Showing posts with label Immigration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Immigration. Show all posts

February 18, 2019

EXTRA-EXTRA Help wanted! The US Needs Immigrants

A farmer in Hull, Iowa. (Melina Mara/ The Washington Post)

By Art Cullen

 Art Cullen is the editor of the Storm Lake Times in Northwest Iowa. He also recently wrote the book “Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper.

President Trump argues that keeping immigrants and refugees out of our country is a matter of vital national security. He has made it his campaign thesis and shut down the government over it. Here in Storm Lake, Iowa, where the population is about 15,000 and unemployment is under 2 percent, Asians and Africans and Latinos are our lifeline. The only threat they pose to us is if they weren’t here.

That’s been the case for years all over rural Iowa and southern Minnesota, in the heart of the Corn Belt, where anyone who wants a job cutting hogs or laying block or working as an orderly can get one.

One part of the rural condition in American today is that, after college, our young people go to Des Moines or some city beyond for a job in finance or engineering that simply doesn’t exist in the old, county-seat towns of 5,000 people. “Everybody has to go someplace else,” Iowa State University regional trade economist Dave Swenson says of the youth exodus. “There isn’t a Plan B or Plan C.”

As rural counties are drained of young people with higher educations, immigrants flow into the vacuum. The influx began 40 years ago and continues today. First, Laotians from Thai refugee camps (they fought alongside us in Vietnam) came to Iowa in the 1980s. A land debt crisis later that decade blew up the family farm and foreclosed the future of so many young people and small businesses. The farm boys who once raised hogs by day and worked the night shift at the packing houses lit out for Texas and the oil rigs. Young Latino men, mainly from the Mexican state of Jalisco, came in to work the meatpackers’ kill floors. Now, the pigs are raised in huge confinement buildings, not family farms, and Latinos keep them clean.

So long as there is corn, there will be hogs and turkeys and eggs in Iowa. Somebody will have to do that work. Now, the Storm Lake Elementary School is 90 percent children of color, and about three-fourths of those are Hispanic — mainly from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. We could employ 500 more workers easily if we could find, and find housing for, them.

Without the newcomers we do have, Storm Lake would be half its current size. Next door, the population of Pocahontas County has been nearly halved since 1970; if the current trend continues, there will be nobody left to turn out the lights by 2050. We’re fortunate by comparison. Storm Lake grows its own welders, nurses and food processing machinists. A student who attends high school for five years can take vo-tech or college-prep classes through a unique, charter-school program involving the local high school, Iowa Central Community College and Buena Vista University. Those kids graduate with a training certificate or an Associate of Arts degree. Those students enter the workforce as teacher aides, machinists or certified nursing assistants. The pay is about $25 an hour.

The big agricultural processing companies will bid for low skills until there simply is no one left to bid for. The demand for meat cutters seems endless. Smaller towns run buses to Storm Lake to pick up immigrants for day work in those factories. They’ll pay you $18 an hour at Tyson to slice pork, plus a hefty signing bonus. The workforce is overwhelmingly immigrant, well over half Latino. Tyson insists they are all legal, yet we figure about a third of the immigrant community, in general, there might be without papers — who knows? If the meatpackers can’t find workers here, they will pick up shop and move somewhere else, like so many Iowa manufacturers before them.

In keenest demand here are health-care workers — orderlies, nursing assistants, and cafeteria workers to toil for about $12 to $15 an hour in one of Iowa’s largest industries: nursing homes. Iowa has more than 510,000 residents over the age of 65. The average age of an Iowa farmer is 63.

The need for workers has made it hard for those who can’t find them to stay in business. Masonry contractor Steve Tate has decided at age 63 to wind things down. “If I were 20 years younger, I’d stick my neck out,” said Tate. “But even when jobs are out there to bid now, I don’t know how I could bid them if I didn’t know I could get reliable help.”

Storm Lake’s crime rate last year reached a 27-year low. It is more diverse than ever. Some 30 languages or dialects are spoken here. But the community knows it will wither up and blow away without its young people. Like it or not, legal or not, our young people are predominantly Latino. If there is to be a wall, there will have to be a door for immigrants to find their way here as the better-educated leave for the brighter lights and greener urban pastures.

January 24, 2019

Thousands of Migrant Children Were Released Before Their Families Were Identified

Image result for migrant children lost
A new report reveals many more children were released before official counts. Mario Tama/Getty Images. Are you a decent person, an American? How can you not do something?

A new report says “thousands” of migrant children were released before officials started identifying separated families.
A new report from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services finds that an unknown number of children — possibly “thousands” — were separated from parents at the US-Mexico border before June 2018 but hadn’t been included in official government tallies of separated families.
The Trump administration’s practice of separating families who crossed into the US without papers (by prosecuting parents for illegal entry into the US and sending them into criminal custody, while children were reclassified as “unaccompanied” minors) became a nationwide scandal in the late spring of 2018, leading to a Trump administration executive order ending the policy and a federal court order requiring the administration to reunite the separated parents and children in its care.  
But separated children who had already been released from the government’s custody — usually by being placed with a sponsor — weren’t identified and reunited as part of that lawsuit. In the new report, HHS is admitting that there could be thousands of such children and that they’ll never have any way of knowing how many for sure.
The new report doesn’t — and can’t — identify where separated children released from custody were placed. But despite fears (among politicians and the public) of widespread “loss” or trafficking of immigrant children, the available evidence suggests most separated children (like children who arrive unaccompanied) were placed with close relatives in the US.
But the point of the report is the government’s admission that it will never be able to know for sure how many children were separated and exactly what happened to them. Even the estimate of “thousands” is offered without much explanation, as an estimate of officials at the Office of Refugee Resettlement and HHS’ office for preparedness and response.
Because of the federal government’s failure to keep records about which children in its care had been separated from their parents, the public will never know the full scope of the Trump administration’s use of family separation against border crossers in Trump’s first year and a half in office. 
The federal government has never offered an official tally of how many families have been separated by immigration authorities. It couldn’t produce one if it tried.
When families are separated at the border, the children are classified as “unaccompanied alien children” (the label put on children who come to the US without a parent or guardian) and sent into the custody of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for placing them with a sponsor.
Until summer 2018, there was no official way to record the difference between a child who’d come without a parent and a child who’d been separated from one in the files that were sent from DHS to HHS.
HHS’s job isn’t to hold children until a parent can be identified, but to place them with a suitable sponsor — a parent, another relative, family friend, or (if needed) unrelated adult — as soon as safely possible. And if a child turns 18, or decides to return to their home country, they’re no longer HHS’s responsibility.
Family separation was an occasional practice going back as far as late 2016, but it ramped up hugely as the Trump administration instituted a “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting as many adults as possible for illegal entry into the US, and separating parents from their children to be sent into criminal custody.
A Customs and Border Protection official told Reuters in June 2018 that from October 2016 to February 2018, 1,800 families were separated by DHS. Of those families, 281 were separated as part of a “pilot program” along the El Paso sector of the border from June to November 2017.
According to the new inspector general report, the staff at HHS started noticing in summer 2017 that more of the children being sent to them by DHS seemed to have been separated from parents. (Informal HHS tracking, according to this report, showed that in late 2016, only 0.3 percent of children sent from DHS appeared to have been separated from their parents; by August 2017, 3.6 percent were identified as possibly separated from family.)
In the spring of 2018, that pilot was expanded across the US-Mexico border, and separations rapidly spiked. From October 2017 to April 20, 2018, an HHS official told the New York Times, about 3.46 families were separated a day; over 12 days in May of 2018, DHS told Congress, that rate spiked to 42.8 separations a day.
On June 26, 2018, Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the federal government not only to stop separating families (something the Trump administration had promised to do as a matter, of course, the week before) but to reunify them. To do that, it had to identify the number of separated children who were in the government’s care at that time. That number — about 2,737 as of December — is what’s typically taken as the number of separated families.
But Sabraw’s order only applied to children who were in HHS custody on June 26. It didn’t apply to children who had already been released.
The inspector general’s report is estimating that that is what happened to “thousands” of children: They were separated from their parents when they entered the US, but by the time HHS started identifying separated children, they were no longer under HHS’s care.
Generally, children are released to close relatives, but we don’t know how many of the separated children were released to nonrelatives
HHS has strict rules about who it’s supposed to allow to sponsor an immigrant child. The first priority is a parent or legal guardian; the second priority is a close relative; the third priority is a distant relative or family friend, and only failing that, an unrelated adult.
In general, this means that the overwhelming majority of children whom HHS places with sponsors are sent to parents or close relatives. (A 2016 government report found that about 60 percent of immigrant children who came unaccompanied from Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador were placed with a parent living in the US.) There have been some high-profile cases of insufficient vetting of would-be sponsors, but the Trump administration has reacted to that by substantially tightening vetting, to the point of keeping kids in custody a lot longer than they were under the Obama administration.
Because HHS doesn’t actually know how many of the children it released from custody before June 26, 2018, were separated from parents at the border, it’s impossible to go back through those records and find out where the separated children went.
But by that same token, there’s no indication that HHS had different standards for the placement of separated children. So it’s reasonable to believe that most children were placed with relatives or family friends in the US (possibly even with parents who had been released from detention, or a parent already living here).
Overall, from the fiscal year 2017 to the first eight months of the fiscal year 2018, the share of kids placed with parents dropped from 49 percent to 41 percent, but the share placed with other close relatives rose from 41 percent to 47 percent. In other words, in both years, parents and close relatives made up about 90 percent of sponsors.
But it is possible that a disproportionate number of separated children were placed with unrelated sponsors as foster children — or released because they chose to be returned to their home country (perhaps to reunite with their parents). We don’t know. We’ll never know.

January 18, 2019

Born in Grand Rapids, Vet From Fighting in Afghanistan But The Sheriff Turned Him in To ICE for Deportation



 Jilmar Ramos-Gomez

As an American Citizen I am ashame when I see these injustices for people that love this county. While drugs and trains of paying illegal immigrants cross underneath electrical lit tunnels and are dropped off at their destination indifferent about walls at the border. Meanwhile an ageing baby president insist in keeping the government shut as you read this. This is what some people elected for the rest of us. They call it democracy, I call it racism and the wish to go back to what things were before the the 1960's. Everything in it's place. Brown with brown, white bathroom for white only. Black, gays and other that don't fit the mold burning and lynching will keep them from demanding what is for white's only.
But if you live long enough you know that nothing last forever and when the pendulum reverses everything that went on on the last swing will no loner be.Pleasse read this story and see what is happening in our country. How long can we let it go on?

When Maria Gomez showed up late one December afternoon at a Grand Rapids, Michigan, jail to pick up her son, an American-born Marine who served in Afghanistan, the deputies told her something that, frankly, made no sense.

“Your son was just sent with immigration,” she recalls the deputies telling her. “He is in their hands.”

It must be a mistake, she told them. “My son doesn’t have anything to do with immigration. He is a US citizen,” she said. “They said ‘we don’t know anything about that. He’s in their hands now.’ It almost gave me a heart attack.” 

When she returned to the jail’s parking lot, she saw him enter a white van and be driven away.

Her son, Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, had served in Afghanistan as a lance corporal from 2011 to 2014 and returned to the United States suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He’s had episodes where he’ll disappear for days, and no one in his family will know where he’s gone.

It happened again Nov. 21, when Ramos-Gomez was arrested on suspicion of attempting to start a fire in a stairwell at a Grand Rapids hospital and trying to reach the facility’s helipad, according to his attorneys and local law enforcement. Ramos-Gomez, 27, pleaded guilty to a trespassing charge and was ordered released on Dec. 14 on his own recognizance to await sentencing, his attorneys said.

Instead, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office held him for more than an hour so he could be picked up by another county that transports and detains individuals for ICE.

Chuck DeWitt, undersheriff for the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, said that his officers had followed procedures and that everything about the case appeared routine. He regrets what happened to Ramos-Gomez but says that it was ICE, not the sheriff’s department, that made the ultimate decision to identify him as a target.

“It sounds very harsh but there isn’t anything we could’ve done differently in this situation that could have prevented that,” he said. “It is regretful but under these circumstances, I don’t know where we would have prevented that.” 

ICE put the blame squarely on Ramos-Gomez, saying that when ICE officers interviewed him in jail he claimed he was “a foreign national illegally present in the US.” Because of that, ICE asked the sheriff’s department to hold him after he was released from local custody, and the sheriff’s department complied.

The ACLU of Michigan, which has taken up Ramos-Gomez’s case and has called for an investigation into the detention, said ICE’s statement opened up many questions.

“This shows how flimsy the evidence is that ICE relies on to deport people from this country,” said Miriam Aukerman, a senior attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, who said the organization was investigating whether Ramos-Gomez had in fact told ICE he wasn’t a US citizen.

Ramos-Gomez had a US passport and identification that noted his veteran status, Aukerman said.

“It is appalling that a comment by a mentally ill individual is enough to get you deported. What kind of investigation is that?”

The ACLU attorney also wondered why ICE had interviewed him in jail.

“If his name is John Smith, ICE isn’t interviewing him,” she said.

Because Ramos-Gomez had been transferred to ICE on a Friday, his family was unable to secure his release until the following Monday, when his lawyer called ICE officials.

“I don’t have words to say this because I feel like they don’t care,” Gomez told BuzzFeed News. “They don’t care that my son served this country.” 

Aukerman said the incident reflected a larger problem with immigration enforcement.

“This is what immigration enforcement has come to in this country. It is so indiscriminate that we take people who served our country and try to deport them,” Aukerman said. “This is a tragedy. He risked his life and mental health for our country, came back and did not get the services he needs, and now ICE is trying to deport him. It is outrageous and appalling.”

“His immigration attorney said to ICE: Here is his military record, birth certificate, and ICE was like: ‘Oops, we got a US citizen,’” she added. ICE officials said that once they received the information they authorized his release, and no further action will be taken.

The case highlights what advocates believe is the problem with cooperation between some sheriff’s departments and ICE. When a person is arrested, fingerprints are compared with prints in federal databases that alert immigration authorities if the person is wanted. It’s at this point that ICE officials will often request a “detainer” to hold the individual until their officers can show up and take them into custody.

While in some areas, “sanctuary” policies limit cooperation between local authorities and ICE, that’s not the case in Kent County. The sheriff’s department has an agreement with ICE to hold individuals for up to three days and to be reimbursed for the extra detention.

The Michigan jail also allows ICE access within the facility to interview inmates, like Ramos-Gomez, whenever they’d like. In sanctuary areas, like California, inmates must sign forms consenting to an interview with ICE officials and are told that an attorney can be present with them. 

DeWitt said that his office has asked ICE to review its policies so that a similar situation doesn’t happen.

DeWitt said he still supports cooperation between federal and local law enforcement, saying such cooperation is necessary to protect residents. But advocates see it differently, saying such cooperation actually chills trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities.

For her part, Ramos-Gomez’s mother, who came to the country from Guatemala, said that she will not trust law enforcement any longer.

The case is indicative of the problems that can come up when such interactions are rampant, Aukerman said.

“It’s terrible but it is the predictable consequence of this blind willingness to hand people over to ICE without looking,” she said, noting that ICE utilizes “administrative” warrants and not warrants signed by judges to request and hold individuals. “If ICE says ‘please, hand him over’ that is not enough. That is not what we should be doing.”

ICE has detained American citizens in the past, including a Queens man whose case was detailed by BuzzFeed News. Late last year, an American-born man sued ICE for detaining him.

“There’s sometimes complex questions about citizenship, but in this case it is 100% obvious. He was born in a US hospital,” Aukerman said. “It reflects an incredibly sloppy approach by ICE.”

The ACLU sent a letter Wednesday to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and the county Board of Commission demanding an investigation. DeWitt said that a US passport was not listed as one of Ramos-Gomez’s possessions but that often items are not marked by deputies. 

The county’s agreement with ICE is up in September, and Ramos-Gomez’s case will be a factor in the decision-making on whether to continue with it or not, DeWitt said.

Meanwhile, Ramos-Gomez’s family is just happy he’s home and not in ICE custody or deported to Guatemala, where his family had initially come from. His mother said she couldn’t sleep the weekend he was in ICE custody.

But when he was released Dec. 17, she waited for him in the detention center parking lot. When he walked out of custody, they immediately hugged.

“I can’t believe they did this to you, son,” she told him. “I’m sorry.”

“I know,” he told her. “They didn’t believe me.”

October 5, 2018

Judge Stops Trump from Removing Thousands of Immigrants, Who Have Lived and Worked in The US


A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Trump administration to temporarily halt its plan to end a special federal immigration program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of immigrants to legally live and work in the U.S. for decades.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ruled that the administration may have side-stepped federal rule-making guidelines, imposed undue political pressure on staffers, and violated the Equal Protection Clause by basing its decision "on animus against non-white, non-European immigrants."
The ruling is the latest blow against President Donald Trump's efforts to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, following court orders limiting his travel ban targeting majority Muslim countries, his attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and his policy of separating migrant families along the southwest border.
The preliminary injunction ordered by Chen prevents the deportation of an estimated 240,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan, who were facing a series of deadlines starting in November to depart the country or risk becoming undocumented immigrants. These immigrants had been granted permission to be in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status program, better known as TPS. The humanitarian program was created in 1990 to help immigrants from countries that suffered war or major natural disasters.
The Department of Homeland Security, which manages TPS, has argued that the program has been wrongly extended for years and that conditions in those four countries are now suitable for thousands of their residents to return home. 
But the Northern California federal judge disagreed with the administration and sided — at least for now — with the plaintiffs. He set a hearing for Oct. 26.
In reaching his decision, Chen, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, ruled that there is no immediate harm to the federal government if its decision to end TPS is temporarily halted. But he wrote that there would be enduring, longstanding harm to TPS holders, and the communities in which they live, if they’re forced to leave the country.
Chen cited a brief filed by 17 states that estimated they would lose $132 billion in the gross domestic product, $5.2 billion in Social Security and Medicare contributions, and $733 million in employee turnover costs if TPS recipients are sent home. 
As for the TPS holders themselves, Chen focused on the thousands of U.S.-born children they've had since living in the U.S. 
TPS holders are “faced with a Hobson’s choice of bringing their children with them (and tearing them away from the only country and community they have known) or splitting their families apart,” the judge wrote.
Edwin Murillo, 42, and his wife, Miley Rivas, 40, who are originally from El Salvador and have two U.S.-born children, faced that very difficult decision. They were undecided about what do but were pretty much opposed to returning to El Salvador, a country they say remains plagued by poverty and violence.
“I prefer hiding from la migra (immigration authorities) than running from the crime in my country,” said Murillo when reached by telephone at the family’s home in Dallas, Texas. He and his wife each have TPS and have lived in the U.S. for 20 years.
Murillo and his wife took part in a caravan that is traveling across the U.S. for 12 weeks to drum up support for TPS holders. They say their goal is not to further extend TPS, but to convince Congress to pass legislation that would allow TPS holders to legalize their status permanently.  
Chen focused much of his 43-page decision on the way that the Trump administration reached its decision. He wrote that former Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke did not appear to have reached her decision to end TPS based on the facts before her, but was “largely carrying out or conforming with a predetermined presidential agenda to end TPS.”
Chen said that agenda may have been tainted by racial bias. The judge listed off multiple comments and actions by Trump, during his presidential campaign and after moving into the White House, as indications that the TPS termination had a racial component behind it. 
The judge listed:
- Trump’s comments during his June 2015 speech announcing his candidacy when he characterized Mexicans as drug dealers, criminals, and rapists.
- His December 2015 call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
- A report in the Washington Post in January 2018 that President Trump referred to El Salvador, Haiti, and African nations as "shithole countries."
- A February 2018 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference where Trump “used MS-13…to disparage immigrants, indicating that they are criminals and comparing them to snakes.”
“The issues are at least serious enough to preserve the status quo,” he wrote.
The Justice Department said Chen's decision "usurps the role of the executive branch" and vowed to fight his ruling in court.
"The Court contends that the duly elected President of the United States cannot be involved in matters deciding the safety and security of our nation's citizens or in the enforcement of our immigration laws," Justice spokesman Devin O'Malley said in a statement Wednesday night. "The Justice Department completely rejects the notion that the White House or the Department of Homeland Security did anything improper."
The suit against DHS was filed last March by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and other immigrant advocates.
“Despite the administration’s efforts to twist the existing TPS statute, this preliminary injunction preserves its long-existing intent and avoids the deportation of more than three hundred thousand individuals to countries unfit to accommodate them and, equally importantly, prevents the separation of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizen children from their parents,” the plaintiffs said in a statement to USA Today.
“Judge Chen’s decision reaffirms the importance of our judicial system and the checks and balances in place to hold our government accountable,” they said.
The ruling does not affect the termination of TPS for two other countries: Nepal and Honduras. But attorneys are sure to press other courts to follow suit and temporarily suspend those decisions.
Contributing: Daniel Gonzalez of the Arizona Republic

September 7, 2018

Trump Wants Rule to Detain Longer The Migrant Children

As America watches while this is happening it makes them and us complicit

The Trump administration is proposing to lift court-imposed limits on how long it can hold children in immigration detention.
Under proposed regulations set to be published in the Federal Register on Friday, the administration seeks to replace the Flores settlement, a decades-old agreement that dictates how long the government can hold migrant children, and under what conditions.
The administration wants to detain migrant families together for as long as their immigration cases are pending. The proposed regulations will satisfy the "basic purpose" of Flores, the administration argues, by making sure that children are treated with "dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors."
"Today, legal loopholes significantly hinder the Department's ability to appropriately detain and promptly remove family units that have no legal basis to remain in the country," said Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement.  
The proposed changes are expected to face legal challenges. Federal Judge Dolly Gee, who oversees the Flores settlement, recently rejected a separate attempt by the administration to detain children in jail-like settings for more than 20 days. 
Under the Flores settlement, decided in 1997 and modified in 2015, immigrant minors can't be held in jail-like settings and can't be held for longer than 20 days. The Justice Department had asked the federal court for permission "to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings." 
But Gee rejected that request. "It is apparent that Defendants' Application is a cynical attempt," she wrote, "to shift responsibility to the Judiciary for over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered Executive action that have led to the current stalemate."
The move comes just months after the Trump administration attempted to discourage illegal immigration by separating migrant families at the border, but then backed down because of the resulting uproar. As of last week, nearly 500 children were still in government-run shelters without their parents.

August 28, 2018

"Me Quiero Morir" 5 Yr Old Whose Father Was Taken Off Him, just Wants to Die

Adonias refuses to speak to his grandfather, who is calling from Guatemala. 
"No gracias," he tells his father. MUST CREDIT: photo for The Washington Post by Charlotte Kesl.

MOULTRIE, Ga. - The boy stood at the window with clenched fists, watching a heavy rain fall on the overgrown yard outside. Three months earlier, the 5-year-old and his father had fled death threats in Guatemala, seeking asylum in the United States. Instead, Border Patrol agents had sent his dad to an immigration jail and Adonias to a children's shelter in Chicago.
Now, six days after their July 24 reunion, his father was sitting across the room from him in the shabby, shotgun house they shared with four relatives, asking Adonias what had happened in the 10 weeks they were apart.
He knew there were allegations that Adonias had been injected with something that made him sleepy when he misbehaved - accusations state and federal authorities are investigating but could be difficult to definitively resolve.
The shelter, which conducted its own investigation, adamantly denies any wrongdoing, and the boy's medical records - provided by his attorney with his parents' permission - show no injections of anything except vaccines. But an independent psychological evaluation before his release from Casa Guadalupe found he was "exhibiting signs of trauma, particularly when triggered by [a toy] syringe."
Amid the controversy, the records offer a stark portrait of one child's painful odyssey through the family separation process.
Adonias' case has become emblematic of concerns about the treatment of thousands of migrant children, especially those taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration's short-lived family separation policy.
In recent weeks, there have been charges of sexual abuse of a 6-year-old and a 14-year-old at two Arizona shelters, and a federal judge ordered a Texas shelter for troubled kids to stop giving them psychotropic medication without a court order or parental consent.
Had Adonias been drugged, wondered his father, a 30-year-old bricklayer who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal should he or his son be deported.
But the 43-pound boy with the biblical name and shelter-issued buzz cut didn't want to talk about his time at Casa Guadalupe.
As he stared outside, tears welled in his long, dark eyelashes.
Suddenly, he raised a small fist and punched the glass hard.
"Adonias, no," his father said.
But the boy struck the glass again.
"Adonias, no."
Punch. Punch. Punch.
"I'm still too sad," the boy said between sobs. "I want to be alone."
- - -
Adonias screamed and flailed his fists at Border Patrol agents, his father recalled, when they were separated inside an Arizona holding facility.
By nightfall, when Adonias arrived at Casa Guadalupe, the boy and his father were 2,000 miles apart.
The Chicago shelter is one of more than 100 facilities across the country with federal contracts to take care of migrant children. Many, like Casa Guadalupe, were founded years ago to house thousands of unaccompanied minors who come to the border by themselves each year until they can be reunited with relatives. But under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, these shelters suddenly swelled with more than 2,500 children stripped from their parents.
Some of these shelters, which are privately run but overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement, have long been plagued by accusations of physical and sexual abuse.
HHS said it has a "zero-tolerance policy" for all forms of abuse at its shelters. "Our focus is always on the safety and best interest of each child," the agency said in a statement. "Any allegation of abuse or neglect is taken seriously, investigated by ORR, and appropriate action is taken."
But the controversy over family separations has highlighted new allegations, including complaints about the drugs prescribed to children held in the shelters.
On April 16, days after the introduction of "zero tolerance," a coalition of civil rights organizations and legal clinics asked a federal judge to take action against Shiloh Treatment Center, claiming the shelter near Houston routinely gave immigrant children "chemical straight-jackets" of psychotropic pills and sedative injections to control their behavior.
After more than a dozen children at Shiloh said they were given drugs that made them sleepy, dizzy and nauseous, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee last week ordered ORR to obtain parental consent or a court order before prescribing psychotropics except in cases of dire emergencies.
"While we try to contact parents or guardians about treatment procedures, by definition [these children are] in the custody of ORR, and ORR has the legal authority to make medical decisions," an HHS spokeswoman said.
Neha Desai, director of immigration for the National Center for Youth Law, one of the organizations involved in the case, said she has since learned of children in Central America now experiencing withdrawal symptoms from psychotropic drugs apparently given not only at Shiloh but also at other shelters. The kids were deported, Desai said, with no "warning about how to wean or how to transition to other medical care."
- - -
In Adonias' case, records provided by his attorney with permission from his parents offer a rare glimpse of the medical care provided in ORR shelters.
He arrived at Casa Guadalupe on a Monday night in late May: alone, afraid and confused.
"Father in ICE custody," says an initial intake form. "Minor has no contact numbers."
"Participant reported he does not feel safe without his parents," reads his safety assessment.
"Minor reported that he need[s] to be reunified with his father," says a case summary.
At the shelter, a cluster of houses in the suburbs of Chicago, Adonias was weighed and measured - he was 3 feet 7 inches - and quizzed about his medical history. According to a health questionnaire, he told employees he had no allergies, was taking cold medicine - for a cough he'd picked up on the journey to the United States, his father said later - and had already received his vaccinations.
But when Adonias saw a shelter doctor two days later, she authorized him to be given Children's Benadryl "every six hours as needed for allergy symptoms." It's unclear from his medical records whether Adonias ever received the medication, which can make children sleepy.
The doctor, Lauren Selph, also signed off on a battery of vaccinations for Adonias. On May 24, three days after his arrival - and 12 days before the shelter got in touch with either of his parents - the 5-year-old was given eight vaccines, including a flu shot, records show. A month later, he got five more vaccines.
A spokeswoman for Heartland Alliance, the nonprofit organization that runs Casa Guadalupe and eight other shelters in the Chicago area, said "in the absence of medical records, ORR mandates that we administer all vaccinations required for the age of the child. According to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] there is no medical harm for a child to receive a vaccination twice."
At one point, Adonias was taken to the emergency room because of an ear infection, for which he was given ear drops and amoxicillin syrup, according to the medical records. He was also given a chest X-ray because of his cough, but it came back healthy.
Mixed into his medical records are glimpses of the boy's grief and anger.
"The minor reported that he has felt sad at times while in the program, due to the adjustment and missing his father and mother," one form says. Several incident reports describe him getting into fights with other boys, then bawling in his room.
"You are not my mother, this is not my home," he said in Spanish to a female shelter employee after one meltdown, according to one report. In the classes he shared with other kids - many of them also separated from their parents - he became disruptive, according to the records.
But nothing in the file explains what two older Brazilian boys told The Washington Post and the New York Times they saw happen to Adonias at Casa Guadalupe.
"Almost every day, someone we called 'the doctor' would come into class after Adonias started misbehaving or did not calm down and the doctor would inject him with a shot that made him calm down right away and fall asleep," Diego Magalhaes, 10, said in an affidavit provided to state investigators.
Diego also told The Post he had broken his arm at the shelter but was not seen by a doctor and instead of an X-ray, was given a temporary cast. An X-ray taken after his release did not show a break, but did show inflammation at the site of the injury, according to Diego's attorney, Jesse Bless.
Heartland Alliance reported the allegations to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services shortly after being contacted by a reporter from The Post.
On July 31, the nonprofit group said an internal investigation that included interviews with staff and an extensive review of video footage in classrooms and common areas found no evidence to support the allegations of Diego breaking his arm or Adonias being drugged. Vaccines were administered by medical personnel in a separate building, and other staff did not have access to syringes, the organization said.
"We are confident that we have conducted a thorough investigation," said Heartland's president, Evelyn Diaz.
But Adonias' attorney, Amy Maldonado, said Heartland's response sounded like "a defense of the shelter and not an investigation."
"We have multiple child witnesses," she said, noting that Heartland had not interviewed any children and that the injections might not have been caught on camera.
Before the furor over Adonias, the most serious complaint against Casa Guadalupe occurred in 2015, when a 15-year-old boy received oral sex from an 11-year-old boy with a "history of trauma and abuse," according to state records. The older boy also tried to have anal sex with the younger boy.
In a statement, Heartland noted that its shelters have housed 15,000 children in the past five years, and that "reporting sensitive information about minor children without context, and then using that as if it defines our work is both shortsighted and wrong."
- - -
Adonias' mother in Guatemala learned of the drugging accusations from Maldonado. For weeks, she said, she had had trouble contacting her son at the shelter, but was suddenly given a lengthy video chat with him after the allegations surfaced.
But when she spoke to Adonias, the boy who had always been full of energy, racing friends through the woods in Guatemala like Mowgli, his favorite character from "The Jungle Book," seemed dopey and exhausted.
"Mami, they threw water in my face to wake me up to come talk to you," he said, according to his mother. When she asked why he was so tired in the early afternoon, she said he answered: "They gave me a vaccine, and it made me sleepy."
Then the boy began to nod off during the call.
As Maldonado tried to figure out what had happened to her client, she was also working to get him reunited with his father - who was still in Immigration and Customs Enforcement's custody - and released, all before a July 26 deadline set by a federal judge.
On July 19, she had Heartland take Adonias to an outside psychologist for an evaluation.
During the evaluation, Adonias used a toy snake to poison and kill other toy animals, including people. When he found a toy syringe, the psychologist wrote, Adonias "was observed to have a strong physiological reaction, as his eyes widened, appearing glazed over, and he rhythmically pressed the injection over and over, which made him . . . appear to dissociate."
Adonias "displayed themes of harm, being isolated and fearful and captured without an understanding of why he is with others but without his parents," the psychologist concluded. "He does display significant signs of being triggered by a syringe which is atypical for his age."
Maldonado said she also tried to get Adonias's blood drawn to check for traces of drugs. But before she could arrange it, the boy was released and put on a flight to Texas to be reunited with his father.
- - -
The storm that had rattled the thinly built house had passed, and now Adonias was racing barefoot through the puddles it had left behind. The 5-year-old giggled as he splashed his older cousin with water the color of chocolate milk.
"Doni, come talk," his father said, approaching from the tiny porch and holding out his cellphone with the boy's grandfather on the line.
But Adonias gave an icy stare. "No gracias," he answered.
"He doesn't want to talk," his father said into the phone, echoing what he had already told the boy's mother.
Adonias spoke to a Post reporter about his time in the shelter only haltingly.
Asked whether he had missed his father, he nodded.
"When he called me he was sad," he said. "Because I was in a prison for kids and he was in a prison for adults."
Asked whether he was given medicine, Adonias said he was given "vacunas," or vaccines, "many times" in the shelter's clinic and "in class."
"They gave me one here and one here and one here," he said, pointing to both arms and his hand and reenacting a moan. "And then I couldn't get up."
He was given vaccines, he said, so that he "slept in the day" and "because I didn't want to sleep at night."
He said he missed many things about the shelter: the slides, the soccer games, his Brazilian friends Diego, Diogo and Leonardo, and the teachers who taught him bilingual songs.
But he didn't like to talk about any of it, he said, "because of the vaccines."
When Adonias was reunited with his father at the Port Isabel Detention Center in southern Texas, volunteers from Catholic Charities offered to put them up for a night at their nearby shelter.
"Papi, I don't want go," the boy said after hearing the word "shelter," according to his father. "They give lots of injections there."
He wasn't just fearful. He was furious. At the Atlanta airport, Adonias had a meltdown in the terminal, refusing to go with his father and shouting that he didn't love him.
"The first couple of days, he would get angry easily and start shaking," his father recalled.
Slowly, the boy seemed to be getting better. But the games he played were darker than before. And he had a newfound fascination with knives and machetes.
"He's this way because they locked him up," his father said. "I would have preferred they had just sent us back than for him to end up like this."
As he stood on the porch near a fallen American flag, his son sat in a motorized toy car, revving the engine and honking the horn.
"Papi," Adonias said, aiming the yellow car off the raised porch. "I'm going straight ahead in the car."
"Yo me quiero morir," the boy added quietly. "I want to die."
A wind stirred the tall grasses.
The father said nothing, but put his foot out to block the car from falling.


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