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HOUSTON (FOX 26) – The Justice Department has agreed to give some immigrant families separated at the border a second chance at asylum. The legal settlement stuck with the ACLU halts deportation proceedings for up to 1,000 families, until their cases can be evaluated. Despite the settlement, Attorney General Jeff sessions says the Trump administration is still committed to a zero tolerance policy.
The panel this week: Jessica Colon – Republican strategist, Tomaro Bell – Super Neighborhood leader, Steve Toth – former State Representative, Kier Murray – political consultant and analyst,, Bill King – businessman, columnist and former Kemah mayor, Tony- Diaz – Chicano activist and educator.
More on immigration and U.S. policy
HOUSTON (AP) – A nonprofit sued the city of Houston on Friday, alleging officials are obstructing its efforts to open a facility in the city to house unaccompanied immigrant children as part of an “improper political exercise” that’s “motivated by hostility” toward federal immigration law.
Austin-based Southwest Key Programs claimed the city improperly invalidated previously issued permits that would have allowed it to open the facility, which was set to house more than 200 unaccompanied minors.
The nonprofit also alleged the city is incorrectly designating the shelter as detention and not a residential facility, which means significant structural changes to the building and “enormous amounts of additional paperwork” for approval “which, as the city has clearly demonstrated, will never be forthcoming.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and other local community leaders have been vocal about their opposition to the facility, which would be located in a building that had previously been used as a homeless shelter and a temporary shelter for Hurricane Harvey evacuees.
When it was first announced in June, the facility was set to house children who had been separated from their parents after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents has since been stopped.
In a statement Friday, Turner said the city will continue to enforce all building codes and regulations related to the safety and well-being of children.
“Southwest Key has repeatedly been asked to provide plans that meet existing building codes for the intended use of the facility,” Turner said. “They have failed to do so. Hopefully they will realize that they are not exempt and must follow the rules like everyone else.”
Southwest Key operates 26 shelters in the United States, providing housing to about 23,000 immigrant children, most of them from Central America.
In its lawsuit, Southwest Key alleged the city is improperly interfering with the federal government’s duty, via a contractor, to care for unaccompanied children. It also accused Houston of discriminating against unaccompanied immigrant children through its actions.
The city’s actions have prevented Southwest Key from getting a state license to run the facility and the nonprofit is now in danger of losing its federal contract to run it, the lawsuit alleged.
Southwest Key is asking for $8.6 million in damages and court orders that would require the city to not designate the shelter as a detention facility, eliminating the need for new permits.
September 14, 2018
SAN DIEGO (AP) – A federal judge says he is inclined to approve a settlement that would give many parents and children who were separated at the border with Mexico a second chance to seek asylum.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said Friday in San Diego that the deal between the Trump administration and lawyers representing families was “an excellent proposal” that showed good faith by everyone involved, particularly the government. He asked the parties to draft an order for his approval.
Two groups involved in the litigation – Muslim Advocates and the Legal Aid Justice Center – have said the settlement could give “well over 1,000 parents” another shot at asylum.
The agreement leaves open the possibility that some of the hundreds of parents deported without their children can return to the United States.
September 13, 2018
MEXICO CITY (AP) – The Mexican government says it “continues evaluating” a U.S. offer to pay for returning foreign migrants in Mexico to their home countries.
Mexico’s Interior Department says no agreement has been reached on the offer, which apparently would help take mainly Central American migrants back to their homes. Many use Mexico as a base to attempt crossing the U.S. border.
The department did not specify how much the U.S. government has offered. It said only that the government is “evaluating the proposal according to applicable laws, and in accordance with the priorities of Mexico’s own immigration policies.”
The department added Thursday: “The Mexican government has not accepted this proposal either verbally or in writing.”
In the first seven months of 2018, Mexico deported more than 57,000 Central Americans, mainly by bus.
September 11, 2018
HOUSTON (AP) – The U.S. government will expand its tent shelter for immigrant minors crossing the southwest border to 3,800 beds and keep it open through the end of this year, an agency spokesman said Tuesday.
The facility at Tornillo, Texas, which originally opened with a 360-bed capacity for 30 days, is being expanded based on how many children are in the care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, agency spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said in a statement.
Wolfe said the announced expansion was not due to the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy, which led to the separations of more than 2,500 children from their parents. Three months after enforcement of the policy officially ended, more than 400 children remain in government care, away from their parents, many of whom were deported.
Those previous family separations “are not driving this need,” Wolfe said. He said 1,400 of the beds will be placed “on reserve status.”
Department officials have visited military bases and other properties in Texas, Arkansas, and Arizona that could host more beds for immigrant children, but “no decision to use any of these properties has been made,” Wolfe said.
While the government has stopped large-scale separations, thousands of immigrants continue to arrive at the southwest border each month, mostly from Central American countries roiled by gang violence and poverty.
The U.S. Border Patrol said it apprehended nearly 4,000 children unaccompanied by an adult at the southwest border in July, the most recent month for which figures are available. That represented a decrease from May and June, but border crossings historically tend to rise as the summer heat gives way to cooler temperatures in fall.
In Texas, the state with the longest segment of the U.S.-Mexico border, 5,168 children were being held in government facilities in early August, about 500 children short of capacity, according to figures released by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
The Tornillo facility is at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection port of entry about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of El Paso. The Tornillo port of entry had previously been used to shelter children in 2016.
Reporters were allowed to tour the facility in June , shortly after it was re-opened in the wake of family separations.
At the time, more than 320 children ages 13 to 17 were being held in air-conditioned tents. A facility administrator told reporters that the main complaint he hears from children on site is that the tents sometimes get too cold.
Reporters were not allowed to enter any tents holding children. Two girls who stopped briefly in front of reporters said that they were doing well.