Caitlin Dickerson and Ron Nixon report for the NYT:

“WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is stepping up its pursuit of parents who paid to have their children illegally brought into the United States, according to people familiar with the matter. The effort, part of a widening crackdown on illegal immigration, is aimed at discouraging families from paying human smuggling organizations.
As part of a new round of immigration sweeps, officials are targeting parents or other relatives who were deported, re-entered the United States and then had their children smuggled across the border. Legal experts say cases of illegal re-entry are faster and easier to prove than a smuggling charge.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said it was common for parents or family members in the United States to make illegal payments to smugglers to arrange for children to be brought to the border, where they turn themselves in and are often eventually handed over to their relatives. Tens of thousands of women and children have arrived at the border in the last three years, beginning with a surge of arrivals in the summer of 2014, many seeking refuge from gang violence and extreme poverty in Central America.
It was not clear how many people would be affected by the effort to arrest and prosecute family members for illegal re-entry, but officials familiar with the plan said it would serve as a deterrent to stop other parents and relatives from paying to have children brought to the United States as unaccompanied minors. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss enforcement policies publicly.
ICE officials said they had arrested hundreds of people for smuggling children and referred dozens of cases to the Justice Department for prosecution, including many for illegally re-entering the country and then paying to have children smuggled across the border.
“The risks associated with smuggling children into the U.S. present a constant humanitarian threat,” ICE officials said in a statement. “The sponsors who have placed children directly into harm’s way by entrusting them to violent criminal organizations will be held accountable for their role in these conspiracies.”
Some children reported being raped or held hostage by smugglers for more money. Others have been abandoned by smugglers as they try to cross the border.
Immigration advocates called the new enforcement policy a heartless way to try to reduce smuggling.
“It’s extremely cruel when you started shutting down refugee applicants and rescinding protections for children brought to the country at a young age, to send this kind of message to parents trying to get their kids to safety,” said Chris Rickerd, policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington.
Smuggling cases are among the most challenging to prove, and the biggest hurdle is identifying witnesses, who are likely to be undocumented and unwilling to help, according to Michael J. Wynne, who spent 12 years as an assistant United States attorney in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Targeting parents for re-entering the country illegally, rather than trying to go after them for smuggling, presents prosecutors with a higher likelihood of success.
“It’s a throwdown case,” he said. “You’re going to prosecute the crime where you get the biggest bang for your buck.”
Officials in ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division have been told to look for cases that can be brought to United States attorneys for possible prosecution, according to people familiar with the enforcement effort. Because prosecutions for illegal re-entry carry a five-year statute of limitations, ICE special agents are also looking to see if they can prosecute relatives of unaccompanied children for other immigration-related crimes, such as giving false statements, according to people familiar with the effort.
Convictions for illegal re-entry are politically popular among immigration restrictionists.
According to Justice Department data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research group at Syracuse University, illegal re-entry made up the bulk of prosecutions for illegal immigration for the last five years.
The Trump administration has made no secret of its plans to go after parents living in the country illegally who bring in their children.
Earlier this year, administration officials said that the thousands of children who arrived each year as unaccompanied minors would no longer be protected against deportation, reversing an Obama administration policy. John F. Kelly, then the Homeland Security secretary and now the White House chief of staff, wrote a memo in February saying parents would be subject to criminal prosecution if they had paid human traffickers to bring children across the border.
The children, who turn themselves in to the Border Patrol, are handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. The office will either place the children in a shelter or release them to a family member. Immigration officials said most of the unaccompanied children apprehended at the border were eventually turned over to a family member, most often a parent, already living in the United States.
Homeland Security officials acknowledge that many of the children are fleeing violence in their home country, but they say that paying smugglers to transport them to the border endangers the children.”


Read the full article at the link.

Seems like a pretty typical Trump Administration approach: please the White Nationalist/restrictionist base, fill the prisons with nonviolent “criminals,” rack up some nice stats, and make sure not to deal with the root causes of undocumented migration.



ROGUE! — Will Push To Hire More DHS Agents Weaken National Security With More “Bad Apples?” — “Haste Makes Waste” Governing Has Real Life Consequences!


Ron Nixon reports in the NYT:
“BROWNSVILLE, Tex. — Joel Luna was just the kind of job candidate the Border Patrol covets. He grew up on both sides of the border, in Mexico and South Texas. He participated in the Reserve Officers Training Corps in high school and later served in the Army, seeing combat in Iraq.

Mr. Luna joined the agency as part of a hiring surge that began under the George W. Bush administration, patrolling a rural area about 100 miles north of Mexico. But six years later, his decorated career came to a shocking end: He was arrested and charged with helping to send illegal weapons to Mexico and ship drugs into the United States. He was convicted in January and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Now, as President Trump plans a similar hiring surge at the Border Patrol, Mr. Luna’s case is casting a large shadow. The president wants to make 5,000 new hires, under a streamlined process that critics fear could open a door to other rogue agents like Mr. Luna.

Agency officials, some members of Congress and the Border Patrol union say the current process has made it too hard to hire agents. It typically takes more than a year to vet candidates and get them on the job.

At the center of this notoriously slow and stringent process — which Customs and Border Protection, the patrol’s parent agency, put in place after a number of corruption cases — is a mandatory polygraph test. Officials are considering changing the test, and in some cases the agency would simply waive it.

“C.B.P. has a big problem in not being able to hire agents because of the polygraph test,” said Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, who has sponsored the legislation to make hiring agents easier and faster. “I’m not saying that we should get rid of the polygraph, but we want to make sure the process isn’t an overall detriment to good candidates.”

Three weeks ago, the agency began using a different lie detector test that takes less time than the current one and asks fewer questions. And legislation moving through Congress would grant the agency the authority to waive the polygraph for some former law enforcement officers and military veterans.
Top officials said the changes would allow the agency, which is losing agents faster than it can replace them, to compete for qualified candidates with other law enforcement agencies more effectively without sacrificing standards. Applicants would still undergo a background check in addition to the shorter polygraph test, officials said.

“No one wants corrupt agents inside the Border Patrol,” said Jayson Ahern, a former acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. “What C.B.P. is proposing is a sensible way to weed out corruption but speed up the hiring.”

But some current and former Department of Homeland Security officials said the proposed changes could expose the agency to corrupt individuals who could use their position to help drug cartels or human smugglers. Border Patrol agents work largely by themselves in isolated areas and are routinely targeted by criminal organizations.”


How many times have we seen this pattern: scandal, followed by reform? Time goes by, and we forget the scandal.  But, “best practices” can be burdensome. So someone proposes a “streamlined” process which recreates the conditions for scandal. And the cycle begins again.

Ironically, the risk to American security from corrupt DHS agents probably exceeds the risk from the undocumented entries that additional hastily hired agents are supposed to be preventing. The border today is probably under better control than at any other point in my lifetime. But, corrupt border agents can be co-opted by terrorists, narco traffickers, and human smugglers, all of whom “pay” much better than the USG. So, taking time to make sure the folks we’re hiring for these key jobs have the “right stuff” makes sense to me. Also, how about raising their pay to reflect their important, challenging (and dangerous) mission and to reduce turnover?



NY Times: What Does It REALLY Take To Get A U.S. Nonimmigrant Visa?

From listening to some members of the Administration, nonimmigrant visas for visitors, students, professors, businessmen, and tech workers are being handed out like candy abroad. But, those of us who have actually practiced immigration law for a living at one time or another know the hard truth: getting a U.S. nonimmigrant visa for a client can be a long, detailed, and often frustrating process.

I left private practice 22 years ago.  But, even then, getting a business visa for a client in India, Pakistan, or the Philippines, to name just a few consulates, could be a major project. I can remember being on our basement dial phone at 3:00 AM with my files and papers spread across an ironing board as I tried to negotiate what “additional evidence” might be necessary for my business client to establish his or her bona fides, during the one-hour period that many consulates halfway around the world allocated to speak with attorneys about visa cases. And this was after the INS had approved a visa petition. I’m sure it has only gotten more difficult and exacting since then.

Here is a good step-by-step guide to the visa issuing process by Ron Nixon and Jasmine C. Lee in the NY Times. And, this is just for a “typical” visa. In countries where terrorism is a threat, this would only be the beginning of the inquiry.