal Resource Center, South Asian Bar Association – Bay Area, Asian Law Caucus, Immigration Equality, Asylum Access, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom.

About the CLE: Speakers will present on a multitude of issues regarding LGBT immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, including the progress made in adjudicating claims by same-sex bi-national couples, the impact of DOMA litigation or repeal of DOMA on LGBT immigrants. Speakers will also present on how LGBTI asylum cases would be handled in a variety of the jurisdictions outside the U.S. context and on the UNHCR refugee status determination process.


Zachary M. Nightingale is partner at Partner at Van Der Hout, Brigagliano and Nightingale. His practice focuses on deportation defense and federal court litigation, with an emphasis on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. Other specialties include asylum, naturalization, and family-based adjustment of status. A significant part of his practice includes advising non-citizens and their attorneys as to the immigration consequences of pending criminal charges, and how to minimize those consequences.

Emily E. Arnold-Fernández, Esq., the founder and executive director of Asylum Access, is a lawyer who has advocated nationally and internationally for the human rights of women, children, and other vulnerable individuals, Emily first became involved in refugee rights in 2002, when she represented refugees in United Nations proceedings in Cairo, Egypt. Emily’s legal advocacy won her client protection and safety in Egypt until his eventual resettlement in the U.S. Recognizing that refugees throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America – some of whom flee with nothing more than the clothes on their backs – were almost always unequipped to go into a legal proceeding in a foreign country, alone, and explain why they should not be deported, Emily founded Asylum Access to advocate on behalf of refugees seeking to assert their rights.

Chelsea Haley-Nelson is the EOIR liaison at American Immigration Lawyers Association of Northern California, a Co-Chair at BALIF and a Co-Chair with the Immigration Committee at National Lawyer’s Guild-San Francisco Chapter.

The Archipelago of Detention

No crime means no police. What makes the presence and control of the police tolerable for the population, if not fear of the criminal? This institution of the police, which is so recent and so oppressive, is only justified by that fear. If we accept the presence in our midst of these uninformed men, who have the exclusive right to carry arms, who demand our papers, who come and prowl on our doorsteps, how would any of this be possible if there were no criminals?

-Michael Foucault, Prison Talk

When the immigration question is framed as a matter of law-breaking, the inevitable result is the criminalization of migrant workers and families which feeds into the migrant-prison-industrial complex.

In a recent article published in La Prensa, Ali Noorani-Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum (www.immigrationforum.org),– subscribes to the dangerous ‘rule of law’ discourse that criminalizes undocumented workers and their families.  The ‘enforcement-mantra’ of the mainstream DC organizations holds that comprehensive immigration reform is key to holding undocumented workers accountable and ensuring that U.S. security is not compromised:

Only through a controlled legalization of those who meet certain criteria can we hope to isolate those few immigrants hiding under the radar that may wish to do us harm or take unfair advantage of our generosity.
Combining an enforceable immigration system with effective, targeted enforcement is the only way we can achieve an immigration system consistent with American values. We must reestablish the rule of law by fixing our immigration system and then enforcing the heck out of it. This is how we regain control, create an even playing field for all workers in the economy, and ensure that workers and employers who play by the rules will be rewarded rather than undercut.



This ‘rule of law’ discourse is devoid of the fact that many immigrants fell out of status by trying to follow the rules. Moreover, a quick study of the new ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ discourse and agenda citing President Obama in ABC News (www.ABCnews.com) would tell one that it hardly applies to the horror of immigrant detention camps–the Guantonomizing of America (www.homelandgitmo.com). The  heterosexualized concept of immigrant ‘family unity’ (www.Change.org) stops just outside the immigrant-detention complex.

In a recent report named Jailed Without Justice, Amnesty USA (www.amnestyusa.org) found the number of immigrants held in detention camps had tripled from 10,000 in 1996 to 30,000 in 2008, with the numbers likely to increase this year. The ‘rule of law’ discourse somehow forgets that the migrants detained in these archipelagos of detention constitute not only ‘criminal aliens’ but asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors, legal permanent residents, and survivors of torture and human trafficking. And they probably would not benefit from any sort of ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’

The gender dynamics of immigrant detention are also unavoidable. See studies by Human Rights Watch and Southwest Institute for Research on Women, that highlight the mistreatment, lack of prenatal care, and other serious medical conditions that migrant women undergo while under detention. And these are women who have committed no crimes nor pose any flight risk.

As this country moves towards reforms via legalization, it is important to pay attention to the gross, inhumane violations of human rights in our immigrant detention facilities. Not engaging in dialogue and action about the creation of these achipelagos of detention would certainly not amount to ‘just and humane’ immigration reform.

Small But Important Victories for Asylum Seekers in the United States

So maybe I am preaching to the choir. Yet I cannot ignore the fact that two DREAMers (this term refers to undocumented students in the United States awaiting passage of the federal DREAM Act) made their grievances known about the U.S. asylum-granting system in the space of two days, albeit over separate cases.

Quaker posts here about how the Department of Homeland Security opposed asylum in the case of three Brentwood children who had been beaten, exploited and sexually abused by family members in their native Honduras. DHS and its nativist lapdogs like Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for [Nativist] Immigration Studies (from now on, we will endearingly refer to it as the CNIS), were set adamantly against this because up until now, asylum was only granted to applicants who showed past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

“It’s unfortunately part of a trend where asylum is expanding to areas it was never meant for.”

Of course, Krikorian is going to be upset. For someone who believes that granting two people in love the right to stay together is ‘extremism’ you cannot expect anything less ignorant from the CNIS.

So, according to Homeland Security, these three children did not fall into the category of people fleeing persecution due to their membership in a “particular social group.” Accolades are in order for Judge Gabriel Videla for breaking from past trends and ruling that as “members of the family who were physically abandoned by their parents,” the children did constitute a social group. However, a long list of asylum seekers based on inter-family violence await certain rejection since this decision does not set any sort of precedent.

‘Damn Mexicans’ writes about Attorney General Mukasey blasting an Immigration Judge for denying asylum to a woman because “her genitalia already had been mutilated [so] she had no basis to fear future persecution if returned to her home country.” From the LA Times, Sept 23:

“To begin with, the board based its analysis on a false premise: that female genital mutilation is a ‘one-time’ act that cannot be repeated on the same women,” Mukasey wrote. “As several courts have recognized, female genital mutilation is indeed capable of repletion.”

He cited a case where an asylum applicant’s vaginal opening was sewn shut five times after being opened to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth.

“The board was wrong to focus on whether the future harm to life or freedom that [the applicant] feared would take the ‘identical’ form,” he added.

But Mukasey’s order does not automatically grant U.S. residency to the woman. Instead, the appeals board must now reconsider its earlier ruling.

I would say I am shocked, appalled, infuriated by the drawbacks in our system but alas, knowing that some U.S. Immigration Judges make their decisions based on wikipedia searches, this sort of (il)logic does not surprise me. And it should surprise no one. Also, see this post here about how the United States is in violation of International Law due to its treatment of asylum seekers as criminals.

Such inconsistencies plague the current system of determining asylum that the decision to grant asylum has less to do with the facts of the case and more to do with which Immigration Judge ends up hearing your case.
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