The U.S. Still Can’t Say How Many Families It Separated

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Almost two years ago, Representative Zoe Lofgren of California appeared at a community meeting to address what she called the “egregious situation” at the U.S. border with Mexico. Lofgren, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration and citizenship, said the U.S. government was taking toddlers from migrant parents and sending them “who knows where.”

Last week a government report confirmed that, in a startling number of cases, not even the government knows where.

“The decision to move forward and intentionally harm children and parents through family separation amounts to criminal action, and at the very least criminal negligence,” Michelle Brane, an expert on migrants’ rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, said over email.

Forced refugee returns to Libya must end

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Last weekend, the Libyan coast guard captured more than 400 refugees and migrants fleeing on boats across the Mediterranean to Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration, most were forced back into detention centers. The Libyan coast guard has intercepted and returned more than 2,500 people since January and around 40,000 since 2017; many—if not most—were forcibly detained. This cannot continue to happen.

One year ago, the Women’s Refugee Commission published a report highlighting the severe sexual violence inflicted on refugees and migrants in Libya, particularly in detention centers and unofficial places of captivity. We met with refugees, including survivors, and frontline service providers and heard from them directly about the atrocities being perpetrated against refugees and migrants in Libya.

tags: SGBV

Responding to the coronavirus crisis while protecting asylum seekers

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Amnesty International USA, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières USA, Human Rights First, Physicians for Human Rights, Refugees International, and Women’s Refugee Commission call on the Trump Administration to cease its reported plan to shut the border to people seeking asylum in the United States.

Immigration grinds to a halt as President Trump shuts borders

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President Trump plans to seal off the U.S-Mexico border to migrants under a law intended to protect the country from communicable disease — a move that comes as the U.S. immigration system grinds to a halt in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.

"President Trump has been falsely scapegoating immigrant communities in the name of public safety since he came into office," said Michelle Brané at the Women's Refugee Commission.

This article was featured on more than 40 news radio stations, including Hawaii Public Radio, Texas Public Radio, and Spokane Public Radio.

Utilizing cash and voucher assistance within gender-based violence case management to support crisis-affected populations in Ecuador, Leaning Brief - December 2019

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Gender-based violence (GBV) is rampant --- globally, one in three women experience sexual and physical violence and abuse. It is pervasive in humanitarian settings before, during, and after crises. GBV is underreported by survivors and individuals at risk, due, among other factors, to stigma, fear of reprisal, and inadequate support services.

British ballet shines spotlight on refugee women

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A new dance show follows the fate of two sisters as they flee a fictional troubled homeland, evading danger to navigate camps and city streets.

"Art and advocacy combined is a powerful tool that can help elevate the voices of marginalized populations," said Sarah Costa, executive director of the Women's Refugee Commission, which advocates for the rights of displaced women.

This article was also featured in The World Economic Forum, the DailyHunt English, The Jakarta Post, The Daily Mail, and Yahoo! News.

Nine Migrant Parents Reunited With Their Children In US After Separation - Advocacy Group

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Nine migrant parents have returned to the United States to be reunited with their children and continue efforts to seek asylum in the country, advocacy group Women's Refugee Commission said in a press release on Thursday.

Weekend Round-Up: Metropolis Style

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Let's talk shows! Take a look at our top picks for the weekend below, let us know what we missed in the comments, and have yourselves a lovely weekend.

Saturday: * The Lantern Tour II feat. Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle & more at War Memorial Auditorium

Asylum-Seekers Keep Getting Sent Back To Mexico Without Their Children Based On Unreliable Information

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As Border Patrol agents started separating Miguel from his then-12-year-old son, the indigenous Guatemalan man begged that they instead be kept together.

“That’s not an option,” Miguel said an agent told him. “Your son can’t go where we’re taking you. We’re taking him to a safe place.”

It’s unknown how many parents sent back through the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy have also been separated from their children or if immigration authorities are tracking those cases. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) declined to comment. But it’s clear that Miguel isn’t the only one.

A complaint filed by the Women’s Refugee Commission in August with two DHS watchdog agencies detailed 20 cases where families were separated by CBP at the border and at least some members were sent back to Mexico under MPP.

The abandoned asylum seekers on the US-Mexico border

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Mere feet from the US-Mexico border, thousands of asylum seekers have been forced to live in squalid conditions in some of the most dangerous parts of Mexico. They are under threat from drug cartels and dependent on American volunteers for even the most basic necessities.

“Several thousand families are living in the most deplorable, the most horrid conditions imaginable,” Ursela Ojeda, an attorney with the Women’s Refugee Commission, said.

In addition to Vox, this story also appeared in MSN News (US), MSN News UK, and MSN News Australia.

Blocked at the border: Young families, pregnant mothers struggle for asylum

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Like most others in the encampment that's just a stone’s throw away from U.S. soil, Melissa and her family had crossed the southern border to seek asylum, only to be returned to the Mexico side where they would have to wait.

The family found themselves caught at the center of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy — a Trump administration initiative that has forced tens of thousands of Central Americans to wait outside the U.S. for their chance to appear in immigration court.

Immigrant advocates, however, argue that there are safer alternatives to the policy that would give migrants more access to the legal services they need to make an effective claim.

One frequently cited example is the Obama administration's Family Case Management Program, for which more than 99% of families who participated showed up for their court hearings and appointments with ICE, according to data from the Women's Refugee Commission.

Report: US to send asylum seekers to Honduras, blocking them from making a claim in America

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A migration deal will allow immigration authorities to send asylum seekers to Honduras and prevent them from reapplying in the United States, according to documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The Department of Homeland Security announced the agreement in September, but the Times on Monday was the first to report that the deal would block seekers from applying in the U.S. if Honduras or another country rejects their asylum claims.

The U.S.-Honduras deal has also drawn criticism since it was announced in September. Michelle Brané, director of migrant rights and justice at the Women's Refugee Commission, said the deal endangers families and undermines human rights.

In addition to USA Today, this story was published in Yahoo! News, the Wisconsin State Farmer, the Argus Leader, the Naples Daily News, and the Visalia Times Delta

Early reports warned migrant kids suffered from separations. Trump ramped up practice anyway.

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Internal emails, documents illustrate a chaotic attempt last year to track traumatized migrant children seized from parents.

The materials were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted to Health and Human Services by the American Immigration Council, the National Immigrant Justice Center, Kids in Need of Defense, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. All have experience providing legal services for migrant children.

The Trump administration knew migrant children would suffer from family separations. The government ramped up the practice anyway.

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Newly obtained government documents show how the Trump administration’s now-blocked policy to separate all migrant children from parents led social workers to frantically begin tracking thousands of children seized at the southern border and compile reports on cases of trauma.

Internal documents show Health and Human Services staff members were unprepared for the unprecedented number of suffering young children transferred to their custody.

Materials were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted to Health and Human Services by the American Immigration Council, the National Immigrant Justice Center, Kids in Need of Defense, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. All have experience providing legal services for migrant children.

REUNITED AT LAST: Father and son, separated at border, now together in Providence

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PROVIDENCE — The air was dry and heavy with heat in El Paso, Texas, on May 26, 2018, as U.S. Border Patrol agents lined up Nery Ernesto Ortega Lima, 44, and other men who had been apprehended crossing the southern border.

His son, Nery Osbeli Ortega Yanis, 15, and other children were placed before the adults.

Though the Trump administration said the Flores Agreement forced its hand in separating families, critics such as The Women’s Refugee Commission argue that families can be released together into the community while their immigration cases are pending.

Pregnant immigration detainees spiked 52 percent under Trump administration

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WASHINGTON - U.S. officials jailed approximately 2,100 pregnant women for immigration violations in 2018, including hundreds who were held for weeks or months, a 52 percent increase since President Trump took office, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday.

Lawyers for pregnant women say it is unfair to force women to remain in jail, fighting nausea and other pregnancy symptoms, while pleading their asylum cases. Some women have fled domestic violence in Central America and others were raped on their journeys through Mexico to the U.S. border.

The Women’s Refugee Commission and other advocacy groups filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General and the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office in 2017 citing inadequate medical care and reports of women who had suffered infections, stress and in some instances, miscarriages in detention.

A New Report on Family Separations Shows the Depths of Trump's Negligence

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Last week, on the afternoon before Thanksgiving, the D.H.S. Inspector General quietly issued another report with still more revelations. In early May, 2018, just as the zero-tolerance policy was taking effect, D.H.S. shared an estimate with the White House that more than twenty-six thousand migrant children would be separated from their families over the course of that summer.

“This report just shows that they did not even plan to reunify,” Michelle Brané, of the Women’s Refugee Commission, told me. “They do not see this population as human.”

Why We Will Never Know Exactly How Many Immigrant Families Were Separated

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Last year, the Trump administration ripped apart thousands of immigrant families despite knowing it did not have a tracking system in place that would ensure they could be reunited, according to a new report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services.

As a result, the public will likely never know how many immigrant children have been separated from their parents.

“It just confirms that the real policy and attitude of dehumanization of this population,” said Michelle Brané, the director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission.

Mexico Government Must Ensure the Safety and Well-Being of Asylum Seekers Returned to Mexico under “Migrant Protection Protocols”

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The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), together with more than 160 organizations and individuals from the United States, Mexico, and elsewhere, including the Women's Refugee Commission, sent a letter to the Mexican government expressing profound concern for ITS failure to ensure the safety of asylum seekers returned to Mexico under the Trump administration’s so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP).

President Trump’s misleading spin on the border crisis

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Trump’s claim that the situation at the border is “much better” now than it was under Obama is misleading. Poor conditions at Border Patrol holding facilities have continued or worsened since 2014. More unaccompanied minors were detained in fiscal year 2019 than any other year on record, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“I believe this administration is intentionally creating an overcrowding and chaotic situation to deter people from coming in. What we’ve seen is that it doesn’t work,” said Michelle Brané, senior director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission.