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Early Arrival: Inside Documented’s Year-Long Investigation into the Immigration Courts

Friday's Edition of Early Arrival: ICE Tried to Deport a 14-Year Old Girl During Pandemic — Homeland Security Agents Pay for Sex Acts During Investigation — White House Seeks to Extend Immigration Ban

A year ago, we set out to investigate how President Trump’s policies were affecting New York’s immigration courts.

We hired six reporters to wander the courts’ halls, talk to attorneys and immigrants and watch as many cases as possible, uncovering widespread issues in New York’s immigration courts along the way. We spoke with Maria Hinojosa for a behind-the-scenes interview on the project, which was part of an episode of Latino USA released yesterday.

You can also catch the episode on WNYC tonight at 9:00 p.m. and when the show plays on other NPR affiliates across the country. NPR

Local

ICE Tried to Deport a 14-Year Old Girl From NY Shelter During Pandemic

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Immigration and Customs Enforcement attempted to deport a 14-year old girl to Honduras on Monday, only to be blocked by a federal court. She was previously placed in the Remain in Mexico program but later crossed the border alone, and now ICE is trying to deport her and other children who did the same. Jenny’s attorney Hannah Flamm was notified about ICE’s plan to deport Jenny at around 8 p.m. on Monday, and in the space of a few hours scrambled to get an order to block the deportation. A judge in the Southern District of New York signed a temporary restraining order ten minutes before midnight on Monday, blocking the deportation for at least two weeks. Read more at Documented.

Advocates Protest Outside NJ Assemblyman’s Home Over COVID-19 Fight

Immigrant advocates gathered for a musical protest outside of New Jersey Assemblyman Robert Auth’s (R) home earlier this week after he played a violin in a hearing to mock immigrants’ struggles during the pandemic. Claudia Mejia-Sydenstricker, 15, played the Sarabande movement from Bach’s Partita in D minor outside Auth’s home. “What he did was offensive,” Claudia said after her performance. “And even if he didn’t mean it to, it definitely hurt people.” During a recent hearing, an advocate testified that undocumented immigrants were excluded from receiving federal aid. Auth picked up a violin, pretended to play it, then smiled at someone off screen. He later said he didn’t intend to mock immigrants. The Record

New York Federal Prosecutor Asks for Court to Reverse Decision on Detention Burden of Proof

A New York federal prosecutor on Wednesday urged the Second Circuit to overturn a U.S. District Judge’s ruling where he found it was unconstitutional to place the burden of justifying detention on the immigrant, not the government. The prosecutor is seeking to get the court to return the policy to what it was previously, where the immigrants were tasked with proving why they shouldn’t be detained while waiting for their court hearings. The suit was filed by the law firm Farrell, Patel, Jomarron & Lopez. Law360 (paywall)

National

Homeland Security Investigations Agents Repeatedly Pay for Sex Acts During Sex-Trafficking Investigation

Homeland Security Investigations agents assigned to investigate a sex-trafficking ring in Arizona repeatedly paid for and engaged in sexual acts with suspected victims, as part of the investigation. HSI refused to let its agents testify at trial, which also torpedoed a three-year investigation. “That’s our tax money,” said defense attorney Josephine Hallam. “Shouldn’t they be at the border, or doing something with terrorists rather than getting sex acts?” HSI framed it as a rogue action, but police in Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City say HSI told them agency policy permitted undercover agents to engage in sex acts with suspects. HSI supervisory agents signed at least eight reports that documented sex acts during undercover visits to the massage parlors. Cronkite News Arizona PBS

Only Two People Granted Humanitarian Relief at the Border

Only two people seeking humanitarian protection have been allowed to stay in the U.S. since March 21, according to USCIS data. Public health officials have given immigration authorities the power to suspend most due-process rights for migrants and rapidly deport people who arrive at the border, even asylum seekers. USCIS reportedly only conducted 59 screening interviews under the Convention Against Torture between March 21 and Wednesday. Of them, 54 were rejected and three cases are still pending, according to the data. A combination of policies have recently made crossing the border for migrants incredibly difficult, including a new approach to conducting Convention Against Torture screenings. The Washington Post

ICE Shrinks South Florida Detention Center Populations After Court Order

ICE has cut the populations at three South Florida detention centers after U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke ordered the agency to do so. She told ICE to shrink its detainee populations to 75 percent capacity to allow for social distancing at the Krome Processing Center in Miami-Dade, the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach and the Glades County detention center in Moore Haven. On Sunday night, the agency said Krome’s population was at 71 percent capacity, Glade’s was at 74 percent and BTC was at 65 percent. The Miami Herald

Second ICE Detainee Dies of COVID-19-Related Issues

Óscar López Acosta, a 42-year-old Honduran man, became the second ICE detainee to die of COVID-19-related issues on Sunday. Lopez had spent 18 months in ICE detention, most recently in Morrow County Jail in Gilead, Ohio. He was abruptly released after being told another individual in his crowded dorm had tested positive for COVID-19. The first COVID-19-related death of an ICE detainee occurred last week when Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejía died in Otay Mesa detention facility in San Diego. According to Lopez’s wife, he had no appetite when he was released from ICE custody. Lopez was not tested before he was released so it’s impossible to know if he contracted the virus while in detention. Mother Jones

Migrants Left in Limbo in MexicoMexican authorities have left migrants with few choices during the pandemic. The government vowed to empty detention centers and followed through by reducing the numbers from around 3,800 to 106. However, migrants that were released or rejected entry into the U.S. have been given the choice to either wait for Mexican asylum or go home. Mexico’s asylum office has all but ceased operations. Even those who wanted to leave were barred from doing so as some Central American countries blocked deportation flights. Advocates now worry those migrants will become homeless in Mexico. The Intercept

Washington — White House Seeks to Indefinitely Extend Immigration Ban, Biden and Sanders Form Joint Immigration Task Force

The Trump administration is hoping to extend its pandemic-related border restrictions indefinitely, The New York Times reports. Under The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s emergency public health powers, the U.S. has sealed the southern and northern borders to all nonessential travel, including migrants and asylum seekers. A new Trump administration order in the works would extend the restrictions until the CDC determines the virus is no longer a threat.

Many other elements of the immigration system have been halted due to the virus, including how Trump issued an executive order blocking the issuance of green cards to many people outside of the U.S. Canada and the U.S. are reportedly likely to extend their nonessential travel restrictions until June 21 before they expire May 21. The New York Times, Reuters

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are working to promote party unity by creating joint task forces filled with their supporters. The task forces cover eight different topics, including immigration. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, co-chair the immigration committee. Associated Press

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