Father and son from Honduras rest at a McAllen, TX, shelter for immigrant families released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and awaiting disposition of deportation cases clogging the courts.

Reunification of immigrant families still elusive under Trump Administration

5 mins read

The Trump Administration espouses to operate under a Republican agenda that traditionally celebrates the family, but families are not safe in the current immigration climate.

Ranging from undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers, once-protected refugees, and even U.S. citizens, families have become primary targets for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Trump Administration.

In May, Jeff Sessions, the US Attorney General, implemented the “zero tolerance” policy which separated adult family members from children in their attempts to enter into the country without proper documentation. Reversing this executive order in June, two California federal judges ordered reunification by July 10. The injunction against the zero tolerance law stated that all children under 5-years-old must be reunited with their parents within 14 days, while those over that age must join their families within 30 days.  Moving forward children are required to remain with their parents and can only be held in jail for a total of 20 days.

Though family separation of undocumented immigrants has been reversed, experts do not view detention as a solution.

| Read how US citizens and elected officials voiced outrage at “zero tolerance” policy.

“The family separation policy was a harsh and disgraceful policy. Children were (and still are) separated from their parents. Although the President eventually reversed this policy, no one can forget those horrific pictures of children in animal cages,” wrote immigration attorney, LaToya N. McBean in a response to Ark Republic.

“Now the government is placing children in detention with their parents—similar to the detention policy under President Obama. Although I believe that we should protect our borders, incarcerating children with their parents isn’t an answer to our national security issues.”

More concern emerged when the conditions within detention centers were uncovered when volunteer lawyers, interpreters, and other legal workers provided the accounts of 200 immigrant detainees they interviewed in June. Reports of detainees treated like jailed inmates detail that they are either shackled or handcuffed when transported, while they are mandated to wear jumpsuits, and most lose all of their possessions.

| Read how East African deportee said to have committed suicide while being transported to home country.

Delivery of mail is oftentimes slow, and detainees can only place phone calls from their end. Added, sometimes visitation and eating hours are separated if they run at the same time.

More scandal emerged upon the reports of sexual assault from ICE agents supervising their facilities. The Intercept recorded a total of 1,224 sexual assault complaints in facilities across the country between 2010-2017, with only 43 of these complaints resulting in investigations. Incidents ranged from molestation to inappropriate strip-searches.

As of July 19, there are still children who have not been reunified with their parents.

Blurred Policy Lines

Los Angeles, Calif. – 30 June 2018: US Representative Maxine Waters speaking at the Families Belong Together rally and march.

U.S. citizens with criminal records face deportation too with new interpretations and enforcement of revised immigration policy. Jose Luis Garcia, a green-card holder from Arleta, California legally went through the immigration process in 1988, but was detained for deportation due to a misdemeanor conviction in 2001.

The arrest was part of a three-day operation in California by ICE to deport immigrants deemed a “threat to public safety.” Garcia was arrested in 1987 for refusing to leave the home of his ex-wife. Since his arrest, he has been released and now is able to apply for natural citizenship.

In another case, an undocumented immigrant who sought asylum in 1992, Gazi Sarwar Hussan, has been scheduled for deportation between July 24 and August 1 of this year. His lawyer, Joseph Sekula, has appealed the decision. Hussan, a father of four, is a resident of Paterson, New Jersey and business manager at Maple Liquors in East Orange.

A rally in support of Hussan took place on last week at East Orange City Hall.  

“He fled his country to escape political persecution. East Orange is committed to remaining a safe place for all families, including undocumented citizens,” Green said. “I personally know his employer, Mr. Sheth, and he wishes he had four Gazis. He has trusted Gazi to manage his business for nearly 30 years and says he is friendly, honest and sincere.”

Hussan’s wife is also undocumented. His biggest concern is for the well-being of his children.

“I’m a very hard worker, for the past 27 years I have been working. If I leave, no one will pay my house bills; nobody will take care of my kids,” Hussan said, sobbing. “I know if I leave, the government can take care of my kids, but it is limited and not like a father.”

| Read how Atlanta’s Mayor Kesha Bottoms refused to accept ICE detainees.

Paterson representative Wayne Witherspoon attributed Hussan’s situation to the harsh reality of today’s current events regarding immigration.

“It’s a horrible situation that’s going on,” Witherspoon said. “This overall climate that we live in right now [suggests] that you got to look over your shoulder if you’re not a legal resident of this country.”

East Orange Public Information Officer Consuelo “Connie” Jackson gave a good character reference towards Hussan and also shed light on the support the city had planned to offer.

“The fact that he’s worked at the same place for over 25 years speaks volumes for his character, his integrity, and his stability. The fact that his boss has gone to such great lengths also speaks volumes,” Jackson said. “We know that not every boss would do that. That also let us know that Gazi was a stand-up man who just needed some additional support.”

“We can’t help to overturn an appeal,” Jackson further stated. “We can’t do anything legislatively, but we can lend our support and build a strong case.”

Legal Representation

Among those who face the threat of deportation also include legal immigrants from Latin America, Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean who were given Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Over 300,000 immigrants’ TPS status is threatened.

A study done by the Center for American Progress estimated a population of over 200,000 children born in the United States whose parents hold TPS status.

McBean attributes the problem of deportation for most as a result of not receiving adequate legal representation.

“Deportations were high under President Obama and they are also high under President Trump. The real problem is that others are being swept up and placed in proceedings who do not have the resources to hire an attorney to defend them,” McBean offered. “Immigration court proceedings can be very confusing and studies show that fewer people are deported when represented by an attorney. New York, for instance, has taken some measures to ensure that detainees in immigration courts in upstate New York will receive legal representation.”

| Read about the ruling by federal judge that gave the nod for TPS grantees to sue the US to stop their deportation.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ruled that a lawsuit filed by nine TPS grantees along with five of their children who are US citizens can move forward. The Department of Justice attempted to get the suit thrown out, but Chen ruled that the plaintiffs provided “plausible” claims that government’s determination to remove TPS for certain countries was “motivated by intentional race- and national-origin-based animus” and “arises from the Trump Administration’s repeatedly-expressed racism toward non-white, non-European people from other countries.”

Although the affront against immigrant families has left many lives disrupted, concerted efforts throughout the US work towards reunification, and in the long run, to dismantle broken policy.

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Jesse Shramenko covers current news.

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