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Cleveland, OH — Under President Trump, the twin police forces of U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have resorted to increasingly authoritarian tactics, regardless of the consequences for public safety and basic human rights.
“The Border Patrol and ICE are now operating like political police forces within our communities,” said Lynn Tramonte, Director of America’s Voice Ohio.
Consider just the following recent examples:
CBP agents seized more than $58,000 from a Cleveland man for no reason. As the Washington Post reports:
A 64-year-old Cleveland man is suing U.S. Customs and Border Protection after agents strip-searched him at an airport in October and took more than $58,000 in cash from him without charging him with any crime, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week in Ohio.
…[Cleveland resident Rustem] Kazazi is a retired officer with the Albanian police who relocated with his family to the United States in 2005 after receiving visas through the State Department’s lottery program. They became U.S. citizens in 2010. After several years away, Kazazi planned a trip to Albania last fall to visit relatives, make repairs on a family property and potentially purchase a vacation home.
He took $58,100 in U.S. currency with him, the product of 12 years of savings by Kazazi, his wife, Lejla, and his son Erald, who is finishing a chemical engineering degree at Cleveland State University, according to the lawsuit. The family lives in Parma Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. In an interview translated by his son, Kazazi said safety concerns prompted him to take cash on his trip, rather than wire the funds to a local bank.
A U.S. Senator was not only barred from entering an immigration detention facility to observe its operations–funded by U.S. tax dollars–but officials also called the local police to intimidate him. Watch Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)’s Facebook live video stream here. As James Hohmann recapped in the Washington Post:
The half-hour incident at a strip mall near the southern border with Mexico underscores the lack of transparency from President Trump’s administration about its intensifying efforts to break up undocumented families caught crossing the border, the centerpiece of a “zero tolerance” policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month to deter illegal immigration. Merkley said he tried to go through proper channels to arrange a site visit but was rebuffed. The senator said he’s also sought to figure out just how many kids are being held at the old Walmart, where the parking lot is packed with employee cars, but he cannot get a straight answer.
Border Patrol agents are now physically preventing asylum seekers from stepping into the United States in order to claim asylum, in violation of international law. Texas Monthly reports:
[T]hree Guatemalans made their way north Saturday on the Paso del Norte Bridge linking El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, seeking to claim asylum in the United States. On previous attempts over the past day, they had been met at the long bridge’s apex by Customs and Border Protection agents—a highly unusual tactic—who asked them for identification and told them they couldn’t proceed to the port of entry because the holding cells were at capacity. Once again, they were stopped by two CBP agents, asked for documents, and told they would not be allowed to go further into the United States.
… [the tactic] marks an escalation in U.S. tactics to keep immigrants out of the country—including those legally entitled to enter and seek asylum … By making asylum claims at a port of entry, immigrants are supposed to be given a court date so that a judge may determine if the asylum claim is credible.
The Administration’s new policy of separating children from parents when they arrive at the border seeking safety in the United States violates human rights and will have lasting traumatic effects on the children. As Dr. Reshem Agarwal and Dr. Marsha Griffin wrote in the Houston Chronicle:
Research shows overwhelmingly the deep and lasting harm caused by removing children from their parents. A parent has a critical role to mitigate stress for children. Prolonged exposure to highly stressful situations — known technically as toxic stress — can alter brain architecture and hormone-signaling pathways, with lasting effects on the child’s health. This kind of stress makes children susceptible to acute and chronic conditions such as extreme anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, hypertension and heart disease.
“We must ask ourselves,” Tramonte continued, “What end are these policies serving? The severe damage being done to children, families, civil liberties, and due process–in our name and with our tax dollars–truly cannot be justified.”
In fact, putting immigration enforcement ahead of humanitarian concerns is already having a clear impact on at least one aspect of public safety: reporting incidents of domestic violence. The New York Times reports:
Though Houston’s immigrant population is one of the fastest-growing in the country, the city last year saw a 16 percent drop in domestic violence reports from the Hispanic community — a decline that the police blame on a tough new immigration enforcement law in Texas and the increasingly hostile political climate across the country surrounding the issue of illegal immigration.
…“Undocumented immigrants and even lawful immigrants are afraid to report crime,” said [Houston Police Chief Art] Acevedo, who has spoken publicly about the need for local leaders to care for immigrants under increased pressure from state and federal authorities. “They’re seeing the headlines from across the country, where immigration agents are showing up at courthouses, trying to deport people.”
The Trump Administration’s immigration policies are not making us safer. Instead, they are sowing chaos and fear in our communities, jeopardizing the mental health of children, undermining civil liberties, and destroying families. As Americans, we must denounce these practices and work with state, local, and federal officials to restore the checks and balances of our democracy.