family separation

Teenager Is Latest Migrant Child To Die In U.S. Custody

May 20, 2019

A 16-year-old has become the fifth migrant child since December to die after being apprehended at the U.S. border.

Jose A. Iglesias / Miami Herald

One of the more disturbing sounds to hit the media airwaves last summer was a recording obtained by ProPublica of Central American children crying at an immigration detention center in Texas. They’d been separated from their parents, who had come to seek U.S. asylum.

At that same place the summer before, in 2017, a Guatemalan girl named Ana was taken from her father. She was three. Ana was sent to a relative in Immokalee, Florida, who took her to immigration lawyer Jennifer Anzardo Valdes in Miami.

In the wake of the death of a second migrant child in U.S. custody within the past two weeks, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced on Wednesday the government is calling on several federal agencies to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection implement a host of new directives intended to improve how it cares for children and adults held in federal facilities.

"In response to the unprecedented surge of children into our custody, I have directed a series of extraordinary protective measures," Nielsen said in a statement.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Immigrant caravans – and family separation. Venezuela and Nicaragua rocked by refugee and human rights crises. Someone not named Castro becoming president of Cuba; Brazil and Mexico electing populists as presidents – one of them with a big reputation for sexism. But women surging big at the polls, too.

When we set out to try to look back on the year that was in politics, we started with a list that grew ... and grew ... and grew. After a couple of days, the list was just shy of 100 news events. That's about one notable story every three days.

The Trump administration is expanding its shelter capacity to handle a record number of immigrant teenagers who crossed the border seeking work and asylum. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is now overseeing the care of 12,800 immigrant children under the age of 18.

Just this week, a federally contracted tent camp on the U.S.-Mexico border in the barren desert near Tornillo, Texas, announced it is expanding from 1,200 to 3,800 beds. This is one in a network of 100 youth shelters across the country.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

The Trump administration is proposing to lift court-imposed limits on how long it can hold children in immigration detention.

Daniel Rivero / WLRN News

Boca Raton-based private prison company GEO Group has issued a cease-and-desist letter to the Miami-based activist group Dream Defenders, sparking a sharply worded response from the activist group. 

Courtesy Nora Sandigo

All alone, the frightened teen curled up behind a large, dusty tool box at a Homestead auto shop.

The 15-year Honduran immigrant girl— who for three weeks had been held at the Homestead detention center for immigrant minors—had just escaped from the care of facility workers who were taking her to a routine doctor’s appointment Friday morning, Homestead police said.

Elena Santizo sat by the departure gate in El Paso, Texas on Friday with a rosary around her neck, waiting nervously to board a plane for the first time in her life. Simply riding the escalator up to airport security gave the 39-year-old mother the jitters. She opted for the stairs instead.

"To tell my story is difficult," she said. "Everything I've lived through, so much, ever since I left Guatemala."

The U.S. government is racing to meet Thursday's court-ordered deadline to reunite migrant families who were separated at the border to discourage other illegal crossings. But the government has acknowledged many parents won't be able to rejoin their children. And for those parents who do get to be with their children again, the future is uncertain.

Jessica Bakeman / WLRN

A woman who was separated from her two sons at the U.S. border paid $15,000 in bond to be released from detention. But the federal government did not make arrangements to send her from the West Coast to Florida, where her children were being held, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said after meeting the woman on Friday.

A Texas nonprofit that works with families separated at the border has turned down a $250,000 contribution from Salesforce, a company under pressure for its work creating software for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

A federal judge in California has temporarily halted the deportation of immigrant families that have been reunited after being separated by the Trump administration.

The order was issued Monday by Judge Dana Sabraw, the same judge who previously ordered the government to reunite the families.

It comes as the Trump administration is scrambling to reunite roughly 2,550 immigrant children with their parents by the court-imposed deadline of July 26. What will happen to those families after reunification isn't clear.

Many of President Trump's immigration policies are deeply unpopular, including recent efforts to deter illegal immigration by separating migrant families at the border, according to a new NPR-Ipsos poll.

But Americans are polarized in their attitudes about immigrants and the U.S. system for admitting them, the polls shows, with Republicans much more likely to support the president's policies, including the travel ban, the border wall, and changes to legal immigration.

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