Gabe Ortiz

$2 billion swindled by Trump admin for border wall construction returned to Pentagon

The Biden administration has announced that it will return more than $2 billion in funds swindled by the previous administration for its stupid border wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for. In a statement Friday, the White House said "[b]uilding a massive wall that spans the entire southern border and costs American taxpayers billions of dollars is not a serious policy solution or responsible use of Federal funds."

The administration said funds will be restored to dozens of projects both in the U.S. and around the world, including the Spangdahlem Elementary School in Germany. "The school, which currently supports over 600 military children, lacks proper air conditioning, plumbing, and security systems and was due for replacement when the prior administration diverted funds to the wall," the White House said.

President Biden had on Day One ordered a pause to wall construction while his administration reviewed the project, an order that some builders appeared to violate. In footage shot by Tucson Samaritans in February, bulldozers and an excavator could be seen tearing into the Pajarito Mountains in Arizona. "They're leveling mountains & destroying jaguar habitat in an apparent violation of Biden's order to halt construction," borderlands campaigner Laiken Jordahl tweeted. "@POTUS must investigate & stop this madness for good. Footage shot by Tucson Samaritans."

CNN reports that in testimony to Congress last week, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said it was in the process of cancelling nearly two dozen border wall contracts. "We have 20 contracts that we've terminated for the government's convenience," CNN reports Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon told members of the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development subcommittee. "And we're in negotiations now with each of those 20 vendors to work through what those final bills will be."

The White House also said it would be using appropriated funds "to address urgent life, safety, and environmental issues" stemming from wall construction. "For instance, DHS has already started work to repair the Rio Grande Valley flood protection system that the prior administration compromised, and to remediate dangerous soil erosion due to improper soil compaction along a 14-mile wall segment in San Diego, California," the administration said.

Environmental justice organizations that have called on the administration to address environmental and wildlife issues stemming from construction (as well as called on the president to remove certain border fencing) applauded the decision. "This is a welcome, sensible next step to begin healing the devastation that Trump inflicted on the borderlands," Center for Biological Diversity Senior Policy Land Specialist Paulo Lopes told the Associated Press (AP). Nearly 70 tribal groups and environmental and civil rights organizations in February called on the Biden administration to tear down nearly 60 miles of fencing in Arizona.

But as that report also notes, "[t]he administration doesn't explicitly say it won't build any new wall." The White House in its statement called on Congress to cancel remaining funds it had previously appropriated for barrier construction. "Although most of the funds used for the border wall were diverted from other purposes, Congress provided DHS with some funding for border barrier projects. DHS is legally required to use the funds consistent with their appropriated purpose," the White House said.

CBS News further reports that about 140 eminent domain cases remain open—and the Biden administration may still proceed on a number of them. Texas Civil Rights Project, which has defended a number of landowners against seizures by the federal government, in February called on the Biden administration's Justice Department to dismiss all remaining cases.

"President Biden can permanently suspend all wall construction and order the Department of Justice to dismiss all lawsuits, return lands taken under the lawsuits, as well as cancel all contracts," the group said in Rio Grande Guardian at the time. "This is the first step to rebuild the border communities, including the Rio Grande Valley, that have been destroyed under Trump and so many other administrations."

Mobile billboard in West Virginia urges Manchin to champion Dream Act passage

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of West Virginia ran a mobile billboard outside the local offices of Sen. Joe Manchin, urging him to champion passage of the Dream Act, bipartisan legislation that would put young undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship. In a picture tweeted by the organization, a billboard reading "Sen. Joe Manchin: Congress must act to protect Dreamers" is seen passing directly in front of one of his offices.

Advocates launched the mobile billboards as recent polling shows that majority of voters in the state—nearly two-thirds—support legalization for young undocumented immigrants. The polling further found that more than half of voters in the state also support citizenship for undocumented essential workers, with another half overall saying they believe immigrants make their state a better place to live.

"Senator Manchin recently expressed support for the Dream Act, stating that 'we have children that came here that have no other home but America. There should be a pathway for that, for our Dreamers,'" the ACLU of West Virginia said in a statement.

While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has reportedly been "actively exploring" passing immigration legislation through reconciliation, it would require approval from the chamber parliamentarian and support from a united Senate Democratic caucus, including Manchin.

For only the second time since the program's creation in 2012, beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program gathered at the White House on Friday to meet with the president. Pointing to a looming court decision that could yet again put the program at risk, the six DACA recipients shared their stories and continued pressing for urgent, permanent legislative relief for undocumented communities.

"Our lives have been in limbo for far too long," Maria Praeli said in a statement received by Daily Kos. "Every day that goes by without Congress passing permanent legislative protections—for Dreamers and DACA recipients like me, TPS holders, farmworkers, and the entire undocumented population—is a day that hurts all of us. It is incredibly painful for our individual lives, for our families who live in fear of being separated from our loved ones, and for our country every day that Congress fails to act."

Joe Arpaio's racist shenanigans to soon cost taxpayers over $200 million

The total haul that Arizona taxpayers have been forced to shell out over Joe Arpaio's racist shenanigans as former Maricopa County sheriff will total over $200 million by next year, NBC News reports. Because the department under current sheriff Paul Penzone has been deemed close to—but not quite yet 100%—compliant with the court orders stemming from Arpaio's actions, officials have had to approve another $31 million until the department has been deemed fully abiding.

NBC News reports that the $31 million tentatively approved by local officials for the next fiscal year will bring the total cost that Arpaio has forced onto taxpayers to $202 million by 2022. "Taxpayers in Arizona's most populated county are on the hook for lawyer bills and the costs of complying with massive court-ordered overhauls of the sheriff's office after a 2013 verdict concluded Arpaio's officers had profiled Latinos in traffic patrols that targeted immigrants," the report said.

Arpaio, who was convicted in 2017 of criminal contempt of court for disobeying a federal judge's order to stop racially profiling Latino drivers, lost his reelection bid to Penzone just days after being charged but has continued to remain unrepentant, the NBC News report indicates. When pressed on the hundreds of millions of dollars he has cost taxpayers, the disgraced former sheriff pointed his finger at immigrants, because that's just what racists do.

"On Monday, Arpaio said he doesn't regret carrying out the immigration patrols and contends his crackdowns still helped reduce taxpayer costs for providing education and health care to immigrants in the United States illegally," the report said. Ah, sure. Even though it was Arpaio's choices that led to local taxpayers being slapped with a $200 million dollar bill that may very well keep rising, its undocumented immigrants who are actually the ones who caused the waste. Blame them, Arpaio wants us to know.

"It's a one-side type of story they (his critics) want to push out," NBC News reports Arpaio complained. "Don't blame me for the money being spent." But, to loosely paraphrase Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson yelling at Joan Crawford as Blanche Hudson in the classic movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, but it is, Joe, it is your fault!

The Associated Press reported last year that the $32 million approved for the current fiscal year made it the most expensive year in the case to date. In total, tens of millions have gone to independent officials monitoring the department and legal fees (Arpaio, of course, is on the hook for none of it), and other money going to hiring qualified staff, equipment, and training on how not to be a racist stormtrooper. Arpaio in the AP report again blamed someone else for his action's astronomical costs, but this time the judge who ordered the overhaul of his department.

Arpaio belonged in jail for the untold suffering he inflicted on immigrants and people of color in Maricopa County for years—he himself referred to his infamous tent city as a "concentration camp"—but was spared punishment following a pardon from the twice-impeached former president. At least a federal judge last year refused to also throw out his guilty verdict, so there's that. Verdict or no verdict, he's a guilt mfer.

Noemi Romero, one of the countless undocumented immigrants rounded up in Arpaio's terrorizing workplace raids, wondered in 2017 where her pardon was. "[O]ne day right before my lunch break, Arpaio's Sheriff's entered the store," she wrote in a diary here on Daily Kos. "They weren't looking for me but that didn't stop them from interrogating me, arresting me, and keeping me in their jail for sixty days while I awaited a trial that resulted in me being convicted of a felony and turned over to immigration agents for deportation. Because of a local group, Puente Arizona, and the work of my community I'm still here. But because of Arpaio's profiling and campaign against our families I have this extra mark against me now."

Community advisory board member Raul Piña told NBC News that while the costs are painful, they are necessary to preserve the rights and dignity of people who have spent years being targeted in Maricopa County. And he's right—injustice must be corrected. "Of course, we are tired of paying, but if you are a Hispanic vehicle operator, you are tired of being racially profiled at the same time—and the agency isn't in a rush to stop that," he said in the report.

Nearly two-thirds of West Virginia voters support citizenship for young undocumented immigrants

A new poll commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of West Virginia found that nearly two-thirds of voters in the state support the Dream Act, which creates a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants. While Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has expressed support for legalization, he has yet to cosponsor the bipartisan legislation in the Senate or support filibuster reform that would allow it to pass with a simple majority vote.

"These findings confirm what we hear from people every day across the state: West Virginians agree with Senator Manchin that Dreamers should be able to live their lives without fear of being deported away from their families, jobs, and communities," said Jackie Lozano of the ACLU of West Virginia immigrants' rights campaign. The organization has run a mobile billboard outside Manchin's offices in the state, urging him to support the legislation.

The polling, which was conducted by YouGov for the ACLU and ACLU of West Virginia, also found that more than half of voters in the state—56%—also support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers. A majority also supported the resettlement of refugees in their communities.

"Overall, 57 percent of West Virginia voters say that immigrants make their state a better place to live, including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and voters across age groups," a summary said.

While the House has passed permanent protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and other undocumented youth in the form of the Dream and Promise Act (this bill also protects certain other immigrants with temporary status), neither this bill nor the Dream Act have come to the Senate floor for a vote.

"Every day Congress doesn't act is another day that young people live in fear of being deported from the only country they've ever called home," Lozano continued. "The Senate has an obligation and an urgent mandate to provide certainty and opportunity for Dreamers and create stronger, more prosperous communities for all West Virginians."

Biden Justice Department refuses to disclose certain family separation documents

The Biden administration had until April 2 to decide whether or not it would disclose documents relating to the previous administration's family separation policy, including from a reported White House meeting where former aide and noted white supremacist Stephen Miller and other officials from that administration allegedly voted on the policy of state-sanctioned kidnapping.

Attorneys representing separated families have sought these documents as part of their litigation, but had been blocked by the previous administration. They'd hoped for a different outcome under the new administration, but NBC News reports the Biden Department of Justice has refused to disclose those key items, arguing "the government must protect the right of the government to keep certain planning documents confidential."

Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff report for NBC News that Biden administration attorneys said "[t]hose privileges protect institutional interest in the decision making process and the ability of a wide range of government employees to provide candid advice." But attorneys representing separated families are not seeking to prevent government employees from doing that, they're seeking answers from specific officials who implemented this humanitarian disaster that has kept kids without their parents for years now.

Ainsley and Soboroff had reported last year that Miller, upset that separations were going too slow, made officials take a vote on plowing through with the plan through a show of hands. "The Trump administration denied that such a meeting or vote took place," Ainsley and Soboroff reported earlier this month. Attorneys representing families could know more about that meeting, but documents relating to it are among the items that the Biden administration has said it won't release to them.

NBC News reports "[t]he Biden administration did agree to hand over some documents, largely by unredacting previously redacted material," and said that other documents were not relevant. But the report said that attorneys representing families said "the documents sought relate to the government's awareness and intent in directing the separation of families and the resulting harm to families, which are highly relevant to the plaintiffs' claims and the government's asserted defenses."

This decision from the Biden administration comes as hundreds of deported parents have yet to be found and newly identified files could point to a number of previously unknown separations at the southern border by the previous administration.

"We now believe there may have been separations in the first six months of the Trump administration and we applaud the task force for agreeing to review cases during this time period," American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project Deputy Director Lee Gelernt told NBC News. "Whether the task force finds one or many additional separations, it is essential that we find every last child cruelly taken from their parents by our government."

And that officials who carried out these horrific separations be held accountable. President Biden as a candidate had criticized ongoing separations as "criminal." El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar recently told The Intercept that Miller "should be behind bars." She said during that interview that "he committed heinous human rights violations, and I think that those around him who helped plot this out should be held accountable as well."

"The Trump administration's zero tolerance policy devastated thousands of families," tweeted Noah Bookbinder, president of government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "For the Justice Department now to seek to shield key documents from the public is discouraging. The American people—and especially the families torn apart—deserve answers."

Fox News has a moment of honesty and confronts Gov. Abbott with inconvenient facts about his attack on Biden

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott finally got called out to his face about being silent during the past four years of anti-immigrant abuses under the previous president—and it happened on Fox News, of all places. During a press conference last week, Abbott made claims about abuse at a facility holding unaccompanied children, providing no specific details but calling for oversight, The Texas Tribune reported.

Allegations of abuse under U.S. custody should be treated as serious, especially when it involves vulnerable children, and an investigation is what absolutely should and must happen. Advocates have long demanded this. Greg's sudden concern for the well-being of kids, however, is brand-new. During a Fox News Sunday appearance, host Chris Wallace challenged Abbott on his silence when similar allegations were made during the previous administration.

"Governor, there were thousands of complaints of sexual abuse at migrant shelters during the Trump years, not to say that what's going on now is right, but we couldn't find one instance of you complaining and calling that out when [former] President Trump was president," Wallace said. Abbott responded by basically claiming that, well these were allegations filed with state agencies. So is his reasoning that if it's at the federal level, he may not speak up? So how does he explain Texas suing the federal government over policy?

HuffPost reports that Greg later added, "Don't fall prey to Democrats or others saying, 'Well, Abbott didn't complain about this in the past.'" But the reality is he didn't, and Texas was ground zero for the past four years of anti-immigrant and anti-asylum abuses. El Paso, remember, is where the previous administration "piloted" family separation, the policy that would result in the state-sanctioned kidnapping of thousands of children. Nearly four years after that piloting, kids are still separated from their families.

"Abbott largely remained silent despite reports of widespread abuse in migrant shelters during former President Donald Trump's administration," The Texas Tribune reported. "Now that he's speaking out in the early days of a Democratic presidency, some said they couldn't help but view his comments through a political lens."

Among them is Rep. Veronica Escobar, who said in the report that Abbott "has zero credibility on this or any other issue related to protecting human life. We saw Gov. Abbott's failure to protect his own citizens during the freeze. We saw Gov. Abbott play politics with COVID." I mean, when asked to back up his xenophobic claims about asylum-seeking families spreading the virus, he had nothing.

Our nation with its vast resources has an obligation to treat children coming to our southern border in search of safety with dignity, compassion, and humanity. Their lives and their well-being are on us. But to Greg Abbott and others, they are clearly nothing but political props. It's disgusting, and they should be ashamed. But that would only happen if they had any sense of shame.

Montana's GOP governor signs bill banning 'sanctuary cities.' There's just one problem

No so-called "sanctuary cities" actually exist in Montana, but Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte has signed a bill purporting to ban them in the state anyway. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock had vetoed such legislation in 2019, calling it "a solution searching for a problem." But when you have no solutions to actual problems, the Republican playbook is to just blame an immigrant.

"Supporters of the measure have said that sanctuary cities in other parts of the country have led to increased criminal activity, and that the Montana ban is necessary to preempt such problems," the Associated Press (AP) reported. But that's not only faulty thinking, it's also flat-out untrue.

"Cities that have adopted 'sanctuary' policies did not record an increase in crime as a result of their decision to limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, according to a new Stanford University report," The Washington Post reported last year. That study came after years of lies from the previous administration that claimed safer city policies endangered communities. That administration also attempted to unlawfully strip funds from localities that had passed such measures.

"There's no evidence sanctuary policies harm public safety, and there's no evidence those policies increase crime," researcher David K. Hausman said according to the Post.

The AP reported that Montana's new law "will require state and local law enforcement to comply with federal immigration law and empower the state's attorney general to pursue civil action against jurisdictions that do not comply—including fines and withholding state grant funds." In his veto statement, Bullock warned that police holding detained immigrants past their release date for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to pick up is both unlawful and could expose localities to severe civil liabilities. Really severe.

Last October, Los Angeles County agreed to pay $14 million to settle a 2012 class action lawsuit brought forward by immigrants who had initially been detained by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office but were then unlawfully held for federal immigration agents to pick up later. It was the largest such settlement ever reached, The Washington Post reported at the time. "The holds, also called 'immigration detainers,' forced individuals to be held in county jails after they were legally entitled to be released," National Immigration Justice Center (NIJC) said in a release received by Daily Kos.

Seems like Bullock had the right idea there. But when you have no ideas period, you go the Gianforte route, I guess. He hasn't been the only one either. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the previous president's second of many lying press secretaries, launched her gubernatorial campaign with a pledge to also ban so-called sanctuary cities. But, like in Montana, none exist in Arkansas either. "New election cycle, same old xenophobic dog-whistling campaign," tweeted Zach Mueller of immigrant rights advocacy group America's Voice. "Lies told for power and profit, lies to divide and distract, lies that will hurt ALL Arkansans. But likely just a foreshadow of a GOP who learns no lessons and takes no responsibility."

NIJC said in a report last year that "a growing body of social science research shows that communities with immigrant populations are safe, vibrant, and full communities. Sociologists have long found that immigrants bring an inter-connectedness to communities that correlate to lower crime rates."

"Simply put, more immigrants means safer communities—for everyone," NIJC continued. "In fact, many studies have found that crime actually decreases in cities with large immigrant populations. Social scientists even have a term for it: the 'immigrant revitalization perspective.'"

'Echoed every conceivable GOP talking point': Critics slam Washington Post's immigration coverage

Republicans have no solutions but they have plenty to opine, and one of the most notorious officials from the previous administration was given a soapbox by The Washington Post this past weekend from which to finger-point at the Biden administration for deciding to follow the law by respecting the asylum rights of kids. "They should have been better prepared," Chad Wolf, the unlawfully appointed former acting Department of Homeland Security secretary who used his office to campaign instead of focus on white supremacist terror threats, dared to say in the report.

"Wolf was a key member of Trump's anti-immigrant border team who worked overtime creating deliberately ineffective, chaotic, and cruel policies, which Democrats are now trying to fix," former Media Matters and Rolling Stone writer Eric Boehlert said for Press Run. "But Wolf gets to spout off in the Post about how Biden has created a crisis?" He and other experts note The Post's piece was a hot mess overall, factually-challenged and practically salivating as it "echoed every conceivable GOP talking point."

"Designed to portray the White House as poised on the brink of a defining and perhaps fatal failure, the Post article was drenched in politics instead of policy—'Republicans are reveling in the administration's border problems,'" Boehlert writes. The "border problems" are in fact human beings—children—and thousands of them are currently in U.S. custody after coming to our southern border in search of safety. They have been doing so for several years, which The Post fails to note in its breathless coverage.

"The article fails to mention a 700% surge in unaccompanied minors in Trump's last year, and a 360% surge in adults seeking asylum," Julián Castro senior advisor Sawyer Hackett wrote in a series of tweets blasting the article. "It fails to seriously examine that the Trump admin refused to cooperate w/ the transition—which is the most important factor here in preparation." Recall that even U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), historically a paper-pushing agency, was reportedly ordered by the previous administration to not communicate with then-President-elect Biden's team. "I respect every journalist on this byline," Hackett said. "But this is pure hot garbage, beginning to end."

"The piece stressed the issue of immigration could be a loser for Democrats—it could cost them the House in 2022!" Boehlert continued. But as immigrant rights advocacy group America's Voice recently noted in a report, xenophobic and anti-immigrant shit-stirring has been a "losing political strategy" for Republicans, "as it was in 2017, in 2018, in 2019, and in 2020. Keep in mind as they again tee up immigration as their focus for 2022."

It's almost like former White House aide and white supremacist creep Stephen Miller actually really isn't some brilliant strategist (once again, who is president right now, and who is likely golfing at some resort staffed by the same undocumented immigrants he spent years demonizing for political gain?), and the American people favor real policy solutions and the humane treatment of children and families.

Immigration policy expert Aaron Reichlin-Melnick noted The Post's tired narrative mirrored in a piece from The New York Times on Monday, which proclaimed "The Democrats' Immigration Problem." Reichlin-Melnick wrote, "[n]o headline was written about 'The Republicans' Immigration Problem' in 2019 when twice as many families arrived at the border; or over the last two decades when ever reform bill was shot down? How is putting humanity back into the system a problem?" It's not, and allowing people to pursue their asylum rights is both lawful and moral. But it is a problem for Republicans, as Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn all but said so in his Twitter feed:

Both Cornyn and his colleague Ted Cruz, may I remind you, were silent when Border Patrol stalked and detained a 10-year-old girl on her way to emergency surgery back in 2017. Cruz is now suddenly concern-trolling about the border (including linking to The Post's piece) after spending years ignoring the previous administration's decimation of the asylum system and inhumane treatment of families. Both Cornyn and Cruz did nothing while the previous administration implemented humanitarian disasters like the anti-asylum Remain in Mexico policy, which the Biden administration has begun winding down.

"[R]epublicans—scrambling in a post-Trump, post-insurrection, post-stimulus, post-Dr. Seuss world—have pivoted to making the increase in unaccompanied minors at the border their 2022 wedge issue, we're all about to be dragged along for the ride," Ian Gordon wrote for Mother Jones. But Republicans can't really do it alone, and they've found an accomplice in The Post and other lazy punditry. ABC certainly didn't fly its entire "roundtable" to the border when the previous administration used Miller's politically motivated Title 42 public health order as an excuse to expel children over 13,000 times.

Mother Jones notes that in addition to Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's recent stunt at the southern border, "hawk Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on Fox News Sunday that 'the border is wide open' under Biden, despite the fact that the Title 42 border closure remains in place for everyone but unaccompanied migrant children," Gordon continued. "Cotton, it should be noted, is calling on Biden to shut the border on these kids. That was and would be another kind of crisis—just maybe not one that'd result in wall-to-wall coverage on the Sunday morning news shows."

Boehlert concludes by writing that "[i]n terms of border crossing apprehensions, 2021 is currently on pace to match the 2019 surge under Trump. Where was the panic-stricken media coverage about the border 'crisis' then, and how the Republican administration had no policy answer? In truth, Trump touted the huge influx in 2019 because he thought it was good politics for wanting to build a mythical wall across America's southern border, which Democrats opposed."

"So when a Republican was in the White House, he claimed the huge border surge was bad news for Democrats, and the press largely played alone," Boehlert continued. "Two years later, the press is once again playing along with Republicans, claiming a huge border surge is bad news for Democrats."

Legislators reintroduce immigration bills previously passed by House but blocked by Senate

Wednesday was a big day in the U.S. House of Representatives, with legislators reintroducing two major legalization bills that stand to affect millions. The first, the Dream and Promise Act, affects Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders. The second, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, provides a pathway to citizenship for farmworkers and their families.

Both bills were previously introduced by the House, and passed with bipartisan votes. The Dream and Promise Act received seven Republican votes to pass 237 to 187, while the Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed by an even wider margin of 260 to 165. It was the first time the chamber had passed such protections in many years. Yet, like countless other progressive pieces of legislation, the bills were stalled by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Following his demotion, advocates say now is the time to act.

"Passage of the Dream & Promise Act, along with the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, would be a critical first step towards citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants," United We Dream (UWD) executive director Greisa Martinez Rosas said in a statement received by Daily Kos. "The Dream & Promise Act is one of the most expansive policies to provide permanent solutions for millions of immigrant youth and TPS holders and includes much-needed improvements to expand eligibility."

The legislation, reintroduced by California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, New York Rep. Nydia Velázquez, and New York Rep. Yvette Clarke, would at last bring some relief to up to 3 million undocumented immigrants like UWD member Idalia Quinteros, who came to the U.S. when she was just 8 but was a year off from qualifying for DACA protections. "Without any form of protection, I have always felt a sense of anxiety and fear that I might be deported and separated from my loved ones," she said in the statement."

"The Dream & Promise Act would be life changing for me and millions of young people who don't qualify for protections from deportation under DACA," she continued. "Under this bill, I would finally have the opportunity to apply to and take a decent paying job with a work permit, get a driver's license, become more independent, qualify for more scholarships for college, and feel secure in my home. Congress must immediately pass the Dream & Promise Act for me and three million other undocumented people."

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, reintroduced by Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California and Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse of New York, would implement long overdue protections for undocumented workers whose labor puts food on tables across the U.S. The moral imperative to put undocumented farmworkers and their families on a path to legalization and citizenship has only grown since the bill's Dec. 2019 House passage.

While farm laborers were deemed essential workers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, workers without legal status have been shut out of emergency relief. InsideClimate News also reported last July that a study conducted by the California Institute for Rural Studies found that "[f]arm hubs have the highest rates of Covid-19 in the state, and Latinx patients comprise the majority of cases in those hot spots." Collaborative efforts in the state have since targeted farmworkers for the vaccine by taking mobile clinics straight to them.

"The bill was negotiated over eight months in 2019 with input from farmers, agricultural stakeholders, labor organizations, and farmworker advocates," Lofgren's office said. "In December 2019, it became the first agriculture labor reform legislation to pass the House of Representatives since 1986. Since its passage in the House, a bipartisan coalition of Members has been working to strengthen support for the legislation."

However, advocates from UWD, Immigrant Justice Network (IJC), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and America's Voice (AV) urged legislators to improve both pieces of legislation, saying that they worry the bills as-is exclude immigrants who've endured racial profiling by law enforcement.

"No bill is perfect," America's Voice founder Frank Sharry said. "There are provisions in both bills that are cause for concern. For example, the Dream and Promise Act includes troubling provisions that will exclude from a path to permanent status some who have had minor brushes with a harsh and discriminatory criminal justice system. These additional exclusions should be stripped from the bill or at least ameliorated as the legislation moves forward."

"The Dream and Promise Act must honor the promise made to protect hundreds of thousands of immigrants who call the United States home," IJN said. "This makes it all the more important for the bill to be truly inclusive and reflect our values of equity, compassion, and respect for everyone's rights." The ACLU said, "[w]e can achieve justice for immigrants without exacerbating the harms of the racist criminal legal system on Black and Brown immigrants. We call on Congress to pass citizenship legislation without harmful trade offs or exclusions. The time is now."

Like Daily Kos' Stephen Wolf noted yesterday following the House passage of the historic For the People Act, pro-immigrant legislation faces a hurdle in the Senate, "given Democrats' narrow majority and uncertainty over whether they can overcome a GOP filibuster," but it's a fight we must undertake to protect our families who have lived in uncertainty and fear for far too long.

Thousands of unaccompanied children have been in Border Patrol custody past legal time limit

CBS News' Camilo Montoya-Galvez reports that of the 4,000 unaccompanied children currently detained in dangerous and unsuitable Customs and Border Protection (CBP) conditions, nearly 3,000 of those children have been held by federal immigration officials beyond the 72-hour legal limit.

Children who arrive to the U.S. without parents are supposed to be transferred to Health and Human Services (HHS) within three days while the agency works to place them with sponsors (usually relatives and even parents). But the report said "records show that unaccompanied minors are spending an average of 117 hours in a Border Patrol facility, which Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said 'is no place for a child.'"

The New York Times reports that the Biden administration this past weekend announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would be dispatched to help provide "food, water and basic medical care" to unaccompanied children in U.S. custody. The report said that roughly 8,500 children are currently in custody of HHS' Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), in facilities that have seen capacity maximums reduced due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The need to get these kids out of CBP custody could not be more urgent. "Children interviewed on Thursday by lawyers conducting oversight as part of a federal court case reported sleeping on the floor; being hungry; only showering once in as many as seven days; and not being able to call family members," the CBS News report said. Neha Desai, an attorney with the National Center for Youth Law, said that one child said they only were able to see the sun when they went to go shower.

The arrival of child refugees to the United States is not new. "Happened under Obama, Trump, now Biden," tweeted MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff. But the previous president implemented a number of anti-asylum policies that blocked vulnerable people and families, and the Biden administration is now allowing in the children that the last administration blocked and have been waiting. Nor is this mistreatment of unaccompanied children new, with a 2019 report from the DHS inspector general under the previous administration finding that border officials held kids for days beyond the 72-hour limit.

But while that administration intentionally implemented policies to hurt children, the Biden administration is taking further steps beyond dispatching FEMA to assist these kids. The Biden administration announced last week that it would be reinstating a program that allowed Central American children to join parents who are already in the U.S. and have lawful status. The Biden administration is also officially ending policy by the previous administration that put sponsors at risk of deportation, and said it would waive policy that required sponsors to pay for the airfare of children.

While these are all steps that could speed up the safe release of children to sponsors already in the U.S., advocates are expressing concern about other measures taken by the Biden administration, like the reopening of large-scale prison camps for kids. "Carrizo Springs, which, unlike a permanent shelter, is not licensed by the state, raising concerns that the up to 700 teenagers who can be housed in the facility could be subject to inhumane treatment and prolonged confinement," Vox reported.

Advocates have urged the use of these camps only as a last resort. "We demand greater transparency from the Biden administration for the public to verify that this use of mass detention is a temporary aberration, that children will be held there for as brief a period as possible, and that for any short period in which Carrizo Springs remains open, officials are doing everything possible to mitigate the harms of being held there," Japanese American-led organization Tsuru for Solidarity said.

Congressional Republicans including Kevin McCarthy have border visits planned, but it's not actually anything to help these kids, it's to fearmonger. McCarthy's been doing a lot of that lately, including echoing the words of an anti-immigrant hate group. "Their sudden concerns for children are hollow and cynical," tweeted Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro. Advocates urged the need to remember that these are kids. "We need to sort of draw back the hysteria of this moment, focus on treating children fleeing violence and arriving at our border as children fleeing violence and arriving at our border and needing help, and that is okay," immigrant rights activist Alida Garcia recently said on MSNBC.

"Moments like these are tests of a nation's character," Families Belong Together director Paola Luisi, said in a statement received by Daily Kos. "We cannot lose sight of the fact that these are children and families running for their lives. The question is how are we going to greet them: with cruelty and trauma, or dignity and compassion? We are working with partners across the border to ensure that families are safe, healthy, and reunited with their loved ones as quickly as possible, and we demand every government entity involved to approach this situation through the lens of child welfare."


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