America is a country of immigrants.  The Statue of Liberty which welcomes all new arrivals has an inscription that starts with "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore."  For many years that was the spirit with which we welcomed immigrants from other lands.  We established quotas and other restrictions that limited access to certain groups and total numbers allowed to enter.

This is the state that existed when a number of businesses (mostly agricultural) noticed that they could employ migrants from Mexico and pay them less than employing citizens.  In California they were especially good at "stoop" labor.  Other businesses found that they could also find low cost labor among the migrants - food processing, meat packing, and others.  Technically they were here illegally but the government looked the other way to keep businesses happy.

There were issues long before Trump arrived.  Some thought that they were breaking the law and should be sent home.  Others defended them.  Many had been here for years, paid taxes, and raised a family (their children born in the US were automatically US citizens). Why not allow them to become citizens?  The two sides had their talking points and were each trying to have the government agree with them.

One of the very first things Donald Trump did (remember him coming down the escalator?) was to begin his campaign to denigrate illegal aliens.  Mexico didn't send their best - they were drug dealers, rapists, and murderers.  We need a big beautiful wall to keep them out and those that are here need to leave.

All of the "halfway" measures - let the children who were brought here illegally stay without threat of being deported - if a family includes US citizens (children born here) even though they are illegal, let them stay - have fallen on deaf ears.

The wall continues to be a "must have" in the mind of Trump.  There are many issues with the wall, not the least of which is the cost.  There is very little, if any, agreement that the benefits will come close to justifying the cost.  It is being sold through healthy doses of fear about criminals, drugs, and the loss of jobs all of which can be individually contested.

While much of the attention is centered on Mexico we also have the Trump view of Muslims.  In the campaign he often repeated the idea that Muslims should be banned from entering the country and, like the Mexicans, those already here should leave.  In the minds of lawyers and judges asked to rule on the various forms of the "Muslim Ban" saw it as religious discrimination.

In general, Trump's immigration policies have focused on the fear of "others".  It has painted everyone here illegally and all of those trying to come here with the same brush - poor, criminal, and wanting to take what rightfully belongs to our citizens.

Children and the Zero Tolerance Policy

"When a stranger rips a child from a parent's arms without any plan to reunify them, it is called kidnapping."  Rep. Jerrold Nadler

Hoping to stop immigrants from attempting to cross the border from Mexico, the Trump administration enacted a "zero tolerance" policy, criminally prosecuting anyone caught entering the U.S. illegally. The impact of implementing this policy resulted in more than 2,700 children being torn from their families. The majority of those crossing the southern border are families fleeing gang violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and seeking asylum in the U.S. The President has continuously rallied behind the “FAKE claim” that most people entering the U.S. illegally are gang members. This was found to be not true as reported by Homeland security.

The Health and Human Services (HHS) inspector general found “thousands” more children were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border than initially thought — and they had not been included in the government’s tally of 2,654 separated families. It found that families were being separated as early as July 2017, long before the Attorney General and the Trump Administration announced the “zero tolerance” policy in April 2018.Unfortunately these children are lost in the system. WHERE AND WHO ARE THEY ? We should be contacting our congressman Daniel Webster and Senator Rick Scott and asking them Where are all the children.

By law, children cannot be held in adult detention, so during “zero tolerance” they were taken to shelters overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services as their parents waited in detention for their deportation hearings. The children are then considered “unaccompanied aliens” and fall under the purview of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which attempts to release children from shelters to a “sponsor,” such as another relative, or other individuals who may be in the United States.  This resulted in hundreds of children ranging in age from 3 months to 16 years old being turned over to foster home agencies throughout the United States.

Last June, Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the government to reunite the 2,700 migrant children with their parents. He also ordered the government to stop separating families, but made an exception in cases where the parent “is determined to be unfit or presents a danger to the child.”  Hundreds of these children remain unaccounted for . The Health and Human Services department did not maintain adequate records, It is obvious there was never a plan in place to reunify them and therefore is unable to reunite these children with their parents.  Many have been sent to cities throughout the united states where they now reside in foster homes. Many of these children will never be reunited with their birth family.

Does the U.S. use “cages” to detain children?
The government denies it uses “cages” in its facilities. news organizations have used that term, including the Associated Press, which used the word to refer to the fencing enclosures at one Texas facility. NBC News described the conditions at these nonprofit shelters as “more like incarceration than temporary shelter.” The report detailed “dorm-style rooms” that were designed to sleep four but accommodate five because of overcrowding.

Health and Human Services is eyeing several military bases “for potential use as temporary shelters for unaccompanied alien children at some point in the future this includes Fort Bliss in Texas as a “tent city to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children plus officials are evaluating Dyess Air Force Base and Goodfellow Air Force Base, which are also in Texas. Shouldn’t we ask the question WHY we would need a facility to house this many children?

The Trump administration’s policies actually intensifies people to migrate by threatening to cut foreign aid to the Northern Triangle. (The Northern Triangle of Central America refers to the three Central American countries of GuatemalaHonduras, and El Salvador,)  In addition The POTUS and State Department shut down the Central American minors program, that allowed children to apply for refugee status in their home countries, without having to make the treacherous journey from the Northern Triangle to the United States.

There is indeed an immigration crisis at the southern border say immigration experts.— but it's not the crisis the POTUS is talking about. The “real” crisis, experts say, is the makeup of migrants now coming in. They are encountering an immigration infrastructure that was not built to care for them but geared toward migrant flows in the past which were primarily adults. That much has been underscored by the deaths of two recently arrived migrant children in federal custody: 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin and 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo.

The current group of immigrants are seeking help seeking asylum in The United States. They tend to be fleeing violence, poverty and political corruption.

There is no basis to call it a national security crisis or an emergency. These families  are not seeking to invade our country . Overall border crossings have declined to their lowest level in decades. Though Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said recently that CBP has stopped 4,000 known or suspected terrorists from crossing the border in fiscal year 2018, documents obtained by NBC News showed the actual number is far lower: just six for the first half of that same period. A growing portion of migrants being apprehended are families with children or kids traveling alone. They tend to be fleeing violence, poverty and political corruption in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Under US immigration laws, people have the right to apply for asylum even if they’ve entered the country illegally.

Regardless of a wall, people will continue to seek asylum in the greatest country in the world, legally or illegally from this region. The true crisis is where are the children Our border is already generally well-protected through a combination of walls. Fencing, patrols and electronic surveillance.. The POTUS IS pretending to be tough in a situation in which there is no need to be tough, these are women and children. These are not terrorists as he has portrayed. The problem with the wall is that it’s geared toward migrant flows in the past, which were primarily adults the POTUS is fighting the old war.

Immigration Protest at Sumter Landing

Thank you to the 200 or so people who joined us at  Lake Sumter Landing Town Square last night to stand up for keeping migrant families together and treating refugees humanely.  Given the confusion over Trump’s executive order yesterday, we have decided to postpone Friday and Sunday’s silent protest until we have more clarity over the implications.  We want to know: 

1- How will the more than 2300  children who are already incarcerated be reunited with their families?

2-What will happen to future families prosecuted under this zero-tolerance law? Where will they be housed? How long will the detention last? What allowances will be made to provide for their fair and speedy access to our judicial process? 

So far the answers to these questions do not look encouraging.  We just need a few more days to absorb what is going on, so that when and if we call for another protest, our talking points are clear.  

Our constituents in The Villages represent a community of conscience. We are not afraid to stand up for the just treatment of people in need.  We will communicate our “next steps” soon. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Images from the Silent Protest on the Square

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