Easing El Pasoans Tent City Anxiety Of “Separation Of Children”
IMMIGRATION CREATES DIVISION
A tent city was erected in the El Paso area that housed 326 minors, including 162 from Guatemala, 117 from Honduras, 40 from El Salvador, three from Mexico and four from countries classified merely as “other.” Local news media, as well as politicians, continually inundate citizens with opprobrious articles of Tent city that may cause division in a city of El Paso with a population of 683,577, which maintains a large Hispanic community.
For the most part, El Paso, Texas population has lived in harmony for decades. A person’s racial and cultural background is not too relevant as long as one likes the UTEP Miners, Dallas Cowboys, and Chico’s Tacos. Not necessarily in that order. The recent Immigration problem has somewhat divided El Paso citizens in the opinion of ‘Citizenship.’
MEDIA PROMOTES DISCORD
It appears that the immigration xenophobia problem projected in El Paso as well as to the nation is the separation of children from their parents who are seeking asylum. For example, the El Paso Times (2018) placed on the front page, “The Separation Was A Terror” by A.B. Flores. Another article that tugs at the heart of local citizens is the El Paso Time (2018), “Family separation ends for three fathers reunited with young immigrant children in El Paso,” by D. Borunda. One wonders why the El Paso news media chooses to promote an agenda of discord to its citizens who have lived harmoniously in great West Texas.
Noncitizens may seek asylum in the United States if they suffer persecution or fear that they will suffer abuse due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group and political opinion. Local news media explains that most of the asylum seekers have a fear of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS) gang, also known as MS-13, and the uncertainty of living in safety.
When the noncitizen applies for asylum, the asylum officer determines if the asylum seeker has a credible fear of persecution or torture. If eligibility for asylum is established, the noncitizen will then be referred to immigration court to proceed with the defensive asylum application process. The number of credible fear cases has reached in 2016 to 92,071 cases, but in 2017, it dropped to 79,977 cases. These cases were sent to the U.S. Immigration courts to determine asylum eligibility.
JUST AN OLD PROBLEM
When interacting with El Paso citizens, one does not get the feeling that most citizens hate the idea of immigration. The concept of legal and illegal immigration visibly conflates citizens into different camps. It appears that a small group openly defies the existence of ICE, close borders and the enforcement of immigration laws while a slightly larger group support legal immigration, ICE and close borders. A great percentage of local citizens remain silent on this matter since most feel it is an old border problem that has resurfaced with a different ugly head.
The United States has been concern about its immigration problem since the country’s onset. In 1790, the Naturalization Act reserved naturalized citizenship for whites only. African Americans were awarded citizenship in 1869, Native Americans in 1924 and Asian immigrants in 1954. Most El Paso citizens are aware that the United States is very slow when it comes to Immigration law. Thus most are willing to take an attitude of “wait-and-see.”
GOVERNMENT IS ATTEMPTING TO HELP
What may outrage the greater part of El Paso citizens is President’s Trump “zero tolerance” policy that enforces the asylum law to the letter which includes the idea of separation of children. Perhaps it would be helpful for them to understand that the Flores Settlement Agreement (1997) has three obligations that Naturalization Service (INS) must follow:
- The government is required to release children from immigration detention without unnecessary delay to, in order of preference, parents, other adult relatives, or licensed programs willing to accept custody.
- If a suitable placement is not immediately available, the government is obligated to place children in the “least restrictive” settling appropriate to their age and any special needs.
- The government must implement standards relating to the care and treatment of children in immigration detention.
In pushing back Presidents Trump “zero tolerance” policy, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz introduced legislation to include:
- Doubling the number of federal immigration judges, from roughly 375 to 750.
- Authorizing new temporary shelters with accommodations to keep families together.
- Mandating that immigrant families be kept together, absent aggravated criminal conduct or threat of harm to children.
- Providing for expedited processing and review of asylum cases so that [– within 14 days – those who meet the legal standards will be granted asylum and those who do not will be immediately returned to their home countries.
To further ease the “separation of children” anxiety of El Paso citizens, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas’ senior senator, said he too, would introduce legislation to address the issue.
“It will include provisions that mitigate the problem of family separation while improving the immigration court process for unaccompanied children and families apprehended at the border.”
President Donald Trump via executive order rescinded the “zero tolerance” policy on June 20 and ordered ICE to unite children and parents. However, on June 26, 2018, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of California ordered ICE also to unite the children with their parents within 30 days.
POSITIVE NEWS IS ALWAYS GOOD
El Paso Times reported to it readers in El Paso, Texas, a bit of positive news that may lessen anxiety among many. It stated that U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw agreed that not all separated children could be reunited merely because some instances are too complicated to complete within his deadlines. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Lee Gelernt, said he could “not be more happy” for the reunited families. For most of El Paso citizens, they know too well that government work walks at a very slow pace.
Recently approximately 1,000 applicants took the Oath of citizenship in El Paso causing great joy to citizens and participants who support the rule of law. El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles said,
“The truth is, immigrants are essential to this nation’s strength and vitality and they always have been.”
When an immigrant takes the right path to citizenship, it’s always the best route. Not an easy path to take but indeed the right path.
As citizens in El Paso relax under the cool air-conditioned cantina enjoying a Margarita, tacos and the songs of yesterday, most seek to enjoy each others company peacefully. In their heart, they understand that it takes full Congress to resolve the Immigration problem and not a president. There is nothing wrong in savoring, the great West Texas ambiance that unites its entire people.