Immigration power players at odds – GazetteNET

WASHINGTON — As President Donald Trump rails against an influx of migrants at the border, two of his most influential White House power players are at odds over the future of his immigration policy.

Fresh off orchestrating a shake-up at the Department of Homeland Security, an ascendant Stephen Miller is making a renewed push to impose tougher policies at the border. That’s setting up a face-off with senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has been quietly working on his own immigration reform package for months.

Their divergent approaches to the president’s signature campaign issue speak to more than the ideological gulf between the two men: They echo a longstanding philosophical divide within the West Wing over how to best position the president ahead of his re-election campaign.

Miller, the mastermind of the president’s Muslim travel ban and other hardline immigration policies, has long been the combative ideologue, urging Trump to take ever-more-drastic action to staunch the border flow. Kushner, whose faith in his own careful deal-making power rivals Miller’s zeal, has spent months meeting with lawmakers and interests groups, trying to put together a package of legal immigration and border security changes that Republicans can rally around heading into the 2020 presidential election.

The resulting parallel tracks — one bent on implementing ever-stricter policies and another meant to forge a more palatable and unifying legislative package — have created uncertainty and confusion both inside the administration and on Capitol Hill about where Trump is headed.

The conflict came into focus during a recent White House meeting when Trump effectively knighted Miller, saying the aide would be in charge of immigration going forward. But Kushner had already been tasked by the president with coming up with a legal immigration plan, which Trump was briefed on this week.

“We’ll talk to you about it soon,” Trump said Wednesday of Kushner’s plan, labeling it “very exciting, very important for the country.”

Despite the aides’ differing approaches, administration officials insist there is no personal ill will between Kushner and Miller, who have worked together over the years at the White House and on Trump’s campaign. The two are among the last remaining members of Trump’s tightknit 2016 team to still work at the White House, and have been longtime collaborators, co-writing speeches, including the president’s convention address.

But for all of that, the two hold fundamentally different views on immigration and notions on how Trump ought to govern.

Miller, the unrelenting hard-liner, sees illegal and legal immigration as existential threats to national security and the American worker, and views Trump as a generational voice willing to make dramatic changes. Kushner, a former Democratic-leaning real estate developer, sees a broken immigration system as another intractable Washington problem that could be solved with the right deal.

That leaves them working at cross purposes at times.

After Trump threatened to shut down the southern border two weeks ago, Kushner was among those whom Homeland Security officials worked with to get the president to back off. Indeed, Kushner is seen within the department as someone who accepts the realities of legal limitations and can be trusted to calm Trump down, not spin him up, as they feel Miller tends to do on immigration, according to three administration officials with knowledge of the dynamic who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Senior administration officials have tried to paint Miller and Kushner’s efforts as complementary — Miller addressing the day-to-day crisis at the border while Kushner looking at longer-term solutions.

“President Trump alone sets immigration policy that’s designed to solve the humanitarian crisis at our border, prevent illegal entry into our country and protect the American people – there’s no daylight between the president’s team as they work to implement that agenda,” spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

Trump on Wednesday also challenged the notion that anyone was running his immigration policy other than him.

Asked by reporters whether he had considered tapping Miller to lead Homeland Security, Trump said: “Stephen is an excellent guy. He’s wonderful person.” But, he added, “Frankly, there’s only one person that’s running it. You know who that is? It’s me.”

But former officials said the absence of clear lines of authority and the recent purge of senior leadership at Homeland Security could create confusion, leaving the agency to implement whichever viewpoint wins the day.

“To whom are we listening? Who’s setting the priorities?” said David Lapan, the department’s former press secretary.

Thad Bingel a former senior Homeland Security official, who helped shepherd outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen through her confirmation process, echoed those concerns, saying that when it’s not clear who’s in charge at the White House, departments and subagencies “spin their wheels a lot trying to satisfy multiple masters.”

Raising the stakes further is that Kushner is no mere White House aide — he’s the president’s son-in-law and has proven capable of forcing staff turnover at the highest level. He was instrumental in the departure of two chiefs of staff and the president’s former chief strategist.

Kushner’s latest efforts on immigration date to early January, when Trump asked him to pursue a deal with lawmakers that would win the president more money for his border wall during the government shutdown.

While White House officials caution that the plan has yet to be finalized, aides said it would include “merit based” changes to the legal immigration system as well as proposals on border security that could include modernizing ports of entry and changing the way the country detains and removes people who enter the country illegally.

As part of that effort, Kushner has convened a series of informal listening sessions with almost 50 groups, including anti-immigration advocates, business and conservative groups coming together to talk through ideas. It was the same playbook he used last year on criminal justice reform, which culminated in the only major piece of bipartisan legislation the president has signed.

During those meetings, Kushner was been careful not to tip his hat on his personal views. But participants say they expect the plan to include significant changes, including increases in employment-based green cards. While protections for the hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers brought to the country illegally as children were a major point of discussion, a senior administration official said Dreamers are not currently part of the plan.

Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower immigration levels, cautioned that unveiling a major plan now would be a distraction from the immediate border crisis.

“The timing couldn’t be worse,” she said. “It’s just the wrong time to be getting into a battle over this when the priority should be on fixing the border crisis and getting our enforcement on track.”

___

Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.

___

Follow Colvin and Miller Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj and https://twitter.com/zekejmiller

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In San Antonio, a Preview of How Immigration Could Play Out in 2020 – The New York Times

SAN ANTONIO — President Trump used the backdrop of a Texas fund-raiser on Wednesday to warn of the dangers and tragedy of migrants flowing across the Mexican border — an issue he predicted would play well for him in his 2020 re-election campaign.

With high-dollar donors standing behind him, Mr. Trump said migrants pouring across the southwestern border were dying in great numbers while gang members arriving from Central America were marauding and threatening American ranchers. And he made clear that he was going to try to put the blame on Democrats.

“I think they’re going to pay a very big price in 2020,” Mr. Trump said here, before heading to Houston for another fund-raiser. “I think the border is going to be an incredible issue. And they’re on the wrong side. They want to have open borders.”

But Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and a Democratic candidate for president, fired back at Mr. Trump, accusing him of using such talk as a political tool to energize his voters with dark threats about immigrants.

“It was predictable that he would start beating the drum of this again as he gets closer to re-election,” Mr. Castro said in an interview. “What I’ve noticed is that any time he gets into political hot water, he goes back to the issue of immigration to drum up support.”

Mr. Castro, who served as housing secretary in the Obama administration, is uniquely positioned to take on Mr. Trump on the immigration issue. The grandson of a Mexican immigrant, he is the only Latino candidate in the race for the Democratic nomination.

As the sun set Wednesday evening, Mr. Castro held an immigration-focused rally of his own in San Antonio. His campaign had billed the event as an opportunity for the city, with its significant Mexican-American population, to show its resistance to Mr. Trump’s immigration policy.

Before a modest crowd, Mr. Castro denounced Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant message in no uncertain terms, calling the president’s policies “downright stupid.”

“When it comes to immigration,” Mr. Castro said, “this president and his policies have been an absolute failure for our country.”

The president’s decision to weigh in on the border was a clear signal that he did not intend to let the issue fade. At the fund-raiser, he told reporters that he wanted to call attention to a situation that he said has been ignored in the news media: the plight of migrants who cross illegally into the United States and then die of thirst or hunger.

“This doesn’t come out in the fake news,” Mr. Trump said as he recounted the stories about migrants that about a dozen donors told him. At Mr. Trump’s urging, several of the donors described finding the bodies of migrants — including pregnant women and children — in the vast brush of their property.

The president said he had never heard such stories of migrants dying, even from his top immigration and border patrol officials. In fact, immigrant advocates have for years documented the grim fate of some migrants who grow sick and die trying to make it into the United States. The advocates say Mr. Trump’s policies have made the problem worse by limiting the number of migrants who can legally claim asylum at ports of entry, pushing more to cross at remote areas of the border.

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Julián Castro, the former secretary of housing and urban development, declared his candidacy for president in San Antonio in January. He has planned a rally Wednesday as Mr. Trump visits Texas.CreditIlana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

Several of the donors also told of how afraid they had felt when migrants from Central America, dressed in black, turned up at their homes.

“Dangerous people are coming here, and the good people are dying,” Mr. Trump said, adding that the donors had all told him that the answer to the problem was to build the wall that has become the symbol of his approach to immigration.

The president, who was joined at the round table with donors by Brad Parscale, his 2020 campaign manager, denied that the unscheduled remarks to reporters about the border were part of a campaign message. But immigration and border security has been a defining issue of his presidency. And Mr. Trump is betting that portraying the crisis that he says now exists on the Mexican border will be just as effective in his re-election campaign as the issue was in 2016.

In the past several days, Mr. Trump has forced out Kirstjen Nielsen, his homeland security secretary, and several other top immigration officials for being too timid about shutting down the border and changing asylum rules to deny entry to migrants seeking protection in the United States.

One of those officials, Ronald D. Vitiello, the acting chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, resigned on Wednesday after Mr. Trump pulled back his nomination for the permanent position, saying he wanted someone tougher. In a statement issued on her last day in office, Ms. Nielsen called Mr. Vitiello “an unwavering advocate for the dedicated men and women who enforce our immigration laws.”

A top administration official said Tuesday that the staffing changes were meant to make way for more aggressive immigration actions.

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But the president faces challenges of his own. His campaign promises have mostly gone unfulfilled. He has largely failed to build the “big beautiful wall” along the southwestern border as he promised. And the recent surge of migrant families from Central America is a vivid demonstration of his inability to stop what he has called an “invasion.”

There was also significant evidence during the 2018 midterm elections that the president’s immigration attacks backfired in some Republican districts around the country. For example, several House Republicans, including some of the party’s leaders in Congress, complained to Mr. Trump that his announcement right before the election that he was considering an executive order to end birthright citizenship might have cost several moderate Republicans their seats.

And as he sets out for the re-election campaign, Mr. Trump is certain to face several challengers among the Democrats who are determined to make the president’s immigration agenda a key part of their reason for running. In February, Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso who has since declared his own candidacy for president, outlined his opposition to Mr. Trump’s immigration policies at a rally held at the same time the president spoke in that Texas border city.

“We are not safe because of walls but in spite of walls,” Mr. O’Rourke told supporters even as Mr. Trump was pressing to “finish the wall.”

The dual candidacies of Mr. Castro and Mr. O’Rourke are almost certain to place Texas squarely at the center of the increasingly heated immigration debate.

“Texas is a Latino state, and we have two Texans on the ballot who are going to be turning out and galvanizing people from Texas,” said Mayra Macias, a vice president of the Latino Victory Project. “But it’s also helping galvanize people, Latinos in particular, across the country because they are seeing these candidates talk about issues that affect us.”

But if immigration is at once a key campaign issue in Texas and other states, including California and Arizona, Republicans are betting that Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant message will also resonate far from the border.

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Family seeks answers in immigrant’s death after detention – Fox News

A 27-year-old man died in a California hospital after he suffered a brain hemorrhage while detained by U.S. immigration authorities, his wife said Wednesday, demanding to know what caused his injury and whether he received appropriate medical care in custody.

Melissa Castro said she was called Feb. 8 by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official and told that her husband had a “passing out episode” while in the custody of detention officials in Adelanto, California, and had been taken to the hospital.

Castro, who had delivered the couple’s baby five days earlier, said she found Jose Luis Ibarra Bucio in an intensive care unit and in a coma from which he never awoke.

Castro said she wants to know what happened to her husband, who was young and had no prior health problems. She said she heard from doctors that he had been airlifted from another hospital.

She said she also wants to know why ICE had him shackled to his hospital bed in a coma and signed papers releasing him from custody two weeks later.

“Why wait the two weeks to release him when the state of health was even worse?” she asked in an interview with The Associated Press. “I think it might be because at that point they saw that the likelihood of him surviving wasn’t high at all.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement that Ibarra was released for humanitarian reasons. Officials at ICE and detention facility operator The GEO Group declined to discuss his health condition.

Ibarra was held at the facility in Adelanto for about a week until he collapsed on his way to an immigration court hearing on Feb. 7, immigrant advocates said.

When he was released from custody, Castro said, she initially was hopeful that someday Ibarra might be able to meet his son. In addition, she said it was a relief to no longer have guards in his hospital room or see him shackled.

But now, she questions why authorities chose to release him when they did. His condition worsened and he died March 21 after the family removed life support.

It was at least the second time in two years that an immigrant detained at the privately run facility in Adelanto has fallen into a coma and been released.

Immigrant advocates have noted that releasing severely ill detainees means U.S. authorities aren’t subject to the same level of oversight as when an immigrant dies in custody.

Ibarra — who came to the United States from Mexico as a young child and grew up in Southern California — was arrested in 2017 after fleeing traffic police, Castro said.

She said he told her that he hadn’t pulled over out of fear he could face deportation — though at that time he had permission to stay in the country under a President Barack Obama-era program for immigrants without legal status who were brought to the country as children.

Ibarra was convicted last year of evading or attempting to evade police while driving recklessly and sentenced to a year and four months, according to California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

He was released from prison in January and taken into immigration custody.

Ibarra, a truck driver, married Castro two years ago. She is a U.S. citizen, but they had not filed papers to sponsor him to stay in the country and knew he might wind up in immigration custody after prison since his papers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program had since expired, Castro said.

When her husband first got to detention, he called and told her that he’d wait as long as it took if he could remain in the country with her and their soon-to-be-born son, Castro said.

A week later, she said he sounded frustrated on the phone and wanted to see how quickly he could get out, she said.

He had an immigration court hearing scheduled for Feb. 7 and said he would call her afterward, but never did.

Castro said she got nervous and checked ICE’s website and noticed her husband was still listed in custody but no longer at Adelanto.

Now, she and Castro’s sister say they are grieving and dismayed that Ibarra will never meet his son.

“We are not the first family this has happened to, but we would like to be the last one,” sister Lucian Ibarra told reporters in Spanish.

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The U.S. Immigration System May Have Reached a Breaking Point – The New York Times

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SAN YSIDRO, Calif. — It was never like this before.

The migrants come now in the middle of the night or in the bright light of day. Men and women arrive by the hundreds, caked with dirt, with teens and toddlers in tow. They jump the small fences in remote parts of Texas, and they gather on the hot pavement at the main border crossing in California. Tired and fearful, they look for the one thing that they pray will allow them to stay in the United States, at least for a while: a Border Patrol agent.

Gone are the days when young, strong men waited on the Tijuana River levees for their chance to wade across the water, evade capture and find work for the summer. These days, thousands of people a day simply walk up to the border and surrender. Most of them are from Central America, seeking to escape from gang violence, sexual abuse, death threats and persistent poverty. The smugglers have told them they will be quickly released, as long as they bring a child, and that they will be allowed to remain in the United States for years while they pursue their asylum cases.

The very nature of immigration to America changed after 2014, when families first began showing up in large numbers. The resulting crisis has overwhelmed a system unable to detain, care for and quickly decide the fate of tens of thousands of people who claim to be fleeing for their lives. For years, both political parties have tried — and failed — to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, mindful that someday the government would reach a breaking point.

That moment has arrived. The country is now unable to provide either the necessary humanitarian relief for desperate migrants or even basic controls on the number and nature of who is entering the United States.

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Migrants seeking to turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents wait behind a portion of the U.S.-Mexico border fence in El Paso.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

The immigration courts now have more than 800,000 pending cases; each one takes an average of 700 days to process. And because laws and court rulings aimed at protecting children prohibit jailing young people for more than 20 days, families are often simply released. They are dropped off at downtown bus stations in places like Brownsville, Tex., where dozens last week sat on gray metal benches, most without money or even laces on their shoes, heading for destinations across the United States.

At the current pace of nearly 100,000 migrants each month, officials say more than a million people will have tried to cross the border in a 12-month period. Some of those arriving today will have a strong legal case to stay under international refugee treaties and federal asylum laws, but most won’t have a formal asylum hearing until 2021.

The flow of migrant families has reached record levels, with February totals 560 percent above those for the same period last year. As many as 27,000 children are expected to cross the border and enter the immigration enforcement system in April alone. So crowded are border facilities that some of the nearly 3,500 migrants in custody in El Paso were herded earlier this month under a bridge, behind razor wire.

In recent days, officials have grasped for ever-more-dire ways to describe the situation: “operational emergency”; “unsustainable”; “systemwide meltdown.”

One top official said simply: “The system is on fire.”

For President Trump, the situation at the border has generated red-hot fury. It erupted again on Sunday as he abruptly forced out Kirstjen Nielsen, his long-embattled homeland security secretary, for what he considered her failure to put an end to the surge of migrants.

In recent days, the president has landed on a dark new message that, if taken literally, could mean an end to all immigration — legal and illegal — across the Mexican border.

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At the bus station in Brownsville, Tex., city officials took over a section of empty counter space to manage the intake of migrants, who wait in line after being dropped off by ICE.CreditIlana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

“The system is full,” the president said in California on Friday, standing in front of the rusting iron slats of the border wall that he wants to expand for hundreds of miles across the country’s southern border. “Whether it’s asylum, whether it’s anything you want, it’s illegal immigration. We can’t take you anymore.”

Yet, perversely, the president’s own anti-immigrant rhetoric has helped supercharge the pipeline of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Smugglers lately have been buying radio ads in Central America, warning that Mr. Trump is about to shut down all immigration. If you ever want to go to the United States, they say, go now!

“They said they would take us by bus. We would be safe,” said Jeremias Pascoal, 16, who crossed into Texas earlier this month after paying $3,200 for a “guide” who showed his group to a road where he said they could surrender to the Border Patrol.

Experts say the president is not wrong when he says that “legal loopholes” in America’s immigration system are partly responsible for encouraging migrants to bring children like Jeremias on a dangerous journey that in some cases ends in tragedy. In December, two migrant children died in Customs and Border Protection custody after becoming gravely ill during their trip. Officials warn that more deaths are likely.

Christopher Cabrera, a vice president of the local union of Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, pulled out his phone last week and scrolled through dozens of pictures he has taken out in the field: Groups of more than 100 people turning themselves in at night; seriously ill children huddled on the ground, being given medical aid.

“The majority of our agents get sick. Infectious disease is everywhere,” Mr. Cabrera said, including in the Border Patrol’s migrant processing center. “There’s always scabies in there. Usually we have chickenpox. We have tuberculosis in there. You name it, it’s probably been through that building. So it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous for our agents. It’s dangerous for the detainees that don’t have anything.”

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A volunteer physician assistant examines a sick Guatemalan teenager in the medical clinic at Casa Oscar Romero, a migrant shelter in El Paso.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

But the president has not chosen to prioritize a surge of new resources to the border, which could help ease the overcrowding and suffering that have gripped the migrants and the border communities where they arrive. Instead, Mr. Trump has insisted on simply trying to stop people from getting into the country in the first place — a policy of deterrence that not only has failed but has made the problem worse.

In an effort to send a “you’re not welcome” message, the administration has tried a series of strategies: prosecuting everyone who crosses illegally, taking their children from them, tightening asylum standards, slowing down the number of people allowed to apply for asylum each day, forcing asylum applicants to remain in Mexico while they wait for court dates.

In some cases, this approach has proved too cruel for the American public to tolerate and has run up against the protections enshrined in the Constitution, which the courts have decided protect migrants as well as citizens. Some of the president’s agenda has been blocked by Congress or the courts. None of it has fixed the problem.

To the contrary, these policies have forced migrants to divert from well-staffed border stations like the one in San Ysidro, Calif., where agents deliberately slowed down the number of migrants they would allow to cross each day, toward remote areas of West Texas and New Mexico, where the two migrant children died in December.

And the administration has done little to speed up the immigration courts, though that could be just the deterrent the president has sought.

“The backlog has been allowed to build to the point of a crisis,” said Doris Meissner, the immigration commissioner in the Clinton administration and now a fellow at the Migration Policy Institute. “They do not accept the basic proposition that this is a population where there are people qualified for protection and that enabling the systems we have is an answer.”

In a series of international human rights agreements, beginning with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, nations agreed to allow anyone to seek asylum, even if they entered a country illegally. The agreements defined a refugee as someone with a well-founded fear of persecution based on “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Determining whether an applicant receives asylum was left up to individual nations, but in the United States, the international obligations and the standards for asylum were largely incorporated into American immigration law beginning with the Refugee Act of 1980.

Only about 20 percent of asylum seekers ultimately win the right to live and work in the United States by proving that they would face persecution in their home countries. Just wanting a better job doesn’t qualify. Applicants have the burden to show evidence of past persecution or compelling testimony that establishes the “well-founded” fear that they would face danger if they return home.

Some have won asylum, for example, by proving that their membership in a religious minority singles them out for harassment or threats. In the past, women suffering domestic abuse have qualified, as have some victims targeted by gangs. Generalized fear of violence does not qualify. Neither does poverty.

How Migration Is Changing at the Southwestern Border




Southwestern border apprehensions are on the rise after years of decline.

A growing share of border crossers are from countries in Central America.

100,000 apprehensions

per month on average

100%

Other

Mexico

48,672

on average over

the last 12 months

El Salvador

Honduras

Guatemala

October 2006

March 2019

2007 fiscal year

2018

This year, a majority of them are children and individuals crossing with relatives.

Many are seeking asylum, adding to the sharp rise in cases in recent years.

100%

200,000 asylum cases

Other

161,005

Unaccompanied children

Individuals crossing

in family units

2013 fiscal year

2019

2008 fiscal year

2018

Southwestern border apprehensions are on the rise after years of decline.

100,000 apprehensions

per month on average

48,672

on average over

the last 12 months

October 2006

March 2019

A growing share of border crossers are from countries in Central America.

100%

Other

Mexico

El Salvador

Honduras

Guatemala

2007 fiscal year

2018

This year, a majority of them are children and individuals crossing with relatives.

100%

Other

Unaccompanied children

Individuals crossing

in family units

2013 fiscal year

2019

Many are seeking asylum, adding to the sharp rise in cases in recent years.

200,000 asylum cases

161,005

2008 fiscal year

2018

Sources: U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Department of Justice. | Note: Apprehensions are shown as a 12–month rolling average.

By Denise Lu

The asylum process begins with a “credible fear” screening to see if an applicant is likely to succeed in the first place.

Out of nearly 100,000 credible fear interviews during the year that ended in September of 2018, an asylum officer confirmed a credible fear 74,677 times — a nearly 75 percent approval rate. A senior Trump administration official vowed on Tuesday to dramatically reduce that rate by making the standards tougher.

But it is what happens after the credible fear interview that is at the heart of America’s bitter immigration debate.

In 2017, 11,292 immigrants who had been released on bond or on their own recognizance were ordered deported because they failed to show up for their immigration proceedings, a 26 percent increase over the previous year, according to Justice Department data.

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Migrants gathered outside of a motel in El Paso where they are being housed by a local nonprofit.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Blanca Vasquez, who fled Honduras after gangs killed her husband and torched their home, passed a credible fear interview at the border in 2013. She was released and settled in northern Texas, where she got a janitorial job and waited for her day in court. About a year later, she said, she unintentionally missed her first hearing and was most likely ordered deported for failing to appear.

She’s not sure, because she stopped going to court at all. “I got confused,” she said. “I ask God to look after me. There are too many problems in my country; I want to stay here.”

Maria Perez, a Honduran who joined a caravan with her 8-year-old son, Yunior, in November, waited two months in Tijuana for the chance to apply for asylum after her son’s father was killed by a man who continued to threaten her family. When her number — 1,506 — was finally called, she and her son were soon released to await their court hearings under the juvenile protection laws. She lives now with a friend in Northern California, but she does not have a lawyer and isn’t sure how to proceed with her case.

“I am very worried. I don’t know what to do,” she said.

Families like Ms. Perez and her son are the biggest targets of Mr. Trump’s fury. The president and his aides blame the nation’s immigration laws — the president derisively calls them “Democrat laws” — for creating an incentive for migrants to bring a child with them to improve their chances of getting into the United States.

One of them is the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, a 2008 bill signed into law by President George W. Bush that requires immigration authorities to treat migrant children differently than they do adults. The other is a 1997 legal settlement in a case known as Flores, which prevents the government from holding children or families in secure detention facilities for longer than 20 days.

It was trying to get around those legal limits that prompted the administration last spring to begin forcibly separating migrant children from their parents — detaining parents indefinitely while sending children to shelters and foster care. The fierce political backlash forced Mr. Trump to abandon that approach.

The president’s most recent initiative was the one calling for many migrants to remain in Mexico for the months or years it could take for an American judge to hear their case; that policy, too, ran afoul of the courts when a federal judge in California blocked its implementation.

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A young boy clings to his mother as they wait in a line of asylum seekers at the bus station in San Antonio.CreditCallaghan O’Hare for The New York Times

For some migrants, the policy effectively meant no asylum case at all.

Miguel Aquino, 29, who fled El Salvador in a caravan in October after being shot in the leg and hand by MS-13 gang members, waited for weeks in Tijuana to apply for asylum at the sprawling San Ysidro port, the biggest on the border. He was interviewed and sent back to Mexico to wait for a court date.

In March, when he arrived for a preliminary hearing without an attorney, the judge gave him more time to find one — and sent him back to Mexico to wait. Mr. Aquino said he has called eight lawyers, and they all said they couldn’t represent him because he is in Tijuana. At this point, he is tired of waiting.

“The next time, if I don’t go with a lawyer and they don’t give a clear answer,” he said, “I’m going to look for another way to get in.”

Mr. Trump often says he plans to build a wall on the border with Mexico to halt illegal immigration. But when the standoff over funding for the wall led to a 35-day government shutdown in December and January, it actually made things worse. Many immigration judges were furloughed, and tens of thousands of deportation and asylum cases were delayed, in some cases for years.

There is another problem with the wall: Slowing the exodus of migrants from Central America would need to start in those countries first.

Central America’s economies are still weak, and residents face drug and gang violence at levels largely unseen in other countries. Many are subject to deep poverty, a situation that recently reached a crisis with the collapse of coffee, corn and maize crops.

M.C., a 23-year-old Guatemalan woman who asked to be identified by her initials for safety reasons, received an anonymous letter recently in her hometown, San Marcos, warning her that she would be killed if she did not give the letter writers 65,000 Guatemalan quetzals, nearly $8,500.

M.C., who is three and a half months pregnant, went to the police in San Marcos. Then she got a second letter, warning her to never go to the police again. After she received a third letter, she made the decision to leave for the United States.

“I didn’t want to come here at first, but then I think it’s the best thing for the baby,” M.C. said as she sat in a migrant shelter in the South Texas border city of Brownsville. “Here, he’s going to grow without crime. He can go to school.”

American diplomats say the best way to confront that kind of lawlessness is with the hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid that has been flowing to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras for several years, designed to bolster the rule of law and improve the economy.

Image

At the Good Neighbor Settlement House in Brownsville, migrants rest, exhausted, after a meal.CreditIlana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

Last week, Mr. Trump abruptly abandoned those efforts, ordering the State Department to scrap about $500 million in aid to the three countries. Mr. Trump’s decision has been criticized by members of both parties, who call it shortsighted.

Likewise, critics say that Mr. Trump’s repeated denigration of Mexico over the years — including his insistence on building a border wall — risks undermining Mexico’s willingness to help to keep Central American migrants from traveling to the United States.

“This is the first Mexican administration that has even been oriented toward doing that,” Ms. Meissner, the Clinton administration immigration commissioner, said.

But blaming other countries and painting those coming across the border from Mexico as a national security threat has never failed to animate Mr. Trump’s core supporters — the ones who helped deliver him the White House in 2016.

“It’s an invasion,” Mr. Trump declared in February, after Congress denied him money to build a wall. “We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.”

In fact, the migrants are mostly victims of the broken immigration system. They are not, by and large, killers, rapists or gang members. Most do not carry drugs. They have learned how to make asylum claims, just as the law allows them to do. And nearly all of them are scared — of being shipped off to Mexico, separated from their children, sent to prison. Scared, especially, of going home.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Caitlin Dickerson contributed reporting.

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New Poll: Despite Partisan Divides on Immigration, Americans Oppose Family Separation – Lawfare

Protestors at “Families Belong Together” Day of Action in Houston, Texas, June 2018. (Source: Flickr/Jill_Ion)

With a purge of the leadership at the Department of Homeland Security, President Trump seems poised to toughen U.S. immigration policies even more, including possibly resuming the practice of separating migrant children from their parents. But a fresh survey by the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll, which we run, suggests that the president should be less confident of the mass appeal of his harsh approach to immigration. The poll of 3,015 Americans, which was fielded by Nielsen Scarborough from March 15 to April 2 with a margin of error of 1.78 percent,  shows that 65 percent of respondents (and 72 percent of those under 35 years old) say separating families is “unacceptable.” At the same time, a plurality of Republicans, 49 percent, say such separation is acceptable, with 34 percent saying it is unacceptable.

To probe this issue further, we asked: “When immigrants and their children are detained at the U.S. border for coming into the country illegally, do you think the U.S. should do everything it can to keep such families together, even if it means that fewer face criminal prosecution, or should the U.S. do everything it can to prosecute immigrants entering illegally, even if it means their families are separated?” A majority of respondents, 56 percent, say that priority must be given to keeping families together, compared with 30 percent who want priority given to prosecuting immigrants. On this issue, the partisan divide is even deeper: While 87 percent of Democrats want priority given to keeping families together, 58 percent of Republicans want priority given to prosecuting immigrants.

Americans are even more divided on Trump’s handling of the family reunification issue since a judge has ordered the Trump administration to reunite parents and children who were separated at the border. Overall, 44 percent of Americans express disapproval of Trump’s handling of the issue, while 35 percent express approval. However, once again, there is a strong partisan divide on this issue. While 76 percent of Democrats disapprove, 60 percent of Republicans approve.

Trump has continued to frame the issue of illegal immigration as one of public safety. Most Americans, though, seem to recognize that immigrants are not more likely than American citizens to commit crimes: 54 percent say that immigrants are unlikely to commit more crime, compared with 30 percent who say they are more likely to do so. While 82 percent of Democrats say this is unlikely, 56 percent Republicans say the opposite.

A majority of Americans, 58 percent, say that the immigration raids being carried out across the country by federal immigration enforcement agents are targeting undocumented migrants regardless of whether they have a criminal record, while just 19 percent say the raids are targeting only those with criminal records. Notably, the partisan divide is not as deep on this issue as on others: Democrats overwhelming say all undocumented immigrants are targeted, but Republicans are evenly divided on this issue.

Regardless of whom Americans believe are the intended target of the immigration raids, there is a striking partisan divide on expressed support for these activities: While 81 percent of Democrats disapprove of the raids, 88 percent of Republicans approve.

Despite the restrictive immigration policies the Trump administration has implemented, a plurality of Americans (42 percent) believe that immigration helps the United States more than it hurts it (24 percent). Again, we see differences across partisan lines. Two-thirds of Democrats (67 percent) say immigrants help the United States more than they hurt it, while 41 percent of Republicans say the opposite.

Taken together, in the era of tribalism and identity politics, American public views on many aspects of the immigration issue follow the now-familiar partisan divide. This is particularly pronounced on the issue of the immigration raids being carried out across the country by federal immigration enforcement agents, where the divide is the most significant. But rhetoric linking immigrants to crime and the issue of family separation present possible trouble ahead for Trump—especially with two-thirds of the public disapproving of separating families, including large majorities of Democrats and Independents. These issues did not provide a winning message for Trump and Republicans during the 2018 midterm elections. And the loyalty of Trump’s base seems to go only so far, with 49 percent of Republicans sticking with the president on this issue. Trump’s doubling down on family separation could spell trouble in 2020.

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