After Finding Refuge in the US, Asylum Seeker Now Fears Deportation

July 11, 2019

Home to an estimated 20,000 undocumented immigrants, activists and local officials say they won't comply with ICE raids targeting one million people

Home to an estimated 20,000 undocumented immigrants, activists and local officials say they won't comply with ICE raids targeting one million people


After Finding Refuge in the US, Asylum Seeker Now Fears Deportation

Story Transcript

12 YEAR OLD GIRL They gave us little food. Some children did not bathe, they didn’t bathe them. They treated us badly where we were.

FRECIA, ASYLUM SEEKER Like I said, I was one of them. I was there. That place was really cold, the food was really disgusting, and I was really scared that I was gonna be deported.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER Images of children and families at the border locked in cages have sparked outrage across the country. On Monday, the UN condemned the dangerous conditions, citing allegations of widespread neglect and sexual abuse. While continuing to defend its actions at the border, Trump administration officials said raids to round up and deport up to one million undocumented immigrants were imminent.

KEN CUCCINELLI, U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICESThey’re ready to just perform their mission, which is to go and find and detain and then deport the approximately one million people who have final removal orders.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER This has had a dramatic impact on the roughly 20,000 undocumented immigrants in Baltimore, like Frecia and her sister Deimy.

FRECIA, ASYLUM SEEKER That makes me really sad, because a lot of my people are going to be deported.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER Five years ago, at the age of just 14, Frecia and her sister Deimy fled El Salvador to escape gang violence.

DEIMY, ASYLUM SEEKER We’d go to the house, to the church, to the school, and the same over and over for a lot of years because we were scared. My parents were scared, and my grandparents were scared that if I we went to the street, there was going to be somebody there that’s gonna harm us.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER Now seeking asylum in the United States, Frecia recalls her own experience of being detained at the border under the Obama administration. She said she faced similar conditions to the recent images of starving children and families locked in cages.

FRECIA, ASYLUM SEEKER Like I said, I was one of them. I was there. That place was really cold, the food was really disgusting, and I was really scared that I was gonna be deported. And I just didn’t want to be apart from my sister, and I always felt that I was going to be separated from her. Everybody was crying. Some people were like, “Oh, we’re  going to get deported,” or “What is gonna happen with us, where are our parents?” I don’t wish no one what happened to me and my sister, because we were going through a lot of stuff. And sometimes I prayed to God to help me to forget all those people that did something bad to us even though we didn’t do anything bad to them.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER On June 27, hundreds rallied in Baltimore against Trump’s threatened raids.

SERGIO ESPANA, DIRECTOR OF ENGAGEMENT AND MOBILIZATION AT THE ACLU OF MD How we got to this point, where we have literal concentration camps, is through programs that have continued to grow over the last, really, three administrations. It’s not just a Trump thing, but the Trump administration has been able to use all that and turn it into something horrendous intentionally, very intentionally. It’s not that it got to a point that he had no choice. They are actively working on dehumanizing human beings and scapegoating the poor and dispossessed.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER But advocates have made it clear the current crisis didn’t start with Trump. Democrats have played a role as well.

SERGIO ESPANA, DIRECTOR OF ENGAGEMENT AND MOBILIZATION AT THE ACLU OF MD What’s important to stress as we’re going through this primary process is that at minimum, every presidential candidate needs to stand for a platform of reducing detention by at least 75 percent. The overwhelming majority of people that are being detained have no criminal records, have no violent tendencies. Thousands of them are children.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER And advocates say the U.S. must atone for its role in creating the conditions that many like Frecia are fleeing.

DAN MALINSKY, SANCTUARY STREETS BALTIMORE Many people are fleeing countries in Central America, fleeing gang violence or state violence or domestic violence. And in many cases, those categories or those circumstances don’t fall under the category of reasonable asylum claims under current policy.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER Mayor Jack Young has joined leaders of other major cities and vowed to not take part in Trump’s raids. Baltimore is considered a welcoming city. Under a new policy announced last week, police will no longer enforce warrants issued by ICE.

MICHAEL HARRISON, BALTIMORE POLICE COMISSIONER Our officers will not ask about immigration status or citizenship under any circumstances.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER Police commissioner Michael Harrison sharply rebuked the Trump administration and argued ICE raids do not make communities safer.

MICHAEL HARRISON, BALTIMORE POLICE COMISSIONER Our immigrants who are victims and who happen to be witnesses to crimes, they can help us do our work. But you can’t help us do that work if you’re afraid to call, if there is fear of deportation or fear of getting arrested.

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER Last year, a two hundred thousand dollar fund was established in partnership with the immigration legal advocacy group Care Coalition that’s helped provide pro bono legal assistance to over 30 city residents. But Baltimore’s jails are controlled by the state of Maryland and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. A state corrections department spokesperson told The Real News that it’s state policy to inform ICE when releasing individuals with ICE detainers. Over the past six months, they said, ICE has picked up 37 out of 39 individuals released from the Baltimore City Jail.

Meanwhile, we can expect the Trump administration to escalate its anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies leading up to the 2020 election. Not only does scapegoating immigrants distract from the policies Trump has embraced to attack workers and exacerbate inequality, sowing fear and division makes it harder for communities to organize and fight for better conditions.

 For The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.