Mexico says migrant numbers will fall further, wants no clash with U.S.

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s foreign minister said on Thursday he expected the number of U.S.-bound migrants to fall further and that it was in his country’s interest to avoid tensions with Washington on migration in the run-up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard also said Mexico took a different view from the one expressed on Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court, which granted a request by the Trump administration to fully enforce a new rule that would curtail asylum applications by immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This is the ruling by the court, it’s a U.S. issue, and obviously we don’t agree with it, we have a different policy,” Ebrard told a regular news conference.

(Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Dave Graham and Deepa Babington)

Trump considers executive order to add citizenship question to U.S. census

FILE PHOTO: Balloons decorate an event for community activists and local government leaders to mark the one-year-out launch of the 2020 Census efforts in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Friday said he may issue an executive order in an effort to add a contentious citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census as his administration faces a Friday afternoon court deadline to reveal its plans.

“We’re working on a lot of things including an executive order,” Trump told reporters outside the White House as he left for his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.

He also suggested that a query about citizenship could be added at a later date even if it is not on the questionnaire currently being printed.

Maryland-based U.S. District Court Judge George Hazel wants the administration to state its intentions by 2 p.m.

A White House spokesman said on Thursday that officials are examining “every option” available to add the query to the decennial population survey.

Trump administration officials have been scrambling in the aftermath of a Supreme Court ruling on June 27 that blocked the inclusion of the question, saying administration officials had given a “contrived” rationale for including it. But the court left open the possibility that the administration could offer a plausible rationale.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday said the Census Bureau had started the process of printing the census questionnaires without the citizenship query, giving the impression that the administration had backed down.

But Trump then ordered a policy reversal via tweet on Wednesday, saying he would fight on, although the government has said the printing process continues.

The census is used to allot seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and distribute some $800 billion in federal services, including public schools, Medicaid benefits, law enforcement and highway repairs.

Critics have called the citizenship question a Republican ploy to scare immigrants into not participating and engineer a population undercount in Democratic-leaning areas with high immigrant populations. They say that officials lied about their motivations for adding the question and that the move would help Trump’s fellow Republicans gain seats in the House and state legislatures when new electoral district boundaries are drawn.

Trump and his supporters say it makes sense to know how many non-citizens are living in the country. His hard-line policies on immigration have been a key element of his presidency and 2020 re-election campaign.

A group of states including New York and immigrant rights organizations challenged the legality of the citizenship question, arguing among other things that the U.S. Constitution requires congressional districts to be distributed based on a count of “the whole number of persons in each state” with no reference to citizenship. Three different federal judges blocked the administration before the Supreme Court intervened.

The Supreme Court ruled that in theory the government can ask about citizenship on the census, but rejected the rationale given by the Trump administration for adding.

The administration had originally told the courts the question was needed to better enforce a law that protects the voting rights of racial minorities.

Administration officials had repeatedly told the Supreme Court they needed to finalize the details of the census questionnaire by the end of June.

Even if a citizenship question is not included, the Census Bureau is still able to gather data on citizenship, which the Trump administration could provide to states when they are drawing new electoral districts.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper and David Morgan; Editing by Grant McCool)

Trump vows rapid, high tariffs on Mexico unless illegal immigration ends

FILE PHOTO: Joe Alvarado, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agriculture Specialist, checks imported broccoli from Mexico at the Pharr Port of Entry in Pharr, Texas, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/File Photo

By Steve Holland and Frank Jack Daniel

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump, responding to a surge of illegal immigrants across the southern border, vowed on Thursday to impose a tariff on all goods coming from Mexico, starting at 5% and ratcheting much higher until the flow of people ceases.

Trump’s move dramatically escalates his battle to control a wave of tens of thousands of asylum seekers, including many Central American families fleeing poverty and violence, that has swelled alongside his promises to make it harder to get U.S. refuge and his efforts to build a wall on the Mexican border.

The announcement rattled investors who feared that worsening trade friction could hurt the global economy. The Mexican peso, U.S. stock index futures and Asian stock markets tumbled on the news, including the shares of Japanese automakers who ship cars from Mexico to the United States.

The president’s decision, announced on Twitter and in a subsequent statement, was a direct challenge to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and took the Mexican government by surprise on a day when it had started a formal process to ratify a trade deal with the United States and Canada (USMCA).

It raised the risk of devastating economic relations with the biggest U.S. trade partner for goods. Mexico, heavily dependent on cross-border trade, rose to that ranking as a result of Trump’s trade war with China.

The measures against Mexico open up a new front on trade and if implemented are bound to trigger retaliation that would hit heartland, Trump-supporting farming and industrial states.

Higher tariffs will start at 5% on June 10 and increase monthly up to 25% on Oct. 1, unless Mexico takes immediate action, he said.

“If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the tariffs will be removed,” Trump said.

Lopez Obrador responded in a letter he posted on Twitter, calling Trump’s policy of America First “a fallacy” and accusing him of turning the United States into a “ghetto,” that stigmatized and mistreated migrants.

“President Trump, social problems are not resolved with taxes or coercive measures,” he wrote, adding that a delegation led by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard would travel to Washington on Friday. He did not threaten to retaliate, saying he wanted to avoid confrontation.

Lopez Obrador pushed back against Trump’s assertion that Mexico let immigration happen through “passive cooperation,” saying: “you know we are fulfilling our responsibility to stop (migrants) moving through our country, as much as possible and without violating human rights.”

Determined to avoid a break down in Mexico’s most important bilateral relationship, since Trump threatened to close the world’s busiest land border over the migrant surge, Lopez Obrador’s government has drastically tightened controls on the movement of migrants, detaining and deporting thousands in recent months, while calling for U.S. aid to tackle root causes.

“We’re in a good moment building a good relationship (with the United States) and this comes like a cold shower,” said Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America, Jesus Seade, who had been in Mexico’s Senate delivering the USMCA trade deal for ratification shortly before the news broke.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang expressed sympathy with Mexico.

“The United States has repeatedly taken trade bullying action. China is not the only victim,” Geng told reporters.

Cross border trade between Mexico and the United States: https://tmsnrt.rs/2V59n2R

SIDING WITH HAWKS

Despite Trump’s assertion that Mexico could easily end Central American immigration, its relatively small security forces, also struggling with a record level of gang violence and homicide, are having a hard time controlling the flows.

In the biggest migrant surge on the U.S-Mexican border in a decade, U.S. officials say 80,000 people are being held in custody with an average of 4,500 mostly Central American migrants arriving daily, overwhelming the ability of border patrol officials to handle them. A senior White House official said Trump was particularly concerned that U.S. border agents apprehended a group of 1,036 migrants as they illegally crossed the border from Mexico on Wednesday. Officials said it was the largest single group since October. Before unveiling the tariff threat, Trump posted a video purporting to be of the crossing on his Twitter feed.

A source close to Trump said there had been a debate inside the White House over whether to go forward with the new policy, with immigration hawks fighting for it and others urging a more diplomatic approach. Trump sided with the hawks.

“The last thing he wants is to look weak,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump’s directive also spelled the potential for chaos for his efforts to get the U.S. Congress to approve the USMCA deal, which he negotiated as a replacement to the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Doug Ducey, the governor of Arizona, which shares a 370-mile (595-km) border with Mexico, said on Twitter that he spoke to the White House and it was time for Congress to act on border security and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“Everyone knows I am opposed to tariffs and deeply value Arizona’s relationship with Mexico. I prioritize national security and a solution to our humanitarian crisis at the border above commerce,” he said on Twitter.

Trump said he was acting under the powers granted to him by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. He campaigned for election in 2016 on a vow to crack down on immigration.

Jaime Serra, Mexico’s former trade minister who negotiated the original NAFTA, told Reuters the announcement was unacceptable and “in total violation of NAFTA.” Another negotiator said Trump risked violating World Trade Organization rules.

WHITE HOUSE WANTS ACTION ‘TONIGHT’

White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, asked in a conference call with reporters which products from Mexico could be affected by the tariffs, said: “All of them.”

Mulvaney added, “We are interested in seeing the Mexican government act tonight, tomorrow.”

Shares in Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co and Honda Motor Co all fell around 3% or more, while Mazda Motor Co fell nearly 7%. All four operate vehicle assembly plants in Mexico.

“Mexico is the U.S.’s largest trading partner and a flare-up in trade tensions was definitely not on the market radar,” said Sean Callow, a senior currency analyst at Westpac.

The benchmark S&P 500 e-mini futures dropped 0.82% to the lowest the contract has traded since early March. Investors scooped up safe assets, driving the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note to 2.18%, the lowest since September 2017.

The dollar surged more than 2.5 percent against the Mexican peso.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Eric Beech and Mohammed Zargham; additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York,Noe Torres and Anthony Esposito in Mexico City, and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Grant McCool and Clarence Fernandez)

Citing ‘crisis,’ Trump to seek border wall support in televised address

A woman walks past the entrance to the National Archives which is closed due to a partial government shutdown continues, in Washington, U.S., January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will make his case to Americans on Tuesday that a wall is urgently needed to resolve what he calls a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, trying to make good on a campaign promise in a dispute that has sparked an 18-day partial government shut-down.

Trump’s prime-time address, scheduled for 9 p.m. will be the Republican president’s latest attempt to persuade Democrats to back his push for a steel barrier on the southern border.

Amid his talk of crisis, Trump is considering declaring the border situation a national emergency, which could get him out of an impasse by enabling him to bypass Congress’ mandate to approve federal spending and to build the wall without its approval. However, such a step would likely face an immediate legal challenge.

Trump has long maintained that a border wall is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigration and drugs, and in recent weeks has made the issue a priority. Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, have consistently opposed it, calling it an expensive, inefficient and immoral way of trying to resolve immigration issues.

The dispute over wall funding – with Trump demanding $5.7 billion to help build it – led to a stalemate in Congress over funding for parts of the government. About a quarter of U.S. agencies have been shut down since last month and hundreds of thousands of government workers are likely to miss paychecks this week.

Trump’s remarks from the White House will also aim to shore up support among Republican lawmakers, who are wary of a potential backlash from the public as the effects of the shutdown intensify. Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to meet with Republican lawmakers later on Tuesday, before Trump’s speech.

Trump will tell the American people that there is “a humanitarian and security crisis” at the border, Pence said in television interviews on Tuesday morning.

The White House has not said why the situation constitutes a national emergency. Pence did not say whether Trump had made a decision or if the White House had completed its legal review of such a declaration.

“We believe we can solve this through the legislative process,” Pence told CBS, urging Democrats to negotiate.

While Trump has frequently painted a picture of an “unprecedented crisis” of illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexican border, illegal crossings there have dropped dramatically in recent years. There were nearly 400,000 apprehensions on the border in the 2018 fiscal year, far down from the early 2000s when arrests regularly topped 1 million annually.

But in recent years, the border has seen many more Central American families and unaccompanied children turning up – sometimes in caravans of thousands of people – to seek asylum and the government does not have the facilities to take care of them. Such asylum-seekers often present themselves at official crossing points, something that would not change if a wall were built.

Despite the focus on the border with Mexico, most immigrants living in the United States without authorization entered with visas and then stayed on when their documents ran out.

‘DRASTICALLY MISINFORMING’

All major U.S. television networks agreed to broadcast Trump’s speech, prompting Democrats to seek equal air time.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer will deliver a televised response after Trump speaks on Tuesday night.

Democrats have said they support increased border security measures such as additional U.S. border agents and technology, but have rejected the administration’s claims about the security risks at the border and have raised concerns that Trump will use his speech to present a false narrative.

“Someone is drastically misinforming him,” Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin told CNN.

Trump will continue pressing his case with a trip to the border on Thursday.

Pence said on Monday that progress was made in weekend talks that he led between administration officials and congressional staff over how to break the funding impasse and reopen the government.

Federal employees will feel the pinch from the shutdown on Friday when they will miss their paychecks for the first time, unless a deal is reached. The shutdown, which has left some 800,000 government workers furloughed or working without pay, is also affecting national parks, airline security screening, housing and food aid, and economic data.

“This isn’t about Democrats not wanting to talk about border security,” Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy told MSNBC. “It’s about making sure that the federal workforce isn’t used over and over again as a hostage for the president’s campaign promises.”

Trump made his promise for a wall a signature issue in his 2016 White House run. He said Mexico would pay for it, although Mexico was always clear it would not, and he has now turned to Congress for the money.

In rejecting Trump’s demands, Democrats also point to the Trump administration’s controversial handling of families and other migrants from Central America at the border.

Critics have decried the previous separation of migrant children from families, the use of tear gas at the border and the case of two Guatemalan migrant children who died in U.S. custody in December.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington and Kenneth Li and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Standoff over Trump border wall puts U.S. Congress in budget ‘pickle’

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Capitol is pictured in Washington, U.S., November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Photo

By Richard Cowan and Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and Congress, embroiled in a feud over his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, have only five days to reach a deal before a partial government shutdown could leave about a quarter of the federal workforce without paychecks.

Trump has demanded $5 billion as a down payment on construction of a huge wall that he argues is the only way to keep illegal immigrants and drugs from crossing into the United States, again pushing the proposal in an early morning tweet on Monday. Democrats and some Republicans argue there are less costly, more effective border controls.

FILE PHOTO: Workers on the U.S. side, paint a line on the ground as they work on the border wall between Mexico and the U.S., as seen from Tijuana, Mexico, December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

FILE PHOTO: Workers on the U.S. side, paint a line on the ground as they work on the border wall between Mexico and the U.S., as seen from Tijuana, Mexico, December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The money Trump wants is only a small fraction of the roughly $450 billion Congress was poised to approve – before the latest battle over the proposed wall – to fund several agencies which will otherwise run out of money on Dec. 21.

Large swaths of the government already are funded through next September, including the U.S. military and agencies that operate public healthcare, education and veterans’ programs.

Several Republican and Democratic congressional aides on Friday said there was no apparent progress being made toward resolving the standoff, after Trump and leading congressional Democrats battled each other on Tuesday in front of television cameras in the White House Oval Office.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” Trump told House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

Since then, a senior House Republican aide said his party was “in a pickle” over how to keep the government open.

The aide noted that Republicans, who will control both houses of Congress until Jan. 3, will not be able to muster the minimum 218 votes needed in the House to pass a funding bill if it contains Trump’s demand for border wall money, which Democrats oppose.

Agent J. Cruz of the U.S. Border Patrol looks on along the newly completed wall during U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's visit to U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall in the El Centro Sector in Calexico, California, U.S. October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Earnie Grafton

Agent J. Cruz of the U.S. Border Patrol looks on along the newly completed wall during U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s visit to U.S. President Donald Trump’s border wall in the El Centro Sector in Calexico, California, U.S. October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Earnie Grafton

If funds run out on Dec. 21, the NASA space program would potentially be unfunded, along with national parks, the U.S. diplomatic corps and agriculture programs.

Similarly, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security would be vulnerable to shutdowns, although “essential” employees, such as FBI agents, airport security screeners and border patrol agents, would still report to work.

Their paychecks, however, would not be issued until the shutdown ends and Congress would have to decide whether to award back pay for them as well as any furloughed workers.

A government in such disarray might not play well for Republicans over the holiday period, especially if Americans also view images for two weeks of Trump vacationing at his exclusive Florida beach-front mansion.

“After the president’s comments earlier this week when he said he was going to own the shutdown, that sealed the deal for Democrats. There is absolutely no reason for them to cut a deal with this president,” said Jim Manley, a political strategist and former Senate Democratic leadership aide.

With the clock ticking, the House is not even bothering to come to work until Wednesday night.

For now, Democrats are waiting for the White House to signal whether it will engage on legislation that would keep programs operating, but without money for Trump’s wall.

White House adviser Stephen Miller told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” program on Sunday that the administration would “do whatever is necessary to build the border wall.” Asked if that included shutting down the government, he said: “If it comes to it, absolutely.”

If not, Manley predicted the government will limp along until Jan. 3, when Democrats take control of the House and Pelosi likely becomes the speaker and promptly advances funding, daring the Republican-led Senate to reject it.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Amanda Becker; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Leslie Adler and Paul Simao)

Exclusive: Canada rushes to deport asylum seekers who walked from U.S. – data

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) vehicle is seen near a sign at the US-Canada border in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is prioritizing the deportation of asylum seekers who walked across the border from the United States illegally, federal agency statistics show, as the Liberal government tries to tackle a politically sensitive issue ahead of an election year.

The number of people deported after their refugee applications were rejected was on track to drop 25 percent so far this year compared to 2017 to its lowest point in a decade, even as the number of deported border-crossers was on track to triple, according to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) data.

More than 36,000 people have walked into Canada from the United States to file refugee claims since January 2017, many saying they feared U.S. President Donald Trump’s election promise and policy to crack down on illegal immigration.

The influx has thrown the Canadian asylum system into turmoil and caused a political uproar in a country accustomed to picking and choosing its newcomers.

In response, the government gave more money to the independent body adjudicating refugee claims and appointed a minister responsible for border-crossers.

The CBSA, which is responsible for deportations, said in an email to Reuters that it classifies border-crossers with criminals as a top deportation priority.

Refugee lawyers and border officers said the prioritization seems to be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s way of dealing with those asylum seekers, who have become a hot political issue for his Liberal Party ahead of a general election in 2019.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair declined to comment.

In an email, Blair’s office said the government is committed to a “robust and fair” refugee system and that everyone ordered removed has been given due process.

A CBSA inland enforcement officer said the tradeoff is that deportees who could pose a real public safety risk are not getting deported.

“We have priority cases, people with extensive criminal records that are due to be deported, people with security problems – these cases are not all taken care of because we have to take care of these administrative cases,” said the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to media.

Border-crossers “are not a priority, but they are a priority because of all the media attention around them.”

A CBSA spokesman said in an email that the agency prioritizes “irregular” failed refugee claimants along with criminals as a top priority, followed by other failed refugee claimants, but would not say why.

Six lawyers told Reuters they were aware of this acceleration of certain cases, some saying they have had border-crosser hearings scheduled in blocs, with a focus on those from Haiti and Nigeria.

Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman said there were good reasons for accelerating the processing and deportation of people who crossed the border: it deters people with weak claims from making refugee claims in the hopes of living in Canada for years while their case wends through the system.

“The best way of discouraging people from making frivolous claims is by having the claims processed quickly,” Waldman said.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; editing by Grant McCool)

Venezuelans entering Ecuador illegally receive help to reach Peru

Venezuelan migrant Plaza Pernia family hug as they arrive from the northern city of Tumbes, border with Ecuador, to the bus terminal in Lima, Peru August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

QUITO (Reuters) – Some 250 Venezuelans who illegally entered Ecuador to join tens of thousands fleeing a crisis at home have won safe passage to the Peruvian border, a few days before Peru’s government tightens its migration requirements.

Ecuadorean authorities said on Wednesday they had dispatched buses to take the migrants 840km from the Andean country’s northern border with Colombia to the Huaquillas coastal crossing with Peru.

This year 423,000 Venezuelans have entered Ecuador through the Rumichaca border, many planning to continue south to find work in Peru. Alarmed, Ecuador last Saturday put in place rules requiring Venezuelans to show passports, rather than just national identity cards. Peru will do the same beginning on Saturday.

Hundreds of migrants who began traveling days ago by bus and on foot through Colombia from Venezuela before the policy change crossed the Rumichaca checkpoint on Tuesday. They set out to walk and hitchhike, often in freezing conditions, to Huaquilla.

Maly Aviles, a 26-year-old Venezuelan, spent days on the Ecuador-Colombia border waiting with friends for a solution before the buses arrived.

“There is no way back. To return to Venezuela is suicidal,” she said.

Venezuela’s economy has been in steep decline and there are periodic waves of protests against the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro argues that he is the victim of a Washington-led “economic war” designed to sabotage his administration through sanctions and price-gouging.

The chaos has forced many to flood across the borders in search of work, food, and basic healthcare. This has stretched social services, created more competition for low-skilled jobs and stoked fears of increased crime.

The governor of Ecuador’s northern Pichincha province said more transfers would be organized for Venezuelans in the coming days.

“The Venezuelans have taken the decision to head for Peru and in Ecuador we must guarantee their rights. It’s a humanitarian crisis,” he told a local radio station.

(Reporting by Daniel Tapia; Writing by Angus Berwick; Editing by Leslie Adler)

U.S. says 463 illegal immigrant parents may have been deported without kids

Security officers keep watch over a tent encampment housing immigrant children just north of the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mike

By Tom Hals and Reade Levinson

(Reuters) – More than 450 immigrant parents who were separated from their children when they entered the United States illegally are no longer in the country though their children remain behind, according to a joint court filing on Monday by the federal government and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The absence of the 463 parents, which U.S. government lawyers said was “under review,” could impede government efforts to reunite separated families by Thursday, the deadline ordered by a federal judge. The filing did not say why the 463 parents had left the country, but government officials previously acknowledged that some parents had been deported without their children.

As of Monday, 879 parents had been reunited with their children, according to the filing.

About 2,500 children were separated from their parents after the Trump administration announced a “zero tolerance” policy in April aimed at discouraging illegal immigration. The policy was ended in June amid an international outcry about the government’s treatment of immigrant children.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered last month that the government had to reunite the children with their parents in a case brought by the ACLU.

On Monday, the government also said 917 parents were either not eligible to be reunited or not yet known to be eligible to be reunited with their child. That number includes parents no longer in the country as well as those deemed unsuitable because of criminal convictions or for other reasons.

Immigration advocates have expressed alarm about parents deported without their children, saying it can create problems with the children’s immigration cases.

“How can we go forward on a case if we don’t know the parent’s wishes?” Megan McKenna, spokeswoman for Kids in Need of Defense, told Reuters earlier this month.

While Monday’s report indicated progress with reunifications, the ACLU made clear its frustrations with the process. The rights group said it did not have a list of parents who signed a form electing to be deported without their child.

“These parents urgently need consultations with lawyers, so that they do not mistakenly strand their children in the United States,” the ACLU wrote in the court filing.

The ACLU asked Sabraw to order the government to turn the information over by the end of Tuesday.

The government said it had cleared an additional 538 parents for reunification pending transport.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware, and Reade Levinson in New York; Editing by Sue Horton and Leslie Adler)

At Texas border, joy and chaos as U.S. reunites immigrant families

Undocumented immigrants recently released from detention prepare to depart a bus depot for cities around the country in McAllen, Texas, U.S., July 18, 2018. Picture taken July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elli

By Yeganeh Torbati and Loren Elliott

LOS FRESNOS, Texas (Reuters) – Luis Campos, a Dallas attorney, showed up at a Texas immigrant detention facility close to the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday morning expecting to represent a client before an immigration judge.

But his client – a mother who had been separated from her child by immigration authorities after they crossed the border illegally – was not at the Port Isabel Detention Center. For more than a day, Campos was unable to determine whether she had been released and whether she had been reunited with her child.

Campos did not fare much better with his other appointments. Of the five other clients he had been scheduled to meet with that day, four were no longer at Port Isabel, and it was unclear if they had been released or transferred to other facilities.

“We don’t know what their status is except they’re no longer in the system,” Campos said. “We don’t know where people are right now and it’s been a struggle to get information.”

Lawyers and immigrant advocates working in south Texas this week reported widespread disarray as the federal government scrambled to meet a court-imposed deadline of July 26 for reunifying families separated by immigration officials under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” measures.

Half a dozen lawyers Reuters spoke to described struggles to learn of reunification plans in advance and difficulty tracking down clients who were suddenly released or transferred to family detention centers run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The lawyers said it was often difficult to get through by telephone and that when they did the government employees often knew little about their clients’ status or location.

ICE officials did not respond to questions about the reunification process in Texas and elsewhere.

A government court filing on Thursday said that 364 reunifications had taken place so far. It was unclear from the document, filed as part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging parent-child separations at the border, exactly how many more were likely.

Of more than 2,500 parents identified as potentially eligible to be reunited with their children, 848 have been interviewed and cleared for reunification, government attorneys told the court. Another 91 have been deemed ineligible because of criminal records or for other reasons.

Undocumented immigrants recently released from detention prepare to depart a bus depot for cities around the country in McAllen, Texas, U.S., July 18, 2018. Picture taken July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Undocumented immigrants recently released from detention prepare to depart a bus depot for cities around the country in McAllen, Texas, U.S., July 18, 2018. Picture taken July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

BUSY SHELTERS

Evidence of the reunification efforts can be found throughout the Rio Grande Valley area, a border region that covers the southern tip of Texas and includes small towns like Los Fresnos.

Children arrive in vans at the Port Isabel Detention Center near Los Fresnos late into the night, lawyers said.

A sprawling church site in San Juan, around 60 miles (97 km) away, was designated as a migrant shelter after it became clear that a large number of reunited families would be released from Port Isabel.

The shelter has been housing between 200 and 300 adults and children on any given night this week, according to migrants who spent time there.

The same court order that required separated families to be reunited also ordered the government to stop separating new arrivals at the border and some families who have crossed in recent weeks have been detained together.

But ICE has limited facilities to house parents and children together, and strict rules apply regarding how long and under what circumstances it can keep children locked up.

Claudia Franco, waiting to board a bus at a terminal in McAllen, near San Juan, said she and her daughter traveled from Guatemala and were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol after entering the United States last week. The pair were released from custody a few days later, and Franco was given an ankle monitor during her legal fight to remain in the country.

President Donald Trump has called for an end to such swift releases, which he refers to as “catch-and-release.”

‘WILD WEST LAWYERING’

Having attorneys can make a crucial difference for Central American migrants trying to negotiate the complexities of the legal system.

Angela, a Honduran woman who declined to give her surname, had initially been found not to have a “credible fear” of returning to Honduras, something that must be established as the first step in an asylum claim.

On Monday, she appeared in immigration court with attorney Eileen Blessinger. The judge reversed that initial finding. The next day, Angela was reunited with her daughter after more than a month apart and the two will seek asylum in the Indianapolis area, she said in a phone interview from a shelter.

Lawyers said that other clients will be deprived of representation in court because of the chaotic reunification and release process.

“It’s all totally like Wild West lawyering,” said Shana Tabak, an attorney with the Tahirih Justice Center, which provides legal services to migrants. “The government is moving really quickly, without a lot of advance planning it seems.”

One urgent priority, said Tabak, was making sure immigrants who leave the area change the location of their impending proceedings to a court near their eventual destination.

But that can be difficult. On Wednesday afternoon, Campos and a colleague met with a migrant client at a shelter, and just by chance, he ran into a Honduran woman who he had met with earlier this month at Port Isabel. Unbeknownst to him, she had been released and was now with her young son. They quickly exchanged a few words.

“They were just bouncing with joy,” he said. “We agreed to talk later that day and then I couldn’t find her after that.”

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati and Loren Elliott, editing by Sue Horton and Rosalba O’Brien)

U.S. court order ‘buys time’ for separated immigrant families: lawyers

FILE PHOTO: Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are shown walking in single file between tents in their compound next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lawyers for immigrant families separated by the U.S. government at the border with Mexico said a federal judge’s order barring rapid deportations until at least next Tuesday would give them breathing room as they struggled for access to clients.

The families had been separated amid a broader crackdown on illegal immigration by President Donald Trump’s administration, sparking an international outcry and a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The president ordered that the practice be halted on June 20.

Judge Dana Sabraw, in Monday’s order, sided with the ACLU, which argued that parents facing imminent deportation should have a week to decide if they want to leave their children in the United States to pursue asylum separately.

Sabraw asked the government to respond before the next hearing on July 24. Until then, he halted rapid deportations.

The judge’s order gave lawyers more time to “figure out what reunification is going to mean for our clients,” said Beth Krause, a supervising lawyer at the New York-based Legal Aid Society’s Immigrant Youth Project.

In a related ruling in a separate case on Tuesday, the Legal Aid Society won a temporary court order barring the government from moving any of the dozens of separated migrant children the group represents in New York without at least 48 hours’ notice.

The order also required the government to say ahead if children were being moved so that they could be released, detained with their families, or deported.

Legal Aid had asked for an emergency injunction, arguing that the government was swiftly moving children and parents without giving them time to speak to lawyers about the possible legal consequences, including removal from the country.

At least two of its young clients had been due to be moved to a detention center in Texas that was not licensed to care for children, the group said, and other children were due to be moved to undisclosed locations.

“This information is crucial for our clients – many young children who already suffered enough trauma – to make informed decisions about pursuing asylum or other forms of relief,” Adrienne Holder, the lead lawyer at Legal Aid’s civil practice, said in a statement.

U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan said the order expired on Thursday unless extended or modified by another judge, and that it applied only to Legal Aid’s clients and not to all separated children.

A hearing in the Manhattan case has been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman.

Jorge Baron, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said Judge Sabraw’s broader ban on rapid deportations “buys us a little bit of time.”

“I am still uncertain we have made contact with all the parents who are detained in our particular region,” he said.

Baron’s group has secured legal representation for several dozen separated parents sent to government detention centers in Washington state. But even on Monday, he said, he learned of an immigrant mother who had yet to make contact with a lawyer.

“She might have slipped through the cracks,” without the judge’s order, Baron said.

Last month, Sabraw set a July 26 deadline for the government to reunite children who were separated from their parents at the border with Mexico. Many of the immigrants are fleeing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Rosalba O’Brien)