Immigration News for June 22, 2021

White crosses with the names of those who have died crossing the US border adorn the Mexican side of the wall in Heroica Nogales, Mexico. Photo by Jonathan McIntosh, published under Creative Commons license

Today’s news begins with two good-news stories: allowing more asylum seekers to make their cases and including a path to citizenship in the infrastructure bill. Bad news continues, including reports about miserable conditions in two detention centers, one for children and one for adults. And there’s more: asylum, Afghani allies, Central American Minors Program, and Hugs Not Walls. 

The Good 

Thousands of asylum seekers were denied asylum and ordered deported when they did not show up for their hearings. The catch: they had been sent back to Mexico by the Trump administration and—due to violence, lack of resources, and other problems—were not able to return for their hearings. Now the Biden administration will give them a chance for a day in court. (BuzzFeed News)

“Nearly 28,000 immigrants were forced under former president Donald Trump into the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and ordered deported without being present at their last hearing or “in absentia.” In addition to conditions being too dangerous to travel to the US–Mexico border, some immigrants missed their hearings because they were kidnapped by cartels. Others were too sick or denied entry because they were pregnant….

“So far, the Biden administration has mostly only allowed those with open cases to enter the US, and more than 11,000 people have been processed into the country. On Wednesday, the Biden administration will allow those who were ordered deported “in absentia,” or who had their cases terminated by an immigration judge, to also seek entry into the US.”

Senator Bernie Sanders says a path to citizenship will be part of the infrastructure bill. I hope that’s true. “Negotiation” with Republicans in the Senate is a path to nowhere. (Los Angeles Times)

“An early draft would call for $150 billion to go toward immigration policies, including the path to citizenship and some border security, according to a document circulating on Capitol Hill.

“President Biden and congressional Democrats have not yet determined how they will enact an infrastructure plan and are still negotiating with Republicans over a bipartisan proposal. 

“But as those talks take far longer than expected, Democrats are also starting the process of pursuing a partisan bill that would address several of their top priorities, such as climate, immigration and healthcare. Several progressives say they wouldn’t support a bipartisan plan without assurance that Democrats would follow up with the partisan bill.”

The Bad

The Fort Bliss site is supposed to be a shelter. The children held there say it feels like a prison. Workers try to prevent suicide attempts, self-harm, panic attacks, and escapes. (CBS)

“The workers said the children’s restlessness and frustration has been largely driven by prolonged stays at Fort Bliss. The children long to be with families in the U.S. but many languish at the Army base for weeks and even months with no updates on their release.

“‘There’s very little communicated to these kids about the process and amount of time they’ll be here,’ another federal government employee who volunteered at Fort Bliss told CBS News. ‘So they live in constant doubt, uncertainty and fear about what’s gonna happen to them.’…

“While she understands why they were initially set up, Leecia Welch, an attorney with the National Center for Youth Law, said the government should be winding down the emergency facilities and focusing on releasing children to family or placing them in traditional shelters. She called her visit to Fort Bliss a ‘soul-crushing experience.’

“‘The government makes a poor parent to begin with — and Fort Bliss exemplifies this beyond measure,’ Welch told CBS News.” 

Asylum seekers, attorneys, and advocates describe and denounce conditions at Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana as “not fit for humans.” They have written to the Department of Homeland Security reporting abuses and delays in hearings. Winn is a state prison for men, operated by the for-profit LaSalle Corrections corporation. Migrant detainees are awaiting hearings on their cases. (NBC)

“The attorneys included a long list of grievances, including units for 44 people having only one urinal, two toilets and two showers. In one instance, a detainee allegedly found a live cockroach in his food. Another detainee removed a cyst from his stomach due to lack of medical attention. Hunger strikes have broken out over the conditions at the facility and have resulted in the use of pepper spray. The letters also cite what advocates and detainees describe as racist language by guards in the facilities.

“’This is why we are calling on Mayorkas to immediately end all contracts with Winn and open an investigation into NOLA ICE,’ Mich Gonzalez, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said, referring to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“In one instance, described in the June 10 letter to Homeland Security, a detainee reported to Gonzalez he was handcuffed and forced to the ground with his face pushed against the floor. The client repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and believes the officer’s knee was on his neck. He was placed in isolation where he attempted suicide and was later deported.  The detainee, who spoke English, overheard guards at Winn refer to other detainees as ‘illegal dogs’ and ‘dumb a—-.’ One officer told him ‘I’m white, I don’t know Spanish.'”

The Trump administration created the “public health” Title 42 expulsion policy and the Remain in Mexico program to keep all immigrants and asylum seekers out of the United States. The Biden administration ended Remain in Mexico, but has kept the Title 42 expulsion policy in operation—condemning most asylum seekers to remain in gravely dangerous conditions in Mexico. (Human Rights First)

“Violent attacks against asylum seekers and migrants unable to reach safety in the United States due to the failure of the Biden administration to uphold refugee law and restart asylum processing continue to rise. As of June 17, 2021, Human Rights First has tracked 3,250 kidnappings and other attacks, including rape, human trafficking, and violent armed assaults, against asylum seekers and migrants expelled to or blocked at the U.S.-Mexico border since President Biden took office in January 2021.” 

The Rest of the News

President Biden has revived the Central American Minors Program begun under the Obama administration and halted by Trump. That’s good for Central American children whose parents are already in the United States, but offers nothing to other Central American children in need of safety. (The Hill)

“Biden should know that his revised CAM program is not going to be an effective alternative to making the dangerous journey with smugglers. His administration has acknowledged that only 40 percent of the children from the Northern Triangle who were apprehended at the border this year had a parent in the United States.

“I don’t understand why he didn’t make it available to all Northern Triangle children who have a persecution claim. He didn’t have to limit the program to children who have parents or guardians in the United States.

The Immigration and Nationality Act provides that a “refugee” is a person outside of his own country who is unable or unwilling to return because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. But section 1101(a)(42)(B) authorizes the President, after an appropriate consultation with Congress, to specify groups for in-country refugee processing when it is warranted by special circumstances. “

The “Hugs Not Walls” program allows a very small number of families separated by deportation a three-minute visit at the border—but no permanent solutions. (Dallas Morning News)

“Each family was allowed three minutes to be together. Although brief, her meeting with her son Ramón was a breath of joy for López.

“López and her family emigrated 25 years ago from Meoqui, a city 300 miles in South of Chihuahua. To support her family, she has worked for 15 years as a gardener.

“’The (Donald) Trump government with its zero tolerance law deported my son, that’s why we are separated,’ López said. ‘We have spent so much money on lawyers, paperwork but nothing, despite the fact that my son (Ramón) is the father of four children born here.’…

“[Ramón] Hermosillo had lived in El Paso since he was 7 years old. When he was deported two years ago, he returned to Meoqui, where he was born. He had to start at a place that only meant childhood memories and all his family away.”

Besides those who worked for the U.S. military, some Afghans worked for the CIA. They have no recourse. (Wall Street Journal)

“Rahmat says he carried out secret missions spying on the Taliban for the Central Intelligence Agency in remote border areas of Afghanistan for almost a decade.

“He has no contract to prove it, and his CIA supervisors never shared their real names. Now, as the U.S. prepares to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, thousands of Afghans who worked for the U.S. are at risk of Taliban retaliation.

“’They didn’t give us anything because our missions were secret,’ said Rahmat, who has wavy black hair and a slight frame, recalling in low tones the CIA officers who cycled in and out of his life. ‘One was Santos. Mary, Jason, Stu, John.’…

“‘It’s very likely he could have worked for 10 years even, done all the things he said, and walked away without a scrap of paper to prove any of that,’ the former CIA officer said about Rahmat. ‘It’s a clandestine organization working in a classified environment.’” 

Low-income immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants who have no access to the health-care system, fall prey to hucksters and con artists promising COVID cures. (New York Times)

“On a Tuesday afternoon in April, among tables of vegetables, clothes and telephone chargers at Fresno’s biggest outdoor flea market were prescription drugs being sold as treatments for Covid.

“Vendors sold $25 injections of the steroid dexamethasone, several kinds of antibiotics and the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — the malaria drugs pushed by President Donald J. Trump last year — make regular appearances at the market as well, as do sham herbal supplements.

“Health and consumer protection agencies have repeatedly warned that several of these treatments, as well as vitamin infusions and expensive injections of ‘peptide therapies’ sold at alternative wellness clinics for more than $1,000, are not supported by reliable scientific evidence. …

“Some unregulated drugs can be dangerous. And even if they aren’t a health risk by themselves, they can lead people to postpone seeking help from doctors, which can be deadly. Delayed treatment is one reason Black and Hispanic people have died from Covid at twice the rate as white people in the United States.” 

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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