In the final weeks of 2017, special agents of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division were planning to descend on worksites across New York City in search of people working here illegally. “We want all the team leaders to utilize the FALCON mobile app on your GOV iphones,” an agent wrote in an email to staff shortly before the raids. The FALCON program is made by Palantir, a secretive data mining company that has long been a favored contractor for law enforcement and the military.
The email, which was obtained by WNYC, explained that the agents used the app to share information with ICE command about people they encountered in stores and other locations. The email was sent shortly before ICE agents raided 16 7-Eleven stores in New York City and dozens elsewhere around the country, marking the single largest operation against an employer in the Trump era. Other emails show the cozy relationship between Palantir employees and ICE agents, like one from April 2018 in which a staffer tells an agent they should test out the FALCON app because the agent was going to be involved in an upcoming operation.
Former HSI agents praised Palantir’s technology, saying it greatly aided their investigations. Yet immigrant advocates said the software is used to tear apart families. “Everywhere you go you see people, average families, going to work and being detained in the raids, and it’s all because of Palantir’s FALCON and ICM product,” said Jacinta Gonzalez, field director with Mijente, an immigrants’ rights group. WNYC
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NYC Homeless Shelter Network Warns Immigrant Families Before Raids
A city homeless shelter network warned immigrant families to leave the shelter for a few days ahead of the planned national ICE raids. ICE agents are not allowed to enter shelters without a judicial warrant, but Win, the City’s largest shelter network, told its residents to leave in case federal authorities showed up with a warrant. The Social Services Department sent a note to providers last week about ICE’s inability to arrest immigrants in the facilities. “We take that job incredibly seriously and will not back down to anyone who threatens our clients, including the president of the United States,” said Christine Quinn, president and CEO of Win. WNYC
Buffalo Wild Wings Manager Questions Customer About Legal Status
The New York Civil Liberties Union says a manager at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Riverhead, Long Island illegally questioned a Honduran man about his legal status in the country. The man, Roberto Banegas, presented his passport as proof of his age while buying an alcoholic beverage. The server took Banegas’ passport and gave it to her manager, who allegedly returned to the table flipping through the pages. He then asked Banegas when he entered the country and where he got the passport. “We do understand the manager had questions about the validity of the information on the passport,” Buffalo Wild Wings said in a statement. The company also apologized and gave Panegas “reward points” for the restaurant. Riverhead Local
Passaic Teenager Says She Shielded Parents from ICE Agents by Knowing Her Rights
A teenager in Passaic, New Jersey says she protected her parents from arrest by a group of men who identified themselves as ICE officers. “‘I’m not going to open the door, you said you didn’t need to come into my house. And you don’t have papers, so I’m not going to open it,’” Laysha, the daughter of undocumented people, apparently said to the men. Passaic Mayor Hector Lora was unable to confirm whether the men were actually ICE agents. Many of the attempted ICE arrests this past weekend were thwarted after relatives or other residents of the homes ICE was targeting pushed back. News 12 New Jersey
Trump Administration’s Efforts to Speed up Deportations Slows Down Immigration Courts
The Trump administration’s race to deport immigrants has overwhelmed the country’s underfunded and underprepared immigration courts. Instead of swiftly deporting thousands of people, the administration has added to the immense backlog in the courts, forcing some immigrants to wait years for their court hearings. The Trump administration has also methodically dismantled immigration judges’ abilities to provide some recourse to immigrants going through the system, as they’ve been told to quickly push as many cases through the system as possible. The Marshall Project
Dozens of Federal Agents are Part of a Secret Facebook Group
At least 62 current federal border agents have joined private Facebook groups that included obscene images of Hispanic lawmakers and threats to a member of congress, according to the Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility. In total, 70 current and former CBP employees were identified as members of the groups. Investigators are examining images, memes and comments in the groups. The Border Patrol will decide how to discipline current agents who belong to these groups. The New York Times
Executives for Tent Rental Company Face Criminal Charges over Undocumented Workers
Three executives with a Florida tent rental business called Tentlogix will face federal criminal charges after a raid last year by HSI, according to an indictment made public on Friday. CEO of Tentlogix Gary Hendry, president Dennis Birdsall and supervisor Kent Hughes were all accused of conspiring “to conceal or harbor aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage.” They’re also accused of making false statements to a federal agency. These charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a forfeiture of nearly $19 million. TCPalm
Border Patrol Agent Allegedly Forced Child to Choose Between Parents
A Honduran couple said a Border Patrol agent forced their 3-year-old daughter to choose which of her parents would be allowed to stay in the U.S. “The agent asked her who she wanted to go with, mom or dad,” her mother, Tania, told NPR through an interpreter. “And the girl, because she is more attached to me, she said mom. But when they started to take [my husband] away, the girl started to cry.” The family was twice sent to Juárez, Mexico after crossing into El Paso in April by the Trump administration as part of its Migrant Protection Protocols, but eventually got to join family in the midwest. NPR
ACLU Files Lawsuit Over Asylum Rule
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in an effort to stymie a ban on asylum claims for migrants who have passed through other countries en route to the U.S.-Mexico border. The Justice Department and DHS announced a rule Monday that would block any the asylum process from migrants who pass through countries other than Mexico without applying for asylum in those countries and being denied. “This is the Trump administration’s most extreme run at an asylum ban yet,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt in an announcement. “It clearly violates domestic and international law, and cannot stand.” Politico
Washington – Asylum Policy Upended, Major Immigration Bill, Former Acting ICE Director Thought About Attacking Lawmaker
On Monday, the Trump administration announced one its most restrictive policies against Central American asylum seekers yet. Administration officials said they would deny asylum claims to migrants who failed to apply for protections in at least one of the countries they passed through to get to the United States. Under the new rule, which has already been challenged in federal court, Hondurans and Salvadorans would have to apply for asylum in Guatemala or Mexico before they were eligible for asylum in the U.S. Guatemalans would have to apply in Mexico.
Migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala make up the vast majority of asylum seekers who tried to enter the U.S. this year. Border Patrol has arrested 363,300 migrant family members from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala at the southwestern border so far in fiscal year 2019. Many Africans, Cubans and Haitians who travel through Mexico to the border would also be barred from obtaining protections.
Guatemala and Mexico so far have refused to go along with the plan, making no assurances they will grant asylum to migrants heading to the U.S. The administration has been negotiating for months with the two countries and gave up after talks broke down with Guatemala. “This rule is a lawful exercise of authority provided by Congress to restrict eligibility for asylum,” Attorney General William Barr said. The New York Times
Amid uproar over Trump’s racist tweets against four freshmen congresswomen, the White House has quietly introduced a 620-page immigration bill and rounded up 10 Republican senators to co-sponsor the measure. The bill was drafted with the input of about 25 Republican Senate offices and a handful of House Republicans. “Now we are at a place where we feel like the bill is substantially complete,” a White House official said. A senior administration official said part of the goal behind the bill is to unite factions of the GOP around reforms. NPR
Former Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said he considered assaulting Rep. Jesús García (D-Ill.) during a debate about immigration last week. ″Do you have children?” García asked at a hearing last Friday. “How can you possibly allow this to happen under your watch? Do you not care? Is it because these children don’t look like children that are around you? I don’t get it. Have you ever held a deceased child in your arms?” Home later discussed the exchange during a Fox News appearance, saying “If you notice, I hesitated a minute before I started yelling. Because I actually think about getting up and throwing that man a beating right there in the middle of the room. Because when you tell somebody that’s spent their career saving lives that I don’t care about dying children and I’m a racist, that’s where I broke and that’s where I had enough.” HuffPost