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American Parents Sue The Government Over Family Separation Policy

The administration says it is forging ahead with plans to reunite the parents

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A protester holds a sign outside a closed gate at the Port of Entry facility, June 21, 2018, in Fabens, Texas, where tent shelters are being used to house separated family members
A protester holds a sign outside a closed gate at the Port of Entry facility, June 21, 2018, in Fabens, Texas, where tent shelters are being used to house separated family members, VOA

Among the parents of more than 2,300 separated migrant children, three Central American parents sued the U.S. government over its policy of family separations Wednesday, the day U.S. President Donald Trump, under intense public pressure, ordered an end to the practice.

But three days later, their situation had not changed and they’re “desperate” for information about the whereabouts and well-being of their children, their lawyer said.

“Our clients are being held in detention facilities with no access to information about their children,” said Jerome Wesevich, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in Brownsville, Texas. “The government has some procedures in place for supplying information. So far those have been entirely inadequate.”

The administration says it is forging ahead with plans to reunite the parents with the thousands of children separated since early May when officials announced a “zero tolerance policy” on illegal entry into the United States.

People participate in a protest against recent U.S. immigration policy that separates children from their families when they enter the United States as undocumented immigrants, in front of a Homeland Security facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, June 17, 2018.
People participate in a protest against recent U.S. immigration policy that separates children from their families when they enter the United States as undocumented immigrants, in front of a Homeland Security facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, June 17, 2018. VOA

Some families reunited

Late Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it had reunited about 500 families, saying “all unaccompanied children in their custody” had been reunited with their families.

But the status of many more transferred out of CBP custody remains uncertain. Wesevich said the uncertainty has left the migrant parents in the dark.

“I’d say there is not a lot of optimism,” Wesevich said. “The president’s announcement is not very understandable about what it’s going to mean in practical terms.”

Meanwhile, legal assistance organizations are trying to locate migrant families caught up in the confusion and chaos that followed Trump’s order.

The Texas Civil Rights Project, an advocacy organization based in Austin, Texas, is leading one of the largest reunification efforts in the state, seeking to reunite as many as 381 immigrants who have been separated from their children.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid said it would continue its efforts on behalf of the three Central American parents as it awaits clarity about how the government intends to reunite the separated families.

“The point of our lawsuit (is) that they do it as compassionately and quickly as possible,” Wesevich said. “By compassionate, I mean the parents are provided with information on where their children are, how they’re being cared for.”

Short phone calls

Wesevich said one parent, a father from Guatemala, “does not know where (his daughter) is at all.”

A second parent, a Honduran mother of a 9-year-old son, has told the nonprofit that she believes her son has been moved to New York.

“She does not know where he is, except she believes that he is in New York while she is detained in El Paso, Texas,” according to court papers.

Since their separation, the mother has been allowed to speak with her son three times for about five minutes each time, according to court filings.

“He only asks when we will see each other again and begs to be with me,” the mother is quoted as saying in court documents.

“He is scared and lonely and desperate to be with me. I try to tell him everything will be OK and that I’ll see him soon but, the truth is, I don’t know what will happen with us.”

Immigration attorney Efren Olivares, with the Texas Civil Rights Project, answers a question during a news conference outside the Federal Courthouse, June 22, 2018, in McAllen, Texas.
Immigration attorney Efren Olivares, with the Texas Civil Rights Project, answers a question during a news conference outside the Federal Courthouse, June 22, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. VOA

The third parent, a Guatemalan mother of three sons, ages 2, 6 and 13, has been allowed to speak with them for 10 minutes two times each week.

“Of course her 2-year-old is unable to provide reliable information about his circumstances, and staff provide only general information to [her], nothing specific about her children’s well-being, which causes her anguish,” according to court papers.

The plaintiffs are seeking “frequent and meaningful access to or communication” with their children.

Also read: Donald Trump will soon end the DACA Programme-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Programme for unregistered immigrants

The lawsuit, citing medical experts and court rulings, alleges that “forced separation traumatizes parents and children, and this trauma is compounded when parents and children are denied basic information about each other’s well-being and reunification prospects.” (VOA)

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Trump’s Deep Misunderstanding of Trade Policy is Threatening the American Economy

President Donald Trump's aggressive and unpredictable use of tariffs is spooking American business groups

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Trump, Trade, Policy
FILE - Steel rods produced at the Gerdau Ameristeel mill in St. Paul, Minn., await shipment, May 9, 2019. The recent flareup with the U.S. over Mexico tariffs may prove to be a pivotal juncture. VOA

President Donald Trump’s aggressive and unpredictable use of tariffs is spooking American business groups, which have long formed a potent force in his Republican Party. Trade

Corporate America was blindsided last week when Trump threatened to impose crippling taxes on Mexican imports in a push to stop the flow of Central American migrants into the United States.

The two sides reached a truce Friday after Mexico agreed to do more to stop the migrants. But by Monday, Trump was again threatening the tariffs if Mexico didn’t abide by an unspecified commitment, to “be revealed in the not too distant future.”

Such whipsawing is now a hallmark of Trump’s trade policy. The president repeatedly threatens tariffs, sometimes imposes them, sometimes suspends them, sometimes threatens them again. Or drops them.

Trump, Trade, Policy
FILE – Traffic moves on the old Gerald Desmond Bridge next to its replacement bridge under construction in Long Beach, Calif., July 2, 2018. President Donald Trump’s tariffs provoke retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports. VOA

Business groups, already uncomfortable with Trump’s attempts to stem immigration, are struggling to figure out where to stand in the fast-shifting political climate. They have happily supported Trump’s corporate tax cuts and moves to loosen environmental and other regulations. But the capriciousness of Trump’s use of tariffs has proved alarming.

“Business is losing,” said Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist and frequent Trump critic. “He calls himself ‘Mr. Tariff man.’ He’s proud of it. … It’s bad news for the party. It’s bad news for the free market.”

Also Read- U.S. Pentagon Emits More Greenhouse Gases Than Portugal, Study Finds

“It was a good wakeup call for business,” James Jones, chairman of Monarch Global Strategies and a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said of Trump’s abrupt move to threaten to tax Mexican goods.

Creating distance from Trump

Just last week, the sprawling network led by the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch announced the creation of several political action committees focused on policy — including one devoted to free trade — to back Republicans or Democrats who break with Trump’s trade policies. A powerful force in Republican politics, the network is already a year into a “multi-year multi-million dollar” campaign to promote the dangers of tariff and protectionist trade policies.

The Chamber of Commerce, too, is in the early phases of disentangling itself from the Republican Party after decades of loyalty. The Chamber, which spent at least $29 million largely to help Republicans in the 2016 election, announced earlier this year that it would devote more time and attention to Democrats on Capitol Hill while raising the possibility of supporting Democrats in 2020.

Trump, Trade, Policy
FILE – A field of soybeans is seen in front of a barn carrying a large Trump sign in rural Ashland, Neb., July 24, 2018. President Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for tariffs has upended decades of Republican trade policy that favored free trade. VOA

Few expect the Chamber or business-backed groups like the Koch network to suddenly embrace Democrats in a significant way. But even a subtle shift to withhold support from vulnerable Republican candidates could make a difference in 2020.

Trump’s boundless enthusiasm for tariffs has upended decades of Republican trade policy that favored free trade. It has left the party’s traditional allies in the business world struggling to maintain political relevance in the Trump era.

Also Read- Canon Doing Research and Feasibility Studies to Explore the Possibility of Manufacturing its Products in India

Uncertainty for businesses

Trump’s tariffs are taxes paid by American importers and are typically passed along to their customers. They can provoke retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports. And they can paralyze businesses, uncertain about where they should buy supplies or situate factories.

“Knowing the rules helps us plan for the future,” said Jeff Schwager, president of Sartori, a cheese company that has had to contend with retaliatory tariffs in Mexico in an earlier dispute.

Trump seems unfazed.

Trump, Trade, Policy
FILE – Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa speaks at a town hall meeting in Greenfield, Iowa, June 2, 2017. VOA

Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, went on CNBC on Monday to decry “the weaponization of tariffs” as a threat to the U.S. economy and to relations with trading partners.

Trump responded by phoning in to the network to declare “I guess he’s not so brilliant” and defend his trade policies.

“Tariffs,” he said, “are a beautiful thing.”

Trump can afford to be confident about his grip over the party: Roughly nine in 10 rank-and-file Republicans support his performance as president, according to the latest Gallup polling. So Republicans in Congress have been reluctant to tangle with him.

Also Read- Apple to Bring Bigger Battery in its Upcoming 2019 iPhone Offerings

But last week’s flareup over the Mexico tariffs may prove to be a pivotal juncture. The spat was especially alarming to businesses because it came seemingly out of nowhere. Less than two weeks earlier, Trump had lifted tariffs on Mexican and Canadian steel and aluminum — action that seemed to signal warmer commercial ties between the United States and its neighbors.

“This really came out of left field,” said Daniel Ujczo, a trade lawyer at Dickinson Wright. “It was something we thought we had settled, and we hadn’t.”

Weighing legislation

Congress was already showing signs of wariness, especially over Trump’s decision to dust off a little-used provision of trade law to slap tariffs on trading partners. Section 232 of the Trade Expansion of 1962 lets the president impose sanctions on imports that he deems a threat to national security.

Trump has deployed that provision to tax imported steel and aluminum. And he’s threatening to impose Section 232 tariffs on auto imports, a chilling threat to American allies Japan and the European Union.

Congress is considering bipartisan legislation to weaken the president’s authority to declare national-security tariffs. In doing so, lawmakers would be reasserting Congress’ authority over trade policy, established by the Constitution but ceded over the years to the White House.

The legislation has stalled in Congress this spring. But on Tuesday, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the bill would be ready “pretty soon.” Given “how the president feels about tariffs,” Grassley said, “he may not look favorably on this. So I want a very strong vote in my committee and then, in turn, a very strong vote on the floor of the Senate.”

Congressional reluctance to challenge Trump could be tested in coming months. Lawmakers may balk if he proceeds with plans to tax $300 billion worth of Chinese goods that he hasn’t already targeted with tariffs — a move that would jack up what consumers pay for everything from bicycles to burglar.

Likewise, taxing auto imports — an idea that has virtually no support outside the White House — would likely meet furious resistance. So would any move to abandon a trade pact with Mexico and Canada. Trump has threatened to withdraw from the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement if Congress won’t ratify a revamped version he negotiated last year.

For all their disenchantment with Trump, the Chamber of Commerce may yet find it hard to break its ties to the party. Though the chamber says it’s weighing a more bipartisan approach, it recently featured a sign on its front steps: It likened Trump to Republican icons Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower. (VOA)