Tuesday, July 28, 2015

U.S. ruling could require release of undocumented immigrant children (July 28, 2015)

A California judge ruled that the U.S. government is violating a 1997 settlement by detaining unauthorized immigrant children, and an order may be forthcoming to require the release of the minors and parents detained with them, reports Reuters.

Last week's ruling on detentions represents a defeat for U.S. immigration authorities, who in court filings argued releasing undocumented immigrant children with their parents encourages families in Central America to undertake the dangerous journey north.

More than 55,000 family units were caught crossing the southern border last fiscal year, and nearly 25,000 so far this fiscal year, reports the Los Angeles Times, citing U.S. Customs and Border Protection stats. Earlier this month, there were 2,172 immigrant mothers and children detained at the three family detention centers, most of them – 1,979 – at Dilley in Texas.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee's 25-page ruling would provide for keeping a parent in custody if the person is a "significant flight risk," and in some cases the decision envisions releasing a child to another family member in the United States.

But a sudden release of hundreds of detainees is probably not going to happen, explains the LATimes. The judge gave the administration until Aug. 3 to file a response to her intended order, and the administration can still appeal.

The pro bono lawyers who work with families in detention said they were encouraged by the ruling, but did not expect mass releases this week. "This could change how the kids are treated but there is some language in there that is concerning that may allow ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to keep these families detained, either together or separately," Jonathan Ryan, an immigration lawyer and executive director of RAICES, an immigrant legal advocacy group based in San Antonio that works with families in detention centers told the LATimes.

Ryan said it appears that under the conditions the judge suggested in her order, the government could still detain mothers if their children were placed with relatives or other sponsors. "Things could move forward for the children and backward for the moms," he said, adding, "The only thing I can think of that’s scarier than being locked up as a child is being locked up and then sent away and your mom is still there. This is going to continue to be an exercise in cruelty."

The LATimes has a feature on the family detention centers, which over a 130 members of Congress have said should be shut down. And also see this February NYTimes Magazine piece on shameful conditions of family detention camps in the U.S.

News Briefs
  • United Nations experts today called on the Government of the Dominican Republic to take steps to prevent arbitrary deportations and to adopt measures to address allegations of racial profiling during deportations of people of Haitian descent. "No one should be deported when there are legal and valid reasons to stay," said human rights expert Mireille Fanon Mendes-France, who currently heads the United Nations Working Group of Experts of People of African Descent. Some 19,000 people have reportedly left Dominican Republic for Haiti since 21 June due to fear and amidst concerns that there will be violations when deportations officially start in August, according to the U.N. In an op-ed in The Guardian Dan-el Padilla Peralta argues that the worst aspects of U.S. immigration policy are reflected in the Dominican Republic. "The predicament of hundreds of thousands of Haitians and Haitian descendants in my home country resonates with me because I know what it is like to be black and undocumented: to be rendered doubly marginal. In my forthcoming memoir, I've tried to show how America’s inflexible and punitive immigration policies result in absurd and unjust outcomes. It has been dismaying to see the Dominican government adopt a similar approach to immigration while making use of American border-policing expertise."
  • Peru's government on Monday ordered telecommunications companies to grant police warrantless access to cellphone users' locations and other call data in real time and store that data for three years, a decree that civil libertarians called an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, reports the Associated Press. The legislative decree was not debated in Congress and it was enacted under special powers that lawmakers recently granted to President Ollanta Humala's government. Activist Katitza Rodriguez of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said she had not seen "any legal provision anywhere that stripped geolocation data of constitutional communications privacy protections as explicitly" as the Peruvian decree.
  • Guatemalan opposition leader and presidential candidate Manuel Baldizón has travelled to Washington to denounce a plot to discredit his Libertad Democrática Renovada (Lider) party. He alleges that the he United Nations' International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) is politically persecuting his party, reports El Periodico. He met with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro yesterday, reports Siglo 21. Earlier this month the CICIGannounced that it will seek a preliminary hearing to strip Baldizón's VP candidate Edgar Barquin of his immunity over allegations of illicit association and influence trafficking. Two other LIDER lawmakers are also accused of participating. 
  • Alejandro Hope at El Daily Post has a feature on why the escaped leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán is unlikely to be recaptured anytime soon. The reasons include a changed network of close acolytes and potential moles in Mexican intelligence reporting back to the drug kingpin. Yet, "over the long run, the conditions that favor El Chapo will not hold. At some point, he will lower his guard and make mistakes. Security agencies will once again accumulate large amounts of intelligence on the kingpin and his network. Ways will be found to share information safely. U.S. and Mexican agencies will relearn to trust each other. But all that will take months, if not years," explains Hope. Too long for President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is betting on a quick recapture to repair the damage wrought by the escape. 
  • The Bolivian government and leaders of the Andean province of Potosi formally agreed to begin talks on Saturday in order to resolve the general strike that has paralyzed and isolated that region for the past 20 days, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. The announcement came after government officials met with the head of the Potosi Civic Committee, or Comcipo, Jhonny Llally, and with leaders of the miners unions of the state and of mining cooperatives, which back Potosi in its demand for development projects.
  • Bills wending their way through Congress, which would boost agricultural trade between the U.S. and Cuba and loosen travel restrictions to the island face long odds, according to theMiami Herald. The proposed legislation forms part of lawmakers' strategy to boost trade with Cuba, but an expert quoted in the piece says it will be difficult to get the bills through the House of Representatives.
  • Customs and law enforcement personnel in Mexico say they found an undetermined amount of cocaine dissolved in fruit pulp imported from Colombia, reports the Associated Press. Mexico's customs and tax authority said Monday that it was a "sophisticated" and "unprecedented" smuggling attempt.
  • A Foreign Policy piece looks at the rock-star power of imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López. Though he is lauded internationally as a freedom hero who is unfairly imprisoned by President Nicolás Maduro's administration, the true story is more complicated, explains Roberto Lovato. He says that "news reports, parliamentary records, U.S. government documents, video recordings, and interviews show that López was not quite as remote from the [2002] coup attempt and its plotters as he and his representatives claim," a fact which would significantly affect his standing as a symbol of defiance in the face of an authoritarian government. Another interesting note in the piece is the deep rift between the established opposition, led by a coalition called the MUD, or Democratic Unity Roundtable, and López. The piece quotes a 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable, titled "The López Problem," which says that Mary Ponte, a leading member of the center-right Primero Justicia opposition party, once said that "for the opposition parties, Lopez draws ire second only to Chavez. The only difference between the two is that López is a lot better looking." U.S. State Department officials described López as a "divisive figure within the opposition" who is "often described as arrogant, vindictive, and power-hungry — but party officials also concede his enduring popularity, charisma, and talent as an organizer."
  • Maduro's government denied a Venezuelan military incursion across the border with Colombia, reports AFP. Colombian authorities asked for clarification after locals said Venezuelan soldiers dressed in camouflage searched a woman's home and stole money from the local board in San Luis Beltrán (Tibú).
  • Protests against Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa are set to continue. A collection of different groups have announced a national strike set for August 13, reports the Latin Correspondent.The strike has been called by unions, social movements and indigenous groups, each with separate agendas and grievances against Correa's government. Leaders of the national strike, however, have attempted to distance themselves from recent demonstrations that were initially against proposed increase to inheritance tax brackets but soon turned into an anti-government movement openly calling for Correa's removal. Despite this, Correa, in similar reaction to earlier protests, has been quick to denounce the national strike as part of "soft coup" against his administration. Speaking in his weekly address, he said what opposition groups "could not achieve at the ballot box they want to achieve through force."
  • The Haitian gourde is weakening against the dollar, creating rising prices locally and complications for Haitians. The gourde has depreciated over the past couple of years due to a large government deficit and has accelerated as imports have gotten more expensive, interest rates increased and banks reduced credit, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez announced a plan for infrastructure investments for about 12 billion dollars, most with government funding, over the next five years of his mandate. The move comes amid tension in several sectors of the economy, reports AFP.
  • In Rio de Janeiro, new regulations aim to curb physical and sexual abuse of transvestites and transgender people within the state's 52 penitentiaries. Advocates have hailed the rules that ban discrimination against Rio state's approximately 600 transgender prisoners and protect their gender identities while behind bars. The rules adopted in late May allow transvestite and transgender inmates to be known by their common, rather than only their legal, names. They guarantee access to conjugal visits and let transgender people who identify as female to decide whether to serve their sentences in a women's facility, reports the Associated Press.

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