By Michelle Martin, PhD, MSs, MSW
I’ve been blogging about the humanitarian crisis involving Central American migrant families separated at the U.S. border for months now, and I along with so many others in the United States and around the world, have been trying to find an explanation, some type of rationale for the Trump administration’s handling of the political asylum seekers coming across the southwest border. After reviewing all the pleadings in the federal case filed against the government by the ACLU, as well as many of Trump’s speeches related to immigration, I think I may now have a better understanding. I think I have insight into his and his closest advisors’ perspectives on political asylum; their ultimate, buried-under-the-rhetoric ideology, so to speak.
Trump let his real agenda slip out in a recent speech. The scene was the Cabinet Room, a historic meeting room at the White House. The setting, a luncheon with Republican members of Congress. Trump began his speech by referencing the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold his “Muslim ban,” calling it a victory for the Constitution.
Although there is great variation in the opinions of immigration policy experts on the most effective way of managing cross border migration, throughout this speech, Trump presents the immigration debate in simplistically polarized terms: Republican want closed border and low crime, and Democrats want to open the floodgates to gang members and murderers, stating,
What about the Children? An Update on the Status of the Central American Families Separated at the Border
By Michelle Martin, PhD, MSW
There are many questions people are asking about the humanitarian crisis involving the Central American immigrants who were separated from their children at the border in this past year, including 1) Who are the families involved? 2) How are the children being treated? 3) Are there any financial incentives involved in detaining asylum-seekers? 4) Aren’t a lot of these children trafficked? And, 5) Will all the families be reunited?
In preparation for writing this blog post, I conducted a considerable amount of research, including reviewing public documents received from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, reading all pleadings in the ACLU lawsuit filed against the government in March 2018 when the separations began, and other relevant documents. This post represents a summary of key issues related to the family separations, as well as outlining the potential path forward.
Who are the Families Involved?
According to President Trump, the Central American families who were separated from their children at the border are for the most part gang members and other criminals, including murderers. But is this accurate?
By Michelle Martin, PhD, MSW
The Trump administration has referenced several “Dem laws” they claim have tied their hands in the current crisis involving the separation of Central American children from their political asylum-seeking parents. The narrative, according to Sarah Sanders, White House spokesperson, is that President Trump didn’t create the crisis, but is just the first president to “come to the table” and do something about it.
The administration was initially somewhat mysterious about what specific laws they were referencing that “only Congress could fix,” so I, along with many others, took shots in the dark in an attempt to untangle the pertinent immigration legislation at play, exploring whether any of them would warrant separating the children from their parents who are being detained while they await their asylum hearing.
Since the initial zero-tolerance policy was implemented in April of this year, the administration has been more forthcoming in their legal stance, and several immigration experts have weighed in on the matter. This blog post is an attempt to make sense of the various laws and policies involved in this crisis.
Are Political Asylum Seekers Required to Request Protection through a U.S. Port of Entry? And a Whole lot more...
By Michelle Martin, PhD, MSW
What I want to address in this blog post is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ assertion that the only legal way to request asylum in the United States is through a U.S. port of entry (or U.S. consulate) is accurate. I also want to explore how the government can distinguish between undocumented economic immigrants who cross the Mexico border without documentation to work, and those who cross the border seeking political asylum because they are fleeing persecution.
Myth 1: Political Asylum Seekers Required to Use a Port of Entry
According to speech to the National Sheriff’s Association delivered by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on June 18, 2018, there is a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’ to seek asylum in the United States. Crossing the border without valid documentation is definitely the wrong way.
Also according to Jeff Sessions, if an immigrant crosses the southern border without valid documentation, they are “flouting our laws,” and he appears to be suggesting that the only legal way to request political asylum is by requesting protection at a U.S port of entry.
So, is this correct?
I watched the White House Press Briefing today with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. I took notes as best as I could so I could later respond, while furiously posting comments online, and clicking the angry face emoji 😡 every five seconds. I found Nielsen to be very defensive and angry. This could have been because she knew she was lying, but my instincts told me that it was more likely because she believes she's correct and is outraged to be so misunderstood. Quite likely it was a combination of the two, and perhaps she's just furious that she's in this place to begin with. Who really knows. But her general disdain and disregard for these traumatized families was apparent to me, and I kept wondering if she had ever gone through hardship, because regardless of what one's thoughts are on border protection, all of our hearts should be breaking in half.
What I do know though is that most of the information Nielson shared was
Dr. Michelle Martin is a social worker, policy specialist and Assistant Professor at California State University, Fullerton in the Department of Social Work, where she teaches social welfare policy, and researches dynamics related to immigrants, political asylum-seekers, refugees and other displaced populations.
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