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Friday, July 20, 2018

A government lawyer acknowledged Monday that the Trump administration will miss its first court-imposed deadline to reunite about 100 immigrant children under age 5 with their parents. Department of Justice attorney Sarah Fabian said during a court hearing that federal authorities reunited two families and expect to reunite an additional 59 by Tuesday’s deadline. She said the other cases are more complicated, including parents who have been deported or are in prison facing criminal charges, and would require more time to complete reunions. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered the administration to reunite families separated as part of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, said he will hold another hearing Tuesday morning to get an update on the remaining cases. He said he was encouraged to see “real progress” in the complicated reunification process after a busy weekend when officials from multiple federal agencies tried to sync up parents and children who are spread across the country. STORY FROM LENDINGTREE Crush your mortgage interest with a 15 yr fixed “Tomorrow is the deadline. I do recognize that there are some groups of parents who are going to fall into a category where it’s impossible to reunite by tomorrow,” he said. “I am very encouraged by the progress. I’m optimistic.” Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who leads a lawsuit against the federal government, sounded more skeptical. When asked by the judge if he believed the government was in full compliance of the court order, Gelernt said there was much more work to be done. “Let me put it this way: I think the government in the last 48 hours has taken significant steps,” he said. “We just don’t know how much effort the government has made to find released parents. I don’t think there’s been full compliance.” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. (Photo: U.S. District Court) The difficulty in reuniting the first 100 children shows the challenge that lies ahead as the Trump administration braces for another deadline in two weeks to reunite nearly 3,000 older children – up to age 17 – with their parents. The process is complicated because of all the different situations that emerged over the weekend. The government initially identified 102 children under age 5 who needed to be reunited but removed three children from that list because investigations into their cases revealed that those children came with adults who were not their parents, Fabian said. Twelve parents were found to be in federal and state custody on criminal charges, making a reunification impossible since the government can’t transfer minors to state and local prisons to protect the well-being of the child. Nine parents were deported, and the government established contact with only four of them, Fabian said. Four children had been scheduled to be released from government custody to relatives who weren’t their parents, leading the government to question whether to allow that process to be completed or to redirect the child back to a parent. Gelernt said he understood many of the hurdles but urged the judge to force the government to scrap its time-consuming investigation into every single case and start a 48-hour clock to reunify families that remain separated by Tuesday. Sabraw said he would decide that during Tuesday’s hearing. Fabian said one of the silver linings of the busy weekend is that her office worked closely with its challengers at the ACLU to share information on each child’s case, to ensure that representatives from immigration advocacy groups and volunteer organizations could be present during each reunification. Gelernt said they’re doing that to help the parents, who are often released from custody with no money and nowhere to go. Fabian said that coordination has led to a more formalized process between government agencies and with the immigrants’ lawyers that should make reunifications go more smoothly in the coming weeks. “I think this process over the weekend helped us see what information, and in what form, is the most useful to share,” she said. “I’d like to make that as efficient a process as possible.” -

Monday, July 9, 2018

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Monday, July 9, 2018

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

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Friday, December 15, 2017

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Friday, December 15, 2017

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Friday, December 15, 2017

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Friday, December 15, 2017

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Friday, December 15, 2017

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Families split by immigration status hope executive action brings unity


AVONDALE, Ariz. — Mexican mother of four Norma Bernal was taking a stroll beside the dusty rail tracks that carve through this sprawling Phoenix suburb when she was stopped and questioned by local police.

Living in the country illegally and unable to provide identification, she panicked, gave a false name and was arrested on suspicion of trespassing on railroad property. Her U.S.-born daughter Julisa looked on, aghast.

“Because she gave a false name, they couldn’t pull up her records, and they were like, ‘You could be a felon … Someone could be looking for you right now.’ So they took her, and they asked us, ‘Do you guys want to watch us handcuff her?’” 16-year-old Julisa said of the Jan. 1 incident.

Norma, 36, a single parent, is in deportation proceedings at an immigration detention facility southeast of Phoenix. Julisa, a high school student, is raising her three younger siblings (all the children are U.S. citizens) with the help of several maternal aunts (three of whom have legal status) and her mother’s boyfriend, Isaiah Ybarra, an aircraft mechanic with three children of his own.

Bernal’s family is among millions across the United States with members with differing immigration status who are hopeful that action by President Barack Obama — which could come as early as this week, according to news reports — will finally end a life characterized by divisions and fraught with anxiety.

Obama’s actions will not provide a formal pathway to citizenship or permanent legal status but would remove fears of deportation and level the playing field for members of mixed-status families by giving unauthorized residents work permits and Social Security numbers. In some states, they will be able to get driver’s licenses and professional certificates, according to a report in The New York Times.

Bernal children

With the help of several aunts and her mother’s boyfriend, Julisa Avila, left, 16, takes care of her two brothers, Christopher, center, 10, and Alexis, 15, at their apartment in Avondale, Arizona. All the children were born in the U.S.

Nick Oza for Al Jazeera America

The Obama administration is said to be weighing the extension of legal reprieve to many of the nation’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants before the end of the year, just as the White House did in 2012 with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which sheltered from deportation young immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children.

Anonymous officials quoted by The New York Times last week said the reprieve could benefit as many as 5 million people. Advocates expect Obama to protect undocumented immigrants with children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and Julisa fervently hopes that any such action would reunite her and younger siblings Alexis, 15; Christopher, 10; and Mariana, 3, with their jailed mother.

“I hope he looks into it … because it sucks, having lived here, like, our whole, entire lives and still having to go through something like this, without having our mom or dad,” said Julisa, who struggles to balance her junior year at high school with cooking and washing for her siblings at an apartment where they live with Isaiah, also a U.S. citizen. Having her mom back “would be a really big relief,” she said.

Aspects of the Bernal family’s situation are shared by at least 9 million people nationwide who researchers said are in mixed-status families, with at least one unauthorized adult and at least one U.S.-born child.

The family’s complicated saga began after Norma, who is from Jalisco state in western Mexico, slipped over the border about two decades ago with the help of a coyote, or guide. Julisa does not know the year her mom crossed or where.

Norma married and had four children but later divorced the children’s father, with whom the family has lost contact. She worked several jobs, most recently as an office cleaner in metro Phoenix. Julisa showed Al Jazeera a picture of her mom wearing a baseball cap, made up and smiling, together with a note she penned for Isaiah that set out her values: “Do what makes you happy. Be with who makes you smile. Laugh as much as you breathe. Love as long as you live.”

Alexis, 15, a hip-hop-loving high school sophomore, remembers Norma as a “really cool mom” who would take her kids to the park and the bowling alley and to eat out at Denny’s and IHOP. She would throw herself onto the couch to watch TV with them or play Super Mario on their PlayStation 3.

Julisa Avila

“It sucks, having lived here, like, our whole, entire lives and still having to go through something like this, without having our mom or dad,” said Julisa, who struggles to balance her junior year at high school with caring for her siblings. She said having her mom back “would be a really big relief.”

Nick Oza for Al Jazeera America

Last Thursday, as reports surfaced that Obama might take unilateral action, Christopher joined his siblings, aunts and a few dozen activists at a rally on the sidewalk opposite the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in downtown Phoenix. He cried hard as he read out a letter he sent to the director of detention, calling on him to release his mother.

“It said I need her back, I really miss her, we really need her, we love her, it’s really hard for us to live without her — things like that,” he said brightly, sitting at the dining table in the family’s apartment. He lives during the week with an aunt, Norma’s sister Sandra, but visits Julisa and Alexis for weekends at the apartment, where they live in Isaiah’s care.

Sunday is the day the family visits Norma at the Eloy Detention Center, a Corrections Corp. of America facility in the desert 60 miles southeast of Phoenix. Isaiah, 37, drives down with the children, for whom seeing their mother wearing beige prison garb in the visiting room is particularly painful.

“When I go see her, it gets me mad that she is in there … [when] she could be out here with us. We’re from here,” said Alexis. Leaving her at the end of the visit gets harder each time. “I hug her, but I can see in her eyes she misses us more and more each day.”

Julisa, Alexis and Christopher all dream of making something of their lives. While differing on what they want to be — doctors, entrepreneurs, lawyers or high-paid construction workers — all said they want to succeed to take care of their mother.

“I want to get a really good job to support our mom. Buy her a house, maintain her and my brothers so we can live together,” said Julisa.

Republicans, who won control of both houses of Congress in a midterm election landslide earlier this month, strongly oppose any relief for the undocumented. While the extent and timing of any executive order remains unknown, Isaiah hopes Obama will act decisively and with humanity.

“Everybody has the power to do the right thing. As the leader of the free world … he is able to see what is going on, see the families that have been torn apart, what it’s doing to the children,” Isaiah said, sitting in the apartment as several of his and Norma’s children romped on the couch. “Having her back would be perfect. Perfect.”


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