A judge has said the US-Mexico barrier, partially funded by an anti-migrant group, could damage a sanctuary and ecosystem
A mother and her American-born teenage son are suing two US government agencies and speaking out over the inhumane conditions they said he endured while taken into border custody for more than three weeks.
Francisco Galicia, 18, from Edinburg, Texas, was released from detention earlier this week after an ordeal in which he said he lost 26 pounds, was kept in a crowded space with 60 others and, for 23 days, wasn’t allowed to call his family or a lawyer, brush his teeth, or get access to a toilet, shower or bed.
He was so desperate in the face of the conditions, and unable to communicate with anyone outside, that he almost allowed himself to be deported to Mexico, as first reported by the Dallas Morning News.
And his mother, Sanjuana Galicia, might not have found out where he was if it weren’t for his younger brother, 17-year-old Marlon, who is undocumented and who agreed to be swiftly deported to Mexico, from where he called his mother to tell her what had happened.
On the morning of 17 January 2018 a humanitarian group, No More Deaths, released a report showing how, over four years, US border patrol agents had destroyed 3,856 gallons of water that had been left for migrants in the desert.
That afternoon, Scott Warren, a No More Deaths volunteer, was arrested for bringing food, water, bedding and clean clothes to two men who had entered the country illegally. He found them in an area where 32 bodies had been recovered in the previous year alone.
Charged with conspiracy to transport and harbour migrants, he faced up to 20 years in prison. Earlier this month his trial ended in a hung jury.
Put differently, an American jury was asked whether, in effect, it should be illegal for one human being to provide basic sustenance to preserve the lives of other human beings in desperate need – and it could not quite make up its mind. (The jury was deadlocked, having split 8-4 in Warren’s favour. The state will decide whether to try him again next week.)
So when we see a photograph of the lifeless body of 26-year-old Salvadorean Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, clutching his dead 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria, face down in the Rio Grande, it is important to decipher exactly what the source of the shock might be.
As Warren’s case illustrates, such deaths are not news in the conventional sense, any more than the police shooting black men in the street in the US is “news”. In the absence of mass protest there is a level of racialised suffering that rarely exceeds the status of white noise in the west. Not only do we know these things happen and have been happening for a long time; we know they don’t happen by accident, and could be prevented if we, as a society, had the will to do so. There is pathos in the suffering, but there is policy behind it too.
The tragic image is news because the basic humanity of those who perish has been so routinely denied that the evidence that they are not “cockroaches”, “animals”, “aliens”, “illegals”, rats or vermin but actual people feels genuinely novel – it provides an empathic injection into the morally sclerotic vein of a dehumanised political culture.
This was a father and daughter, holding on to each other until the very end: tender, vulnerable, heartbreaking. In a sense this is the problem. If for the stories of their lives to break through in the mainstream they must first be dead, what use is it to them? The fact that they are objects of pity, shame or even anger does not make them any less objects ripe for our projection.
Empathy could be the first step to solidarity – click, share, engage. Warren must have been conscientised and radicalised somehow. In 2006 I drove all the way up the US-Mexican border from Brownsville, Texas, where Angie Valeria and Óscar were found, to San Diego. On the way I spoke to Armando Alarcón, who was carried over the Rio Grande by his father when he was Angie Valeria’s age. When Alarcón saw a news story about the body of an eight-year-old girl found by a border patrol after she had been abandoned by her smuggler, he bought a Cessna 172 plane and founded a group called Paisanos al Rescate – Fellow Countrymen to the Rescue.
Photojournalist Ariana Drehsler was stopped for a secondary screening three separate times in one week while crossing the US-Mexico border to cover the migrant caravan in Tijuana this winter – unaware that the journey she had taken countless times before was suddenly more complicated because her name was logged in a secret government database.
That database, part of something called Operation Secure Line, listed 59 advocates and journalists tied to the migrant caravan, according to leaked documents obtained by local news station NBC 7.
“I am an observer, I am actually kind of shy, I don’t know what I could’ve done to be put on a watchlist,” Drehsler, a freelancer based in San Diego, told the Guardian.
Drehsler was grouped in the database as “media/journalist”, alongside others identified as “instigator” and “organizer”. Her image in the database, like those of several others, is marked with a bright green X on her face to indicate an alert has been placed on her passport. NBC 7 reported that the database included a dossier on each person.
Civil rights activists and members of Congress have expressed alarm about this database, as well as the arrest of more than 37 other immigration activists by Donald Trump’s administration. They see it as a politically motivated crackdown on media and campaigners as Trump seeks to ramp up the pressure to build a border wall.
“I have not seen this kind of systematic targeting of journalists and advocates in this way,” said the ACLU staff attorney Esha Bhandari. “I think it is very troubling, very disturbing.”
Bhandari said there was a link between the database and the Trump administration’s arrests of immigrant activists and advocates, which could have a chilling effect on people exercising their right to free speech.
Donald Trump will be making a significant request for border wall funds and seeking money to stand up his “Space Force” as a new branch of the military in the White House budget being released next week, an administration official said on Saturday.
As the official did so, the president was on Twitter calling the hard-right commentator Ann Coulter a “Wacky Nut Job” for questioning his success on the wall.
Coulter, previously a supporter of the president and the author of a book entitled In Trump We Trust, has turned on him over his failure to secure funding for the wall by conventional means.
Late on Saturday, after a day’s golf in Florida, the president tweeted that “Wacky Nut Job Ann Coulter … still hasn’t figured out that, despite all odds and an entire Democrat Party of Far Left Radicals against me (not to mention certain Republicans who are sadly unwilling to fight), I am winning on the Border.
“Major sections of Wall are being built and renovated, with MUCH MORE to follow shortly. Tens of thousands of illegals are being apprehended (captured) at the Border and NOT allowed into our Country. With another President, millions would be pouring in. I am stopping an invasion as the Wall gets built.”
The tweets from Trump represented a harshening of rhetoric since January, during the record-breaking government shutdown over his demands for a wall. Then, the president mused that Coulter might have turned against him because he did not return her calls. On Saturday, Coulter did not immediately return his tweet.
The official who spoke anonymously about the budget, to the Associated Press, said the White House would propose serious cuts in safety net programs used by many Americans and other non-defense accounts. That will probably trigger a showdown with Congress.
It is unclear how much more money the president will seek to build the wall on the border with Mexico. The request is coming on top of the $8.1bn Trump already has access to, which includes some $3.6bn he has trying to shift from military accounts after declaring a national emergency. Trump invoked the emergency declaration last month after Congress denied his request for $5.7bn. Instead, Congress approved nearly $1.4bn for the border barriers, far less than he wanted.
The president’s Republican allies in the Senate, uneasy over the emergency declaration, are poised next week to debate terminating it. Some view it as an overreach of executive power. Congress appears to have enough votes to reject Trump’s declaration, but not to overturn his expected veto of their action.
The Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy aimed at deterringasylum seekers, especially at the southern border, is illegal and a human rights violation, the head of Amnesty International in the United States has said.
By law, the US is required to allow asylum seekers to file a request for asylum, but the Trump administration has implemented policies designed to prevent that from happening, including placing Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers at the international boundary to ask travelers for documentation before getting to the port of entry.
“First and foremost the policy is a violation of US and international law and clearly a human rights violation. If the US recognized that an individual has a credible fear of prosecution you can’t send them somewhere else – it is on the obligation of the state to offer protection and not delegate it to some third party,” Margaret Huang, the executive director for Amnesty International US, told the Guardian this week.
The US woke on Saturday to the 15th day of a partial government shutdownthat Donald Trump said could go on for months or years, if he is not given funding for a wall on the Mexican border. New talks were due but as the nation digested the president’s rambling, contradictory and combative remarks at a White House press conference on Friday, potentially devastating effects of the shutdown were coming into focus.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides dietary assistance to 38 million low-income Americans and is colloquially known as food stamps, will soon face cuts and will run out of funds in March. Tax refunds totalling billions of dollars and due in April to millions may be delayed. And, CNN reported, Transportation Security Agents vital to the operation of major airports are beginning to call out sick, after being forced to work without pay.
Hydrick Thomas, the president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN of the callouts by “hundreds” of officers: “This will definitely affect the flying public who we [are] sworn to protect.”
Trump named Vice-President Mike Pence, homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and senior adviser Jared Kushner as his representatives at meetings with Democrats, starting at 11am on Saturday.
He also returned to Twitter. Claiming “great support … from all sides for Border Security”, the president made a jab at familiar media targets when he wrote: “Teams negotiating this weekend! Washington Post and NBC reporting of events, including Fake sources, has been very inaccurate (to put it mildly)!”
Unlike House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and minority whip Steve Scalise, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, was not present at the Friday press conference. He has sought to leave Democrats and the president to fight it out, thereby to avoid political damage. Trump shrugged off McConnell’s absence but minority leader Chuck Schumer said: “The president needs an intervention, and Senate Republicans are just the right ones to intervene.”
Trump campaigned on a promise to build the wall, which he says is necessary to stop undocumented migration and the flow of drugs into the US, and to stop terrorists entering the country.
The last claim is as frequently questioned by media factcheckers as it is trotted out by Trump and his allies. On Friday, asked to comment on the claim made by her boss as she stood with him in the White House Rose Garden, Nielsen said more than 3,000 “special interest aliens” had been stopped at the south-western border in an unspecified period. It was swiftly pointed out that nearly all people crossing the border who are not from western hemisphere countries are thus classified.
Donald Trump is “ready, willing and able” to negotiate an end to the partial government shutdown that stretched into its 11th day and a new calendar year on 1 January, but insists any agreement include funding for “a good old fashioned wall” on the US-Mexico border.
The political gridlock is therefore set to continue into the new session of Congress on Thursday and probably beyond, as Democrats refuse to agree to taxpayers’ money for a wall and intend to introduce their own legislation to reopen the government without such funding.
The Democrats are preparing to take control of the House of Representatives on Thursday. They will vote quickly on several bills to reopen the government, while Republicans insist they will not pass any such legislation in the Senate, which they still dominate, that the president will not sign.
Trump seemed resigned on Tuesday morning to the continuing stalemate. He tweeted: “The Democrats, much as I suspected, have allocated no money for a new Wall.”
Trump had earlier told Fox News in a year-end TV interview that he was “ready to go” on any deal, despite there currently being no prospect of one.
“I spent Christmas in the White House, I spent New Year’s Eve in the White House,” he said. “I’m here, I’m ready to go, it’s important. A lot of people are looking to get their paycheck.”
Adding that Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi “can come over right now” and “could’ve come over anytime” to try to hash out a solution, Trump said: “I’m ready to go whenever they want.”
Trump has not reached out to Schumer and Pelosi directly through normal political channels, however, and spent the festive period slamming them on social media and trying to blame the Democrats for the government shutdown. This despite a meeting in the Oval Office earlier in December where Trump, in a highly unusual move, told Schumer and Pelosi that he would be “proud” to take responsibility for shutting down the government over the funding row for the wall.
Migrants just cross Mexico like they’re “walking through Central Park,” Trump once claimed.
In truth, Mexico is aggressive in enforcing U.S. immigration policy. In 2014 President Enrique Peña Nieto implemented a robust deterrence effort, the Southern Border Program, to deter migration across Mexico’s border with Guatemala.
Between 2014 and 2015, Mexican deportations of Central Americans traveling to the U.S. – primarily Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans – more than doubled, from 78,733 in 2013 to 176,726 in 2015. During the same period, U.S. border agents detained half as many Central American migrants at the border.
Source: Mexico’s next president likely to defy Trump on immigration : The Conversation
Portraits of the slave-owning presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson loomed over the Resolute desk, daylight reflecting off its polished surface. Donald Trump sat in a burgundy leather chair, flanked by two of his most loyal lieutenants. Mike Pence wore a grey suit and red tie, Kirstjen Nielsen was dressed in deep blue. Press secretary Sarah Sanders rested her hand on one of two cream sofas at the centre of the Oval Office. Their expressions were grave, the atmosphere sombre.