For Many Immigrant Families, the Fight for Reunification Is Just Beginning

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Latino USA.

By Marcia ZugUniversity of South Carolina

President Donald Trump signed an executive order June 20 purporting to end immigrant family separations at U.S. border with Mexico. Four days later, the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services announced a plan to reunite approximately 2,000 children who were taken from their parents at the border between April and the time the executive order was signed.

Immigration advocates have noted many shortcomings with the executive order. They also emphasize the logistical difficulties parents are experiencing as they try to locate and contact their children.

Sadly, I believe these hurdles are only the tip of the iceberg. One thing few people currently realize —despite reassuring words from the administration— is many of these families will most likely never be reunited.

I’ve been writing about the impact of the U.S. government’s immigration policies on undocumented families for years. The policies the Trump administration is enforcing, especially after the new executive order, are for the most part similar to those first enacted under President Obama. In 2014, during a surge in illegal border crossings, the Obama administration attempted to detain hundreds of families indefinitely—until the practice was legally challenged and stopped. This is essentially the same policy the Trump administration has adopted under the executive order.

Protest against the separation of children from their parents in front of the El Paso Processing Center, an immigration detention facility, at the Mexican border on June 19, 2018 in El Paso, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Even before the 2014 surge, the Obama administration increased efforts to detain and deport undocumented immigrants within the U.S., resulting in numerous family separations. It is reasonable to expect that the eventual outcomes of today’s separations will mirror these earlier ones.

The Role of State Family Law

The biggest issue is how family law views detained undocumented parents. When immigrant children are separated from their parents, they enter two different legal tracks. The parents will likely remain in detention centers until their cases are heard by immigration judges. Most will face immediate deportation.

The HHS plan states parents will be reunited with their children before deportations, but this seems highly unlikely. Hundreds of these children have already been sent to state foster care facilities across the country where they have become wards of the state. Their care and custody decisions will be handled first by state welfare agencies and then by a state court. Reunification becomes less likely as the length of separation increases.

A boy from Honduras watches a movie at a detention facility run by the U.S. Border Patrol on September 8, 2014 in McAllen, Texas. The Border Patrol opened the holding center to temporarily house the children. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Immigrant parents have the same legal right to the care and custody of their children as American citizens. Without a finding of unfitness, immigrant parents should be granted reunification with their children. However, history shows courts frequently use a parent’s immigration status as a proxy for fitness. State court reunification decisions are also highly influenced by the parents’ residency in a violent country and the child’s opportunity for adoption in the United States.

State courts and welfare agencies have frequently concluded that a parent’s undocumented status and their willingness to cross the border illegally was proof enough of parental unfitness that could justify the termination of parental rights.

For example, in In re Angelica L., a case from 2009, a Nebraska juvenile court determined an undocumented mother was unfit based on the fact that she “either A) embarked on an unauthorized trip to the United States with a newborn premature infant or B) gave birth to a premature infant in the United States” after entering the country illegally. Without deciding between the two, the court held that either scenario demonstrated “that [the mother] did not provide the basic level of prenatal and postnatal care.”

In addition, courts have often demonstrated little sympathy for the fact that detention and deportation can make a parent’s efforts for reunification extremely difficult. For example, in Perez-Velasquez v. Culpeper County Department of Social Services, another case from 2009, the trial court declared the undocumented father unfit because he had, “without good cause, failed to maintain continuing contact with and to provide or substantially plan for the future of the [children] for a period of six months after the child’s placement in foster care….”

The father challenged this decision. He argued his failure to maintain contact with his children was due to his incarceration and deportation, and was therefore not willful. However, the court found this explanation irrelevant. According to the court, it was the “father’s own actions” —meaning his decision to cross the border illegally— that “led to this situation.” In addition, the court was further horrified by the father’s reunification plan, which was to return to the United States illegally and then take the children back with him.

For deported parents seeking reunification with their children, the prohibition on re-entry can be a major hurdle. It means parents cannot enter the U.S. to contest the termination of their parental rights. If parents do attempt re-entry after deportation they risk arrest, which further hampers their efforts to be reunited with their kids. Moreover, courts have repeatedly confirmed that an undocumented immigrant’s motivations for illegal reentry are irrelevant.

Deported parents are rarely able to return to the U.S. to seek reunification, and this has allowed courts to treat deportation as abandonment.

A final issue that may affect undocumented immigrant parents’ ability to reunite concerns the efforts of third parties to gain custody of the removed children. The longer the children remain in foster care, the more likely it is that attachments will grow. Many of these families will seek to adopt these children. In the past, courts, faced with the prospect of returning children to foreign countries filled with dangers versus allowing them to stay in America with an adoptive family, have often chosen the latter. They decide that to go home under such conditions is not in the children’s best interest and this in turn justifies terminating their biological parents parental rights.

It’s not clear whether today’s separated families will have the same difficulties regaining custody previous immigrant families faced, but it appears likely. In fact, given the current anti-immigrant sentiment, I believe the hurdles these immigrants parents may encounter will be significantly greater.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

122 Mexican Politicians Have Been Killed Ahead of Sunday’s Polls

MEXICO: Mexicans will go to the polls on Sunday to choose a new president, federal lawmakers, nine governors and more than 3,000 regional and local posts in the midst of an unprecedented wave of violence. Consulting firm Etellekt will publish a new report later today that says that 46 candidates and pre-candidates have been killed during the electoral season and a total of 122 politicians (including candidates, elected officials and public servants) have been killed since September. In contrast, during the last election season of 2011-2012, only one candidate and a total of nine politicians were killed.

The entire police force of the town of Ocampo in the state of Michoacán was detained on Sunday morning by state forces for preventing the arrest of the town’s public security secretary, Oscar González García, who is accused of being involved in the murder of mayoral candidate Fernando Ángeles Juárez two days before.



UNITED STATES: President Donald Trump suggested on Sunday that undocumented immigrants, whom he called invaders, should be immediately sent back without appearing in front of a judge. The American Civil Liberties Union said in response that this would be an illegal violation of due process and of the Constitution.

MEXICO: Fifteen candidates were disqualified from running for political posts in the state of Oaxaca after Mexico’s electoral tribunal ruled they had lied about being transgender to be able to run as women under gender parity rules that require exactly 50 percent of candidates be women. The tribunal ruled on Friday that the candidates were not known to be transgender, or muxes the third gender recognized by the local Zapotec Indigenous Peoples, before they decided to register their candidacies, but two other candidates who had been disqualified to run by a lower tribunal were ruled eligible as they had consistently identified as transgender. No transgender men are running.


CUBA: The U.S. State Department confirmed on Thursday that medical tests showed that spokeswoman Heather Nauert, one of two Embassy workers who were recently evacuated from Cuba, was affected by the same mysterious disease that causes brain-injury-like symptoms that has affected another 24 fellow Embassy workers. The other worker is “still being evaluated” by doctors.


NICARAGUA: At least seven more people were killed in the protests over the weekend for a total of at least 215 deaths since mid-April, said the Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association. A one-year-old died on Saturday in Managua either at the hands of a “delinquent” according to the police or at the hands of the police according to the baby’s mother. Two died and six were missing during an attempt by authorities to take back the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua from students who took control over it since the beginning of the protests.

EL SALVADOR: The archbishop of San Salvador apologized to a 16-year-old boy who was sexually attacked by a priest. José Adonay Chicas Campos, the priest of Zaragoza a town 12 miles south of the capital, was captured on Friday for the alleged crimes of continuous sexual aggression on an incapacitated minor, paying for sexual acts and aggravated child corruption.


COLOMBIA-ECUADOR: Four bodies were found in southwestern Colombia on Thursday close to the border with Ecuador. Colombian authorities announced the next day that the remains belonged to the three journalists from the Ecuadorian daily El Comercio who were kidnapped and slain in March by a holdout dissidence of the FARC and to a higher-level commander of the group. Ecuadorean authorities said there had not been a “total scientific verification” of the remains and criticized Colombia for leaking the information. The families of reporter Javier Ortega, photographer Paúl Rivas and driver Efraín Segarra expressed their “extreme frustration and pain” at not having been informed directly before the information was published on Twitter.

PERU: For the second time, the Peruvian Congress controlled by Keiko Fujimori passed a law last week prohibiting the government from advertising with private media outlets. Although the oficial purpose of the law is to regulate the state’s advertising spending, Sen. Luis Galarreta, of the Popular Force party that proposed the bill, said it was intended to punish news media that supports the government in exchange for government advertising. The administration of President Martín Vizcarra sued the law as unconstitutional on Thursday.


BRAZIL: The Supreme Court ruled on Friday against a motion by former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva asking to be either freed on bail or granted house arrest while he appeals a 12-year conviction for corruption which he denies. Lula’s Workers Party had hoped he would be able to formally launch his campaign for the October presidential election tomorrow.

ARGENTINA: Jailed Mapuche leader Facundo Jones Huala ended a hunger strike on Saturday when prison authorities agreed to allow him to perform a traditional winter solstice ritual that is set to be held later today. Originally, authorities had allowed the ritual to be performed but without the 34 guests that Jones Huala wanted there, after 23 days of hunger strike an agreement was reached for 15 guests to attend the ceremony.

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UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Says Rule of Law Is ‘Virtually Absent’ in Venezuela

VENEZUELA: The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights released this morning a report denouncing the failure of Venezuelan authorities to hold accountable perpetrators of serious human rights violations within its security forces. The report describes the use of excessive force against demonstrators, arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture and questions why Venezuelan officers accused in some 500 questionable killings appear to be evading any charges. “The failure to hold security forces accountable for such serious human rights violations suggests that the rule of law is virtually absent in Venezuela,” High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.

At the same time, the economic crisis continues to intensify. On Wednesday, President Nicolás Maduro tripled the minimum wage to 3 million bolivars per month plus 2.2 million bolivars in meal tickets, the total compensation will be around $1.98 at the black market rate. The government has deployed soldiers to almost 100 food markets to try to control soaring food prices.

Also on Wednesday, the Paris Club and other private creditors met in France to discuss the eventual restructuring of Venezuela’s debt among other issues. The Venezuelan government and its state oil company PDVSA are in default on most of their $60 billion debt but any restructuring is impossible under current U.S. sanctions which would consider it as illegal financing.



MEXICO: The Federal Electoral Tribunal found Presidential candidate Jaime Rodríguez guilty of campaign irregularities during the process of collecting petition signatures for his independent candidacy and confirmed a fine of about $37,000. Rodríguez, who is widely known as “El Bronco,” was added to the ballot last minute after he had been previously disqualified because most of the petition signatures he presented resulted to be fake. He is currently last in the polls.

MEXICO: Two mayoral candidates were killed in less than 24 hours in the state of Michoacán. Omar Gómez Lucatero, an independent candidate for the rural town of Aguililla, was killed on Wednesday and Fernando Ángeles Juárez, a candidate for the Democratic Revolution Party was killed in Ocampo in the early hours of Thursday. With these two deaths at least 18 mayoral candidates have been killed leading up to the July 1 elections.


CUBA: Cuban journalists told The Associated Press that a new communication policy that gives state media more freedom was recently passed. Independent print or broadcast media is forbidden in Cuba but as internet access continues to grow online sources have proliferated, including independent magazines targeted at millennials and U.S. funded anti-Castro outlets. The policy appears to have been approved when President Miguel Díaz-Canel was still vice president and had responsibility for the country’s media and communications policy and went into effect around the time he took power on April 19.

PUERTO RICO: The president of the Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz, challenged yesterday the federal control board that took over the archipelago’s finances over a law that protects workers saying the majority of the legislators are not willing to repeal it even as Gov. Ricardo Rosselló insisted his administration would. Meanwhile, Roselló met with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Washington yesterday and asked for Puerto Rico to become a U.S. state to “end with the last enclave of colonialism and validate the democratic will of the Puerto Rican people,” he said.


NICARAGUA: Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Báez and Vatican Ambassador Walter Sommertag went to the city of Masaya yesterday to “avert another massacre,” in Báez’ words. The city, part of the metropolitan area of Managua, has been the center of confrontations between the police, its accompanying paramilitary groups and protesters for the last three days. Civil organizations denounced that armed militias carry AK-47 assault rifles and Russian Dragunov rifles and suggested the training required to fire these might mean Army soldiers in plain clothes or former soldiers might be involved. The Army has denied any involvement in the crisis that has already led to 186 to 215 deaths and at least 60 disappearances according to different NGOs.

HONDURAS: President Juan Orlando Hernández announced yesterday during a trip to Washington that he was accepting the appointment of Brazilian Luiz Antonio Guimarães as head of the Mission of Support Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras, a creation of the Organization of American States. The previous head of the mission, Peruvian Juan Jiménez, had resigned in February citing hostility from the Honduran government and a lack of support from the OAS, and even though OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro put forward Guimarães’ name last April he wasn’t ratified until yesterday’s announcement.


BOLIVIA: A new government palace was set to be inaugurated yesterday coinciding with the Aymara Indigenous Peoples’ new year, but the celebration was canceled over a controversy about the luxury presidential suite that is said to include a sauna, a jacuzzi and a gym. The 29-story building cost 34 million dollars and took three years to build, and will replace the 19th Century presidential palace that will become a museum.


BRAZIL: A 14-year-old boy wearing a school uniform was killed on Wednesday by a police helicopter that fired near a school during morning classes in a densely populated favela in Rio de Janeiro. Police said that six gang members were killed in the operation that officially aimed to carry out arrest warrants and searches related to the drug trade and cargo theft. Marcos Vinicius da Silva died in a hospital on Wednesday night and residents of the Maré favela protested his death yesterday by blocking the highway that leads to Rio’s international airport and setting a bus on fire. The Intervention Observatory, an independent NGO, has calculated using official data that 444 people were killed by police from February to May in Rio, a 34 percent increase on the previous year.

BRAZIL: Fifteen people were arrested yesterday by Brazilian authorities on accusations of having over billed the state of São Paulo over $158 million for construction works on a major highway that surround the city of São Paulo, the state capital. The case was part of the local iteration of the “Car Wash” probe that has uncovered billions of dollars in corruption. The highest-ranked of those arrested is Laurence Casagrande Lourenço, the former head of Dersa, the company in charge of São Paulo’s highways.

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Junot & Me (Too)

In early May, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz was accused of sexual assault and misconduct. Author Zinzi Clemmons wrote a tweet where she said Díaz tried to corner and forcibly kiss her while she was a graduate student.

Since Clemmons’ allegation, several other women have come forward with stories of Díaz mistreating them. Over the past month, a wide array of articles and blog posts have also been written in reaction to these allegations, some in support of the women, others in defense of Junot Díaz.

To many young Dominican-Americans and Latinos in the literary world, Díaz was a hero—someone that represented them and their stories. Latino USA’s Digital Media Editor Amanda Alcantara is one of those Dominican-Americans who saw herself impacted by Díaz work.

So, after the allegations came out, she set off on a journey of introspection to figure out how she should feel about Díaz and his work: a journey that included heartfelt conversations, deleted tweets and even a mysterious anonymous email.

In this episode of Latino USA, Amanda spoke to three people about the allegations against Díaz: Marianella Belliard, who shared her own story of an experience with Díaz; Aya de Leon, a writer and professor whose blog post “Reconciling Rage and Compassion: the Unfolding #MeToo Moment for Junot Diaz” on Díaz got a lot of traction online; and writer and poet Alejandro Heredia, who has been deeply touched by Díaz’s work as a young writer.

Featured Illustration by Charles Michelet.

WATCH: How a Father and Son Brought Clean Energy to Puerto Rican Town Post-Hurricane María

Around 2,500 customers still remain without electricity in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María made landfall on September 20. Reports state that it could take up to two more months to fully restore energy.

In “Solar Libre: Family Affair,” producer Melanie La Rosa takes the cameras to Hobost Beach in Isabela, Puerto Rico, to tell the story of Solar Libre Puerto Rico, a project working to bring electricity to those who were left without since the hurricane. The project started with a father’s phone call from Puerto Rico to his son in Brooklyn, and has already provided a town with electricity

“People would lay in hammocks. They would say things like where’s this place been all my life. And then suddenly comes this unprecedented meteorological nightmare known as Hurricane Maria. It was so overwhelming for all the government services,” Tom Meyers, owner of Las Dunas Guesthouse, says in the documentary, “We didn’t see anybody for at least two months, no police, no FEMA, no National Guard, no army.”

In the shory video, La Rosa explores how the Meyers family’s efforts to supply the town of Isabela with electricity succeeded despite challenges posted by institutions like the National Guard. Despite these obstacles, Tom Meyers and his son Walter have teamed up with solar panel vendors and friends to continue their mission to help Puerto Rico. Solar Libre Puerto Rico has been successful in installing over 70 emergency solar-powered systems on the island. Still, the road ahead is long.

“Holding onto to that optimism is a necessary objective,” says Jennifer Bolstad, a landscape architect involved with the project.

“Solar Libre: Family Affair” is part of La Rosa’s documentary “HOW TO POWER A CITY, stories from the front lines of the clean energy revolution.

President Trump Stopped Family Separations but Gave No Solution for Those Already Separated

UNITED STATES: President Donald Trump signed an executive order yesterday stopping his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents when they are detained illegally crossing the south border. For the most part, families will be kept together while they are in custody, their cases will be expedited and the Defense Department will be in charge of helping to house them. But the new executive order doesn’t end the “zero-tolerance” policy of criminally prosecuting all adults that cross the border without legal documents and doesn’t give a solution for the 2,300 children that have been separated from their parents since the policy began in May and for whom the administration doesn’t have reunification protocols put in place. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on two different bills that seek to formally end the family separation policy, but it might not be possible to rally enough Republican votes to pass the bill.

Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz attempted to visit a facility in their state, Florida, but were denied entry. Nelson accused the Trump administration of a cover-up.




MEXICO: Several bouts of violence apparently linked to drug trafficking have unusually touched Mexico City this week, up until now the capital had mostly escaped from the violence that affects other parts of the country. Yesterday, police officers responding to reports that drugs were being sold found two dead bodies, they were then attacked when they pursued suspects on bikes and killed two of the attackers and injured a third one when responding to shots. The police arrested 25 persons and confiscated five firearms, a car and sixteen bikes. Two days before, several dismembered bodies were scattered on an important avenue that crossed the city.


PUERTO RICO: Gov. Ricardo Roselló signed a bill yesterday allowing for the sale and privatization of the archipelago’s power company after an 11-year-long recession and last year’s Hurricane Maria hitting the company hard. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is one of the largest U.S. public utility companies, Roselló tried to prevent criticism by including an article in the bill protecting the jobs of the more than 6,000 workers at the power company.


NICARAGUA: Multilateral organizations confirmed yesterday that they had received formal invitations by the Nicaraguan government to act as observers of the violent protests that continue to rock the country. Negotiations, where the Catholic Church was acting as a mediator, broke down on Monday when the government of Daniel Ortega was dragging its feet on sending out the invitations which multilateral organizations need to be able to act as formal observers. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union were invited. The director of the National School of Migration gave a public announcement yesterday reminding that the Nicaraguan constitution prohibits foreigners from intervening in the country’s political affairs.

The Nicaraguan Medical Association has accused some public hospitals of allegedly turning away the wounded due to orders from above. The government has denied giving out such an order.


VENEZUELA: The coalition of opposition parties rejected yesterday the intermediation of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, former president of Spain, between them and the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Lawmaker Juan Guaidó said at a press conference yesterday, “We don’t know if he’s serving as the government’s lawyer, as a spokesman or as a facilitator.” Rodríguez Zapatero responded saying he would continue to work towards peace in Venezuela.

VENEZUELA: The government occupied yesterday eight popular markets in different parts of the country and began taking control over another 21 arguing there are indications of speculation, hoarding of products and price meddling. The measure is supposed to be temporary.

PERU: Congress passed a bill on Tuesday allowing President Martín Vizcarra’s government to legislate on issues related to the economy, the fight against corruption and the protection of victims of socio-political violence for a special period of 60 days. Vizcarra was vice president until March when then-president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was impeached.


BRAZIL: The country’s highest court acquitted on Tuesday night the Workers’ Party president Sen. Gleisi Hoffmann of charges of corruption and money-laundering. The case was part of the “Car Wash” probe that has uncovered billions of dollars in bribes. Hoffmann was accused of accepting more than $260,000 in illegal campaign contributions from corrupt contracts with Petrobras, the state-run oil company, but prosecutors unable to provide any evidence to substantiate the plea-bargain testimony that incriminated the senator.

ARGENTINA: The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund gave a green light yesterday to a $50 billion stand-by loan for Argentina. The government of President Mauricio Macri will immediately receive $15 billion, half of which will be used for budget support, and the rest of the money will be available during the next three years subject to quarterly reviews. The decision to seek help from the IMF is very unpopular in Argentina, where many blame the bank’s austerity policies for the economic crisis of 2001.

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Trump’s War on Children Was an Act of State Terrorism

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Latino USA.

By Henry Giroux, McMaster University

State terrorism comes in many forms, but one of its most cruel and revolting expressions is when it is aimed at children.

Even though U.S. President Donald Trump backed down in the face of a scathing political and public outcry and ended his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents, make no mistake: His actions were indeed a form of terrorism.

That he was defiant until his back was against the wall points not only to a society that has lost its moral compass, but has also descended into such darkness that it demands both the loudest forms of moral outrage and a collective resistance aimed at eliminating the narratives, power relations and values that support it.

State violence against children has a long, dark history among authoritarian regimes.

Josef Stalin’s police took children from the parents he labeled as “enemies of the people.” Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet all separated children from their families on a large scale as a way to punish political dissidents and those parents considered disposable.

Now we can add Trump to the list of the depraved.

Amnesty International called Trump’s decision to separate children from their parents and warehouse them in cages and tents for months as a cruel policy that amounts to “nothing short of torture.” Many of the parents whose children were taken away from them entered the country legally, unwittingly exposing what resembles a state-sanctioned policy of racial cleansing.

Hundreds of immigrant rights advocates and others participate in rally and and demonstration at the Federal Building in lower Manhattan against the Trump administration’s policy to separate families at the border on June 1, 2018 in New York, U.S. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

In any democratic society, the primary index through which a society registers its own meaning, vision and politics is measured by how it treats its children, and its commitment to the idea that a civilized society is one that does everything it can to make the future and the world a better place for youth.

Abuse and Terror

By this measure, the Trump administration has done more than fail in its commitment to children. It has abused, terrorized and scarred them. What’s more, this policy has been ludicrously initiated and legitimized by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a notorious anti-immigrant advocate, with a Bible verse that was used historically by racists to justify slavery.

In the name of religion and without irony, Sessions has put into play a policy that has been a hallmark of authoritarian regimes.

At the same time, Trump has justified the policy with the notorious lie that the Democrats have to change the law for the separations to stop, when in actuality the separations are the result of a policy inaugurated by Sessions under Trump’s direction.

Trump has written on Twitter that the Democrats are breaking up families.

Yet according to the New York Times:

Mr. Trump was misrepresenting his own policy. There is no law that says children must be taken from their parents if they cross the border unlawfully, and previous administrations have made exceptions for those travelling with minor children when prosecuting immigrants for illegal entry. A “zero tolerance” policy created by the president in April and put into effect last month by the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, allows no such exceptions, Mr. Trump’s advisers say.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has actually elevated Trump’s lie to a horrendous act of willful ignorance and complicity.

This is an extension of the carceral state to the most vulnerable groups, putting into play a punitive policy that signals a descent into fascism, American-style.

The New Yorker’s Marsha Gessen gets it right in comparing Trump’s policies towards children to those used by Vladimir Putin in Russia, both of which amounts to what she calls “an instrument of totalitarian terror.”

Both countries arrest children in order to send a powerful message to their enemies. In this case, Trump’s message is designed to terrorize immigrants while shoring up his base, while Putin’s message is to squelch dissent in general among the larger populace. Referring to Putin’s reign of terror, she writes:

The spectacle of children being arrested sends a stronger message than any amount of police violence against adults could do. The threat that children might be removed from their families is likely to compel parents to keep their kids at home next time — and to stay home themselves.

Children Screaming for Their Parents

Within the last few weeks, heart-wrenching reports, images and audio have emerged in which children, including infants, are forcibly separated from their parents, relocated to detention centers under-staffed by professional caretakers and housed in what some reporters have described as cages.

The consequences of Trump’s xenophobia are agonizingly clear in reports of migrant children screaming out for their parents, babies crying incessantly, infants housed with teenagers who don’t know how to change diapers and shattered and traumatized families.

The Trump administration has detained more than 2,000 children, and the numbers are expected to grow exponentially in light of Trump’s refusal to change the cruel policy.

What’s more, the Trump administration has lost track of more than 1,500 children it first detained, and it has no plans to reunite the families it has torn apart.

In some cases, it has deported parents without first uniting them with their detained children. What is equally horrifying and morally reprehensible is that previous studies, such as those done by Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham in the midst of the Second World War, indicated that children separated from their parents suffered both emotionally in the short run and were plagued by long-term separation anxieties.

It’s no wonder the American Academy of Pediatrics refers to the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their families as one of “sweeping cruelty.”

A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Trump is mobilizing the fascist fervour that inevitably leads to prisons, detention centres and acts of domestic terrorism and state violence. Echoes of Nazi camps, Japanese internment prisons and the mass incarceration of Black and brown people, along with the destruction of their families, are now part of Trump’s legacy.

Shameless cruelty now marks the neoliberal fascism currently shaping American society. Trump is using children as hostages in his attempt to implement his racist policy of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to please his white supremacist base.

Trump’s racism is on full display as he digs in to defend this white supremacist policy.

He’s likening migrants to insects or disease-carrying rodents. In the past, he has also called undocumented immigrants “animals.” This is a rhetoric with a dark past. The Nazis used similar analogies to describe Jews. This is the language of white supremacy and neo-fascism.

Long History in the U.S.

But let’s be clear. While the caging of children has provoked a great deal of moral outrage across the ideological spectrum, the underlying logic has been largely ignored.

These tactics have a long history in the United States, and in recent years have been intensified with the collapse of the social contract, expanding inequality and the increasing criminalization of a range of behaviors associated with immigrants, young people and those populations considered most vulnerable.

The horrible treatment of immigrant parents and children by the Trump regime signals not only a hatred of human rights, justice and democracy, it lays bare a growing fascism in the United States in which politics and power are now being used to foster disposability. White supremacists, religious fundamentalists and political extremists are now in charge.

It’s all a logical extension of his plans to deport 300,000 immigrants and refugees, including 200,000 Salvadorans and 86,000 Hondurans, by revoking their temporary protected status.

The cruelty of this racist policy is also evident in Trump’s rescinding of DACA for 800,000 so-called dreamers and the removal of temporary protected status for 248,000 refugees.

“Making America Great Again” and “America First” have now morphed into an unprecedented and unapologetic act of terrorism against immigrants. While the Obama administration also locked up the families of immigrants, it eventually scaled back the practice.

Under Trump, this savage practice has accelerated and intensified. His administration has refused to consider more humane practices, such as community management of asylum-seekers.

It all functions as shorthand for making America white again, and signals the unwillingness of the United States to break from its past and the ghosts of a lethal authoritarianism.

Trump’s Admiration of Dictators

It’s also more evidence of Trump’s love affair with the practices of other dictators like Putin and now Kim Jong Un. And it signals a growing consolidation of power that is matched by the use of the repressive powers of the state to brutalize and threaten those who don’t fit into Trump’s white nationalist vision of the United States.

There is more at work here than the collapse of humanity and ethics under the Trump regime, there is also a process of dehumanization, racial cleansing and a convulsion of hatred toward those marked as disposable that echoes the darkest elements of fascism’s tenets.

The U.S. has now entered into a new era of racial hatred.

What is happening to the children and parents of immigrants does more than reek of cruelty, it points to a country in which matters of life and death have become unmoored from the principles of justice, compassion and democracy itself.

The ConversationThe horrors of fascism’s past have now ttraveledfrom the history books to modern times. The steep path to violence and cruelty can no longer be ignored. The time has come for the American public, politicians, educators, social movements and others to make clear that resistance to the emerging fascism in the United States is not an option —but a dire and urgent necessity.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Five More Deaths in Nicaragua as the Government Takes Masaya by Storm

NICARAGUA: Between three and five people died when government forces and pro-government militias attempted yesterday to take back the city of Masaya, which had declared itself in rebellion to the government a day before. During the attack, 34 people were wounded in Masaya and another 37 were wounded in the town of Ticuantepe, both towns are part of the metropolitan area of the capital Managua. Civil rights organization Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights also denounced an undetermined number of people were taken by the police in “selective raids” around the city and said that the government forces had rescued the chief of the police department in Masaya, who had been besieged by opposition demonstrators for almost a month.

The U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, Carlos Trujillo, arrived yesterday to Nicaragua to meet the different sides of the conflict ahead of the extraordinary session of the Permanent Council on Nicaragua at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.



MEXICO: Activists, authorities and international NGOs are debating on the effect 10 presidential decrees published on June 5 will have on water preservation. The government’s National Water Commission said on Monday that the decrees do not benefit any particular interest and on the contrary protect water reserves on a higher percentage than what international recommendations suggest. The WWF agrees and has celebrated the new decrees. But activists supported by OXFAM say the decrees lifted 295 out of the 756 prohibitions on extracting water and invalidated about 50,000 previous water concessions granted for life to agrarian and rural communities in favor of urban areas, opening up the possibility for mining, fracking and oil industries that are already in the areas to get concessions for the water. The decrees changed the status of very strict closed zones, zonas de veda, into more lax reserve zones, zonas de reserva, where limited use of water is permitted for public utility reasons.

UNITED STATES: As the debate over the policy of separating undocumented families crossing the border between the United States and Mexico continues, governors from at least eight states have announced that they will withhold or recall their National Guard troops from the southern border. Most of the governors are Democrats but the Republican governors from Maryland and Massachusetts, who face re-elections this fall, also withheld their troops.


PUERTO RICO: The archipelago’s main radar was finally replaced earlier this week after Hurricane Maria destroyed the old one nine months ago. Officials are now testing the software and the radar should be fully operational this month, early into this year’s hurricane season which has already started. The Department of Defense had deployed two mobile short-range radars to monitor local weather and regional trends that allow authorities to issue warnings to communities, but the longer-range radar will fill a major coverage hole that was left in the northern Caribbean. The new radar was built to withstand Category 4 winds, which is less than the old radar damaged by Maria which was supposed to endure Category 5 winds.


EL SALVADOR: Yesterday, for the second time in just three days demonstrators took to the streets of El Salvador to protest the comprehensive water act that is being discussed in Congress. A bigger march took place on Saturday. The law proposes the creation of a governing board to administer water resources with one representative of the government, two representatives of the private business association and two representatives of the association of municipalities. Protestors say this amounts to a privatization of water.


COLOMBIA: The Senate voted yesterday to postpone the discussion of the law that creates an operating manual for the special peace justice for when the new ppresident-elect is in power. The transitional justice system is part of the peace agreement between with the former FARC rebels and has had major setbacks because of the political controversies around it, although it was officially set up on March 15 it cannot start to function without an operating manual. President elect Iván Duque is set to meet with representatives in the lower chamber today to convince them of postponing the vote too. Santos tweeted yesterday saying he will convene extraordinary sessions if the law isn’t approved this week, when the ordinary parliamentary sessions are set to end.

CHILE-BOLIVIA: The presidents of the two Andean countries got into a Twitter argument over the case over the use of the Silala river’s waters—which is being heard in the International Court of Justice. The river flows from Bolivia into Chile through artificial ducts built by Chilean companies over a hundred years ago, and the suit is over the legality of the construction and the ownership of the waters. Last year, Chile filed a lawsuit asking the ICJ to “reaffirm” its right to equal access to the river’s water and when on Monday Bolivia decided not to counter-sue President Sebastián Piñera celebrated on Twitter saying this ratified the Chilean theory that the Silala is an international river.

But President Evo Morales answered yesterday saying Bolivia wasn’t admitting to anything. Bolivia is planning to submit a a counter-memorial to the ICJ instead of a counter-suit.


ARGENTINA: The family of incarcerated indigenous leader Facundo Jones Huala, who began a hunger strike on May 30th, said his health is rapidly declining after he decided to stop drinking water, although Argentine prison authorities say he is in good health. Jones Huala demands Argentine authorities allow him to perform a traditional Mapuche ritual that celebrates the new year. The permission was denied because it would require more than the maximum number of visitors allowed. Yesterday, representatives of the Association of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo urged governor of the Chubut province Mariano Arcioni to allow for Jones Huala’s request. The organization latter said on twitter that Arcioni had agreed to allow the ceremony.

The Mothers also met with Jones Huala and asked him to put a stop to his hunger strike. Jones Huala is in jail waiting for a decision of Argentina’s Supreme Court over a petition to extradite from Chile, where he is accused of participating in an arson in 2013 during a protest for Mapuche traditional lands.

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Puerto Rican Families Displaced in Florida by Hurricane María Recruited as Potential Voters

Yazmin Marcano, 47, moved to Kissimmee, Florida, when she lost her home in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane María. She arrived alone and settled at a Super 8 motel in Kissimmee, where she lived until late May 2018.

Marcano lost all of her belongings when Hurricane María made landfall across Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. “Even my documents were destroyed. My birth certificate and everything else were on the trees,” she told Latino USA. She moved in November, and her 16-year-old son arrived a few months later.

Marcano and the other families who lived in the hotel knew very little about the benefits available to them when they arrived in Central Florida.

Voting was the last thing on her mind.

Now Marcano, who was the former secretary at the Puerto Rico Department of Health, volunteers recruiting voters in Central Florida through Organize Florida. She uses her experience to teach other Puerto Ricans like herself about the importance to vote in this year’s midterm elections.

“I have felt like a second-class citizen here. It makes me want to cry sometimes,” she said. “I’ve always been working class and a taxpayer, and now I depend on social benefits.”

Marcano and her son are one of the 56,000 families who have settled in Central Florida since Hurricane María, according to data by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York. And in this summer’s primary elections –and in the November midterms– many will be eligible to vote for the first time.

People board a flight to Orlando, Florida at a Luis Munoz Marin International Airport terminal in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photo by Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images)

A coalition of community organizing groups all along the East Coast is rallying Puerto Ricans to register to vote. The campaign, called “Summer for Puerto Rico,” has two main goals: to promote political literacy among the community, and to register Puerto Ricans to vote and retain their interest in the democratic process.

Although they are American citizens, Puerto Ricans on the island cannot vote for a voting member of Congress or for President. However, once they move to the mainland (as an estimated 135,000 did after the hurricane), they can register to vote like any other citizen.

Targeting Puerto Ricans Living in FEMA-Approved Hotels

Organize Florida has been targeting Puerto Ricans who are living in FEMA-approved hotels and who seek services in access centers, as well as supermarkets and Goodwill, according to Liliana Cruz, community follow-op organizer at Organize Florida.

“We’re looking to engage with people we already have a relationship with,” Cruz explained. “Our focus is on educating them on why it’s important to vote, and about the fact that they can vote.”

Cruz sais this empowerment-driven campaign has already delivered results. “I’ve noticed a change in them, how they’re becoming leaders in their communities,” she noted, like in the case of Marcano, who Cruz met and helped register to vote while she was getting her food stamps.

Now Marcano volunteers with Organize Florida to help others register to vote and learn about their rights.

“I’m trying to pass my knowledge forward,” she said. in Florida

The Summer for Puerto Rico campaign is spearheaded by Julio López Varona, the Director of Puerto Rico Diaspora Campaigns at the Center for Popular Democracy. He emphasized that the focus of the campaign is on promoting political empowerment and literacy, by providing context on who are the lawmakers, and teaching communities about the effects of colonialism.

“We hope the campaign will set a tone about what happens when you don’t listen to Puerto Ricans,” he said. “Whoever wins should know there are Puerto Ricans who will hold them accountable.”

The Midterm Elections

Democrats and Republicans in states like Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey have been rallying for the Puerto Rican vote, which is considered to be pivotal for the midterm elections.

The Puerto Rican vote is especially attractive in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Florida, where the Puerto Rican population has skyrocketed over the last 10 years. There are currently just over one million Puerto Ricans in Florida, about twice the amount of Puerto Ricans in that state in 2000, according to the Pew Research Center. Most have settled in Central Florida, and have concentrated in areas like Tampa, Kissimmee and Orlando.

Signs welcoming people are seen at the Reception Center for Puerto Rican refugees set up at the Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida on November 30, 2017. (Photo by Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images)

This population shift has already worked in favor for Democrats as the area has grown increasingly blue, contrary to the more Republican-leaning Cubans in South Florida, according to Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University and an expert on Puerto Rican migration. In 2016, Hillary Clinton took Orange, Osceola and Highlands Counties, all three which contain a significant Puerto Rican population.

Candidates are already vying for the Puerto Rican vote. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), who is running for the Senate against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, recently unveiled a Spanish-language advertisement aimed at the Puerto Rican community. It features two Puerto Rican-Floridians who speak favorably about the Governor’s response in wake of Hurricane María and his economic record.

Senator Nelson, on the other hand, recently received the endorsement of former Puerto Rico governor Pedro Rosselló, father of current governor Ricardo Rosselló.

While some are hoping Puerto Ricans will flip battleground states by their tendency to lean blue, Duany thinks there are certain factors that indicate the population won’t have a consequence in these elections.

For example, Duany says Puerto Ricans are swayed to vote in mainland elections because the island’s issues aren’t central to many campaigns. On the other hand, he says many Puerto Ricans aren’t familiar with either party to begin with because the island has its own political parties.

Approach With Caution

For many Puerto Ricans who have just arrived to the mainland, this election represents the first time they will be able to vote for an elected official with power at the national level. Still, many approach the enthusiasm for the Puerto Rican vote with caution.

“As voters, we have to take this pandering with a grain of salt,” Coral Negrón, a 26-year-old grad student and freelance reporter, said. She moved from the Puerto Rican city of Ponce to Manhattan with her partner and their two children, ages 3 and 6, after she lost her job as a reporter at a local newspaper after the hurricane. “They all talk about reconstruction for the island but it’s not enough.”

“I don’t have a doubt in my mind that they’re pandering for the Puerto Rican vote, but it’s important to vote anyway,” Bernard Aanonsen, a 26-year-old salesman from Mayagüez, Puerto Rico who moved to Manhattan after the hurricane, said. “We need to vote to make Puerto Rico better, so those of us who left can go back.”

Others are more cynical about the elections.

Paola Brignoni, 23, who works in Boston as a consultant, was unaware there were midterm elections this year. Though she’s open to the possibility of voting this year, she is unenthused.

“I’m certain that Puerto Rico is not going to be on the agenda of whoever wins anyway,” she said.

Karen Febo, 27, is sure she won’t vote. Febo moved to Florida after she lost her job as a waitress in San Juan, but now lives in Massachusetts. She never voted while living in Puerto Rico, and moving to the mainland confirmed her opinions about voting.

“Neither party has the best interests of Puerto Ricans at heart,” she said.

“In the middle of everything, seeing your vote as the solution to everything that has happened and for people’s necessities is laughable,” Febo added. “Putting your faith in the people who had power in the moment of the island’s crisis is laughable.”