Trump steps up war on people of South America

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South Americans marching through Mexico to the US

MILES of barbed wire has been installed by US troops on the US/Mexico Border, while over the weekend camps opened to hold thousands of families crossing the border from Mexico.

US President Trump has stepped up his war against the people of South America, attempting to make the US like a fortress.

This is while the amount of unaccompanied children crossing the border to the US, has soared.

The Pentagon announced that a total of 180 miles of wire has been laid along the border since October 2018, including 46 miles in California, 64 miles in Arizona, and 70 miles in Texas.

Last month over 3,000 additional active duty troops were deployed to the southern US border to bolster security, joining the 2,300 troops already there.

Officials said that laying the wire was among the primary reasons why troops were deployed to the southern border in late 2018 and why extra troops were sent last month.

About 1,800 troops assigned to the border have now left, according to US Army North, which is in charge of the Army’s border operation.

Giant tent structures have been erected in Texas to ‘process’ families and unaccompanied children from Central America arriving at the US-Mexico border.

The facilities opened last Friday in El Paso, Texas, and in the state’s Rio Grande Valley next to the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge.

Across the southern border, more than 103,000 migrants were taken into custody in March – the biggest monthly total in more than a decade.

The Rio Grande Valley is the busiest sector. The Border Patrol reportedly seized more than 30,000 migrants in March in its Rio Grande Valley sector.

The white tent structures were built to detain migrants when they are apprehended at the border or turn themselves in to border officials.

Migrant families and unaccompanied children are supposed to be detained at the facilities for no longer than 72 hours.

But immigration advocates worry migrants won’t have access to legal services and medical care and that they will be detained indefinitely.

The media gathered inside the 40,000-square-foot facility in Donna, Texas, for a press briefing and tour last Thursday evening on the eve of the opening.

The structures are part of a $36.9 million contract awarded to Deployed Resources LLC, a New York private company chosen to construct them.

Border Patrol Executive Officer Carmen Qualia led press into one of four ‘detention pods’ – each about 8,000 square feet.

The pod has high ceilings with tarplike walls and was nearly empty.

Stacks of thin-black-plastic mattresses are pushed against one wall. Qualia said the pods are also colour-coded.

At the intake centre, there were rows of black benches and border officials behind computers.

A public information officer also showed shower areas — 18 for women and 18 for men.

The facility is meant to hold 500 people but could ‘hold even more if necessary’.

When holding facilities were opened in 2016, pictures showed children being caged like animals.

Carlos Moctezuma Garcia, an immigration attorney in the Rio Grande Valley, said in 2016 migrants didn’t have access to legal representation at the holding facility, and he’s worried that the same thing will happen this time.

‘This is the first contact they’re having with law enforcement officials, and the information that they give here can later be used in whatever court proceeding that these people are going to have,’ Garcia said.

Garcia was also concerned about oversight and accountability issues that may arise and migrants’ access to medical care, which has historically been an issue at detention facilities.

An ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) report from 2014 found another tent structure in Texas, which was managed by a private prison company, had problems with bug infestations in the sleeping quarters, overcrowding, sewage overflows, extreme temperatures and spoiled food.

In the end, Garcia said he’d like to see border officials find alternatives to detention.

‘The majority of these people are presenting themselves to a border patrol official as soon as they see them. Why? Because they want help.

‘They’re not looking to evade. So that to me tells me they will continue showing up to immigration court,’ he said.

Meanwhile, the number of unaccompanied children turned over to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement last month reached 8,700.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the Department of the Health and Human Services, highlighted that last April, roughly 4,300 children were referred to the office’s care.

Earlier this year, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar notified Congress that the department planned to reallocate up to $385 million for the ‘unaccompanied alien children programme’.

The White House asked for additional funds to ‘increase shelter capacity to accommodate the high number of children’.

If current trends hold, referrals of unaccompanied children to the office could surpass the record 2016 figures, when 59,171 minors were referred for care.

Last year, during the same time period, 21,641 children were taken into Border Patrol custody.

The number of Central American women who make difficult, often harrowing, journeys to the United States to flee domestic and gang violence is rising.

Laurie C. Heffron of St. Edward’s University, a social science researcher and a social worker, interviewed hundreds of women after they were detained by immigration authorities.

She said: ‘Most female asylum seekers experience trauma, abuse and violence before they cross the US border seeking asylum.

‘What these women go through while detained by Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement can take an additional physical, social and emotional toll.

‘Most Central American asylum-seekers come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These three countries are among the most dangerous places in the world to be female, with some of the world’s highest murder rates, including for women and girls. There are few repercussions for the perpetrators.

‘As they make their way north, these women are often subjected to sexual violence or held hostage. They may also fall victim to human trafficking – which could entail being made to cook and clean for other migrants or forced into prostitution – on their journeys.

‘Many are held in immigration detention centres sometimes isolate detained women, either in response to perceived mental health issues or as punishment, leaving them unable to interact with one another, their own children or the volunteer lawyers who are trying to help them.

‘These practices echo and exacerbate survivors’ experiences with past abuse and violence. That is, detention settings may resemble control tactics used by abusers, traffickers or other perpetrators, compounding previous trauma.

‘A previously detained woman I’ll call Lourdes described what she experienced as dehumanising. “You feel like an animal, as if you aren’t worth anything,” she explained.

‘One problem is how these facilities are set up.

‘Sandra, another former detainee, spent more than a month in the Karnes County Residential Centre in Karnes City, Texas. Having heard it would be shelter for families, she and her daughter were surprised by the barbed wire and razor wire surrounding the facility. “At the entrance, there were nice glass doors that said, ‘Karnes Residential,’ but that was just a facade,” Sandra said. “It is a jail, a jail for families, families like mine that don’t have anyone in the United States, who come just to stay alive and because they want to see their children alive and well, for things to be better in the future”.’

In his latest attempt to attack Central American migrants, President Donald Trump has pushed sweeping new rules for asylum-seekers that would make it more difficult, and more expensive, for them to seek refuge in the US.

In a presidential memorandum signed last week, Trump gave the departments of Justice and Homeland Security 90 days to implement the changes.

The rules would, for the first time, require asylum-seekers to pay an application fee, deny work permits for asylum-seekers who enter the country illegally and require government officials to fast-track new asylum hearings to complete them within 180 days.

Critics say those changes would unfairly punish the most vulnerable people in the world, those who are fleeing violence, poverty, and food insecurity as Central America is gripped by a widespread, persistent drought.