Immigration

Immigration

U.S. rescinds Obama plan for some undocumented parents

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Demonstrators participate in a protest march against Donald Trump's immigration policies. Photot: Fibonacci Blue via Visual Hunt
Demonstrators participate in a protest march against Donald Trump's immigration policies. Photot: Fibonacci Blue via Visual Hunt

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly signed a memorandum on Thursday rescinding an Obama-era plan to spare some illegal immigrant parents of children who are lawful permanent residents from being deported, the department said in a statement.

The program, which was announced by President Barack Obama in 2014, never took effect because it was blocked in federal court.

Obama had hoped that overhauling the U.S. immigration system and resolving the fate of the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally would be part of his presidential legacy. However, President Donald Trump has vowed to crack down on illegal immigration.

The plan unveiled by Obama intended to let roughly 4 million people – those who have lived illegally in the United States at least since 2010, have no criminal record and have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents – get into a program that shields them from deportation and supplies work permits.

However, it was quickly challenged in court by Republican-governed Texas and 25 other states that argued Obama had overstepped the powers granted to him by the U.S. Constitution by infringing upon the authority of Congress.

A federal appeals court blocked the program, and the U.S. Supreme Court let that ruling stand in a 4-4 split decision last year.

Kelly said in a statement on Thursday he was rescinding the initiative, known as DAPA, because “there is no credible path forward to litigate the currently enjoined policy.”

An earlier program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), offers some 750,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children the chance to attend school and to work.

Trump has previously said his administration was devising a policy on how to deal with individuals covered by DACA, but no formal changes have been announced.

“They shouldn’t be very worried,” Trump said of DACA recipients in a January ABC News interview. “I do have a big heart.”

(Reporting by Eric Beech and Dan Levine; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Paul Tait)

Despite Trump vow to end catch and release, he is still freeing thousands of migrants

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A U.S. border patrol agent escorts men being detained after entering the United States by crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico, in Roma, Texas, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A U.S. border patrol agent escorts men being detained after entering the United States by crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico, in Roma, Texas, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Julia Edwards Ainsley

McAllen, Texas (Reuters) – Standing on the bluffs of Roma, Texas on a May afternoon two border patrol agents look out over the meandering Rio Grande River that separates Mexico from the United States and recall a time when the scene was far less tranquil.

Last fall, during the waning months of the Obama administration, hundreds of immigrants crossed the river on rafts at this point each day, many willingly handing themselves over to immigration authorities in hopes of being released into the United States to await court proceedings that would decide their fate.

Now, the agents look out on an empty landscape. Foot paths up from the water have started to disappear under growing brush, with only the stray baby shoe or toothbrush serving as reminders of that migrant flood.

The reason for the change, the agents say, is a perception in Mexico and Central America that President Donald Trump has ended the practice known as “catch-and-release,” in which immigrants caught in the United States without proper documents were released to live free, often for years, as their cases ran through the court system.

Now, would-be border violators know “they’ll be detained and then turned right back around,” said one of the two agents, Marlene Castro. “It’s not worth it anymore,” she said.

Castro was simply echoing her boss, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who said on a visit to El Paso, Texas in April, “We have ended dangerous catch-and-release enforcement policies.”

But immigration attorneys, government statistics and even some officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which falls under Kelly, suggest that despite the DHS chief’s statement, there has been no clear change to the catch-and-release policy.

That’s in large part because there are legal constraints on who can be detained and for how long, due to a shortage of beds and a court ruling limiting the stay of women and children in custody to 21 days.

A separate court ruling limits detention time for immigrants whose countries refuse to repatriate them. And Kelly noted in a February memorandum that asylum seekers that have proven they have a “credible fear” of returning home could be candidates for release if they present “neither a security risk nor a risk of absconding.”

Daniel Bible, ICE field office director for Southern Texas, told Reuters he and his colleagues have not been issued new directions, and so continue to release illegal immigrants deemed to be low security risks, usually with notices to appear in court.

“We look at each case the same way we always have,” Bible said.

DHS spokeswoman Jenny Burke confirmed to Reuters that the agency has not issued new guidance for releasing migrants caught at the border.

Asked to explain why there had been no new guidance, given Kelly’s statement in April, Burke said, “ICE officers make custody determinations on a case-by-case basis, prioritizing detention resources.”

In a memo made public in February, Kelly defined catch and release as any policy that allows immigrants to be released from detention while they await their court hearings, making it easy to abscond. Ending catch and release was one of Trump’s central promises during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Some advocates who work with migrants say they have seen little change since Trump came into office.

“Sure, people are still being released,” said Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies. “Not because they believe in releasing them, but because there are not enough beds at the moment.”

NUMBERS GAME

ICE declined to provide data on the number of migrants being released into the United States. But other ICE data not previously published and reviewed by Reuters shows the pool of people not in custody and awaiting court appearances is growing.

Since Trump took office in late January, the number of immigrants awaiting court proceedings while living freely in the United States has grown by nearly 30,000, rising by an average of about 7,500 per month, according to the ICE data.

During the last seven months of President Barack Obama’s presidency, the rolls of those awaiting legal proceedings outside of custody grew more rapidly, at an average of about 20,600 people per month.

Part of the slower rate under Trump can be traced to a 58 percent drop in apprehensions of people crossing the border.

Still, the numbers suggest the Trump administration is a long way from ending catch-and-release.

NumbersUSA, a Washington-based organization that supports limited immigration, praised the Trump administration’s tough talk and its chilling effect on illegal immigration.

“That impact will be temporary, though, unless the administration follows through by ending ‘catch and release’ for good,” it said.

The Trump administration though has come up against the reality that there simply is not enough space in detention centers.

Congress has funded about 34,000 beds to detain immigration violators, and the average daily population of detainees has been near or above capacity since before Trump took office.

One way the administration hopes to free up detention space is to decrease the time it takes to resolve cases.

The Justice Department has requested funding to hire an additional 125 immigration judges over the next two years, an increase of 50 percent.

In the meantime, some border officials hope would-be migrants remain nervous. When told that ICE detention centers are still releasing many immigrants to live in the United States, Castro and her border agent colleague, who declined to be named, exchanged a look and then shrugged.

“Don’t tell them that,” her colleague said.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley, editing by Sue Horton and Ross Colvin)

Up to 600,000 immigrants in U.S. South may have path to legal status: analysis

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People are taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol near Falfurrias, Texas, U.S., on March 29, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo
People are taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol near Falfurrias, Texas, U.S., on March 29, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – As many as 600,000 illegal immigrants in several U.S. states could have a path to legally remain in the country, according to an analysis released on Thursday by a legal aid group.

A statistical review of immigrant screenings done by Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) determined that around 15 percent of the 4 million illegal immigrants in seven southern U.S. states had grounds to apply for legal status based on fears of persecution in their homeland, family ties or other factors.

The percentage of the 11 million illegal immigrants across the country who might be eligible to stay in the United States could be even higher, according to University of California at San Diego political scientist Tom Wong, who conducted the analysis for CLINIC.

“As we ramp up immigration enforcement in the United States, we should take this figure and remind ourselves that we shouldn’t deport first and then ask questions,” Wong said in a telephone interview.

His analysis supports the contention by immigrant rights groups that with assistance from lawyers, significant numbers of illegal immigrants could be allowed to remain in the United States.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said the agency could delay a deportation if an immigrant has a pending appeal or application for legal status.

“Before carrying out a removal, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducts a thorough review of each case to determine whether there are any reasons the removal order issued by the immigration court should not be executed at that time,” she said in an email.

President Donald Trump’s administration has warned that the vast majority of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States could be subject to deportation.

CLINIC, one of the largest U.S. providers of legal aid to immigrants, and its affiliates interviewed more than 2,700 immigrants in seven southern states, including Florida, Georgia, Virginia and Texas.

The largest portion of those screened who might attain legal status were those who had a credible fear of persecution in their home country that could form the basis for an asylum claim.

But a majority of applications for U.S. asylum are denied.

Other categories included victims of serious crimes, such as domestic violence or extortion, who cooperated with law enforcement, and immigrants with family ties to U.S. citizens.

“There isn’t a line for a person to get legal status in the country,” said Sarah Pierce, an analyst with the Migration Policy Institute. “There’s a bunch of small pigeon-hole categories. So the first step is to see if someone fits into one of those categories.”

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; editing by Patrick Enright, G Crosse)

U.S. ICE enforces immigration laws one person at a time

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Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, waits to be processed after being taken into custody by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, waits to be processed after being taken into custody by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

By Sue Horton

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – An hour before dawn on May 11, a team of 10 officers for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began assembling outside a coffee shop in the Southern California beach community of San Clemente.

The officers were about to embark on a targeted enforcement action, aiming to pick up five men believed to be in violation of U.S. immigration laws. The men had all been convicted of crimes, ranging from drunk driving to attempted murder, making them high priority targets for deportation.

The first stop was an apartment building not far from the coffee shop, where the armed agents arrested a 35-year-old immigrant from Iran who had served a year in jail on an attempted murder conviction.

Although he was not a citizen, the man was living in the United States with a so-called “green card” that allowed him legal residence and a path to eventual citizenship. Such legal residents can have their status revoked and be deported if they commit certain types of crimes.

It was still early morning when the officers pulled up to a waterfront home about 30 miles away in Newport Beach, where they found Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, who had been hired to work on a boat docked behind the house.

The native of Mexico said in an interview with reporters after his arrest that he had expected ICE to come one day. By his estimate, he had illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border seven times, and he had been previously deported. Recently, he had served time in a U.S. jail for burglary and domestic violence.

Magana-Gonzalez said he knew his prior deportation and criminal conviction made him a target for ICE, but he had hoped “to stay until my daughter’s 18th birthday.” He offered few details about his family.

By morning’s end, the agents had arrested three of the men for whom they were looking. Two others could not be found.

About 90 percent of the immigrants apprehended by ICE in the Los Angeles area have committed crimes, according to agency data that goes through April 29.

“Taking them off the streets is protecting everybody,” said David Marin, director of enforcement and removal operations for the Los Angeles field office.

Since President Donald Trump took office, Marin said, some policies have changed. “In the past administration, there were classes of aliens that were exempt from being arrested,” he said. Trump has reversed some Obama immigration policies and has said that anyone who is in the United States illegally could face deportation.

The policy shift, Marin said, has given officers “more pride in their job,” but has not really changed things operationally in Southern California, where the focus is still on deporting criminals.

ICE announced on Wednesday that nationwide arrests were up nearly 40 percent over last year, but in Los Angeles, they have remained at about the same level, according to ICE data.

ICE critics note that not all regional offices are as selective about whom they arrest.

Since Trump took office, about one-third of those picked up nationally by the agency’s enforcement and removal operations do not have criminal records, according to ICE data. That represents a sharp uptick over 2015 and 2016, but it is about the same percentage as 2014 of arrests of non-criminals.

Immigrants with criminal records arrested by ICE usually “understand that what we are doing is just a byproduct of the acts they committed,” said Jorge Field, acting deputy director of enforcement and removal operations for ICE in Los Angeles. “Their criminal acts made them removable.”

Since Magana-Gonzalez’s arrest, his case has been accepted for prosecution by the U.S. attorney’s office, and he will face federal criminal charges for felony re-entry after deportation.

Magana-Gonzalez said he does not resent the agents for doing their job, but he does have regrets. To other immigrants in his situation, he had three words of advice: “Don’t make trouble.”

(Reporting by Sue Horton; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Working the farm, while Trump talks tough on immigration

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Foreman Roberto Navarrete, 30, supervises migrant farmworkers with H-2A visas as they harvest romaine lettuce in King City, California, U.S., April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Foreman Roberto Navarrete, 30, supervises migrant farmworkers with H-2A visas as they harvest romaine lettuce in King City, California, U.S., April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

By Julia Love

KING CITY, Calif. (Reuters) – On an overcast spring morning, about 40 Mexican men turned out in the pre-dawn hours to board a bus for California’s Salinas Valley where they would harvest 16 acres (6.47 hectares) of lettuce over the next three days.

Hector Manuel Morales, 20, came north from Mexico to work the fields with his three cousins. He said his family worried about his journey, spooked by President Donald Trump’s talk of a crackdown on illegal immigrants. But he does not anticipate problems.

While about half of U.S. crop workers are in the country illegally, Morales and the other men have H-2A visas, which allow them to work temporarily as seasonal agricultural laborers on American farms.

“We are not violating any law here in the U.S.,” he said. “We come to work.”

His co-worker Rafael Gonzalez Arredondo, 23, said listening to Trump’s statements about Mexico was “difficult, but we are going to show him that Mexicans are hard working people, that we are not what he says.”

The men came to the country through a labor brokerage company, Fresh Harvest, which brings in H-2A laborers to work on farms in need of temporary workers. This year, the company’s owner, Steve Scaroni, says he expects to bring in about 4,000 workers.

Companies like Fresh Harvest are attractive for farmers who want to employ legal workers but do not want to deal with the considerable government red tape and regulations associated with the H-2A program. Employers who bring in workers on the visas must provide them with free transportation to and from the United States as well as housing and food once they arrive. Wage minimums are set by the government and are often higher than farmers are used to paying.

Still, Scaroni says he could find work for even more people if he had enough housing.

While use of the H-2A program has steadily increased over the past decade, it still accounts for only about 10 percent of the estimated 1.3 million farmworkers in the United States, according to government data. In 2016, the government granted 134,000 H-2A visas.

Alfredo Lopez Granados, 27, from Michoacan, Mexico has come north to work on an H-2A visa five times. He misses his family back home, he says, but the decision is not difficult.

“Once you are here,” he said, “in one day you make more than you make in a week in Mexico.”

(Additional reporting by Kristina Cooke in Los Angeles and Mica Rosenberg in New York; editing by Diane Craft)

Spooked by Trump, Central American immigrants turn to Mexico

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Migrants from Central America eat inside a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
Migrants from Central America eat inside a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

By Lizbeth Diaz

TENOSIQUE, Mexico (Reuters) – Cradling her newborn son in a steamy migrant shelter near the Guatemalan border, Concepcion Bautista says she still plans to reach the United States, but will linger in Mexico to see how U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration policies play out.

Bautista fled Guatemala after gang members threatened to kill her and seized her home, demanding money to give it back.

Her ultimate goal is to reunite with her father and two sons up north, but for the time being, she believes applying for asylum in Mexico is smarter than trying to break into Trump’s United States.

“I’m not going back to Guatemala,” the 39-year-old said at the shelter in the southern Mexican city of Tenosique. “I have faith that we’ll be able to cross but for now, at least, I’m staying in Mexico.”

The Trump administration has pointed to a sharp decline in immigrant detentions in the first few months of this year as a vindication for the president’s tough immigration policies, which have sent shudders through immigrant communities across the continent.

Mexican asylum data and testimony from migrants in Tenosique suggest that although fewer Central Americans are trying to enter the United States, plenty are still fleeing their poor, violent home countries, with many deciding to stay longer in Mexico, which has traditionally been a transit country.

The number of people applying for asylum in Mexico has soared by more than 150 percent since Donald Trump was elected president, Reuters reported last month, while some Mexican immigrants would rather set up in Canada than the United States.

Between Trump’s election in November and March, 5421 people applied for asylum in Mexico, up from 2148 people in the same period a year earlier, Mexican government data shows.

Samuel, who used a pseudonym, was threatened with death after gangs kidnapped and murdered his 19-year-old son in El Salvador, prompting him to plan a move with his family to the United States. Trump’s election changed everything.

“I wanted to go to the United States with my family, but we’ve seen that the new government there has made things harder,” said Samuel,

“For the time being, we want to stay here in Mexico, and we’ve already applied for refugee status.”

Asylum applications in Mexico rose steadily in recent years as the flow of people leaving Central America increased. But in 2016, as Trump campaigned on a tough anti-immigration platform, applicants jumped to 8,781, up from just under 3,500 in 2015. Mexico’s refugee agency COMAR predicts it could receive more than 22,500 asylum applications in 2017.

Despite their concerns, some Central Americans are undeterred and have decided to try their luck at entering the United States.

In a remote, rocky tract of land near the Guatemalan border, Feliciano del Cid and two traveling companions were trying to sneak past Mexican immigration officers and avoid being assaulted by gang members on their long trek north.

The 60-year-old Guatemalan said the prices charged by people smugglers had risen sharply since Trump took office, now hovering around $10,000 dollars, up from about $6,000 a few years ago.

With Mexico’s immigration authorities controlling migration more assiduously, Central Americans were forced to take more isolated, dangerous routes where the chances of being mugged were higher.

“We’ve gone north (to the United States) several times, but every time it’s got harder,” said del Cid, who was deported from the United States in December. “(Now,) it’s better if we travel alone, along new routes.”

Irrespective of struggles in Mexico and the hard journey north, all of the migrants were certain they did not want to return home.

“Only death awaits me there,” said Samuel.

(Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

May Day rallies across U.S. target Trump immigration policy

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A woman wearing a costume stands during a May Day protest in New York, U.S. May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar
A woman wearing a costume stands during a May Day protest in New York, U.S. May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Chris Francescani and Alex Dobuzinskis

NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Labor unions and civil rights groups staged May Day rallies in several U.S. cities on Monday to denounce President Donald Trump’s get-tough policy on immigration, a crackdown they said preys on vulnerable workers in some of America’s lowest-paying jobs.

Protests and marches challenging Trump’s efforts at stepping up the deportation of illegal immigrants drew crowds by the thousands to the streets of New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco, with smaller gatherings popping up across the country.

A broad coalition of groups behind the events also took aim at various other Trump policies they saw as discriminatory or xenophobic, including his bid, so far blocked by the courts, to ban travelers from several Muslim countries and temporarily turn away all refugees.

But the primary impetus cited by civil liberties and labor activists was Trump’s strict new immigration enforcement policy – falling most heavily on undocumented workers who toil in low-paying, non-unionized sectors such as fast-food, hospitality, child care and agriculture.

A May Day gathering grew unruly in Portland, Oregon, where a group of black-clad protesters roamed downtown streets in the late afternoon, setting fires, breaking storefront windows, throwing projectiles and vandalizing a police cruiser.

Police, referring to the perpetrators as “anarchists,” said they made three arrests.

Rallies elsewhere across the country were boisterous but mostly orderly, even festive.

In some cities, immigrant-run convenience stores and other businesses closed their doors in solidarity with the May Day rallies, and many protesters themselves gave up a day’s wages to make their voices heard.

“Money will come back later, but not this opportunity, not this day,” said David Anaya, 44, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, who chose to forfeit the $300 he would have otherwise earned at his job as a welder.

He was one of thousands who gathered at MacArthur Park near downtown Los Angeles for what organizers called a show of “resistance, unity and defiance,” then set off on an animated but peaceful march across town to City Hall.

A crowd of several thousand also assembled in Washington’s Dupont Circle for a rally ahead of a planned procession to Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House.

 

‘NOT AMERICA ANYMORE’

Earlier in the day, 500 protesters marched through midtown Manhattan and rallied in front of offices of Wells Fargo <WFC.N> and JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N>. Twelve were arrested, according to a spokesman for Make the Road New York, an immigrant advocacy group that claims 20,000 members.

The two banks were targeted because of their dealings with private companies that have built or manage some immigrant detention centers for the government, according to Jose Lopez, Make the Road New York’s co-director of organizing.

“The messaging for today was to stop financing immigrant detention facilities,” Lopez said.

May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, has typically been a quieter affair in the United States than in Europe, where it is a public holiday in many countries.

May Day unrest flared on Monday in France and Turkey, where demonstrators clashed with police.

The U.S. protests focused on Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration as he presses police agencies around the country to assist federal efforts at rounding up individuals sought for deportation and threatens to withhold federal dollars from “sanctuary cities” that do not cooperate.

Retired social worker Christina Reilly Vaccarino, 78, who emigrated from Ireland at age 15 with a green card allowing her to work as a nanny, said she was “disgusted” by Trump’s policies on immigration, taxes and workers’ rights.

“I came to America at a time when everyone in Ireland believed that America is so wonderful, so great. And now, after all these years, to experience this? It’s not America anymore,” she said at an afternoon rally in Lower Manhattan.

Some Trump supporters said they would also turn out on May Day. Activist Joey Gibson said he and other conservatives would travel to Seattle to defend against what he described as communist and anti-fascist groups who have in the past faced off with police in the evening, after the conclusion of the usually peaceful daytime marches.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Peter Szekely in New York, Ian Simpson in Washington and Tom James in Seattle; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Mary Milliken)

U.S. immigration crackdown undermines fight to end human trafficking -­ expert

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A U.S. border patrol agent keeps watch along the fence next to the Mexican border in Calexico, California, U.S. February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files - RTX31JZ5
A U.S. border patrol agent keeps watch along the fence next to the Mexican border in Calexico, California, U.S. February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files - RTX31JZ5

By Ellen Wulfhorst

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Tougher anti-immigration policies in the United States under President Donald Trump make fighting human trafficking impossible, a top expert warned on Tuesday, describing the lack of political will to help victims as a “dirty little secret”.

Fear of being deported stops people in the United States from speaking up about their own or other trafficking cases, said Denise Brennan, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Georgetown University in Washington D.C..

“The biggest deterrent for people blowing the whistle on either their own situation of abuse or maybe co-workers is the fear of people getting deported,” Brennan, author of “Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States,” told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We just simply cannot have policies of deportation or a deportation regime and fight trafficking at the same time. One policy undoes the other.”

During his 2016 presidential campaign Trump vowed to fight illegal immigration and build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Since becoming president, he has issued a temporary visa ban against seven Muslim-majority countries that was later blocked by federal courts, suspended a refugee program and initiated tougher deportation procedures.

“The criminalization of immigration makes it impossible to actually fight trafficking,” said Brennan, a speaker on Tuesday at Trust Conference/America Forum, a one-day Thomson Reuters Foundation event on the fight against slavery and trafficking.

“You cannot work on the exploitation of migrants while we are criminalizing migrants.”

LITTLE POLITICAL WILL

Up to 12 million people are estimated to be living illegally without documents in the United States.

While there are no official law enforcement statistics, in the United States nearly 32,000 cases of human trafficking have been reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the last decade.

Globally, nearly 21 million people are victims of forced labor, made to work for free after falling into debt or forced to work due to deception, coercion or threat of violence, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Brennan said there is little genuine political effort made to find and aid labor trafficking victims.

“The dirty little secret about trafficking in this environment of 2.5 million deportations under President Obama and now President Trump’s obvious anti-migrant stance is there has not been a political will to really find people,” she said.

Under a law passed in 2000, 5,000 visas are available each year to trafficking victims, Brennan said.

But only between 7,000 to 9,000 such visas have been issued in the past 17 years when the number could have been 85,000, she said.

“I just don’t think we’ve been looking for trafficked people,” said Brennan, who is currently writing a book, “Life without Papers,” about how undocumented people navigate threats of detention and deportation.

She said the fear of deportation extended further than those without legal papers.

Last week Trump ordered a review of a U.S. visa program for bringing high-skilled foreign workers into the country with a view to potentially modifying the system.

“Under President Trump, we have so many people who have various forms of temporary protective status,” she said. “If we start deporting people with green cards, we’re looking at millions of people who don’t have full U.S. citizenship.”

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith. Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

U.S. Homeland Security not targeting Dreamers: Kelly

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Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly speaks at an event entitled
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly speaks at an event entitled "Home and Away: Threats to America and the DHS Response" at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., U.S. April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Department of Homeland Security will not target immigrants brought to the United States as children for deportation, despite conflicting statements within the Trump administration, its secretary John Kelly said on Sunday.

Kelly, asked on Sunday morning talk shows to clarify the department’s position on the status of these illegal immigrants protected under an Obama-era program, said the agency is focused on deporting only dangerous criminals.

“My organization has not targeted these so-called Dreamers,” Kelly told CNN, referring to the name given to those granted protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by Democratic President Barack Obama and extended by Republican President Donald Trump.

“We have many, many more important criminals to go after,” he said.

Trump has said Dreamers “have nothing to worry about,” but Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week said immigrants who arrived in the United States as children were “subject to being deported.”

On Sunday, Sessions walked back his earlier statement.

“I believe that everyone that enters the country unlawfully is subject to being deported; however, we’ve got — we don’t have the ability to round up everybody and there’s no plans to do that,” Sessions said on ABC. “But we’re going to focus first, as the president has directed us, on the criminal element.”

On Feb. 17, Juan Manuel Montes, 23, who had lived in the United States since he was 9, was deported from the border city of Calexico, California, after being questioned by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer.

That was the first documented deportation of a Dreamer.

Kelly said in another Sunday interview on CBS that while Dreamers are not being targeted, several of them end up detained by immigration officers as they round up criminals.

“People fall into our hands incidentally that we have no choice in most cases but to go ahead and put in the system,” he said.

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; additional reporting by DOina Chiacu; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

New sheriff in Arizona to close controversial ‘Tent City’ jail

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An inmate serving a jail sentence stands in the yard at Maricopa County's Tent City jail in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. on July 30, 2010. REUTERS/Joshua Lott/File Photo
An inmate serving a jail sentence stands in the yard at Maricopa County's Tent City jail in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. on July 30, 2010. REUTERS/Joshua Lott/File Photo

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) – A controversial outdoor tent jail in Arizona that became one of the signature tough-on-crime projects of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will be shut down, his replacement for the job said on Tuesday.

The canvas compound known as “Tent City” in southwest Phoenix, long branded inhumane by civil rights groups, was no longer needed to handle the inmate population, new Maricopa Sheriff Paul Penzone said.

“This facility is not a crime deterrent, it is not cost efficient and it is not tough on criminals,” said Penzone, who took office in January after beating Arpaio in last year’s election. He projected $4.5 million savings from closing Tent City.

Inmates serving a jail sentence walk back to the yard at Maricopa County's Tent City jail in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. on July 30, 2010. REUTERS/Joshua Lott/File Photo
Inmates serving a jail sentence walk back to the yard at Maricopa County’s Tent City jail in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. on July 30, 2010. REUTERS/Joshua Lott/File Photo

Penzone said the jail had become a circus that inmates preferred, rather than a prudent law enforcement tool to house law-breakers.

“Starting today that circus ends and these tents come down,” he told reporters at a news conference, adding that inmate transfers would begin in 45 to 60 days. “We’re going to give these criminals what they don’t want.”

The decision comes after Penzone appointed a committee in January to determine the fate of the outdoor facility, which opened in August 1993 with surplus military tents.

Billed as a cost-saver, the more than 2,000-bed facility was intended to help relieve an over-crowded jail system and quickly became one of Arpaio’s most high-profile acts during his six terms in office.

A string of politicians and visitors from across the world have toured the sun-scorched facility erected adjacent to a brick-and-mortar jail.

An inmate serving a jail sentence rests on his bed at Maricopa County's Tent City jail in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. on July 30, 2010. REUTERS/Joshua Lott/File Photo
An inmate serving a jail sentence rests on his bed at Maricopa County’s Tent City jail in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. on July 30, 2010. REUTERS/Joshua Lott/File Photo

Arpaio, who became known for his anti-illegal immigration stance and jail practices such as making inmates wear pink underwear and eat green bologna, vowed the jail would never close under his watch.

Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, called the closure a “good step forward” but that still more work was needed.

“Maricopa County’s jails are plagued by the mistreatment of pre-trial detainees and remain under federal court oversight because of the ongoing abuse of people with mental health problems,” said Soler, in a statement. The dollars saved by the closure should be used for programs and services that address these and other problems, she added.

Arpaio, 84, was ousted in November after serving 24 years as sheriff. He faces a criminal contempt trial on April 25 for violating the orders of a federal judge in a racial profiling case.

Arpaio declined to comment for this story.

(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Andrew Hay)

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