Immigration News from August 2, 2021

On Monday, August 2,  CDC director Rochelle Walensky  EXTENDED Trump’s “public health” Title 42 order indefinitely. This measure, denounced by public health experts as well as immigration advocates, authorizes immediate expulsion of migrants without due process protection or an opportunity to present their asylum pleas. (CBS and update from CBS)

“The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other advocates on Monday resumed a legal challenge against the U.S. government’s pandemic-era border policy of expelling migrants with little to no due process, saying months-long negotiations with the Biden administration had collapsed.

“The lawsuit’s reinstatement could complicate the Biden administration’s efforts to deter migration to the U.S. southern border at a time when migrant apprehensions there remain at levels not seen in two decades.

“At the center of the revived federal court case is a public health authority known as Title 42 that the Trump administration invoked in March 2020 to expel border-crossers, including asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children. Officials have argued the policy is needed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“The Biden administration exempted unaccompanied minors from the expulsions and has been allowing most families with children to seek humanitarian refuge, as outlined in U.S. law. But it has continued to defend Title 42 and use it to expel some migrant families and the vast majority of adults.”

Also, from the Washington Post:

“‘We gave the Biden administration more than enough time to fix any problems left behind by the Trump administration, but it has left us no choice but to return to court,’ said ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt. ‘Families’ lives are at stake.’

“Trump officials began expelling hundreds of thousands of migrants to Mexico or their homelands in March 2020 under Title 42 of the public-health code, arguing the policy was needed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“Biden had said he would reverse the Trump administration’s “inhumane” border policies, but his administration has struggled with the spike in crossings and the spread of the disease.”

On the Border

Following up on a Justice Department warning last week, the Biden Administration sued Texas to block its attacks on immigrants. Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues an order forbidding private transportation of migrants and ordering confiscation of vehicles found with migrants inside. The judge is scheduled to rule on the Justice Department’s request for a temporary restraining order on Tuesday, August 3. (Politico)

“The Justice Department filed the suit Friday afternoon in federal court in El Paso after Attorney General Merrick Garland sent Abbott a letter Thursday warning that the order intrudes on the federal government’s power over immigration enforcement.

“‘The Order is contrary to federal law and cannot be enforced. Accordingly, consistent with its authorities under federal law, the United States will continue its noncitizen transportation operations unabated. I urge you to immediately rescind the Order,’ Garland wrote.

“Along with the suit, the Justice Department filed a request that a judge issue a temporary restraining order lifting Abbott’s order pending further court action…

“Abbott’s order, issued Wednesday, says immigrants can only be transported by ground by law enforcement officials, but Garland has said the federal government relies extensively on contractors, grantees and non-governmental organizations to move immigrants, including children in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.”

Unable to cope with increasing numbers of migrants, frustrated by the Border Patrol’s unwillingness or inability to consult and coordinate release of migrants to shelters, and its failure to do any screening for COVID, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez issued an emergency declaration on Monday, August 3. Cortez and three other South Texas county judges oppose Gov. Greg Abbot’s declaration, and Hidalgo County’s declaration is different in tone and purpose. Both Judge Cortez and McAllen Mayor Joaquin Villalobo said the crisis is caused by Border Patrol releases of legal migrants into the city and county. Both say the declarations are a step in getting federal assistance. (Border Report)

“’The goal is to put us in a position to make a claim with the fed government to the situation that we have here in Hidalgo County dealing with these legal immigrants,’ Cortez said. ‘We have an overflow where it’s difficult to manage. They’re going into the streets of our communities some of which may not have been tested correctly or not taken the appropriate steps to put them in an isolated situation.’…

“Cortez states his disaster declaration ‘focuses on the large numbers of migrants who are legally in this country after having applied for asylum and getting permission by federal officials to remain in the United States until their asylum claims are heard in immigration courts.’

“It is also noted that nonprofit agencies and the city of McAllen are being overwhelmed by the increase in migrants seeking asylum. and can no longer provide the necessary care.”  

And from McAllen’s mayor: (Rio Grande Valley News)

“The declaration would be meant as a first step to receive federal assistance, [McAllen Mayor Joaquin] Villalobos said.

“’Everybody knows that we’re trying to assist logistically, transportation and public safety,’ the mayor said, but the migrant population continues to grow. …

“So far, Villalobos said the city has spent about $106,000 on logistic support from about February through last week. …

“’One of the biggest concerns we have is that the federal laws and the governor’s mandate kind of conflict,’ Villalobos said. ‘And instead of trying to move people out, we may be stuck with people here if they can’t be transported out.’”  

Who’s watching the children?

The practice of warehousing migrant children has a long history of resulting in abuse and mistreatment. HHS says it is investigating. (CNN)

“The Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general announced a review into the Fort Bliss facility for unaccompanied migrant children Monday amid whistleblower complaints of poor conditions at the site.

“Over the spring, the Biden administration established more than a dozen emergency intake sites overseen by HHS to alleviate overcrowding at border facilities and accommodate a record number of unaccompanied migrant children. As of late July, only five emergency intake sites remain open, according to HHS.

“Among the largest of the sites is a facility at Fort Bliss, near El Paso, Texas, that has a potential capacity of up to 10,000 beds. Attorneys who previously visited the facility have likened it to ‘warehousing’ hundreds of children. In a complaint filed last week, a whistleblower also said children told him ‘they felt like they were in prison.'”

As investigations go on, more revelation of terrible conditions inside child migrant detention centers continues to surface. This time: accusations of sexual abuse of minors by staff. (NBC)

“New audio from inside a U.S. government shelter for unaccompanied migrant children in Fort Bliss, Texas, reveals allegations of sexual misconduct by staff toward minors, acknowledgment the children were running low on clean clothes and shoes and a reluctance by officials to make public the scope of the facility’s Covid outbreak.

“‘We have already caught staff with minors inappropriately. Is that OK with you guys?’ says a federal contractor running a training session with staffers inside Fort Bliss in May.

The crowd shouts back, ‘No!’

“‘I hope not,’ she says.”

And in other news

Thousands of migrants pass through Colombia on the long journey to the United States. Now thousands are stranded in the coastal town of Necoclí, a town of 22,000, on their way to the Darién Gap. (Washington Post)

“‘They’re stuck, they’re desperate, they’re anguished, with an uncertainty about when someone will sell them a ticket,’ Mayor Jorge Tobón said Wednesday. ‘Maybe it’s in 15 days, maybe a month.’…

“Videos circulating on social media and captured by the mayor’s office show crowds of people carrying large backpacks, water jugs, tents, stuffed garbage bags and rolled-up mats pressed up against one another waiting for boats. As they gather around carts selling lemonade and coconuts, few wear masks.

“’There are children in arms, women who are pregnant,’ Tobón said. ‘They’re in the parks, on the beach, in the streets.’…

“With so many people using the municipality’s water, the outdated aqueduct system has collapsed.”

Although the Biden administration raised the cap on visas for seasonal workers, employers still can’t find enough people to fill seasonal jobs. (New York Times)

“Labor groups and immigration critics argue that it robs American workers of jobs and depresses wages. And every year, there are disturbing examples in which foreign workers are exploited by employers, cheated out of pay or living in squalid conditions.

“Many employers counter that people don’t understand the peculiarities of the seasonal labor market and changed attitudes, particularly about manual work.

“’Fifteen, 20 years ago we were able to get local summer kids in high school or college,’ Mr. Holt said. ‘Those workers are just not there anymore. It’s easier to do other things than hard labor for eight to nine hours a day.’”

The Biden administration announced additional steps to help Afghans who have helped the United States. It is not clear that creating legal avenues to apply for a visa will provide a remedy in time to save lives. (Politico)

“The Biden administration is broadening the opportunity for Afghans affiliated with the U.S. war effort, the U.S. government or U.S. media organizations to permanently resettle in the United States — citing ramped up violence by the Taliban as the reason for the expansion.

“But unlike a parallel effort to evacuate and resettle endangered interpreters, these newly eligible Afghans must receive a referral from a current or former employer before the State Department can begin processing their cases. And crucially, they are also responsible for getting themselves and their families out of Afghanistan and into a third country without any U.S. assistance.

“The administration’s announcement comes after the first round of Afghan nationals began arriving in the United States on Friday, traveling to Virginia’s Fort Lee U.S. Army base. Among the more than 200-person group were U.S.-allied Afghan interpreters — applicants for the State Department’s Special Immigrant Visa program — and their family members.

“But on Monday, the State Department said it had created a ‘Priority 2’ designation for its U.S. Refugee Admissions Program that would expand the pool of Afghans eligible for relocation to the United States beyond those applying for Special Immigrant Visas.”

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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