Markey slams Trump ‘stealth attack’ on immigrants

Senator says report documents tactics of the president

US SEN. EDWARD MARKEY released a report on Thursday that he said “helps to pull back the curtain” on ways President Trump is reducing the number of immigrants coming into the country.

The report, titled “Under the Radar: The Trump Administration’s Stealth Attack on the US Immigration System,” said Trump has lowered the number of immigrants allowed into the country, restricted asylum claims, stepped up enforcement, and slowed down judicial processing. The report sourced most of the information from sources such as the Department of Homeland Security’s field guides, the Congressional Research Service, and Trump’s own executive orders.

“The American public must know what the Trump administration is doing in their name,” Markey said at a press conference in Chelsea.

 For fiscal 2019, the Trump administration is allowing 30,000 refugees into the country, and less than half that number had been resettled seven months into the year, according to Markey’s report. The document said the 30,000 number is a record low; former president Barack Obama had set the cap at 110,000 during his final year in office.

“That’s why I introduced the GRACE Act, legislation that would prevent a US president from setting a presidential determination on refugee admissions below 95,000 in a fiscal year,” Markey said.

Framingham resident Angelica Gonzalez-Garcia said in 2018 she fled gang and domestic violence in her native country of Guatemala and surrendered herself for asylum at the US border. She said her 7-year-old daughter was taken from her at the border and spent her eighth birthday in detention separated from her mother.

I didn’t know where she was going, and was given no information about her,” she said.

With the help of her attorney, Susan Church, and a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, Gonzalez-Garcia said she was reunited with her daughter. But now she has concerns that her asylum claim is not strong.

“Jeff Sessions, [the former US attorney general], used his authority to limit her claim for asylum by ruling claims pertaining to gang violence and domestic violence generally should not qualify for asylum,” Markey said.

The senator said the Trump administration has ramped up enforcement of immigration laws by detaining all undocumented immigrants regardless of their criminal history. Trump has also increased the amount of time it takes to process immigration paperwork.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services data published in the report showed overall processing time has increased by 46 percent since the last year of the Obama administration. The report said the federal government currently has a backlog of 2.3 million immigration cases.

Markey also raised concerns that 85 percent of detainees have no legal counsel to represent them. He noted an AmeriCorps program that provided legal assistance was phased out in June 2017 and an immigration court help desk was also discontinued, which “undermines immigrants’ due process rights.”

His report includes Department of Justice policies outlining new quotas for immigration judges of a minimum of 700 cases per year, a workload that shortens the amount of time they spend per case.