No Country For Young Women

U.S. Agents Take Undocumented Immigrants Into Custody Near Tex-Mex Border

Among the many horrors that the Central American refugee children are fleeing, Mónica Ramírez and Anne Ream focus on the epidemic of sexual violence, which is often ignored, or even committed, by the police:

One key factor driving this crisis is the well-documented and widespread sexual and gender-related violence in Latin America. In a 2014 report conducted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 70 percent of children interviewed cited domestic violence as well as violence at the hands of gangs, cartels, or “state actors” (such as police), as reasons for fleeing homes in Mexico and Central America. Sexual violence has become so widespread in Guatemala in recent years that in 2009 Doctors Without Borders launched its first Latin American mission dedicated to treating rape and abuse victims. And gender-based violence is now the second highest cause of death for women of reproductive age in Honduras. …

Anti-violence advocates on the ground say that two factors drive the high incidence of sexual and gender-related violence in the region: a lack of awareness about the nature of gender-based violence, which has historically been downplayed or normalized, and the absence of official efforts and channels that might encourage reporting of such crimes. The fact that law enforcement and judicial systems are most often dominated by men who are disinclined to pursue sexual violence or trafficking cases, and may in fact be implicated in such violence themselves, further exacerbates the crisis.

Previous Dish on the chaos in Central America here and the child migrant crisis here.

(Photo: An undocumented immigrant sits after being detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents some 60 miles north of the U.S. Mexico border on July 23, 2014 near Falfurrias, Texas. She said she was from Guatemala, one of a group of immigrants Customs and Border Protection agents caught moving north through dense brushland in Brooks County. By John Moore/Getty Images)

An Executive Solution To Immigration?

In the face of a hopelessly deadlocked Congress, Ronald Brownstein expects Obama to act alone on the border crisis and on immigration reform more broadly. His chosen course of action, Brownstein adds, could have major consequences for the Republicans:

The president can’t provide [illegal immigrants] citizenship without action by Congress. But using the same theory of “deferred action” that he employed in 2012 for children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, he could apply prosecutorial discretion to allow some groups of the undocumented (such as adults here illegally with children who are U.S. citizens) to obtain work permits and function openly. Though the administration is still debating the reach of Obama’s authority, some top immigration advocates hope he could legalize up to half of the undocumented population.

Such a move would infuriate Republicans, both because the border crisis has deepened their conviction that any move toward legalization inspires more illegal migration and because the president would be bypassing Congress. They would likely challenge an Obama order through both legislation and litigation. Every 2016 GOP presidential contender could feel compelled to promise to repeal the order. Those would be momentous choices for a party already struggling to attract Hispanics and Asian-Americans.

Francis Wilkinson agrees that executive action is the only way forward, even though it will infuriate conservatives:

If Obama defers deportation for a large number of undocumented immigrants, calls for his impeachment may expand beyond the back benches of Congress. But Obama has already deferred deportation for the young “Dreamers” who qualified for his 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. When House Speaker John Boehner outlined his proposed lawsuit against the president for allegedly exceeding his powers, Boehner, no doubt mindful of his party’s poor reputation among Hispanic and Asian voters, focused on Obama’s implementation of the health-care law and left DACA out of the complaint.

A broad amnesty would no doubt inspire legal actions and political recriminations. But Obama is already reviled by anti-immigration activists and Republicans, who will be no more willing to compromise tomorrow than today. Perhaps foolishly, Obama whetted the appetites of pro-immigration forces for bold executive action. Their energy and expectations are high. With Democrats on the cusp of solidifying Hispanic support, perhaps for a very long time, the prospect of alienating Hispanic voters through timidity or inaction may now be the more dangerous route.

Borderline Politics On The Left

Josh Kraushaar casts doubt on the notion that immigration reform is a winning issue for the Democrats:

The conventional wisdom has long held that immigration is the equivalent of Kryptonite for Republicans: If they don’t pass comprehensive reform, their party is writing its own extinction. Indeed, GOP officials have been publicly telegraphing their own vulnerabilities on the subject for years, highlighted by a 2013 RNC-commissioned report where immigration was the only policy area where the authors recommended the party moderate its positioning.

But what if that isn’t the case? A look at the current politics surrounding immigration suggest that Democrats are facing as much conflicting internal pressures from the current border crisis as Republicans face from their own base when it comes to “amnesty,” or legalizing illegal immigrants. President Obama is caught between his base, which has been pushing him to treat the migrants as refugees and settle them in the country, and the majority of voters, who believe that most should be returned to their home countries.

If the House Judiciary Committee’s numbers are correct, the base is winning that particular fight. Byron York relays the new figures, which show that “the ‘vast majority’ of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum are granted it before even appearing before a judge”:

“Information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that shows 65 percent of unaccompanied alien minors’ asylum applications have been immediately approved by asylum officers in Fiscal Year 2014,” says a Judiciary Committee statement. “And this is just the first bite of the apple. Many more cases can be approved later. Where an asylum officer does not approve the application, it is then referred to an immigration judge where the applicant can try again. If that fails, they can continue to appeal their case.”

The Judiciary Committee says asylum approval rates have “increased dramatically” under the Obama administration. Overall, according to the committee statement, “Approval rates by asylum officers have increased from 28 percent in 2007 to 46 percent in 2013 and approval rates by immigration judges in affirmative cases have increased from 51 percent in 2007 to 74 percent in 2013.” And that does not count appeals.

On the other hand, it’s not as though the GOP is offering any great alternatives. Alex Nowrasteh slams the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act, introduced in the House last week, which would expedite deportation procedures for undocumented minors:

H.R. 5137 allows children apprehended at the border to be removed without any asylum screening to a “safe third party country” (i.e. Mexico) without an agreement from that country, as is required by current law. If H.R. 5137 becomes law, the U.S. government would immediately start dumping Honduran, El Salvadoran, and Guatemalan children into Mexico.

The crisis along the Southwest border has prompted many Americans to want all unlawful immigrants and children removed. But this bill goes far beyond that desire. H.R. 5137 would remove many foreigners who have legal rights under our current immigration laws. H.R. 5137 would be a disastrous blow to America’s asylum system and send numerous children with legitimate asylum claims back into danger.

Recent Dish on immigration politics and the border crisis here, here, and here. Read our complete coverage of the crisis here.

Are We Abetting Central American Gangs? Ctd


Alec MacGillis shines a light on US gun trafficking to Central America, making the argument that our loose gun regulations are contributing to these countries’ gang violence problem:

According to data collected by the ATF, nearly half of the guns seized from criminals in El Salvador and submitted for tracing in the ATF’s online system last year originated in the U.S., versus 38 and 24 percent in Honduras and Guatemala, respectively. Many of those guns were imported through legal channels, either to government or law enforcement agencies in the three countries or to firearms dealers there.

But a not-insignificant number of the U.S.-sourced gunsmore than 20 percent in both Guatemala and Honduraswere traced to retail sales in the U.S. That is, they were sold by U.S. gun dealers and then transported south, typically hidden in vehicles headed across Mexico, though sometimes also stowed in checked airline luggage, air cargo, or even boat shipments. (Similar ratios were found in traces the ATF conducted in 2009 of 6,000 seized guns stored in a Guatemalan military bunker40 percent of the guns came from the United States, and slightly less than half of those were found to have been legally imported, leaving hundreds that were apparently trafficked.)

“It is a problem,” says Jose Miguel Cruz, an expert in Central American gang violence at Florida International University. “The problem is we don’t have any idea how many [of the trafficked guns] there are. It’s a big, dark area.”

Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, tells Dylan Matthews that an effective US response to the crisis must address its root causes:

Of the $3.7 billion requested by the administration for dealing with the child migrant crisis, a very small percentage of it, about $295 million, goes to addressing root causes of the violence. I think that ever since the United States, starting with the end of the Bush administration, began to pay more attention to Central America as the drug violence was spilling over from Mexico to Central America, there’s been an overemphasis on security and controlling drug trafficking and also just not enough resources overall. …

There’s been a focus in the US and elsewhere in the region on capturing drug kingpins, but I think a lot of people who have looked at this, given the weakness of institutions, including police and law enforcement, including the judiciary, have said that a better approach is to try to reduce the violence connected with local illegal markets, and focus on providing citizen security to the general population. You can’t abandon the attempt to capture major traffickers, but you cannot do that without providing for safer communities and creating greater resilience at the individual and the community level.

Previous Dish on the violence in Central America and the US’s role in it here and here.

(Photo: A member of the “18 street” gang takes part in an event to hand in weapons in Apopa, 14 Km north of San Salvador, El Salvador on March 9, 2013. Gang leaders surrendered about 267 weapons as part of the truce process between gangs in El Salvador. By Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images)

Migrant Children Get Their Day In Court


The going conspiracy theory on the right regarding the border crisis, trumpeted by Allahpundit last week, is that Democrats arguing for child migrant due process are secretly hoping that the kids skip out on their court dates and disappear into the general population. Dara Lind debunks that theory, pointing to new data that shows that most of the Central American refugee kids are appearing in immigration court as instructed:

Previous data had shown that about 20 to 30 percent of children didn’t show up for their court hearings. The [Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse] data shows that that’s still holding true. Of all the kids with cases filed over the last decade whose cases have been closed, 31 percent were “in absentia.” That percentage is a little higher for cases filed over the last few years, possibly because there are more cases that are still pending from that time.

But the important question is: are Central American kids more likely to skip out on their immigration court hearings than other children? And the answer to that might be surprising.

This chart looks at children whose cases were filed in 2012, 2013, and 2014 — i.e. those who have arrived during the current surge — and whose cases have been completed as of June 30, 2014. (Many children whose cases have been filed since 2012 are still in the court process, so they theoretically have another chance to show up.) That means that it’s a good reflection of how many children who have come from Central America during the current surge end up skipping out on their hearings.

The data shows that Guatemalan children, at least, really do skip out on court hearings slightly more often than other children. But children from Honduras and particularly El Salvador are slightly more likely to show up for court hearings than children from other countries.

Borderline Politics On The Right

Contra Conn Carroll, Ross argues that Republicans in Congress need to do something about the border crisis:

It would be one thing if the G.O.P. genuinely didn’t think anything should be done about the current crisis: Then they could stand by their inaction on principle and blast the president for making extralegal moves. But the party’s official (and correct!) position is that we need more funding for immigration enforcement, both in the context of the current inflow and more generally, and that the Wilberforce Act’s guarantee of hearings should not be applied to most of today’s child migrants. Regardless of what the president does or doesn’t do, I just don’t see what Republicans lose from passing legislation that reflects both positions: If the president fails to execute it faithfully or if it ends up amended in some counterproductive way, they can attack the White House and the Democrats for that, without carrying the burden of looking like do-nothings who are weirdly demanded more of the kind of executive “creativity” they officially oppose.

But Ted Cruz is now pushing for any legislative response to the border crisis to include language ending the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Sargent comments on what this means for the prospects of Congressional action, as well as for the GOP’s public image:

Ted Cruz is essentially calling on Republicans to formalize in their legislative response to the crisis what is already their actual position on immigration in general. (House Republicans already voted in 2013 to end DACA.) And not only that, National Review reports that more and more conservatives are now giving voice to the Cruz stance, arguing that Republicans must not offer any legislative response to the crisis because Obama’s “amnesty” for the DREAMers proves he cannot be trusted to work with them even on the current border debacle.

In the short term, this Cruz gambit could make it tougher for John Boehner to get any border bill through the House, and increasingly reliant on Dems to do so. But beyond this, it’s a reminder that even if the crisis is very tough politics for Obama and Dems, it is also putting Republicans in a terrible position, dramatizing that they have only moved further to the right on immigration since their 2012 loss led to a big round of soul searching about how to broaden the party’s appeal beyond core constituencies.

Weigel theorizes as to why Cruz would throw such a bomb, knowing that a bill ending DACA has no real chance of passing Congress:

Well, Cruz believes in it, and as far as he’s concerned it focuses the blame for the current crisis on DACA. A worried House Republican aide (remember, lots of these people still sort of want the House to pass an immigration bill before the election) tells Joel Gerkhe that Cruz’s bill “could look like an overreach, particularly given how the mainstream media will distort it.” But Cruz has previously found that the media’s coverage of his effort bounces right off of Republican voters. He has been able to spin the 2013 Obamacare funding fight not as a tragic own goal on the GOP, but as the very reason Obamacare riled the 2014 electorate. It’ll be dead easy to tell Texas (and Iowa) crowds that he wanted to kill the border crisis at the root, but mushy Republicans failed to stand with him.

Allahpundit, in character, is disappointed that Cruz only wants to end DACA going forward, rather than repeal it entirely and re-outlaw the immigrants who have already benefited from the program. He sees that as a political choice, too:

If you already qualify for amnesty under DACA, you get to keep your amnesty. This is all about ending eligibility for future illegals, not taking it away from people who already have it. That makes sense in light of what I said above. Cruz wants to show that he’s tougher on illegal immigration than his GOP rivals but not so tough that he’s a punching bag for “YOU HATE CHILDREN!” attacks from the left. He’s willing to let children currently involved in the program keep their eligibility. Which makes this a miniature version of comprehensive immigration reform: So long as future waves of illegals are turned away, the ones who are already here enjoy legalization.

Previous Dish on the politics of the border crisis here and here.

How Americans See The Border Crisis


A new YouGov poll shows that more Americans attribute it to US immigration policy than to Central American gang violence:

The latest research from YouGov shows that most Americans (58%) think that the main reason behind the surge in child illegal immigration is a belief that the US is or soon will be granting amnesty to children. Only 27% think that the main cause is the increase in violent crime in Central America.

The same poll finds that 58 percent disapprove of the president’s handling of the situation and that 47 percent believe that deporting the migrant children as soon as possible should be a top priority. Dara Lind scrutinizes this last finding:

More than anything, the poll shows that Americans don’t agree on the right policy response because they don’t agree on the facts.

Americans are split on whether or not children would be safe in their home countries; 39 percent think they’re fleeing unsafe places, while 36 percent think they have somewhere safe to return. … It’s easy to look at this sort of confusion and take away the idea that Americans generally want tens of thousands of kids to be deported. The poll does show that’s true, to an extent. But that’s also because Americans are looking at the confusion in Washington and on the border and gravitating toward the option that seems most decisive — and in this case, that’s throwing more money at the border, and fast and furious deportations.

Are We Abetting Central American Gangs?

Taking a hard look at the refugee crisis, Frum blames it primarily on US immigration policy, which has unwittingly strengthened the gangs from which these children are fleeing. “If you want to migrate to the United States from Central America,” he writes, “you will probably have to seek the aid of a criminal gang. That fact implies a few follow-on facts”:

First, for all the talk of the “desperation” of migrants, those who travel here from Central America are not the poorest of the poor.

The poorest of the poor can’t afford it. Illegal migrants either have the funds to pay for the journey—or can at least receive credit against their expected future earnings. The traffickers don’t only move people. They also connect them to the illegal labor market in North America, and then act as debt collectors once the migrants have settled in their new homes. Salvadorans in the United States are less likely to be poor than other Hispanics are: illegal migration networks don’t have any use for people who can’t generate an income. On the other hand, Salvadorans are also less likely to own a home—their smugglers have first claim on their earnings.

Second, if these latest migrants gain residency rights in the United States, the gangs who brought them to the country will be enriched and strengthened. Gangs, like any business, ultimately depend on their customers. If too many people find that their $5,000 to $8,000 investments in border-crossing are not paying off, the illegal-migration business will dwindle. If, on the other hand, the gangs succeed in exploiting the opportunity Obama created, they’ll attract more business in the future.

Third, each wave of illegal settlement induces and produces the opportunities for the next. The unaccompanied minors smuggled into the United States this year all have relatives back home. If resettled in the United States, they’ll acquire the wherewithal to pay for the transit of those relatives. And, of course, many of these minors either currently belong to the gangs carrying out the smuggling or will soon be recruited by them. That’s another way to pay the cost of the trip.

Recent Dish on the sources of the crisis here and here.

Reform That’s Borderline Impossible

A new WaPo/ABC News poll dings both Obama and Republicans in Congress for their handling of the border crisis:

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The Republicans fare especially badly, but Noah Rothman attributes that to dissension in the ranks:

Republicans in Congress, who receive poor marks from nearly two-thirds of the public, can attribute some of that antipathy to their own voters. “Almost as many Republicans disapprove of their party’s handling of the issue as say they approve, with negative ratings rising to a majority among conservatives,” reads The Post’s write up of the poll. 48 percent approve of the GOP’s approach to the crisis while 45 percent disapprove. Only 22 percent of independents and 9 percent of Democrats approve of the GOP’s approach to the crisis.

The president, meanwhile, maintains the support of 57 percent of Democrats who approve of his approach to the border crisis. 12 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of independents agree. If the GOP maintained the intraparty unity that Obama benefits from, their numbers would look similar to the president’s.

The poll also asked respondents about the government’s $3.7 billion proposal to address the crisis. Sargent believes these results augur poorly for the plan’s fate in the House:

Crucially, only Republicans and conservatives oppose the plan. A majority of independents (51 percent) and moderates (58) support it, but only 35 percent of Republicans back it, versus 59 percent who are opposed, and only 36 percent of conservatives back it, versus 59 percent who are opposed. Among “conservative Republicans,” those numbers are a dismal 29-66.

This again raises the question: Can any plan to address the crisis pass the House? As I noted the other day, conservative groups such as Heritage Action are opposed, and may “score” the eventual vote on it, meaning more pressure on GOP lawmakers to vote No. Any funding plan first has to clear the Senate, which will be hard, but Democratic aides believe it will be doable. The House is another matter.

Drum agrees:

So Democrats are split and Republicans are opposed. This is not fertile ground for any kind of compromise. The only thing Obama has going for him is that what’s happening on the border really is a crisis, and at some point everyone might genuinely feel like they have to do something. But what? Even Obama’s fairly anodyne proposal has already drawn significant opposition from both sides, and any proposal that moves further to the left or the right will draw even more opposition. This could take a while unless, by some miracle, both parties decided they’re better off just getting this off the table before the midterm elections. But what are the odds of that?

“Public Health Nativism”

Anti-Immigration Activists Protest Arrival Of Unaccompanied Central American Children To Housing Facility

The largely unsubstantiated concern that the Central American migrant children are carrying infectious diseases is fast becoming a trope among Republican lawmakers. It was given an airing on the O’Reilly show last night. “The fact that this rumor is circulating at all,” Jesse Singal comments, “can still tell us some interesting things about the way human beings are wired to view outsiders”:

Erin Buckels, a researcher at the University of Manitoba who has studied this issue, explained in in an email that both her work and a great deal of prior research has “demonstrated a strong and automatic tendency to dehumanize outgroup members, even when we have no prior experience with those groups.” Notions of pollution and infection loom large here: We often “view outsiders with disgust — partly due to the risks of infectious disease that outsiders carried in our evolutionary past — and this causes a conservative shift in our thoughts and attitudes.” So unfamiliar people “are seen as closer to animals than humans, and therefore pose a danger to our bodies (and even our souls).”

This is basically a universal human impulse — every time you read a horrific story about a young couple being murdered for a relationship that stretches across sectarian or class or caste lines, that’s part of what’s going on. In certain contexts, people just can’t stand the notion of being “infected” by outsiders — and infection can mean anything from “them” crossing “our” border to members of an undesirable class having sexual relationships with “our” daughters — to the point where they will kill people to prevent that infection from occurring.

But Samuel Kleiner is blunter, calling the claim another example of America’s long, ugly tradition of “public health nativism”:

Doctors have debunked claims of diseased-ridden children: The migrants tend to be middle class with updated vaccines. By engaging in this right-wing fear-mongering, the aforementioned elected officialsand many othersare earning their ignominious place in a long, ugly history in American nativism that demonizes immigrants under the guise of public-health concerns.

With each wave of immigration, nativists have made public-health excuses for keeping out migrants. In the 1830s, cholera was described as an “Irish disease,” and in the late 1800s Tuberculosis was portrayed as a “Jewish disease.” In 1891, Congress banned any immigrant “suffering from a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease.” Even at Ellis Island, a site we celebrate as America’s front door for the “tired and weary,” medical inspections were a weapon aimed at immigrants who traveled on second and third class and were commonly used to quarantine and turn back unwanted immigrants.

And then as recently as 1993, the HIV ban was instigated to prevent gays and Haitians from entering the country. It took almost twenty years to repeal and replace it.

(Photo: An anti-immigration activist stands next to a Pinar County Sheriff’s deputy during a protest along Mt. Lemmon Road in Oracle, Arizona in anticipation of buses carrying illegal immigrants on July 15, 2014.  About 300 protesters lined the road waiting for a busload of illegal immigrants who are to be housed at a facility in Oracle. By Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images.)