UK family arrested in US for ‘inadvertently crossing border’


BY Matthew Weaver,The Guardian

The Foreign Office is helping a British family of seven who were arrested in the US and subject to the “scariest experience” of their lives at the hands of the immigration authorities after inadvertently crossing the border from Canada.

David and Eileen Connors and their three-month-old son were on a family road trip on 3 October near Vancouver with David’s cousin Michael, his wife Grace, and their two-year-old twin daughters.

All seven members of the London family were arrested when Michael, who was driving, took a detour to avoid an animal in the road and crossed into the US without realising it. They remain in detention awaiting deportation to the UK amid fears for the welfare of the three children involved.

Since the family were arrested they have been subjected to an ordeal that Eileen said would leave them “traumatised for the rest of our lives”. She made the comments in a statement that forms part of a legal complaint against the US Department of Homeland Security about their treatment.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said: “We are providing assistance to a British family after they were taken into custody in the US and are in close contact with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Eileen Connors’ statement was released by her lawyer, Bridget Cambria, from Aldea – the People Justice Center – an organisation that provides legal help to immigrant families to the US.

An email to the Guardian from an unnamed staff member at Aldea said the case exposed the poor treatment facing many migrant families in the US.

The email said: “While we are conscious of the extreme vulnerability of this child due to his young age, we would take this opportunity to highlight that there are approximately eight children under the age of five, half of them two years of age or under (including the British citizens), in a facility that is not licensed by the state to hold children.”

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) insisted that the Connors were being held in “a safe and humane environment for families”. In a statement to the Guardian it said it was “unequivocally false” to suggest that conditions were inhumane.

In her statement, published by the Philadephia Inquirer, Eileen said the US police ignored protestation of innocence and ignorance of crossing the border. After they were arrested, David and Michael were separated from their wives and children, it said. For the first night Eileen was held with her baby in a women’s cell with only foil blanket to keep warm, the statement claims.

Despite being told they would be released to a family member in the US, David, Eileen and their son were then taken to a detention centre in a journey she likened to “an abduction or kidnapping”. David was then held in the centre while she and the baby were put up in a hotel in Seattle. Eileen’s statement only describes her treatment and that of her husband and son.

But it is understood that all seven of the family were flown 2,400 miles from Seattle airport to Pennsylvania on 5 October and taken to the Berks county residential center, one of three places in the US used to hold migrant families. Campaigners, including Aldea, the organisation now representing Eileen, have labelled it a “baby jail” which they say is not fit to hold children.

In her statement Eileen complained about the cold and filthy conditions at the centre where she and her baby were given bedding that smelled “like a dead dog”. She said her baby boy’s eye became swollen and his skin blotchy while in the centre. She was also told she could be separated from her baby.

Her statement said: “We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights and lied to … We will be traumatised for the rest of our lives by what the US government has done to us.”


Trump moves to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants


Central American migrants turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol as they seek asylum after illegally crossing the Rio Grande near Penitas, Texas, on April 6, 2019. Photo by Loren Elliott/Reuters

Asylum-seeker tells House she came to U.S. seeking safety, but watched her daughter die//AIWA! NO!/BY COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Monday moved to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants in a major escalation of the president’s battle to tamp down the number of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

According to a new rule published in the Federal Register, asylum seekers who pass through another country first will be ineligible for asylum at the U.S. southern border. The rule, expected to go into effect on Tuesday, also applies to children who have crossed the border alone.

There are some exceptions: If someone has been trafficked, if the country the migrant passed through did not sign one of the major international treaties that govern how refugees are managed (though most Western countries have signed them) or if an asylum-seeker sought protection in a country but was denied, then a migrant could still apply for U.S. asylum.

But the move by President Donald Trump’s administration was meant to essentially end asylum protections as they now are on the southern border.

The policy is almost certain to face a legal challenge. U.S. law allows refugees to request asylum when they arrive at the U.S. regardless of how they did so, but there is an exception for those who have come through a country considered to be “safe.” But the Immigration and Nationality Act, which governs asylum law, is vague on how a country is determined “safe”; it says “pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement.”

Right now, the U.S. has such an agreement, known as a “safe third country,” only with Canada. Under a recent agreement with Mexico, Central American countries were considering a regional compact on the issue, but nothing has been decided. Guatemalan officials were expected in Washington on Monday, but apparently a meeting between Trump and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales was canceled amid a court challenge in Guatemala over whether the country could agree to a safe third with the U.S.

WATCH: Asylum-seeker tells House she came to U.S. seeking safety, but watched her daughter die

The new rule also will apply to the initial asylum screening, known as a “credible fear” interview, at which migrants must prove they have credible fears of returning to their home country. It applies to migrants who are arriving to the U.S., not those who are already in the country.

Trump administration officials say the changes are meant to close the gap between the initial asylum screening that most people pass and the final decision on asylum that most people do not win. But immigrant rights groups, religious leaders and humanitarian groups have said the Republican administration’s policies amount to a cruel and calloused effort to keep immigrants out of the country. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are poor countries suffering from violence.

Along with the administration’s recent effort to send asylum seekers back over the border, Trump has tried to deny asylum to anyone crossing the border illegally and restrict who can claim asylum, and Attorney General William Barr recently tried to keep thousands of asylum seekers detained while their cases play out.

Nearly all of those efforts have been blocked by courts.

Meanwhile, conditions have worsened for migrants who make it over the border seeking better lives. Tens of thousands of Central American migrant families cross the border each month, many claiming asylum. The numbers have increased despite Trump’s derisive rhetoric and hard-line immigration policies. Border facilities have been dangerously cramped and crowded well beyond capacity. The Department of Homeland Security’s watchdog found fetid, filthy conditions for many children. And lawmakers who traveled there recently decried conditions .

Immigration courts are backlogged by more than 800,000 cases, meaning many people won’t have their asylum claims heard for years despite move judges being hired.

People are generally eligible for asylum in the U.S. if they feared return to their home country because they would be persecuted based on race, religion, nationality or membership in a particular social group.

During the budget year for 2009, there were 35,811 asylum claims, and 8,384 were granted. During 2018 budget year, there were 162,060 claims filed, and 13,168 were granted.

Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.

By Colleen Long, Associated Press


US Senate defeats measure to restrain Trump powers on military attack on Iran


Senate vote to curb Trump on Iran war fails//CRIMSON TAZVINZWA//


An amendment to restrain U.S. President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war on Iran failed to clear the Senate Friday.

Under the measure Trump would have still been allowed to attack Iran in self-defense, but Republicans mounted sufficient opposition to it, saying it is unnecessary and could undermine efforts to check Iran.

The amendment needed 60 votes to clear the Senate, but over 40 senators voted in opposition in the 100-member chamber effectively scuttling it even though voting remains open.

It was to be added to the annual military spending bill, which cleared the Senate Thursday, if it had gained enough support.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed the amendment to be tacked on retroactively — a rarity in the federal legislature — but voiced stern opposition to it.

“This amendment would be a radical departure from constitutional traditions and norms. It would weaken American deterrence and diplomacy at a time of heightened tensions caused by Iran’s aggression in the Middle East. The Senate must defeat it,” he said.

Trump and Iran’s top officials have exchange bellicose rhetoric over the past couple of weeks as tensions have ratcheted higher.

The president on Tuesday starkly warned Iran that should it attack American targets the U.S. response would be overwhelming including the obliteration of at least some sites that would be hit in response.

Senator Tim Kaine, who along with Senator Tom Udall sponsored the amendment, urged Congress to support the measure before it was defeated saying lawmakers “should have the guts and the backbone to go on the record on any war before we order our troops into harm’s way.”


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Trump says he will have to call up more military at U.S.-Mexico border


U.S. President Donald Trump talks about the U.S.-Mexico border during fundraising roundtable with campaign donors in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Presidential candidate Castro calls for decriminalizing border crossings

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would have to mobilise more of the military at the U.S. border with Mexico after listening to stories from people attending a Republican fundraiser about migrants crossing the border.

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro on Tuesday called for the U.S. to end criminalizing illegal border crossings under an immigration plan that marks the first policy rollout of his 2020 campaign.
The former San Antonio mayor unveiled his proposals at a time when President Donald Trump is threatening to shut down the southern border with Mexico. Castro, who is still searching for a toehold in a crowded Democratic field, is also now going further on immigration than his 2020 rivals who have all widely condemned Trump’s border crackdowns and rhetoric.
“The truth is, immigrants seeking refuge in our country aren’t a threat to national security. Migration shouldn’t be a criminal justice issue,” Castro wrote in a blog post laying out his plan … PBS News

“I’m going to have to call up more military,” Trump said.

The president said some of the people crossing the border were ending up dead from the journey on Americans’ ranches.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Jonathan Oatis