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Senators hear testimony from New Mexico advocate who works with families seeking asylum

        Imelda Maynard, Esq. recently spoke to Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) at the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) hearing entitled “America Speaks Out: Stop Trump’s Cruel Treatment of Children at the Border.”

Click the link to view the full article:

https://www.tomudall.senate.gov/news/press-releases/video-udall-heinrich-lead-hearing-on-mistreatment-of-children-at-the-border

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Written Testimony before the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee

          Thank you, Members of the Committee, for inviting me here today to detail the cruel treatment of children and families at our nation’s border.

            My name is Imelda Maynard and I am the senior attorney with Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico. Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico provides low-cost and free legal services to migrants and their families in southern New Mexico, West Texas, and now, as a result of Remain in Mexico, our sister city of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. We are one of a small handful of agencies providing these services in our service region of approximately 55,000 square miles. Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico is also a member of the Borderland Immigration Council, a bi-national coalition of immigration advocates and advocacy groups seeking justice, fairness and transparency in the implementation of our nation’s immigration laws.

            I have practiced immigration law since 2010. Over the course of almost a decade in practice I have had the opportunity to represent immigrants and their families and I have seen the full breadth and complexity of their cases. My work on the border has opened my eyes to the human dignity by the current administration. In our experience, the Trump Administration simply does not relent in finding new ways to pervert and subvert the rule of law, all in an effort to deter immigration, including the legal pursuit of asylum. The administration’s policies have disproportionately targeted our border communities, migrant families and in a particular way, the most vulnerable, children.

            Our Declaration of Independence states that it is a self-evident truth, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The United States of America was founded on Jefferson’s words. Since then, people from all over the globe have flocked to these United States in pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. The people coming to our borders today are no different from the founders of our nation or from prior generations of immigrants–many of our own ancestors– that have come to America’s shores. These asylum seekers, these families, come fleeing oppression, violence, famine and war. Like out founders and for-bearers, they are pursuing life on behalf of themselves and their children.

            Over the course of the last two years, as part of my work with Catholic Charities, I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of migrants who are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and grandparents who are fleeing the horrible conditions in their home countries and come to the U.S. in pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Despite one of the founding documents of our nation stating that it is self-evident truth that all men are endowed with the unalienable right to this pursuit this administration has tuned a blind eye to these ideals.

            Our immigration system really is broken, riddled with inefficiencies, and grossly long, expensive and cumbersome processing and adjudication. The administration’s current policies do nothing to alleviate these problems and only exacerbate them. Because the administration has criminalized the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we all suffer. Migrants and their children suffer because instead of being allowed their day in court to full present their evidence they are made to jump over ever increasing bureaucratic hurdles.

            As a resident and legal services provider at our nation’s southern border, I would like the American public to know that we are a vibrant bi-national and bi-cultural region. We are not a war zone and the only crisis that currently exists in the one created by this administration. Families should not be separated. It is inhumane to tear a child from the arms of their loved ones. Children who travel to our borders in the care of their siblings, their grandparents, and their extended family members are not fake families. Many children have lost their parents to the very violence their family members seek to shield them from, and instead of receiving these kids and their families with the compassion, this administration criminalizes them and separates them from the only family they have left.

            Families should not be separated nor do they belong in cages. We recently toured the Border Patrol processing facility in El Paso Texas located at the Bridge of the Americas. During our tour we witnessed overcrowding on the inside and outside. We saw parents and children being processed outside in the elements, in cold and rain. This facility was designed and equipped only for expedited processing, but many had been there for days. Children and adults were sick and many stated they had arrived healthy, but their health worsened as their days in the center increased. On a shelf inside the facility, I was a sign that read “black hole,” which is where migrants records were kept. It was a miserable sight to behold and made all the more miserable because I knew what these migrants would soon have to endure.

            The lucky families would be released into the U.S., to a shelter like the ones in my city of Las Cruces, there they are welcomed by volunteers who offer a smile and things to care for a families’ needs like a shower, clean clothing, medical care, and food. The shelters are staffed by volunteers, who are there to do right by their fellow man. Many volunteers work countless hours at the shelter assisting migrant families with communication and travel arrangements. These families are the lucky ones as they will have the freedom to pursue their claims for asylum or any other form of relief before our nation’s immigration courts, while being non-detained and surrounding by a community of people who love and support them.

            But there are many who are fated to make their asylum claims from behind bars, in immigrant detention, typically at a for-profit institution, where conditions are often worse than those at a jail. Many of these migrants will be separated from their children and family members. If they are “lucky” their child may be housed at a shelter in the same state where they are detained, but often that is not the case. This can be traumatic for the emotional and physical health of children.

            It is difficult to imagine what it must feel like to seek refuge in this land of the free only to be separated from family and treated as a criminal. And yet, it can be worse. Now migrants are often sent to spend months pursuing their asylum claims in Mexico, a country not their own, foreign land, where societal conditions often mirror and may be worse than those which they are fleeing. This new policy is called the Migrant Protection Protocols, MPP, or better known as Remain in Mexico, and perhaps more appropriately called the Migrant Persecution Protocols. These migrants have little to no support system within Mexico and are easy target for criminals. Those with children must find shelter but that is becoming harder and harder as many of the shelters find themselves operating beyond capacity, forcing many migrants families to live on the streets. Migrants are often beaten, robbed, kidnapped, raped and some have been killed. We have seen mothers testifying in open court to being robbed and assaulted in front of their children.

            Under MPP, the only way to be removed from the program is to affirmatively request a non-refoulement interview and then prove to an asylum officer that it is more likely than not that one will suffer persecution in Mexico on account of a protected ground. Countless of the people we have represented have testified to being kidnapped, targeted for rapes, extortion, and have been assaulted all because they are migrants. The mothers I spoke about earlier, they all had their interviews, and despite their credible testimony before an asylum office, they were returned to Mexico. One of those mothers, whose testimony I will share with you today, opted to not continue with her case after being returned to Mexico for the second time. The following is an excerpt from her affidavit, which she wrote to explain why she decided to return to her home country with her child:

Excerpt from written by L.H.:

  1. I and my son entered the United States on 3/28/2019. My son and I were first detained under a bridge for two days, we had to sleep outside, after that we went to some tents and we were there fro two more days, then they took us to an office where we were processed, we were there for a day and we were informed we would be sent back to Mexico.
  2. During the time we were under the American custody my son got sick, he got a cough, a cold, and fever. The officers gave him medicine for the fever but the fever did not go away.
  3. During our first return my son and I stayed at Casa Del Migrante to await our first court. During my time at Casa Del Migrante my son would always be sick.
  4. When we went to our first court, my son was still sick, I told the officer after our court, initially they did not want to do anything but then they noticed he was sick and he was hospitalized. He was hospitalized for a day, the next day we returned to Mexico. I had asked for an interview to not return to Mexico because of the uncertainty in the country but we were denied and myself and my son were returned to Mexico.
  5. After being returned to Mexico on April 20, 2019 after our first court, we tried to return to Casa Del Migrante, but they did not want to accept us. They told us, that the shelter could not receive us.
  6. Since we could not stay at Casa Del Migrante, myself and two other companions decided to rent a hotel room at the Hotel Maripina in Ciudad Juarez. We have been staying at this hotel since April 20, 2019.
  7. We took a cab to the hotel and the cab driver wanted us to pay him more money than what our trip was because we were migrants. We paid him but the cab driver commented he had people that could help us cross to the United States. We told him no and we later found out he would come to the hotel to ask if we were still staying there, after hearing this I was very freighted.
  8. On May 11, 2019 in the middle of the night around one A.M. a person tried to break in to our room with a knife. We saw and herd how he tried to break down to door. We were very very frightened because we have heard new reports about migrants being attacked, and then we lived it.
  9. We asked fro help from the hotel’s security but he didn’t do anything. We asked the gardener for help and he came to see what was going on. He said he called the police, the police came but since the person had left they said everything was fine, they did not take our statements. I was very impacted and I was afraid for my life and my son’s.
  10. That week we returned to court. I had spoken to my attorney who said she would represent me in asking again for an interview so that we would not be returned to Mexico.
  11. On May 17, 2019 we returned to court and I asked again for an interview so that I would not return to Mexico.
  12. After court my son and I were again in the “hieleras” [CBP Holding Facility] 4 days waiting to hear if we were going to stay in the United States. During this time my son got sick again, he had vomit and diarrhea, my son soiled his clothes because the officer would not listen to us when we would ask him to use the restroom. During this time my son would hardly eat.
  13. After being returned to Mexico with my son, I decided to not continue with my case because I feared for my life and my son’s. We are not safe in Mexico and I fear staying here, I wish to return to my country.

            I should add that this affidavit was written in an effort to ask the Immigration Judge that she not be deported in her absence. Once a family is placed in MPP, if they later decide they cannot continue with their case and fail to appear for their court hearings, they are ordered deported in their absence.

            MPP far from making the processing of asylum claims more efficient and fair, have instead been implemented to inject further chaos into an already broken system. Immigration Judges see a constant reshuffling of their dockets and now have even less control and less of an ability to expeditiously handle what had already been an 800,000 case backlog. People like the women mentioned above are sometimes set fro hearings which begin in the early morning and require that they present at the ports of entry as early as 4:00 a.m. Under MPP there is no regard for how people are to arrive at the ports, only that they are to get there and cross over to the American side where they are later picked up and held at CBP holding facility until it is time that they be take to court.

            Even families are lucky enough to be able to afford to pay counsel to represent them, finding attorneys who are willing to take on theses cases becomes impossible because of all the hurdles an attorney must go through to even speak to their client. For instance, if a person does not have access to a phone in Mexico, the only opportunity they will have to speak with their counsel is the day of their hearing. Attorneys are supposed to be afforded at lease an hour to speak with their client but we have seen this hour dwindle down to thirty minutes. Furthermore, in El Paso, there is only one room where an attorney can meet with their clients.  If multiple attorneys are present that day, they will need to discuss highly sensitive matters with their clients in the hallways in earshot of anyone passing by. Attorneys are not given access to the CBP holding facilities where their clients are held prior to and after their hearings, meaning if an attorney wants to represent a client in MPP, they will need to travel to Mexico to meet with their client. Non-profits like the one I work at, are at capacity and find it hard to take on more than a few cases because of the lack of access this system imposes upon us and the sheer number of people who need help. The last figure of those returned to Mexico under MPP in the El Paso region was 9.344 people.

            Rather than spending billions of dollars on a wall, and further tactics aimed at militarizing our border, money should be invested in hiring more adjudicators and support personnel so that we uphold the rule of the law by giving people their day in court and an opportunity to make their case. Rather than spending billions of dollars on detaining families, we should instead invest that money in alternatives to detention, which are far more cost effective and humane.

            Families belong together but not in cages or outside our borders in cities we know to be dangerous for them, we need to uphold the ideals of our founding and stop criminalizing families who come to the U.S. seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

            Thank you for your time and attention.

Respectfully,

Imelda Maynard Esq.

News

America Speaks Out: Stop Trump’s Cruel Treatment of Children at the Border

        On July 23, 2019, at the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) hearing, Senate Democrats heard testimony from medical and legal experts who have witnessed the terrible conditions at the border firsthand. Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico’s senior attorney, Imelda Maynard Esq., gave testimony on the cruel treatment towards families and children at the US-Mexico border.

        Maynard gave insight on working with clients while fighting governmental policies such as the Return to Mexico policy. She also stated, “Rather than spending billions of dollars on a wall and further tactics aimed at militarizing our border, money should be invested in hiring more adjudicators and support personnel so that we uphold the rule of law by giving people their day in court and an opportunity to make their case.”

“Bottom line: we need to stop criminalizing families who come to the U.S. seeking refuge.” (Imelda Maynard Esq.)

News

Hope Border Institute: “Border Observatory 2019: Hope and Resistance”

 

Hope Border Institute’s executive director Dylan Corbett says, “In the last year we’ve witnessed a cruel strategy to break migrants and our border community – zero tolerance, family separation and now Remain Mexico. But we won’t give in to the logic of hate. This is not a breaking point. This a moment for decision. It’s now up to us to define the next chapter for our Paso del Norte community and work together for justice at the US-Mexico border.” 

 

Click the link to view the full report:

HBI Hope and Resistance at the Border Report 2019

Carlos Ramirez, 35, Alexander Ramirez, 15
Faces of Immigration

Faces of Immigration Day 40 of 40

(ASKED NOT TO PUBLISH LAST NAMES, OR EXACT LOCATIONS of family) Carlos, 35, and his son Alexander, 15, made their way through Mexico from Guatemala City where they left behind their families and lives because of extortion threats.

15 years ago, Carlos came to the United States and worked for five years on the East Coast. When he left, his wife was pregnant with his son Alexander. When his son was five years old, he decided to come back to Guatemala.

“We didn’t have the need to immigrate,” Carlos told me. He had worked hard saving money to help his wife set up a hair salon. Things were good and Carlos had fixed up their home so it was a nice place to raise children.

“After about two or three years of the business flourishing, they started to extort us, and they started requesting this money from us. They wanted 10,000 Quetzales per month.”

They were ordered to pay this for three months, totalling 30,000 Quetzales (about $4000). “And there was a call saying if we don’t pay this money, ‘we know all of your family And in any moment, if you don’t pay this money, one of them might disappear.”

Such a sum of money would have been impossible for them to pay, Carlos explained, “My wife maybe earned 80 Quetzales per day.” ($10) Carlos worked doing construction jobs and remodelling around the city, and also did not earn close to enough of what would be needed to pay such a fee in the short time period of 20 days they were given.

The major motivating factor was finally when the extortionists passed by their home firing a gun to incite fear. They shot a hole through their door.  “They succeeded in shooting my house, well that scared us so that the next day we woke up and got on the bus. ‘Vamos.’ We had to leave.”

In Guatemala, such a threat is always taken seriously, as there is little recourse legally.

Because of this, the family decided to close the business and leave Guatemala city to the countryside to stay with his wife’s family.

We had about 1,500 quetzales, and that’s all we had to survive with,” Carlos explained about leaving the city. In the countryside he didn’t know what to do for work. Carlos, never had worked in agriculture as he had worked solely doing remodelling. His wife’s livelihood was also taken away as long as she didn’t have a place to do hair. “We were stuck, literally in the streets,” he said, “I had my life made in Guatemala. That is what hurts me because I couldn’t do anything. I felt powerless about the situation.”

Having two kids to support, he and his wife made the difficult choice for him and Alexander to migrate to the United States. His brother who lives on the east coast, would take them in and help start the asylum process.

Carlos only hopes to work four or five years, his dream is to return for his daughter’s Quinceañera. “I come with the dream that when I return, I can give my daughter her 15 years.”

Carlos and Alexander had to cross through Mexico illegally to reach the US-Mexico border. Their 24-day-journey was difficult, making two attempts, the first of which they were apprehended by authorities.

“The rich people are the ones that have that,” he said describing his choice to pass through Mexico illegally rather than wait for a visa. Like almost all of the other Guatemalans who migrate, he couldn’t get a visa to come legally. A person must prove that they have enough money in their bank before being given a US visa.  “We barely have a place to live, we can’t apply for a visa. That is why we come in this way.”

Carlos is committed to going through the legal process of claiming political asylum due to the nature of his case. He hopes to be able to start working legally soon.

Alexander wants to learn English. It had always been his goal to be a doctor, and he hopes he can continue along that path.

“We aren’t asking for much, just a little more tolerance, that’s all,” Carlos said, “We just want the opportunity to work so that our kids can overcome. That is all that we ask for.”

Carlos, 35, y su hijo Alexander, 15, hicieron su viaje por México desde la Ciudad de Guatemala donde dejaron atrás a sus familias y sus vidas a causa de amenazas de extorsión.

Hace 15 años, Carlos estuvo en Estados Unidos por cinco años trabajando en la costa este. Cuando él se fue dejó a su esposa embarazada de su hijo Alexander. Cuando su hijo Alexander tenía cinco años, decidió regresar a casa en Guatemala.

“No teníamos la necesidad de migrar,” me dijo Carlos. Él había trabajado bastante duro y ahorrado dinero para que su esposa abriera su propio salón de belleza. Las cosas iban bien, Carlos había arreglado su casa para poder un buen lugar para vivir y criar a sus hijos.

“Después de dos o tres años de ver que nuestro negocio estaba prosperando, comenzaron a extorsionarnos, y nos empezaron a pedir dinero. Querían 10,000 quetzales por mes,”

Les demandaron que pagaran esto por tres meses, pagando un total de 30,000 quetzales (aproximadamente $4,000). “Nos llamaron y nos dijeron que, si no pagamos el dinero, ‘conocemos a toda tu familia y en cualquier momento, Si no pagas, uno de ellos puede desaparecer.”

Tal cantidad de dinero hubiera sido imposible para ellos pagar, me explico Carlos, “Mi esposa quizás gana 80 quetzales por día.” ($10) Carlos trabajaba en construcción y en remodelación en la ciudad, y tampoco ganaba lo suficiente para poder pagar esa cuota en 20 días, el poco tiempo que les habían dado para pagar.

El principal factor que lo motivó finalmente, fue cuando los extorsionistas pasaron y balearon su casa, para asustarlos. Una bala pasó por la puerta principal de su casa. “Tuvieron éxito en balacear mi casa, pues eso nos asustó, y decidimos subir a un autobús el siguiente día. ‘Vamos’ Nos tuvimos que ir.”

En Guatemala, tales amenazas siempre se toman en serio, ya que hay pocos recursos legales. Por esta razón, la familia decidió cerrar el negocio y dejar la Ciudad de Guatemala y vivir al campo con la familia de su esposa.

Teníamos más o menos como 1,500 quetzales, y era todo lo que teníamos para sobrevivir.” Carlos me explico cuando dejó la ciudad. En el campo él no sabía en qué trabajar. Carlos nunca había trabajado en agricultura ya que solamente había trabajado en remodelación. Para mi esposa, mientras no tuviera donde cortar pelo, también a ella le habían quitado su sustento. “Estábamos estancados, literalmente en las calles,” dijo él. “Yo tenía mi vida echa en Guatemala. Es lo que me duele, porque no podía hacer nada. Me sentía impotente sobre la situación,”

Al tener dos hijos que mantener, él y su esposa tomarán la difícil decisión para él y Alexander de migrar a los Estados Unidos. Su hermano que vive en la costa este, los recibiría y los ayudaría con el proceso de asilo político.

Carlos espera poder trabajar cuatro o cinco años, y su sueño es poder regresar a casa para la Quinceañera de su hija. “Yo vengo con el deseo de poder regresar y darle a mi hija su fiesta de 15 años.”

Carlos y Alexander tuvieron que pasar por México ilegalmente para llegar a la frontera de México-Estados Unidos. Su viaje de 24 días fue difícil, haciendo dos intentos, la cual la primera fueron detenidos por las autoridades

“La gente de dinero son las que tienen eso,” dijo él explicando su decisión de pasar por México como ilegal, en vez de poder obtener una visa. Como todos los otros guatemaltecos que emigran, él no pudo obtener una visa para entrar legalmente. La persona debe probar que tienen suficiente dinero en el banco para poder obtener una visa por USA. “Muy apenas tenemos un lugar donde vivir, no podemos pedir una visa. Por eso nos venimos de esta manera.”

Carlos está dispuesto a pasar por el proceso legal para pedir asilo político, a causa de la naturaleza de su causa. Espera poder trabajar pronto legalmente.

Alexander quiere aprender inglés. Siempre ha sido su meta de ser doctor y espera poder seguir por ese camino.

“No estamos pidiendo mucho, solo un poco de tolerancia, es todo,” dijo Carlos, “Solo queremos la oportunidad de trabajar para que nuestros hijos puedan seguir adelante. Es todo lo que pedimos,”

The Faces of Immigration Project is a 40 Day photo journal series used to highlight the stories of all Immigrants. The project is meant to shed light on some of the many reasons people have for immigrating to the U.S. Statements and stories have been edited for content, clarity, and brevity and may not reflect the entirety of an Immigrant’s reasons for immigrating to the United States.

By Paul Ratje

Go Here To Donate To Our Cause! https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=909fac

Faces of Immigration

Faces of Immigration Day 39 of 40

Moigu Standing Bear, 62, his wife Firda Standing Bear, 32, and their daughter Sophia Iris Standing Bear, 5, have recently moved to the United States from Indonesia last year. In 2018 the family decided to visit the United States for a few days, but due to unforeseen circumstances Mr. And Mrs. Standing Bear ended up staying in the country permanently for now. Firda is in the process of getting her immigrant visa on behalf of her United States Citizen husband.

Moigu is a Mohegan Native American, born and raised in Connecticut. He was once chief of a tribe for many years. He was involved in tribal politics, teaching tribal customs and traditions as well as being president of the National American Indian Defense Association. Moigu was also a chief of a tribe for many years.  He was involved in civil rights issues for Native Americans. He was much very involved in helping the Indian tribes and helping his people. He eventually decided to move to Indonesia in 2008 to work as a teacher in education, which he did for 10 years.

Firda was born and raised in Surabaya, Indonesia.  She worked in many jobs, but before meeting her husband she worked with a musician crew. “That’s how I can connect with him through songs actually, we discuss about songs and music, he is also a singer in his tribe as well, we talk about music a lot, and that’s how we have a our click toward each other,” she said.  Moigu helped his wife get a job as a teacher, which she loved very much after teaching and working with children.  

Firda’s immigration process is a little bit more difficult than the ordinary immigrant. She is trying to get legal status within the United States, but if she were to get deported, she wouldn’t just get sent to the border, she would actually get sent back to Indonesia. Her only option now is getting her work authorization as soon as possible to avoid any apprehensions and thus any deportations from Customs Border Patrol. “I never thought immigration was going to be that difficult,” he said about our immigration system. “I think we have it all to thank, is Mr. Trump who’s made things very difficult for anybody to migrate to this country,” he said.

Moigu and Firda, along with their daughter Sophia, went thru very difficult times at their arrival in this country. Upon arrival they were staying with Moigu’s friend, but ended up at a shelter in Santa Fe, New Mexico because they were unable to return to Indonesia. Moigu is under medical treatment for heart and liver failure.  His doctor prohibited any air travel due to his heart condition, and for this reason they cannot return to Indonesia. They hope she can get her legal status soon, as they don’t plan on a separation for any reason. “The thing is I don’t know how I’m going to feel leaving my daughter here, I don’t know how he’s going to feel taking my daughter with me, so we’ve never separate in our 10-year marriage, so we like to stay as a family,” she said.

 

The Faces of Immigration Project is a 40 Day photo journal series used to highlight the stories of all Immigrants. The project is meant to shed light on some of the many reasons people have for immigrating to the U.S. Statements and stories have been edited for content, clarity, and brevity and may not reflect the entirety of an Immigrant’s reasons for immigrating to the United States.

 

By Paul Ratje

 

Go Here To Donate To Our Cause! https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=909fac