Law Offices of George Giosmas

25 years of experience

Hollywood Florida Immigration Law Blog

New asylum interviews for parents of separated children

After the Trump administration's family separation policies at the southern border provoked widespread outrage in Florida and around the world, parents who were denied asylum could have a second chance to make their case. This arrangement comes as part of an agreement reached between the Department of Justice and attorneys representing the families subjected to the separation policy. According to the text of the settlement submitted to a federal court for approval, up to 1,000 families may have the opportunity for a new asylum hearing.

These hearings represent the first stage of the asylum application process; applicants must show that they have a credible fear for their safety or lives if they are returned to their country of origin. Parents who failed that initial interview while they were separated from their children will have a new chance to make their arguments. According to the families' lawyers, the settlement represents an important step toward protecting families' rights to seek asylum in the future. They argued that the parents were unable to present their cases effectively due to the trauma and fear associated with enforced separation from their children. In the second interviews, immigration officials will need to consider the parents' psychological state in their first asylum interviews.

Reminders for interactions with immigration officers

For non-citizens living in Florida, the idea of interacting with immigration officers can elicit feelings of fear and dread. With the tumultuous state of immigration laws and policies in the United States, it’s not irrational to feel this way. Despite the challenging times, non-citizens living in the U.S. do still have rights when interacting with law enforcement officers.

It’s important for non-citizens, no matter your immigration status, to know your rights if ever approached or detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement or another law enforcement entity. It’s entirely possible to get through an interaction with law enforcement without incident, so consider these reminders if that day comes.

Trump administration plans new family detention program

After people in Florida and across the country expressed outrage at the separation of immigrant children from their parents by the Trump administration, the government is now pursuing a policy change that would allow it to keep families detained for longer periods. The Trump administration's immigration policies and vocal rhetoric have concerned many people nationwide. Now, the Department of Homeland Security announced proposed rules that would end an agreement that has been in place since 1997.

Called the Flores agreement, the arrangement resolved a court case over holding families in immigration detention in 1997. These principles require children to be held in the least restrictive environment, generally compelling their release after 20 days of detention. According to the proposal made in September 2018, the government would instead be able to detain entire families until their immigration cases are closed. The Trump administration argued that cases would go faster than under current practice in which families are released from detention while their immigration matters are pending.

Undocumented immigrant granted stay for son's disease

Many Floridians are likely aware of the government's current hardline stance toward undocumented immigrants. In some cases, however, undocumented immigrants may be granted stays on deportation proceedings. This recently happened in a case involving a man who is living in Connecticut.

According to news reports, the man and his wife fled from Colombia in 2000 because of violence in the country. After they settled in Connecticut, their son was born in 2003 with a rare genetic disorder called chronic granulomatous disease. The disease requires that the boy regularly receives treatment at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center.

Separated children could be more likely to win asylum

Florida immigrants who face persecution or severe threats if sent back to their countries of origin may seek to pursue political asylum claims when challenging deportation. The policy of separating immigrant parents from their children in detention has unleashed a firestorm of criticism across the country. While no parents want to be separated from their kids, some parents are refusing to sign deportation orders for their children in order to give them a better chance, even when they are denied that opportunity themselves.

In one case, a Guatemalan woman who was separated from her child after arriving in the United States without documents on May 30, 2018, refused to sign an agreement that her son would be deported with her back to Guatemala. She was deported, but her 14-year-old son was sent back to a Florida children's facility. Her decision kept the two separated but gave her child a better chance of achieving legal status in the United States, according to a study analyzing data from federal immigration courts. When children are separated from their parents, they are considered "unaccompanied minors." Under U.S. immigration law, these children may have certain advantages including access to a separate asylum process.

Judge asks feds, ACLU to create asylum plan for migrant families

Florida readers may be interested to learn that a U.S. district judge has asked the U.S. government to team with the American Civil Liberties Union to develop an asylum solution for migrant families who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. The request was made on Aug. 17, the day after the same judge extended a deportation freeze on families who had been recently reunited.

According to the judge, hastily deporting reunified families would deny them due process under the law, deprive migrant minors of their rights to seek asylum and go against the best interests of the American public. As a result, he asked that the government pair with the ACLU to reach an agreement over whether parents who were deported before being reunited with their children should be allowed back in the U.S. to pursue asylum claims alongside their kids. More than 2,500 children were forcibly taken from their parents at the border, and up to 366 parents were then deported without getting their kids back.

Judge orders immigrants returned to United States

Those who seek asylum in the United States may have the right to remain in Florida or other states while their cases are pending. On Aug. 9, a judge ordered the Trump administration to halt the deportation of a mother and child who were battling to stay in the country. The two were returned from El Salvador to the United States so that the federal government could comply with the order.

If the order was ignored, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others would have been asked to explain to the judge why they shouldn't be held in contempt. The individuals were put on a plane despite assurances made on Aug. 8 that no one would be deported until the end of Aug. 9. However, the mother and daughter were taken from a detention facility during an emergency hearing prior to that deadline. Their attorney found out about the deportation during a pause in proceedings.

Supreme Court ruling causes judges to throw out deportation cases

A Supreme Court ruling from June is causing some judges to refuse to enforce deportation orders and to invalidate deportation cases. Immigration attorneys are arguing that the court decision set a precedent which applies to many deportation cases.

The Supreme Court case involved Wescley Pereira, a handyman from Brazil, who settled in Massachusetts in 2000. According to The Boston Globe, Pereira’s case concerns his right to apply for a green card for immigrants who have been in the country at least 10 years. These immigrants must also have strong moral character and have relatives in this country that would be hurt by their deportation. Pereira also has two children born in the U.S.

ACLU files lawsuit against government on asylum issues

Florida immigration advocates may have heard that, on Aug. 7, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the government for not offering asylum to 12 parents and children. The lawsuit argues that the decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to refuse asylum to victims of domestic or gang violence should be invalidated.

Many people from Central American countries are fleeing violence and seeking asylum along the southwest border. Asylum is provided to people who are fleeing their country because they will face persecution as a result of membership in a particular social group,among other reasons. In 2014, the Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that a woman who was a victim of domestic violence was persecuted because she was part of the social group of Guatemalan women who were unable to leave their relationships. However, Sessions overturned that decision. The Trump administration argues that immigrants are exploiting the asylum process.

Abuse and sedation reported at child detention centers

Immigration detention practices in Florida and across the United States continue to make controversial headlines in 2018. In late July, a federal district judge ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to release all minors detained at a center in Texas after harrowing reports of child abuse were leaked to news media outlets.

The allegations stacked against the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center included denying a child water, abusive punishment and even sedation of children with psychotropic medications without the consent of their parents. It should be noted that the immigration detention of these children took place at the southern border where they were separated from their parents, many of them migrants seeking asylum in the United States.