On today's BradCast: The immigration horror stories of children being ripped from their parents and of asylum seekers fleeing domestic abuse in their home countries are beginning to pour in. We speak today to a longtime immigration attorney at the center of a number of landmark rulings, who is now representing the woman from El Salvador whose grant of asylum was unilaterally overturned this week by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. [Link to audio of the show is posted below.]
There are now more than 11,000 children who have been separated from their parents at the southern border being held in detention centers across the country by the U.S. Government. It's unclear whether that number includes the 2,000 kids taken from their parents over a recent six week period, as reported by AP today, under the Trump Administration's new "zero tolerance" policy, which requires criminal, rather than civil, prosecution against those who cross the border unlawfully.
This week, some members of the media finally received a limited first look inside one of the largest such detention centers --- a converted Walmart superstore in Brownsville, TX --- where some 1,500 boys, aged 10 to 17, are being warehoused. They are living five in each room built for four people, are forced to stay inside for 22 hours a day, and are being held, on average, for about 50 days each in the facility, before they are either sent to foster care or reunited with their parents (if those parents can find them within the government system.)
Media reports this week include horrific stories of babies being ripped from their mothers' arms while breastfeeding and parents being told that officials are simply taking their children to bathe them, before they are shipped away to a detention facility. Somehow, Donald Trump and his White House are managing to blame all of this on Democrats, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions is justifying these new Dept. of Justice policies by quoting the bible. We cover some of those nightmarish stories, reports that an outdoor tent city, in sweltering southwest TX near El Paso, is being planned to store more than 400 more children --- who are now being separated from their parents at an alarming rate --- and a confrontation between reporters and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders over these matters during a briefing on Thursday.
In a separate, if related issue earlier in the week, Sessions issued a decision, attempting to change decades of U.S. immigration policy regarding asylum claims by immigrants fleeing their home countries on the basis of domestic abuse and gang violence.
We're joined today by KAREN MUSALO, Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of Law to discuss the Administration's new policy. Musalo represents "A.B.", the El Salvadoran woman whose grant of asylum by the U.S. Immigration Board of Appeals was unilaterally overturned by Sessions on Monday, along with his announcement of the Administration's cruel new policy which declares that domestic abuse will no longer be an allowable basis for asylum seekers.
The longtime immigration rights attorney pushes back today, detailing the disturbing circumstances under which her client, Ms. A.B., fled her home country, explaining several poorly understood aspects of the U.S. Immigration Court system (which is part of the Dept. of Justice, not the federal Judicial branch --- so, judges work for Sessions), and stressing that the Attorney General is misinforming the public by claiming that asylum seekers fleeing domestic violence will no longer be allowed in the country.
"Clearly what the Attorney General is trying to do with issuing this decision is to send a strong message that cases of women fleeing domestic violence or people fleeing gang violence are not legitimate asylum claims," Musalo tells me. "But for those of us who are experts and understand the law, and read his decision closely --- he may want to send that message, and he did in fact reverse a 2014 precedent that clearly stated that survivors of domestic violence were eligible for asylum --- but there's a whole framework of law that has developed in the 38 years since the 1980 Refugee Act was enacted."
She says: "The reason I'm underscoring that point is that I think he's going to try to bully judges and asylum officers into thinking this is the law, there's no way around it, they should deny these cases --- and also, making lawyers think they shouldn't bring cases on behalf of their clients. So I feel it's very important to point out this is what he's trying to do, but that's not how the law is properly interpreted."
Musalo also stresses that, despite reports of an increase in those seeking asylum from Central America due to domestic abuse since the 2014 change in policy, "The number of claims have not skyrocketed as a result of the Obama Administration recognizing domestic violence as a basis of protection. That's simply not true."
"This has really made people rise up and say, "How can it be in the year 2018 that we have an Attorney General who says that you can send a woman to her death, back to a country where the police and the courts just sit by?," Musalo notes, citing Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras with the "highest homicide rates in the world [and] the highest femicide rates in the world, denoting gender-motivated killings."
There is a lot of important and enlightening information that Musalo imparts today --- more than I can adequately share in a short description here --- so I urge you to listen to the full conversation on today's program.
Finally today, Stephen Colbert, just before Father's Day, had a few thoughts of his own on CBS' Late Show in response to Sessions' use of a bible passage to justify the Administration's cruel and alarming new policy of separating children from their parents at the border. It also should be considered a must-listen...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)