Immigration
November 27, 2019

A damning new report from the Homeland Security Department's inspector general is out.

The report found that the DHS never had any proper information technology systems in place to track the number of separated migrant families under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. Customs and Border Protection officials, per the inspector general, were aware of the technological deficiencies as early as November 2017, but the policy was enacted in May 2018 anyway, even though CBP hadn't adequately addressed the issues. The agency did adopt other methods to track and record separations, but those led to widespread errors, per the report.

"Because of these IT deficiencies, we could not confirm the total number of families DHS separated during the Zero Tolerance period," the report reads.

DHS has estimated 3,014 children were separated and that the agency completed 2,155 reunifications, but the inspector general's office conducted a review of DHS data during the "zero tolerance" period and identified 136 children "with potential family relationships who were not accurately recorded by CBP." In a broader review of the data collected between Oct. 1, 2017, and Feb. 14, 2019, the inspector general found an additional 1,233 children with potential relationships that CBP didn't accurately record. But the numbers couldn't be validated. Read the full findings here. Tim O'Donnell

November 21, 2019

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency that administers the country's naturalization and immigration system, and two of its newest leaders once worked at an organization that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

John Zadrozny and Robert Law worked with Ken Cuccinelli while he was still acting director of the agency. Cuccinelli is now the second-highest ranking official at the Department of Homeland Security, and Zadrozny, once his top aide, was promoted to acting USCIS chief of staff. Law, who was Cuccinelli's senior adviser, is now acting chief of policy. Zadrozny has pushed for slashing refugee admissions to zero, Politico reported this summer, while Law has publicly denounced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, saying those who support it favor "immigration anarchy."

Both Zadrozny and Law worked at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), founded in 1979 by anti-immigration activist John Tanton, who once declared that a "Latin onslaught" was coming. The group says its mission is to "reduce overall immigration to a more normal level," but the Southern Poverty Law Center says it is actually a hate group, citing its ties to "white supremacist groups and eugenicists" and people who have made racist remarks.

"These groups, which were basically outside of the mainstream, have been embraced by the Trump administration and their ideas are now policy, which is affecting millions and millions of people of color," the Southern Poverty Law Center's Heidi Beirich told CBS News. FAIR's president, Dan Stein, said the organization has "never had any issue with immigration, per se. All we've ever said is that it should be lawful and that the numbers need to be properly regulated." Catherine Garcia

November 3, 2019

The courts continue to be a thorn in the side of the White House as the Trump administration seeks to curb immigration into the United States.

A federal judge granted a 28-day temporary restraining order Saturday preventing the Trump administration from implementing a policy that would require immigrants to prove they would either have U.S. health insurance within 30 days or the ability to pay for medical costs upon entry into the country.

The policy was set to go into effect Sunday, but Judge Michael Simon of the Federal District Court in Portland, Oregon, issued the ruling, which he justified by stating it would be too damaging to immigrants and their families. "Facing a likely risk of being separated from their family members and a delay in obtaining a visa to which family members would otherwise be entitled is irreparable harm," he wrote.

Seven U.S. citizens and an advocacy organization filed the lawsuit, noting that the policy "rewrites our immigration and health-care laws by presidential fiat" and could potentially keep hundreds of thousands of immigrants from entering the U.S. The Trump administration has defended the policy by arguing insuring immigrants was too much of a financial burden on Americans. Read more at The New York Times and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

November 2, 2019

The Department of Homeland Security has been in a constant state of flux ever since President Trump took over the White House in 2017, and now it's supposedly about to get its fifth chief.

Chad Wolf, the acting undersecretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, is expected to serve as the acting head of the agency once outgoing acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan leaves his post in November, President Trump told reporters Friday evening, though it is unclear how formal the announcement was. Wolf is a former lobbyist who previously served as the chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

A White House official said Trump does not currently plan to name Wolf as the department's permanent chief, but there's a possibility he could stay on in the role for an extended amount of time.

The Washington Post described Wolf as a "mild-mannered, managerial figure," who emerged as the leading candidate for the job once Trump ran low on other options, most notably including immigration hardliner and acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli. The New York Times, though, reports that White House adviser Stephen Miller views Wolf as someone who can "reliably put into effect" the border policies he designed on Trump's behalf. Read more at The New York Times and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

October 2, 2019

The U.S. government wants to start collecting DNA from detained immigrants to include in a national criminal database, senior Department of Homeland Security officials told reporters on Wednesday.

The database is maintained by the FBI and used by law enforcement authorities as they attempt to identify suspects. DNA is usually collected from people who have been arrested, charged, or convicted of major crimes.

The Justice Department is working on a federal regulation that gives immigration officers authorization to collect DNA from migrants at detention facilities containing more than 40,000 people, The New York Times reports. Under these new rules, the government would also be able to collect DNA from kids and asylum seekers who cross the border at legal ports of entry.

"That kind of mass collection alters the purpose of DNA collection from one of criminal investigation basically to population surveillance, which is basically contrary to our basic notions of a free, trusting, autonomous society," Vera Eidelman, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, told the Times. Collecting genetic material would also have ramifications for family members of the immigrants who are U.S. citizens or have legal residence, she added. Catherine Garcia

September 17, 2019

The United States wants Cuban migrants who pass through Honduras to seek asylum there, rather than in the U.S., Honduran Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales said Tuesday.

Rosales told reporters that over the last year, thousands of Cubans have made their way through Honduras, headed to the United States. Negotiations are ongoing between the U.S. and Honduras on what to do about migrants, and "one of the topics discussed in the deal with the United States is precisely that if Cuban migrants are interested in seeking political asylum ... they do so in Honduras," Rosales said.

Looking for ways to stop the flow of migrants to the U.S., the Trump administration has worked out an agreement with Guatemala, so migrants headed toward the United States can first apply for asylum there. The Guatemalan government has not yet ratified this deal. Thousands of Hondurans and Guatemalans are leaving their countries every year for the United States, fleeing poverty and violence. Catherine Nichols

July 1, 2019

Several posts in a secret Facebook group provide a troubling behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of Border Patrol agents, ProPublica reports.

The group, called "I'm 10-15," is meant to serve as a forum for "funny" and "serious" discussion about work with the patrol for roughly 9,500 former and current agents. But ProPublica received images of several recent inappropriate discussions on the page.

The content includes one member encouraging agents to throw a burrito at Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) during their planned visit to a border facility near El Paso, conspiracy theories about the drowning of a father and daughter who were trying to enter the United States, jokes about deceased migrants, and a vulgar illustration depicting Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, was reportedly angered by the Facebook discussions. "It confirms some of the worst criticisms of Customs and Border Protection," Castro said. "These are clearly agents who are desensitized to the point of being dangerous to migrants and their co-workers." Read more at ProPublica. Tim O'Donnell

May 19, 2019

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told host Margaret Brennan on Sunday's Face the Nation that, yes, his organization is relocating migrants to sanctuary cities. But it's not part of President Trump's self-described "sick idea" to anger those cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Instead, McAleenan said the transport efforts are based on "necessity and capacity" to safely process the migrants. For example, due to overcrowding at facilities in Texas, the agency has begun flying hundreds of migrants to San Diego to increase efficiency. While several of the cities and states that will take in the relocated migrants are, in fact, "sanctuaries," McAleenan said that their selection was not intentional or politically motivated.

But not everyone's buying it. While not responding directly to McAleenan's comments, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) later told Brennan that he thinks the Trump administration is sticking to the sanctuary city idea with the intention of sending migrants to states they "don't care about," implying that it is, indeed, politically motivated. He said that the only reason White House backed out of a decision to send migrants to Florida cities is because the state's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, called the idea "unacceptable." Tim O'Donnell

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