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Sin Barreras is actively advocating on the following issues.
Crisis on the Southern Border and Cuts to Development Assistance (4/24/19)
Sin Barreras condemns the policies of the Trump administration with regard to the migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border. There is, indeed, a crisis on the U.S.-Mexican border, but not one caused by the number of migrants but by Trump-inspired policies.
- One of those policies is to limit the number of migrants who are processed at ports of entry each day, which forces asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed – at great risk to them and their children. Due to this policy, in El Paso, the local Customs and Border Protection processing facility was at 395% capacity on March 26. Migrants were held in a temporary camp under the Paso Del Norte bridge before being moved to a processing center.
- A second policy involves the asylum process. In the past, passing the first step in the asylum process (the credible fear interview) meant that migrants were allowed to stay in the U.S. until their case was resolved in court. The Trump administration has favored detention, citing concerns that asylum-seekers with invalid claims won't return for court dates. Past experience showed that the majority of asylum seekers did turn up for their court dates. Capacity limits and restrictions on detention of children have led some migrants to be released anyway. This has led to the administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. Generally, the President has refused to honor the United States’ signed commitment to an international treaty over forty years ago respecting people’s right to plead for asylum.
- Another destructive position of this administration was the heinous Sessions’ “zero tolerance policy” that separated thousands of parents from their children. Though public outcry forced the President to end that initiative, at this writing there are still several hundred children who are still separated from their parents – perhaps “lost” in the system and never to be reunited. It is not clear that the separations have ended entirely. In fact, news reports state that the President is considering reinstating this policy.
- The administration has indicated that it will cut development assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras as a punitive measure. .Development assistance has been particularly focused on improved law enforcement. In recent years, the murder rate has dropped 42% in El Salvador and 52% in Honduras. At the same time migration from El Salvador has also declined over 50%. There is an undisputed link between societal violence and immigration rates. This particular administration decision is counterproductive to the administration’s goals.
- In the last two weeks. the President threatened to shut down more of the border soon if illegal migration does not stop, though that would halt legal travel and commerce without stopping people from claiming asylum between ports of entry.
These recent Trump policies—and others like them—have created a situation that is overwhelming government agencies and non-profits and creating a humanitarian crisis.
Through much of 2018, the Trump administration portrayed the border situation as an emergency despite migration levels near historic lows. While in February 2019, migrants apprehended by Customs and Border Protection reached an 11-year-high (66,450), these numbers don’t begin to reach the levels the U.S. saw from 1983 to 2006, one million per year for 19 years (throughout the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush regimes). Further, contrary to the administration’s rhetoric, today’s migrants are no longer mostly solo men traveling from Mexico in search of work, but instead are largely unaccompanied minors or families with children seeking asylum from Central America.
Sin Barreras urges the Trump Administration to:
- Reverse the misguided policies listed above,
- Abandon the misleading characterizations of the current situation and the people arriving at our border seeking our help, and
- Develop policies to deal with the current crisis based on a rational evaluation of the root causes of the migration of people now taking place.
"Remain in Mexico" Policy, Asylum Seekers, and Existing Asylum Law (4/15/19)
In January 2019, the Department of Homeland Security issued new policy guidance for "Migrant Protection Protocols." Under the “Remain in Mexico” policy, certain asylum seekers, including families, are sent back to Mexico to wait throughout the duration of their immigration court proceedings in the U.S, which can take months or years, during which time people are living in inadequate and very dangerous conditions. Moreover, support and resources to make an asylum seeker’s case is far more likely in the US. If asylum seekers are forced to stay in Mexico, they will not have access to that support, which is extremely detrimental to their case.
Sin Barreras affirms the inherent dignity of every person and the ability of families to seek security and safety for themselves and family members. For this reason, we oppose the "Remain in Mexico" policy as contrary to U.S. international treaties, and we ask that the Department of Homeland Security revoke the policy and provide immediate protection and the authorization to remain in the United States to asylum seekers while they apply for adjudication of their asylum claims, as has been U.S. practice for over forty years.
Anti-immigrant bills vetoed (3/19/2019)
Sin Barreras warmly supports Governor Northam’s veto of the anti-immigrant bill SB 1154 saying that it posed “an unnecessary and divisive requirement upon localities regarding the enforcement of federal immigration laws” which would “send a chilling message to communities across Virginia that could have negative impacts on public safety.” He also vetoed HB 2270 saying “local and regional correction facilities should … retain discretion to determine how they … engage with federal immigration agencies” and that “the safety of our communities requires that all people, whether they are documented or not, feel comfortable, supported and protected by our public safety agencies.” Sin Barreras applauds the Governor for these decisions.
Statement on Presidential National Emergency
On February 15th the President declared a National Emergency at the US/Mexico border which would allow the Pentagon’s oversight of the construction of a physical wall between the United States and Mexico and allow the President to divert billions of dollars from badly needed military projects, against the expressed wishes of congress. This is not a response to an immediate threat or national disaster, but rather was done only after the US Congress denied the President the funds after the longest government shutdown in American history. The US Constitution explicitly grants powers of spending to Congress, and this declaration goes around these checks and balances. Congress passed a bill rescinding the emergency declaration, which the President had threatened to veto..
We at Sin Barreras are acutely disappointed by this series of actions, which we think will not solve the situation at the border. The President describes a crisis at the border, one of drugs and criminals invading the nation, immigrants pouring in to take jobs, yet border crossings are at their lowest levels in decades, and net migration at the southern border is zero. While the crisis the administration describes is not real, there is a real situation at the border as thousands of people have arrived from Central America fleeing political and economic chaos that US foreign policy has contributed to. They are asking for asylum, something they have a right to under US and international law. The administration has put as many barriers to their asking for a hearing as possible, creating the image of mass refugee camps along our borders. Children have been and continue to be separated from their families. This is the real crisis, but it is not one that would be solved with a wall, it needs humanitarian aid, more judges and legal aid, and more compassion.
The wall has become a symbol to both political parties, yet it would do real harm where it would be built. Native Americans, ranchers, and natural habitats would see their lands taken away. It is ultimately a symbol of a nation that turns its back on the world, on its laws, and its own founding ideals. Sin Barreras means Without Barriers, not only for immigrant trying to make a better future, but for all people of central Virginia. We believe in eradicating barriers, not building more- in order to create a fairer and more just society for all.
Statement on Continuation of All TPS Residents
Sin Barreras regrets and denounces that tens of thousands of immigrants living and working legally in the United States could be sent back to their country of origin in the coming days. The 300,000 nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, and Nicaragua who have been permitted to live in the United States for many years because their countries were experiencing natural disasters, turbulence, and violence now await their fate.
Each of these countries was designated for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) based on long-approved Congressional criteria. Nicaraguans fleeing Hurricane Mitch and 50,000 Hondurans and 195,000 Salvadorans fleeing indescribable violence in their home countries are under constant threat to lose their permissions to stay.
These families’ losing their status is troubling and un-American on every front. More than 50 percent of Hondurans and Salvadorans have lived in the United States for over 20 years: building their lives here, buying homes, starting businesses. They have 270,000 U.S. citizen children. A recent survey from the Center for Immigration Research at the University of Kansas (May, 2017) shows:
- TPS holders have high levels of labor force participation: 94% of men and 82% of women are working.
- The average monthly income of recent survey respondents is $2,910, and 32% live in owner-occupied homes.
- The average educational level of recent survey respondents was 7.6 years: 49% of them have furthered their education in the U.S.
- 30% of survey respondents volunteered in civic organizations or community groups.
- 80% of survey respondents pay income taxes, including 79% who are self-employed. They have contributed to Social Security for an avg. of 15.4 years and 90% file taxes every year.
- Massive reconstruction efforts from hurricane and wildfire devastation will be hampered when 50,000 construction workers with TPS lose their employment authorization. Similar losses are being felt in agriculture and construction.
- TPS beneficiaries are good people. Hondurans, for example, have had background checks conducted 13 times.
- A return to these countries—ones they haven’t known in nearly two decades, and now wracked by violence—could result in their being extorted or even killed. And their U.S. citizen children have never known anything but growing up in the U.S.
The real mystery is why the Trump administration would suddenly render undocumented hundreds of thousands of people who have maintained a lawful immigration status for many years? Sin Barreras calls on political leaders of all persuasions and all citizens to reject this unnecessary and punitive policy.
Statement on Albemarle County Regional Jail Policy
Sin Barreras joins with numerous Charlottesville community organizations in denouncing the Albermarle County Regional Jail's policy of informing ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) of non-citizen’s released date 48 hour beforehand. This policy has resulted in direct seizure of these people on completion of their sentence and deportation proceedings against at least two-dozen Charlottesvillians in 2018. We find this enormously prejudicial to the exercise of justice and harmful in the extreme to the Hispanic community’s trust of Law Enforcement. We again call on the Regional Board to rescind this damaging (and unjust) policy.
Statement on Driver’s Licenses for All Virginians
Sin Barreras is dedicated to helping Hispanic immigrants adjust to full life in the United States, and contribute to U.S. civil society through their hard work, their cultural and linguistic heritage, and their desire for a better life for their children.
Through numerous workshops and conversations, Sin Barreras is convinced that driver’s licenses for all Virginian no matter one’s immigrant status is the Number One issue for Charlottesville Hispanics. We know by name friends deported for two convictions of running a stop sign or minor speeding while driving without a license; and we attest to hundreds of law-abiding, hard-working family breadwinners who drive to work every day terrified of their next interaction with the Police for fear of such an outcome. We have numerous clients who have prepared Powers of Attorney transferring their children’s care to neighbors if such a thing were to take place. This is a terrible way to drive that brings additional risks to all Virginians on the road—as well as a terrible way to live.
For these reasons, Sin Barreras congratulated the Chairman of the Transportation Committee of the Virginia House of Delegate, the Honorable Ron Villanueva, for his commissioning an in-depth study of the driver’s license issue for all Virginians. We also congratulated the Department of Motor Vehicles for its coherent, comprehensive proposal to the Chairman how to move this issue forward. In general, we found the document contained many powerful, well-argued recommendations.
We were highly disappointed that several Driver’s License bills did not make it out of the Sub-committees of the Virginia House of Delegates or the Senate in the 2019 Legislative session. We strongly endorse that such measures be allowed to be voted on in the 2020 session.
Statement on Proposed Public Charge Legislation
Building on the traumatic separation of families at the border, the Trump administration now wants to block immigrant families from having a permanent, secure future in the United States and scare them away from seeking access to health care, nutrition and housing programs. In the proposed regulations, a “public charge” will be defined as an immigrant who receives any public benefits at all, even if they are not primarily dependent on benefits. These non-cash benefits will now include:
- Benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
- Section 8 housing assistance or rental assistance.
- Medicaid benefits (except for emergency Medicaid or certain school or disability-based benefits for children).
- Premium and cost-sharing subsidies under Medicare Part D.
- Subsidized housing under Housing Act of 1937.
Immigrants can currently avoid being deemed a public charge if their sponsor—often a family member with U.S. citizenship or a green card—submits an “affidavit of support” agreeing to financially support them. The proposed regulations would no longer automatically prevent an immigrant with such a sponsor from being declared a public charge.
Our lives should be defined by how we contribute to our communities, not by what we look like of how much money we have. If this regulation moves forward, only the wealthiest immigrants could build a future in the United States – and then only if they never suffer the slightest financial setback. This regulation is part of the Trump administrations’ ongoing efforts to divide the country and vilify immigrants that Sin Barreras decries with all intensity.
The proposed regulation would make – and has already made—Sin Barreras’ immigrant families afraid to seek programs that support their basic needs. The proposal will likely prevent immigrants from using the programs their tax dollars help support, preventing access to healthy, nutritious food and secure housing. Because one in four American children have a least one immigrant parent, this could and will impact millions. It would make us a sicker, poorer, hungrier nation.
Sin Barreras calls on the Department of Homeland Security in the strongest possible terms to repeal this proposed regulation.