Border officials alarmed by migrants abandoned in the desert
By ANITA SNOW
Thursday, October 11
PHOENIX (AP) — Smugglers in recent weeks have been abandoning large groups of Guatemalan and other Central American migrants in Arizona’s harsh cactus-studded Sonoran Desert near the border with Mexico, alarming Border Patrol officials who say the trend is putting hundreds of children at risk.
Collectively, more than 1,400 migrants have been left by smugglers in the broiling desert — or in one case in a drenching thunderstorm — in remote areas by the border since Aug. 20. One group was as large as 275 people.
“We’ve seen large groups in the past, but never on this scale,” Tucson-based Border Patrol Agent Daniel Hernandez said. “It’s definitely a serious concern because their safety is being put in jeopardy.”
Hernandez said the latest case involved 61 people rescued by agents last week from rising floodwaters caused by unusually heavy rains in an isolated area and “it could have been a much, much worse situation if the rain continued.”
Unlike Texas, where people turn themselves in on the banks of the Rio Grande, the smugglers in in Arizona have been dumping groups of migrant families on a remote dirt road running along the southern limit of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument west of the Lukeville border crossing with Mexico. Summer temperatures there can soar close to 120 degrees (49 Celsius).
The migrants are sometimes provided with food and water, but not always, and they often require medical care for back and ankle injuries or lacerations.
The traffickers have “no regard for the safety and well-being of these families,” Tucson Sector Chief Rodolfo Karisch said last week.
Two larger groups of migrants from Guatemala and Honduras were also found abandoned last week near Yuma. Border Patrol officers said 108 people were found just before midnight Oct. 2 a half-mile west of the San Luis Port of Entry and five hours later, agents apprehended 56 Central Americans a mile east of the same border crossing.
While Mexican men traveling without relatives once made up the bulk of the migrants, Guatemalans and other Central Americans traveling in families or as unaccompanied minors are now the norm.
U.S. Immigration and Control Enforcement in Arizona began releasing hundreds of people Sunday to await court dates, saying it didn’t have the capacity to hold an “incredibly high volume” of migrant families showing up at the border.
Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona on Wednesday asked Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and other officials to investigate ways of dealing with a wave of migrants he said was overwhelming Yuma and other parts of southern Arizona. He said at a Senate hearing that he worried about people being threatened “by an enormous number of illegal entrants … some of whom may not be making asylum claims.”
Nielsen said she didn’t know how many of the migrants in southern Arizona had made asylum claims, but would look into it.
Under federal law and international treaties, people can obtain asylum in the U.S. if they have a well-grounded fear of persecution in their countries, but Trump administration officials charge that the system is rife with fraud and groundless claims and have called for stricter standards.
About eight of every 10 asylum-seekers pass an initial screening and are then either held in an immigration detention center or released on bond into the U.S. while their cases wind through immigration courts. Many claims are ultimately denied.
Hernandez said the smugglers instructed the migrants to seek asylum or some other kind of U.S. protective status, but interviews have indicated they came to the U.S. to improve their economic situation and were headed to places including Charleston, South Carolina; Oakland, California and Homestead, Florida.
Ali Noorani, executive director of the Washington advocacy group National Immigration Forum, said the government doesn’t have the resources to deal with the wave of migrants and “should use some of that money to address the root causes of poverty and violence in Guatemala and process the asylum cases in a fair manner.”
Central Americans typically cite violence in their homelands when applying for asylum claims. The recently apprehended migrants came from Honduras and El Salvador, which like Guatemala are home to deadly gangs like the MS-13.
From Oct. 1, 2017 through Aug. 31, nearly double the number of Guatemalans and more than twice as many Salvadorans were arrested compared with the same 11-month period the year before. The most recent statistics from the Customs and Border Protection agency show that apprehensions of people traveling in families and as unaccompanied minors were also way up.
Of the more than 90,000 migrants traveling in families who were apprehended during the 11-month period, close to half were from Guatemala. The rest were from Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico.
Follow Anita Snow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/asnowreports
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Reduced sentencing for nonviolent criminals: What does the public think?
October 11, 2018
Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Massachusetts Boston
Kevin Wozniak receives funding from the National Institute of Justice.
University of Massachusetts provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Partisan politics in Washington has found a new victim: criminal justice reform.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is trying to pass a bipartisan bill that would reduce punishments for less serious, nonviolent crimes. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a few Republican senators are fighting the bill because they believe prosecutors need the threat of long prison sentences to deter crime. Their belief is not shared by many criminologists.
Grassley’s bill reflects reforms that have already happened at the state level: More than two dozen red and blue states, including states as politically different as Texas and Massachusetts, have joined the Justice Reinvestment Initiative over the last 15 years. Under the initiative, sponsored by the Council of State Governments, states have changed their laws to sentence nonviolent offenders to community-based sanctions, like probation or ankle bracelet monitoring, instead of prison.
Spending less money on locking people in prison means states have more to spend on other forms of crime prevention. Investing this money in communities was the original vision of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. However, most legislatures have reinvested money back into the criminal justice system instead.
What does the public think about sentencing reform and investing in communities now?
As a scholar who studies public opinion and the politics of criminal justice, I conducted a public opinion survey to answer this question.
I surveyed white and black respondents to see whether opinions differed across racial groups. Criminal justice is an issue that has long divided Americans by race.
Support for sentencing reform
I asked about 2,000 people to state whether they support or oppose sentencing nonviolent property and drug offenders to community-based punishments instead of prison. Property offenders commit crimes like burglary or theft. Drug offenders commit crimes like drug possession or selling.
I found that a majority of black respondents expressed support for sentencing both property and drug offenders to community-based punishments.
Only between 42 percent to 48 percent of white respondents expressed similar support for community-based punishments. The remaining white respondents expressed opposition or no preference.
Support for community investment
Next, I wanted to know how people think money saved from reducing the prison population should be reinvested.
I asked participants to imagine they are a governor and could distribute money for hiring police officers, hiring probation officers, funding community health care clinics, increasing funding to community public schools, funding community job creation programs, or giving citizens a tax break as part of a hypothetical crime prevention budget.
I found that white respondents, on average, gave each category a similar percentage of the overall budget.
Black respondents also put some money into each category, on average. However, they allocated less money toward hiring police and more money toward community institutions and services than white respondents.
In research that will be published in Justice Quarterly, I also tested whether people’s allocation of money would change depending on the community that would receive the funds. I found that respondents were relatively consistent regardless of whether they were told that the communities were high in crime, poverty or welfare usage.
Only one variable changed the allocations: White respondents who were told that African-American communities would receive money allocated more money toward hiring police and probation officers and less money into clinics, schools or job creation programs.
This result is consistent with the political science theory of “racial priming.” The theory holds that images or words that are negatively associated with black people, like “welfare queen” or “inner-city,” trigger racial stereotypes. These stereotypes make whites more likely to feel that black people’s requests for anti-poverty policies in their communities are requests for “special treatment” that whites consider to be unfair.
My findings suggest that politicians could encourage both white and black Americans to support community investment if they talk about fixing social problems, like poverty or crime, instead of talking about giving money to one particular group of people.
Disconnect between politicians and citizens
I found no evidence that black and white Americans hold substantially different opinions about criminal justice reform.
Though politicians may have political reasons to shy away from sentencing reform and community investment, a lack of public support does not appear to be one of them. The public is less divided on this issue than our leaders in Washington.
Why a large church group had little impact when it opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination
October 11, 2018
Assistant Professor of Intellectual Heritage, Temple University
David Mislin does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Numerous organizations demanded Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court be put on hold or withdrawn, in the wake of the sexual misconduct allegations against him. The most surprising one, perhaps, was from the National Council of Churches, which represents 38 Christian denominations and typically avoids commenting on partisan issues such as court nominations.
In this case, the National Council of Churches said in a statement that Kavanaugh had “disqualified himself” by revealing he had “neither the temperament nor the character” for the Supreme Court.
To some observers, this stance suggested a new vibrancy on the part of the religious left. The National Council of Churches has long been the voice of progressive religion, and its decision to critique Kavanaugh could well have reminded many of the influence the organization once had in American politics.
Indeed, in the past, due to their large memberships and close connections to political power, these organizations were influential. But that’s missing today.
Coordinated Christian influence
As a historian who has written on the founding of the council’s precursor organization, the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, I am skeptical that the Kavanaugh statement matches the group’s earlier influence.
The Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America was set up in 1908 so that churches could better respond to social woes such as widespread child labor and rampant poverty.
The group’s founders believed that by combining efforts, the nation’s major Protestant denominations could, in their words, “secure a larger combined influence for the churches.” By working together, churches could more effectively coordinate charitable work. More importantly, they could craft a common message on political issues.
The plan worked. As historian Christopher Evans has argued, politicians came to view the Federal Council as “the ‘voice’ of American Protestantism.”
The young organization’s influence became especially clear when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917. Representatives of the Federal Council met frequently with Newton Baker, the secretary of war. Baker gave the organization significant oversight in shaping the U.S. military’s policies on religion.
The new chaplaincy corps, as well as the religious policies of the Army and Navy, came to be largely guided by the Federal Council. And Federal Council leaders used their clout to imbue this new institution with their moral values.
Linking religion and progressive politics
After World War I, the Federal Council grew as a force of progressive activism. The organization’s political outlook and its influence were exemplified by Francis McConnell.
The son of an evangelical pastor in rural Ohio, McConnell himself became a Methodist clergyman. He rejected his father’s conservatism and embraced a liberal religious and political outlook. He was an outspoken advocate for workers’ rights and the primary author of an influential study of the 1919 steel strike, which called for greater government support for laborers and their unions.
As Susan Curtis, a scholar of McConnell, has written, he viewed politics as “an avenue by which religious people could reach their goal of a just society.” This was precisely the attitude of the Federal Council’s founders.
McConnell became Federal Council president in 1928. He brought important political connections to the role, including to Franklin D. Roosevelt, future president, who was then governor of New York. McConnell went on to lead the state’s Social Security Administration. His commitment to social welfare programs reflected the council’s’s longstanding advocacy for the poor.
The Federal Council merged with several smaller groups to become the National Council of Churches in 1950, but its commitment to exerting a progressive religious influence in U.S. politics persisted. The organization was a major supporter of civil rights campaigns of the 1950s and ‘60s.
Its leaders developed educational programs to build support for the movement among whites, and it urged members to participate in protests. The group also raised funds for Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
The decline of liberal Protestantism
In the late 1960s, the mainline Protestant churches that were the backbone of the National Council entered a decades-long decline in membership. The organization’s influence diminished as a result. Indeed, the National Council’s liberal activism was one of the reasons it lost support. In the wake of its campaign against the Vietnam War, many churchgoers perceived it as being too far to the left.
At the same time, conservative Christians established competing organizations. Groups like the National Association of Evangelicals and the Southern Baptist Convention represented the views of Americans who abandoned mainline churches. By the end of the 20th century, evangelical groups supplanted the National Counil in exerting a religious influence in politics.
The National Council’s impact today
The reality of the National Council’s position remains unchanged in 2018. This explains why the organization’s statement on the Kavanaugh confirmation had little effect.
While the National Council encompasses many denominations, its constituent bodies represent a declining share of the religious population. Neither the Roman Catholic Church nor most large evangelical denominations belong to it. More importantly, political leaders do not view it as the voice of religious people as they did in the early 20th century.
Until that underlying reality changes, in my view, public statements will do little to advance the National Council or the religious left for which it speaks.