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Tag: border crisis

The Border Crisis Proves America Is Still A Beacon

Five million Ukrainians have fled their homeland since Russia invaded, seeking refuge not only in neighboring countries such as Poland and Germany but also in Britain, Canada and the United States. And who can blame them? The Biden administration has admitted more than 100,000 refugees from Ukraine without provoking a whisper of protest in this country.

It's hard for any of us to fault innocent people who are trying to escape the horrors and hardships of war or the brutal consequences of Russian occupation. They and their children have only one life to live, and they are not eager to put that life at undue risk or endure it in misery.

But Americans have a different attitude toward a group that is not so different: the migrants from Mexico, Central America and South America who have made arduous, dangerous journeys to our southern border in hopes of finding a place here.

A majority of Americans regard the stream of new arrivals as an "invasion" — a word normally reserved for military campaigns. Instead of equating these migrants with Ukrainian refugees, they somehow equate them with the Russian army.


But there is no evidence that those showing up at the border asking for asylum harbor hostile intent. Just the opposite: They come here because they think the U.S. offers a better life than what they had back home. They don't want to harm us. They want to join us.

Small wonder. The three countries of Central America's "Northern Triangle" have some of the highest murder rates in the world. They are among the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. Plagued with corrupt governments, their citizens have no reason to expect their lives to improve.

So they look elsewhere, and they settle on the U.S. That is the highest of compliments, something we used to understand. During the Cold War, we offered sanctuary to those fleeing Communist oppression in Eastern Europe. We took in hundreds of thousands of Jews who suffered discrimination in the Soviet Union.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed "to the people of Cuba that those who seek refuge here in America will find it." After the Vietnam War, the U.S. welcomed more than a million people from Southeast Asia.

In his final address as president, Ronald Reagan paid tribute to this tradition. America, he declared, is "still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home."

Back home, these migrants face terrifying violence and intractable poverty. They want something better. Many have walked hundreds of miles or climbed atop freight trains, risking rape and robbery at the hands of criminal gangs, for the mere chance of gaining entry to the U.S.

They're not the only foreigners who, given the choice, choose America. Since the Chinese government liberalized its emigration policies in the 1980s, the number of Chinese living here has risen nearly sevenfold. The Indian immigrant population has grown even faster.

Our universities have more than a million foreign students. According to the Consumer Technology Association, which represents tech firms, 45% of Fortune 500 corporations, including Apple and Amazon, were founded by immigrants and children of immigrants.

The next Steve Jobs may not be waiting in Mexico right now for an asylum hearing. But Latin American immigrants bring their own talents, as well as the drive to make the most of them. They come here without valid visas only because our miserly immigration rules leave them no plausible alternative.

Xenophobes depict a marauding horde. But as Alex Nowrasteh of the libertarian Cato Institute reports, "Illegal immigrants are half as likely to be convicted or incarcerated as native-born Americans are." Overwhelmingly, they want to work for an honest living that exceeds anything they could dream of in their native countries.

It would be an alarming symptom if all these people were avoiding the U.S. in favor of Brazil or Venezuela. Their preference attests to the enduring appeal of the freedom, opportunity and prosperity that this country offers.

Wang Jisi, a professor of international studies at Peking University, scoffs at his government's insistence that America's best days are behind us. "When people stop queuing up for visas in front of the U.S. Consulates," he told The New York Times, "then the U.S. is in decline." For a lot of people around the world, America is still the promised land. And that's not a bad thing.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Republicans Rage Over Budget, Bibi, And Border, But Can't Dent Biden In Polls

Congressional Republicans are once again outraged that President Joe Biden has not allowed them to run his calendar. This time they are furious that he has not yet submitted a formal budget to Congress.

Biden, who was inaugurated on Jan. 20, has been president for just 76 days. He has spent much of that time cleaning up the messes left by Donald Trump: the ongoing deadly coronavirus pandemic, the economic crisis the pandemic has caused, and systemic problems of racism and violence made even more visible in the past four years.

Still, Republicans on the House Budget Committee used their official Twitter account on Tuesday to attack Biden for not yet releasing a budget proposal.

"President Biden's lack of transparency is historic as he continues to fail to submit any budget plan or outline to Congress," they charged. "When he does it will be the latest a President has submitted an initial budget outline to Congress in the modern budget era. @POTUS where is your budget?"

Biden's acting budget director has been on the job for less than two weeks. Rather than cooperate with Biden's team to ensure a smooth transition, Trump's team at the Office of Management and Budget pretended that they were going to write the 2022 budget, even after Biden's decisive election victory.

Congressional Republicans are demanding that Biden prioritize filing a budget document as if the president is obligated to do exactly what they tweet he should do.

Over the past two months, they have whined repeatedly when Biden didn't drop everything to meet assorted other GOP demands.

For weeks, they complained that since his inauguration, President Biden had not had a phone conversation with embattled and indicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — even though the two had spoken during the transition and Netanyahu's ambassador to the United States had made clear he was in no rush, saying, "The prime minister is not worried about the timing of the conversation."

"What is @POTUS avoiding?" asked Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson on Feb. 11. "I urge President Biden to ignore the radical left in his party and make a strong show of support for our partnership with Israel by calling @IsraeliPM Netanyahu."

"From Xi and Putin to Mario Kart, President Biden has found plenty of time for many activities since being sworn in," groused Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York on Feb. 16. "It's past time to pick up the phone and call America's loyal friend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."

"Over the years, the U.S. has strengthened our relationship with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, due to our shared interests and values," tweeted Tennessee Rep. David Kustoff on Feb. 17. "Yet, after 28 days, @JoeBiden has still not picked up the phone to call Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu."

Biden and Netanyahu spoke on Feb. 17.

Next, Republicans, who had defended Trump as he attacked and stonewalled the press for four years and set records for the length of time that passed between news conferences, went after Biden for not holding a formal news conference. Biden had frequently answered reporters' questions in informal settings.

"Why does Joe Biden, the least transparent president in history, need to announce his press conference over a week in advance?" asked Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert on March 17 after the White House announced the date.

"What kind of President takes 64 full days to finally have a press conference? NOT a mentally competent one I'll tell you that!" tweeted Jackson on March 18.

"If Trump had gone 60+ days without taking questions and then held a nonsensical press conference like Biden did yesterday, the Dems would be shouting to invoke the 25th Amendment," tweeted Texas Rep. Brian Babin on March 26, the day after Biden spent an hour answering questions from the White House press corps about immigration, Trump, and Biden's plans for 2024.

More recently, congressional Republicans have demanded Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visit the U.S.-Mexico border to witness what they call a "crisis."

"It's time @JoeBiden takes responsibility for the crisis he has created at our border and makes a visit to see it for himself," Sen. Rick Scott of Florida tweeted on March 23.

"Our border is devolving into more chaos as the days go by," claimed Boebert on March 24. "Joe Biden has yet to announce plans to visit and Kamala Harris cackled at the thought."

"Move the southern border to Delaware and Joe Biden might visit it," sniped Texas Rep. Lance Gooden on March 29.

Biden said in response to questions on whether he'd visit the border, "At some point I will, yes. ... I know what's going on in those facilities."

Despite the GOP outrage, voters seem unperturbed.

According to FiveThirtyEight polling averages, Biden continues to enjoy the positive job approval ratings he's seen since taking office. Those averages put current approval of the job he's doing at 53.6% and disapproval at just 39.6%.

This is a significant reversal from his predecessor. After his first week in the White House, Trump never again reached his highest average approval rating of 46% and spent most of his four years in office with a majority of those polled disapproving of his job performance.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

How Trump Created The ‘Border Crisis’ — And How Biden Can Fix It

In 2014, the Obama administration was faced with a surge in unaccompanied minors from Central America showing up at our border and seeking asylum. In an effort to reduce the number of kids trekking across Mexico, it created a program to let them apply for asylum in their home countries. Some 13,000 did, helping to ease the rush.

You can guess what happened next. Donald Trump became president and acted on his twin beliefs: anything that Barack Obama did was bad, and anything that helped foreigners was worse. He killed the program, and soon the number of Central American kids crossing over began to grow. By the spring of 2019, his administration was faced with its very own crisis at the border.

His Department of Homeland Security responded with harsh measures — separating children from parents in large numbers, expelling children from Central America into Mexico and forcing asylum seekers to remain for months in Mexico in squalid camps.

Today, we see another tide of Central Americans coming north, and Republicans blame President Joe Biden for enticing them. They refer to it as "Biden's border crisis," as though it suddenly exploded on January 20.

In fact, it emerged when the White House was just a gleam in Biden's eye. The increase began last spring and built steadily over the remainder of Trump's presidency. From May to October, the number of "southwest land border encounters" recorded by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol nearly tripled. In truth, it was dire conditions in their home countries that drove the migrants.

Republicans claim they were emboldened by Biden's plan to stop work on Trump's border wall — the one Mexico was supposed to pay for. That theory is implausible, because Trump added only 47 miles of barriers in places that didn't have them before.

"Only a few miles were built in South Texas, the area most prone to illegal crossings," The New York Times recently reported. "Instead, much of the construction, especially in the Trump administration's closing days, has taken place in remote parts of Arizona where crossings in recent years have been relatively uncommon."

If Biden deserves any responsibility for the recent surge, it's not because of what he did wrong but because of what he did right. Trump's fondness for systematic cruelty may have discouraged some Central Americans. But the cruelty was impossible to justify, even for an ostensibly good purpose.

Under Trump's zero tolerance policy, thousands of children were taken from their parents when the families crossed the border to exercise their right to seek political asylum. Most of the parents were sent back to their home countries. Some of the kids spent weeks sleeping on the floor in chain-link cages. Last fall, we learned the horrifying truth that the Trump administration had lost track of the parents of 545 children, making it impossible to reunite the families.

The brutality was a design feature. Trump's White House Chief of Staff John Kelly boasted that "a big name of the game is deterrence." But sometimes deterrence asks too much.

There are alternative remedies, such as letting more foreigners in through authorized channels. But Trump was against immigration of any sort. His administration virtually eliminated admissions for refugees, and last year, it slashed the number of green cards for legal permanent residents.

Today, the worldwide backlog of applications for green cards is at five million. Many recipients have to wait ten years or more to be admitted. Cato Institute analysts David Bier and Alex Nowrasteh reach this startling conclusion: "At no time in American history has immigration been as legally restricted as it is currently."

For the moment, the Biden administration has the task of coping with the border crisis while dismantling the inhumane practices of its predecessor. In the longer term, it could relieve pressure on the border by increasing refugee admissions and allotting more slots to the Central American countries that have produced so many migrants.

It could create a program for guest workers from Mexico and Central America, as proposed by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Biden has already moved to restore the Central American Minors Program to provide "a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the risks incurred in the attempt to migrate to the United States irregularly."

Giving people an avenue to come here legally in order to keep them from coming illegally? A crazy idea, but it just might work.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Mexican Foreign Minister Rejects Trump Claim Of Secret Deal On Immigration

During a Monday press conference, Mexico’s foreign secretary Marcelo Ebrard said there is no secret immigration deal with the United States, directly contradicting Trump claim that there was.

Ebrard said Mexico is working with the United Nations to establish a regional asylum and refuge system in cooperation with Guatemala, Panama, and Brazil.

“They wanted something else totally different … to be signed,” Ebrard said Monday. “But that is what there is here. There is no other thing beyond what I have just explained.”

Ebrard’s statement flies in the face of Trump’s recent comment about a secret immigration deal he signed with Mexico.

“We have fully signed and documented another very important part of the Immigration and Security deal with Mexico, one that the U.S. has been asking about getting for many years,” Trump said Monday morning, apparently making up a nonexistent secret signed agreement with Mexico. “It will be revealed in the not too distant future and will need a vote by Mexico’s Legislative body!”

According to the New York Times, administration officials said Trump may have been referring to an agreement by the two countries to discuss the migration situation again in 45 days and then again in 90 days.

The U.S. and Mexico have been in discussion about immigration recently because in late May Trump threatened to put a five percent tariff on all goods coming from Mexico unless all “illegal immigration” coming into the U.S. from the southern border stopped.

Trump’s tariff proposal was almost universally panned as economically harmful, and even some (but not allRepublican Senators came out against the idea.

After a significant amount of bluster from Trump, he eventually caved, agreeing not to institute tariffs for the time being.

Trump withdrew his trade war threat without any new or significant concessions from Mexico; instead, the Mexican government reiterated promises it made months ago.

But Trump apparently could not leave well enough alone and decided to pretend that there was some sort of secret immigration deal he struck. There is no evidence of any secret deal, and Mexico’s foreign secretary rejected any such notion.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: Migrants get off a bus, after they were deported from Mexico, at the main migration center in San Salvador, El Salvador April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

Danziger: Cry Babies

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

Danziger: DHS Defenestration

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

7,000 Immigrant Children Ordered Deported Without Going To Court

By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

More than 7,000 immigrant children have been ordered deported without appearing in court since large numbers of minors from Central America began illegally crossing the U.S. border in 2013, federal statistics show.

The high number of deportation orders has raised alarm among immigrant advocates, who say many of those children were never notified of their hearing date because of problems with the immigration court system.

In interviews and court documents, attorneys said notices sometimes arrived late, at the wrong address or not at all. In some cases, children were ordered to appear in a court near where they were initially detained, rather than where they were living, attorneys said.

“What was a border crisis has now become a due process crisis,” said Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense, an advocacy group.

In February, dozens of advocacy groups asked the government to temporarily stop issuing removal orders when a child fails to appear in court, and to reopen cases in which deportations were ordered.

Unprecedented numbers of immigrant children started showing up at the southern U.S. border in the fall of 2013. Many traveled without an adult and said they were fleeing rising gang violence in Honduras and El Salvador.

The government filed deportation cases against 62,363 minors between October 2013 and January of this year, according to federal data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

At least 7,706 of them were ordered removed after they failed to show up in court.

It is not known how many of those children were aware of their hearings and chose not to appear. It is also not known how many have actually been sent home.

According to the most recent data available from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that carries out deportations, 1,901 unaccompanied immigrant children were deported from the United States in fiscal year 2014, but some of those cases may have predated the recent surge.

Reports of notification errors come as the Obama administration has sped up deportation hearings for arriving youth — in part to dissuade others back home from making the journey north.

Last summer, Obama instructed courts to realign their dockets so underage immigrants would appear before a judge within 21 days of ICE officials filing a deportation case against them. Previously they would wait months or more than a year for their initial hearing.

Immigrant advocates say the crush of fast-tracked cases may have overwhelmed the courts.

Kathryn Mattingly, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which administers the courts, said immigrants who don’t appear are ordered removed “when the immigration judge is satisfied that notice of the time and place of the proceeding was provided to the respondent at the address the respondent provided.”

Mattingly said she could not comment on alleged notification errors because her agency is fighting a class-action lawsuit demanding that the government provide attorneys to immigrant children. The case includes several plaintiffs who say they did not receive proper notice to appear in court.

A federal judge in Washington state was to hear arguments Friday on the government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.

In an indication that the government is aware of some problems, immigration officials recently reopened the case of one of the plaintiffs, a 17-year-old from El Salvador who was ordered deported in September for failing to appear at his hearing.

In court documents, government attorneys said officials had “uncovered some discrepancies” that called into question whether he had received notification of his court date.

Immigrant advocates say they have heard of hundreds of similar problems, some of which were detailed in last month’s letter demanding that judges stop ordering deportations when children fail to show up.

The letter cites a Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service attorney who said that at one point last year, only one of her 13 clients had received a notice to appear before their first hearings.

Another advocate said a child was ordered to appear in court in New Orleans while still in government custody in Virginia.

The head of the union that represents immigration judges said she had seen notification problems in her own San Francisco courtroom. In one case, a notice was sent to a rural address where the child lived, instead of the P.O. box where the child’s family received mail, said Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

“Our system is far from foolproof,” Marks said. “It’s a difficult situation to try to know what percentage of those cases are innocent errors and lack of understanding, and which percentage of people who do not appear are consciously trying to avoid the process.”

Marks said she often gives immigrants a second chance to appear before ordering them deported. But she said other judges do not, perhaps because of their interpretation of a 1996 law that stiffened the consequences for immigrants who fail to show up.

Advocates for stricter enforcement of immigration laws said they were also concerned by reports that the government has failed to notify children of their court dates.

“They’re supposed to know where these kids are going when they release them,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. He said he also suspects some people may receive notices but choose not to go to court because they believe they can live in the country undetected.

“They know that nobody is coming out looking for them,” Mehlman said. “The reason we had this surge is that people understood that these laws weren’t being enforced.”

Margaret Taylor, a law professor at Wake Forest University, said immigrants who have been ordered deported may eventually file motions to reopen their cases. To do so, an immigrant must prove that he or she did not receive a notice to appear or couldn’t show up for the hearing.

Those future cases will create new strains on what Taylor called an underfunded, overburdened and “antiquated” court system. She noted that immigrants are required to file address changes through the mail, instead of online, which may open the door to errors.

Court errors are one reason why immigrants should be provided with attorneys, advocates say.

Statistics show that immigrants who have lawyers are more likely to show up in court and win their cases. The government does not provide legal counsel to those facing deportation.

More than 94 percent of the unaccompanied minors ordered removed without appearing in court during the last six months of last year did not have an attorney, according to immigration court statistics.

One of them is a 15-year-old girl living in Los Angeles.

The girl, who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit that was to be heard Friday, said in court documents she fled El Salvador after gang members pressured her to become “romantically involved.” She said they killed a female classmate who refused similar advances.

The girl was detained at the Texas border in May and released the following month to her grandmother, Blanca Zelaya.

Zelaya said she contacted the court repeatedly to find out the girl’s hearing date, but was told that she had to wait for a notification to arrive in the mail. It never did.

She later found out the hearing had already been held — and her granddaughter ordered deported.

“I feel frustrated and helpless,” said Zelaya, who said she was afraid of what might happen if the girl was sent back. “I prefer not to think about it.”

Photo: Volunteers receive an orientation at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas, where undocumented women and children gathered in July 2014. More than 7,000 immigrant children have been ordered deported without appearing in court since large numbers of minors from Central America began illegally crossing the U.S. border in 2013, federal statistics show. (Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Some Central Americans Can Now Seek U.S. Refugee Status From Home

By Brian Bennett, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — In an effort to discourage thousands of unaccompanied children from trying to enter the U.S. illegally, President Barack Obama has instructed immigration officials to allow citizens of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to apply for refugee status in their home countries for the first time.

The order, contained in a White House memo to the State Department, did not say how many refugee applications should be approved. But the program is unlikely to stem the flood of unaccompanied minors that began pouring across the Southwest border last spring.

The same memo capped the total number of refugees the administration will admit from all of Latin America and the Caribbean at 4,000 in the fiscal year that began this week, down from 5,000 last year.

Under the new plan, the State Department will begin accepting refugee applications at U.S. embassies in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador by the end of December, according to spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“We are establishing in-country refugee processing to provide a safe, legal and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that children are currently undertaking to join relatives in the U.S.,” Katherine Vargas, a White House spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Vargas added that officials at the State and Homeland Security departments were still deciding exactly who would qualify for the refugee program. Immigration rights advocates hope targets of gang violence or sexual abuse may qualify.

About 66,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended on the Southwest border in the last fiscal year, twice as many as the previous year. Many said they were fleeing an onslaught of drug violence and crime back home.

The surge sparked alarm in many border towns, overwhelmed social service agencies and forced the Obama administration to recalibrate its plans for immigration reform.

Border Patrol stations in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where most of the Central American children crossed the border, have struggled to care for the minors before they are handed over to social service agencies. Most eventually are placed with relatives in the U.S. while they await immigration hearings in court.

The influx has waned in the last three months, a change officials attribute to public service announcements in Central America warning of the dangers of the journey through Mexico, and blistering summer temperatures in the desert. Border officials are bracing for another wave of children as the weather cools.

Immigration rights advocates criticized the expanded refugee process as inadequate.

“We are concerned that the scope of this program is so small, it really won’t address the magnitude of the problem,” Gregory Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said in an interview.

“It’s like putting out a job announcement but not having any jobs that can be filled,” Chen said.

Until now, the only people who could apply directly for U.S. refugee status from overseas were Cuban dissidents, persecuted religious minorities in Eurasia and the Baltics with close family ties in the U.S., and Iraqi citizens who worked for the U.S. government, U.S. media or U.S. nongovernmental organizations after the 2003 American-led invasion.

People who are still overseas also may be designated as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and be admitted to the United States.

But in most cases, foreign nationals must arrive on American soil before they can seek asylum on religious or political grounds, or because they faced violence for being a member of a persecuted social group.

In some cases, women who have been victims of domestic abuse and youths who have received death threats for refusing to join a gang have qualified for asylum, even if they applied from outside the country.

AFP Photo/ Mark Ralston