Migrant Caravan and Human Rights

Asylum Laws And The Caravan

Opinion: The US is breaking international human rights laws by denying entrance to asylum seekers. Here's what I know.

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The Trump administration and their base have been hyper-focused on our southern border. We all remember the recent 35 days shut down which was a result of the President of the United States not receiving what he wanted in terms of funding the wall between the United States and Mexico (which he continually promised Mexico would pay for on the campaign trail). The result of The Trump administration's views of the southern border and the people who cross it have been devastating for thousands in a caravan of migrants all of whom are seeking asylum in our country. A significant number of some 13,000 migrants are families, single parents, LGBT folk, and people with disabilities. Caravans such as these are expected to continue unless the situation from which they are fleeing is resolved.

The United States has been handling this situation atrociously and embarrassingly. Not only has President Trump made grossly inaccurate, racist, and xenophobic comments surrounding the issues, but the United States has also, by United Nations experts, been accused of breaking international law and anti-discrimination standards. International Law is not something that is taught in United States schools (at least it is extremely rare for this topic to be covered by curriculum); so allow me to shed some light on all of the human rights laws the United States is violating during the administrations handling of the migrants and asylum seekers.

The United Nations created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 in the wake of the second world war. Article 14(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that all citizens of the world have the right to seek and be granted asylum to refugees. A refugee is defined as a person who is unwilling or unable to return to their original country of origin due to fear of persecution surrounding race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

The United States recognizes these international asylum laws and has its own federal laws surrounding seeking asylum. For the refugee to be granted asylum, they must establish their fear and then prove the basis behind their fear (Jews fleeing during the Holocaust as religious refugees are a very good example. The United States actually did turn away thousands of Jews, sending them back to their deaths.) Denying these people the right to pass through the United States to Canada or denying them the right to enter and apply for asylum is a violation of human rights law and of federal law, especially given that a refugee must be inside the country to apply for asylum. Additionally, the gassing of these refugees was a violation of human rights laws surrounding the proper treatment of refugees (and humans in general).

Why should the United States follow federal law? Because if the United States government does not abide by its own laws, why should its citizens? Why should the United States abide by international law? The United States actually pays for around 80% of the United Nations. In order to keep the United Nations as respected and as important as it should be, nations within it, especially the nation that pays for most of it, should abide by the rules, guidelines, and laws set forth by it.

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A Timeline On DACA

Confused about DACA news? It's understandable. Here's a detailed timeline of all the events leading to September 5th, 2017.
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“They shouldn’t be very worried,” said Trump this past January on ABC news.

Now he is being quoted all over the internet, and I’ll just add to the pile.

As of 2016, DREAMers were, in fact, less worried, but that changed on January 20, 2017, when Trump was sworn in under the promise to get rid of Obama’s “unconstitutional executive orders,” one of them being DACA. Moreover, that statement became meaningless this September 5th, when his AG, Jeff Sessions, rescinded DACA.

According to VOX, a survey demonstrated that, as of 2015, 61% of DREAMers had found jobs in their preferred field and 78% were no longer scared of deportation three years after the program’s implementation.

However, things have changed rather quickly. A new president means new rules and new priorities. That’s why I thought it would be meaningful to have a timeline on the actions, or lack of them, taken with regards to DACA from the executive branch and from congress. This timeline is meant to provide context for understanding the events of this week. There are numerous articles explaining all the things you need to know about DACA, as well as those that try to list the things you can do to help. Those articles are incredibly valuable, and you should read them, but if you are trying to understand the roots of the mess we find ourselves in, you are in the right place.

Beware; the roots of this problem go way back. In the words of journalist Dara Lind from VOX, “this fight over DACA is old enough, that it could apply for DACA itself.”

A little historical context to preface the timeline:

The 1960s were a time when immigration was at the bottom of the list of priorities, and the government remained very open. Prior to 1965, there were no immigration quotas for migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean, and the entry of people from these regions had never been never restricted. During that time, there was a program in place that dated back to 1942 and allowed for temporary migration for Mexican “guest-workers.” This program was called the Bracero Program and it allowed Mexican workers to cross the border to work in the U.S and go back to their families in Mexico after a day’s work. On 1964, that program was terminated, and caps on immigration for the Western Hemisphere were placed the following year. After 1965, immigration experienced a surge.

Sociologist, Douglas S Massey, a Princeton professor specialized in the sociology of immigration, argues that “the surge in immigration from Latin America occurred in spite of[,]rather than because of the new system.” Prior to 1965, 450,000 people from Mexico entered the U.S. each year on bracero permits, and there were 50, 000 Mexican legal residents. After the termination of the bracero program and the implementation of the caps (120,000 for permanent resident visas and 20,000 for the allowed number of legal residents from one country), the legal alternatives became scarce and people took action.

The flows of migration weren’t going to experience a major change because of the new policies, and in fact, they didn’t. People continued coming in, they just did it without the proper documentation and chose to stay and settle, rather than risk being apprehended and denied the possibility of reentry. Massey even argues that if the government had handled things differently, the results might have been varied drastically. He claims, “more might have continued to cross the border legally and for temporary stays, resulting in fewer permanent immigrants, less undocumented migration, and slower population growth.” Not to mention, less hard-line immigration politicians who found a culprit in the immigrant worker and bought into the Latino threat narrative.

That’s the end of the historical overview, so let’s dive right into to the timeline.

1965:

The cap on the number of entries from the Western Hemisphere set to 120,000.

# of illegal immigrants = 0

1976

The cap on the number of residence visas for a single country set to 20,000 visas per year.

1978:

The cap on the overall number of visas set at 290,000 visas.

1980:

The cap on the overall number of visas reduced to 270,000

1986:

Reagan introduced IRCA, a path to legalization, which helped reduced illegal immigration by granting permanent residency to undocumented immigrants

1990s-2000s:

Clinton and Bush governed during this time. In this decade, the government continued their efforts to secure the border and carried out the deportations. According to Statistics from the Department of Homeland Security, the total number of deportations under Clinton amounted to 12,290,905. The total amount of deportations for Bush’s first term aren’t readily available, but those of his second term are, and they amount to 10,328,850. The hardline immigration policies unintentionally resulted in an increase of undocumented immigrants, as immigrants decided to bring their families to the U.S. with them and settle here, instead of constantly risking apprehension at the border. They traded one risk for another.

# of legal immigrants from Latin American nations= 4.2M (44% of the entire flow)

2001:

The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, Education for Alien Minors) was proposed by senators, but it was stalled in Congress and ultimately failed to get the necessary votes. It was meant to provide immigrants brought to the U.S. as children with a path to citizenship. Granted, they had to be under 30, have no criminal record, and be enrolled in or have graduated from a university, or had served in the armed forces

The DREAM Act was introduced by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Senator Maria Cantwell, with 6 co-sponsors.

# of deportations: 200,000

2007:

The DREAM act, which was phased out because it felt victim to filibusters and major stalling, was revived in 2007 in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (or Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act) introduced by the 110th Congress. This bill was, like its name said, much more comprehensive because it aimed to provide legal status and a path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants residing in the US. It died with a passing cloture motion. And with it, the DREAM act.

*The Reform Act also included major increases in funding for border enforcement and restructures to visa criteria.

2008:

President Obama’s first term. His goal wasn’t to target low-priority immigrants, but the truth is federal agents were doing so either way. Hence, the impending DACAmentation.

# of deportations 370,000

# of legal immigrants from Latin American nations= 9.6M (80% of the entire flow)

2010:

55 members of the Senate voted to pass the DREAM Act. The bill passed the House and got a majority in the Senate but failed to get 60. It was blocked by Republicans. Multiple senators who had once supported the bill, both on the right and on the left, either refused to vote on it or voted against.

*This made sense because Republicans who were hard on immigration took control of the House of Representatives in the tea-party wave of 2010. There were 87 of them in the House by the end of 2010.

2012:

DACA was born. It was supposed to be temporary, hence the DEFERRED in Deferred Action. It was meant to postpone or defer, the deportation proceedings for two years with the possibility to be renewed and with multiple benefits (i.e. permit to get a driver's license, work permits, etc.) The program was intended to protect immigrants (780,000 of them) who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, through no fault of their own.

2013:

Senate passed a bill to make a broader reform on immigration, but it never got to the House. The bill was supposed to provide a path to citizenship that would take 13 years, but the estimate would be less for the DREAMers. It also included security components, as it aimed to increase funding for border enforcement and make the use of the e-verify system (an electronic system for employers to check the immigration status of their employees) compulsory with an implementation period of 5 years.

2014:

Texas AG filed a suit against DACA on the grounds of its unconstitutionality. Abbott claimed that the effects of Obama’s order would be most felt in southern states who continuously suffer the brunt of illegal immigration. He claimed DACA had encouraged illegal immigration, which was costly for the states and continued to force them to redirect funds towards controlling illegal immigration.

January 2017:

Trump removed privacy protections for DACA recipients with a provision in his executive order. Under the Obama administration, the information of DACA recipients was protected from ICE agents by privacy regulations. Now, it’s not anymore. Their information is now easily available to ICE agents.

June 2017:

a group of 10 Republican state officials wrote the administration a letter asking them to end DACA and threatening to file a federal lawsuit over the program’s constitutionality if the administration didn’t respond.

*If Trump hadn’t end DACA, and the states had gone through with the lawsuit, it would have been the duty of the head of the Department of Justice to defend it in court. That person is no other than Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

September 2017:

Trump rescinds DACA.

*Now that the administration has chosen to end DACA, there are two possible courses of action. Either Congress passes a bill by the deadline, which is set to be March 5th, 2018 or it doesn’t. If it does, then the future of the DREAMers rests in the hands of the legislative branch. If on the contrary, the legislative branch fails to pass a bill for an immigration reform, then the stipulations outlined by AG Sessions will become the new law:

Those who have already applied to DACA will have their applications processed. As for those currently covered, two things could happen. If their DACAmentation is set to expire before March 5, 2018 (deadline for Congress to pass an immigration reform bill), they can apply for one last renewal until October 5th, 2017. If their DACAmentation expires on or after March 6th, 2018, they’ll become illegal aliens once again.

The question that remains is whether or not congress will pass a bill and finally deliver on the comprehensive immigration reform people have been waiting for decades. The other queries are, under what conditions will House majority Republicans agree to protect the DREAMers? Will future legal immigrants and present immigrants bear the brunt of their actions? What compromises is Congress willing to accept to save the DREAMers? Will we witness an of abuse of bargaining power? This was attempted in 2013, so who’s to say it won’t happen again, especially now that the pressure is higher and the threat more imminent. Tuesday’s actions have galvanized public opinion, and we all know what a movement of people can achieve. Hopefully, we will succeed and prove that the DREAMers are right to remain undocumented and unafraid.

Cover Image Credit: amny.com

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Introducing Miah Johnson

"It made me learn to love and live in every moment as if it were the last." -Miah Johnson

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It was Daddy Donut day at Teasley Elementary School, but for Miah Johnson, it was just another day in which she had to pretend everything was okay. It had been a month since Miah's dad was deported and left her hopeless.

As Johnson took her last sip of coffee she laughs. She shares how hard it was for her to talk about her father. Many people do not know about the days she spent crying because she needed him, or how she was not sure if they would ever move past the hard times. How she went days without being able to eat a proper meal because they did not have enough money to make ends meet. Ashamed and embarrassed she shares her memories of going to church early in the morning for bread, canned soup, and powdered milk. She explains that there are times when she gets excited to share something with her father but strange darkness takes over and she loses hope that one day a real relationship with him will exist.

Johnson was born in Fort Lauderdale Florida in 1999. She is the only child of her small sheltered loving family. Her childhood was a fairy tale, her best friend was her stepfather, "I wasn't his biological daughter, but he raised me as one and I will always be grateful for the memories." Johnson's eyes flood with tears as she reminiscences on her past. School work was the best way she coped with her loss. She always made herself busy, if she didn't have any homework she would read, pick up a new hobby or dance. Going to bed was the hardest part of her day. All of the thoughts and feelings she fought so hard to keep away came pouring out in a way she does not know how to describe. Not having her father broke her in many ways, but the one she speaks about most often is not having a financially and emotionally stable home.

Johnson attended Elon University on a full ride her freshman year but decided to transfer to a school closer to home. Johnson was not ready to leave she admitted quietly. She describes that there was a shift in her during her first semester there, for the first time she failed classes, gained 20 pounds and lost her scholarship. Her failure comes from a lack of stability and support. The friendships she made there weren't enough to keep her there, she could no longer afford the prestigious college. Now she takes classes online at Kennesaw State University. She has to work two jobs in order to make ends meet for her and her family. Johnson laughs at the situation and explains how her father used to lecture her on how education is the best way out of their situation. Now she feels like she has disappointed him and that she has to make up for the broken promise.

There is never enough money. Johnson has made plans to visit her father multiple times but has never been able to visit him. There is always something that comes up. Her mother's car broken down the first time, they couldn't afford to pay the bills the other time, and the last time she needed a car of her own to help get to and from work. She shows a screenshot of her bank account. Negative eight dollars. She sighs and states that life has a funny way of getting in the way of the important things.

Johnson believes that if her father was still here, it would be different. She would have never known what it was like to go hungry, feel so hopeless, and do not have a stable home.

She explains that it was an experience she doesn't share because it is painful to talk about but, "It made me learn to love and live in every moment as if it were the last."

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