Compassion Reporting on poverty fighting and criminal justice

Custody battle

Compassion | The United States cracks down on adults crossing the border illegally with children
by Rob Holmes
Posted 5/23/18, 03:18 pm

A new border security policy mandates separating children from parents who are apprehended after illegally entering the United States. The families can face federal criminal prosecution even if making an asylum claim.

Though prosecution of illegal immigrants has always been the law, in practice, the U.S. government in the past did not always charge parents who crossed the border illegally with their children, instead referring them to immigration court for resolution of their cases.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained the Department of Justice measure as “zero tolerance” for all illegal entry. “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said in a May 7 speech. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

At a Senate hearing last week, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the policy, saying there is a “dangerous increase” in the number of families and unaccompanied immigrant children despite total illegal crossings falling to the lowest level in 45 years. In December 2017, officials apprehended more than 4,000 unaccompanied minors and 8,000 family units who illegally crossed the border, an increase of 30 percent and 68 percent, respectively, since October, DHS reported. In fiscal year 2017, Customs and Border Patrol detained 104,999 such family units.

Of the more than 1,000 people a day who get caught, Nielsen said, “Our policy is if you break the law, we will prosecute you. You have the option to go to a port of entry and not illegally cross into our country."

Critics, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, liken the new policy to using children as a weapon to fight the flow of illegal migrants, who hope to be treated leniently as a family. DHS says the deterrent aimed at families seeks to put a dent in the larger criminal enterprise at the border because human smuggling rings manipulate illegal immigrant children as pawns.

Criminal gangs and smugglers use children as a means to help unrelated adults claim asylum by posing with them as families. Minor children who travel to the border alone, and even those sent or brought over illegally by relatives, often become victims of extortion and sex trafficking by smugglers and gang members along the way and once inside the United States. Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 4,606 transnational gang members and gave assistance to 820 exploited child arrivals, according to written testimony by Homeland Security investigator Derek Benner and ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations official Matthew Albence.

Once adults are detained for prosecution for entering the country illegally, the children with them must be placed in the care of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services (HHS) within two days. Some get sent to relatives living in the United States. HHS has proven itself shamefully inept at taking care of the children: The agency last year lost track of 1,500 children it placed in foster environments, according to The Washington Times. Thousands more got lost in HHS care during the Obama administration.

Immigration policy must be pro-family, said the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “A core belief that has historically been shared by Christians and political conservatives is the idea that the basic unit of society is the family, rather than the individual.”

Associated Press/Photo by Elaine Thomspon Associated Press/Photo by Elaine Thomspon Demonstrators at a May 14 Seattle City Council Meeting

Seattle taxes businesses to pay for housing

Seattle business leaders decried last week’s City Council decision to tax big companies to help fund homeless services and build affordable housing. The city expects to raise up to $75 million annually from its 500 largest companies such as Amazon and Starbucks.

All businesses that gross $20 million or more would be liable for a yearly $275 tax on each full-time worker, a compromise figure lower than the originally sought $500 per head.

Seattle ranks third in the nation for homelessness, and the taxation decision comes amid fierce debate over the question of who must shoulder the cost of helping those whose households don’t mirror the city’s economic success.

Amazon briefly stalled construction plans for Block 18, a 17-story office complex, putting into question 7,000 Seattle jobs connected to the project, Reuters reported, as the company awaited the council’s final decision. Amazon had already scheduled later this year plans to choose and begin building elsewhere its HQ2, a second North American headquarters that could generate up to 50,000 jobs and generate investment of $5 billion.

Seattle’s tax on jobs comes less than a year after its council unanimously voted for a 2.25 percent income tax—in a state that has none—on those living within Seattle’s city limits who make more than $250,000 per year. A King County judge ruled against the legality of the tax four months and four lawsuits later, but in December the city appealed to the Washington state Supreme Court.

Businesses facing taxes for each job they provide could follow Susan Hutchison’s advice about the city income tax last year: Just don’t pay it. Then chairwoman of the Washington State Republican Party, Hutchison encouraged Seattle residents not to file the tax: “We’re urging civil disobedience,” she said. “Noncompliance, nonviolent and nonpaying,” Crosscut reported. —R.H.

Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh A Poor People’s Campaign protest May 14 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Poor People’s Campaign launches with arrests

The reignited Poor People’s Campaign began 40 days of protests nationwide last week with calls for new social programs to help Americans who live in poverty. Police reports in seven states and the District of Columbia showed more than 200 people were arrested or ticketed on the campaign’s kickoff day, mostly for blocking streets or buildings. The Revs. William Barber and Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the movement, were arrested May 14 with others for blocking a street outside the U.S. Capitol.

Barber, a minister in North Carolina and former chairman of his state’s chapter of the NAACP, said, “People across the country are standing up against the lie of scarcity. We know that in the richest country in the world, there is no reason for children to go hungry, for the sick to be denied healthcare and for citizens to have their votes suppressed. Both parties have to be challenged—one for what it does and one for what it doesn’t do.”

Besides protesting racism and poverty, campaign participants aim to mobilize voters and hold teach-ins in the coming month. —R.H.

Rob Holmes

Rob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course. Follow Rob on Twitter @SouthernFlyer.

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  • Janet B
    Posted: Thu, 05/24/2018 11:20 pm

    "Critics, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, liken the new policy to using children as a weapon to fight the flow of illegal migrants, who hope to be treated leniently as a family."

    I think rather it is the parents who are using the children to try to break the law, in the hopes that they will be treated leniently because of the children.  How can they think that it is a good thing to teach their children that they can get away with breaking the law?  And how can folks think that our country's policies should teach the same thing?


  • Laura W
    Posted: Fri, 05/25/2018 08:43 pm

    If you want less of something, tax it--right? I thought we didn't want robots to take people's jobs.

  • JennyBeth
    Posted: Sun, 06/17/2018 01:32 am

    Besides that it is utterly immoral to take young children from their parents, what are we doing to our nation in the long run? Say what you like about "they were commiting a crime," a great number of families who enter without the required documentation are very productive members of society and usually are more careful than citizens to comply with the law while living here. By tearing apart families, we are instilling bitterness and instability that will lead these children to grow up to be hateful and reckless, when a compassionate response would likely result in stable, productive residents. Not to mention, the insane expense we are putting forth to detain these children in separate facilities from their parents. On no front is this a good idea. What will we as a nation have to say when Jesus says, "I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in"?