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Trump Administration Rushing Deportations Of Children During Pandemic

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

The girls, 8 and 11, were alone in a rented room in a dangerous Mexican city bordering Texas. Their father had been attacked and abandoned on the side of a road and they didn't know where he was.

For seven months the children had waited with their dad in Matamoros, across from Brownsville, to ask U.S. authorities for asylum. They had fled their home after death threats from local gang members and no help from police. They had also been victims of sexual assault.

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Danziger: The American Nightmare

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.

New Rules, Same Humans

On Tuesday morning, less than an hour after U.S. officials deported Guadalupe Olivas Valencia to Mexico, the 45-year-old man leapt to his death from a bridge that connects our two countries.

BBC News reported witnesses describing Olivas as distressed and saying he shouted that he did not want to return to Mexico before he jumped. He was from Sinaloa, one of the most violent states in the country.

If you’re inclined to point to Olivas’ three attempts to live here illegally as evidence of his unwillingness to follow the rules, consider recasting the indictment as a question: Why would this man have tried three times to escape Mexico?

As of Tuesday afternoon, we still knew little about Guadalupe Olivas Valencia beyond the circumstances of his death. But anyone paying attention to the news and capable of even a whisper of empathy knows there is more to his story. It is not difficult to imagine his death as a harbinger of more tragedies to come.

Olivas died on the same day the Department of Homeland Security released sweeping new guidelines that will most likely target for deportation millions more undocumented immigrants living in the United States. No matter how much they pay in taxes and Social Security and regardless of what they contribute to their communities, they are now more vulnerable. Something as simple as failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign can lead to one person’s deportation and the devastation of an entire family.

When I read about Olivas’ suicide, I immediately thought of another family of immigrants I wrote about in December 2010. The parents — I called them Mary and Joe to protect their identities — and their two elder children were born in Mexico. They fled for their lives, crossing the border illegally and then paying strangers $6,000 to ride in windowless vans from Arizona to a small town in northeast Ohio. They found full-time work and brought three more children into the world.

They lived in constant fear of discovery, but they were willing to take the risk to improve the lives of their children — an American value, I was raised to believe.

As I wrote at the time, one foggy evening in 2010, Joe was driving home from work, when police pulled him over for using high-beam headlights. He was gone before his wife and children could even visit him at the police station.

His 11-year-old daughter, Emma, took his deportation the hardest. She was a bright student, but her light burned out in her father’s absence. The longer he was gone the more morose and combative she became. Mary shared her concern in phone calls with her husband, but she was trying to keep her family afloat. One afternoon, Mary left Emma to watch the younger children so that she and her eldest daughter could run errands.

By the time they returned, Emma was gone. She had coiled a cord around her neck and tied it to the banister and then slid down the stairs until she suffocated.

I learned about Emma only after she had died, in an interview with Veronica Isabel Dahlberg, who is a co-founder and the executive director of HOLA, an advocacy group for the large Latino community in northeast Ohio. After reading about Olivas’ suicide on that bridge, I called Dahlberg to see how Emma’s family is doing now.

After his daughter’s suicide, Joe made it back to his family, but only for a while. He was arrested in 2012 after he was pulled over for another traffic infraction. This time, the charge was more serious because he’d already been deported. For months, he languished in a detention cell in Youngstown, awaiting his fate. On the day of his court hearing, Feb. 28, 2013, his wife of 20 years called Dahlberg.

“I could barely understand her at first,” Dahlberg said. “She was so upset.”

Joe had hanged himself in his cell. He was 40 years old.

Days after he died, Joe’s family — including his parents — and friends and colleagues gathered at a local funeral home to say goodbye. His death notice described him as a man who read the Bible every day and who tried to live his life by its teachings.

“His greatest joy,” it read, “came from being with his family.”

He is buried next to his daughter Emma, in the small American town where he once dared to believe that his family would be safe.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate.

IMAGE: Mexican immigration officers talk with a man whom they suspect to be an illegal immigrant during a search operation in Zapopan near Guadalajara, Mexico July 29, 2014. REUTERS/Alejandro Acosta/File Photo

Mexican Official Says Deporting Non-Mexicans To Mexico Is A ‘Non-Starter’

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

Mexican officials have flatly rejected the Trump administration’s plan to deport to Mexico migrants caught illegally crossing the U.S. southern border, regardless of nationality.

On the eve of a high-level meeting between the two countries, Mexican officials said Mexico will never accept the return of Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Hondurans, and others who traveled through the country on their way to the United States, most often to ask for asylum here.

“It’s a non-starter,” a Mexican official familiar with the situation said, switching to English for emphasis. The rest of the conversation took place in Spanish. “I don’t see a scenario in which Mexico accepts this solely because an executive order from the United States says so.”

The idea of deporting non-Mexicans to Mexico as long as they entered the U.S. from that country is a never-implemented provision in American immigration law. A pair of memos signed by John Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, said the Trump administration plans to use the law. Multiple immigration lawyers said they either had never heard of the provision being used, or they had only seen it used with citizens of Mexico.

The Mexican official said his country learned about the proposal when the Kelly memos were disclosed by McClatchy and other media outlets over the weekend.

“As of Tuesday evening there is nothing communicated to us officially other than what we’ve seen published,” the Mexican official said. He acknowledged that the Mexican government had received “hints” recently the Trump administration was considering such an approach.

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly — who bears ultimate responsibility over this immigration plan — and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet on Thursday in Mexico with President Enrique Peña Nieto. The possible deportation of non-Mexicans to Mexico was not on the initial agenda until at least Tuesday evening. However, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said Wednesday that new American immigration policies will be “the main point in the agenda,” according to Reuters.

The American plan calls for Mexico to house asylum seekers caught illegally crossing the southern border until their petitions are adjudicated, granting them permission to come into the United States or forcing them to go back to their home countries.

“I want to make clear in the most emphatic way possible that the government of Mexico and the Mexican people do not have to accept dispositions that one government wants to unilaterally impose over another,” Videgaray said.

According to the memo, the U.S. even wants to build a video conferencing system in Mexico to allow asylum seekers to plead their cases in front of American immigration officials. The plan is attractive to the Department of Homeland Security, which doesn’t have enough detention space to house the current influx of asylum seekers.

The relations between Mexico and the United States were chilly long before disclosure of the deportation plan. Earlier this month, Peña Nieto abruptly canceled a scheduled visit to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly insisted that Mexico will pay for construction of a multibillion dollar wall on the U.S. side of the border. Mexican officials have vehemently rejected that idea as well.

In a briefing call with reporters on Tuesday morning, a DHS official said that implementing this statute was simply a plan to exploit the laws that already exist to their fullest extent.

“If you enter the U.S. illegally, there’s a provision in law … that authorizes the department to put that person back into Mexico,” a DHS official, who also requested anonymity, said.

Several immigration law experts said they had simply never heard or seen cases where this statute had been deployed. Jonathan Montag, a San Diego-based immigration lawyer who has written legal analyses about the statute, said he had only seen it used in a radically different scenario: to send to Mexico citizens of that country who had obtained green cards but were later convicted of crimes in the U.S.

“I think everyone knows that all countries get the permission of other countries before depositing deportees,” said Montag. “How much ‘toughness mileage’ they get while this percolates and before they clarify is the Trumpian unknown here.”

IMAGE: A Salvadoran father (R) carries his son while running next to another immigrant as they try to board a train heading to the Mexican-U.S. border, in Huehuetoca, near of Mexico City, June 1, 2015. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo