Immigration News from August 4, 2021

Is Biden failing on immigration? Ricardo Varela counts the ways—children in detention, deportation flights to Central America, Title 42 expulsions at the border—and calls for action. (Washington Post

“It is all quite a departure of how Biden started his first day in office — with high-profile promises for immigration reform and calls to action. The news cycle of Jan. 20 seems a distant memory.

“Yes, there have been some victories for immigrant rights supporters — from removing the term “illegal alien” from the government’s lexicon and the end of the Migrant Protection Protocols program (also known as “Remain in Mexico”) to a recent decision by the Justice Department that gives immigration judges more power to delay deportation….

“Where is the humane reform and bold action we were promised? The administration is losing the immigration moral high ground, while Republicans continue to make the dehumanization of migrants a key tenet of their party.”

On the other hand–the Biden administration continues to make some positive moves. Outfitting Border Patrol agents with body cams may help to alleviate abusive behavior. (Reuters)

“U.S. border authorities plan to deploy a total of 7,500 body-worn cameras, with 6,000 in the field by the end of the year, a border agency official told Reuters.

“Pro-immigrant activists will likely welcome the increased oversight that cameras could bring to an agency some have criticized for excessive use of force and institutional racism. But a union for border patrol agents also supports cameras, saying they could assist criminal investigations and help show that agents act professionally.”

On the border

While COVID rates remain lower among migrants than in the general Texas population, vaccination is crucial. Whether migrants are expelled to Mexico or sent to shelters or detained In U.S. custody, they will be in unsafe and crowded conditions that increase the likelihood of COVID spread. (Washington Post)

“The Biden administration is preparing to begin offering coronavirus vaccine to migrants in U.S. custody along the Mexico border, where illegal crossings are at their highest levels in over two decades and health officials are struggling with soaring numbers of infections, according to two Department of Homeland Security officials with knowledge of the plan.

“Until now, only a limited number of migrants have received vaccine while held in longer-term U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities. Under the broad outlines of the new plan, DHS would vaccinate migrants soon after they cross into the United States as they await processing by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Vaccine would be provided to those facing deportation as well as migrants likely to be released into the United States pending a court hearing, said one of the two officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the tentative plan. Migrants who are quickly sent back to Mexico under the Title 42 public health law would not be offered a dose, at least during the initial phase, the person said.”

The number of unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. border custody rose to 2,498 on the morning of August 4. HHS is housing another 14,609 unaccompanied minors in shelters and emergency sites.

A record number of unaccompanied children crossed the border in July, increasing the number held in already-crowded and inadequate holding facilities. (Miami Herald)

“The sharp increases from June were striking because crossings usually slow during stifling — and sometimes fatal — summer heat.

“U.S. authorities likely picked up more than 19,000 unaccompanied children in July, exceeding the previous high of 18,877 in March, according to David Shahoulian, assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security. The June total was 15,253.

“The number of people encountered in families during July is expected at about 80,000, Shahoulian said. That’s shy of the all-time high of 88,857 in May 2019 but up from 55,805 in June.”

As the Border Patrol continues releasing migrants into McAllen, TX, city commissioners approved opening an emergency tent shelter on city land. The vote was 5-1, with the dissenting commissioner insisting that the federal government must step up to provide shelter and services. (Rio Grande Valley News)

“The tents are Hidalgo County assets constructed by McAllen city staff. They are currently operational and hold up to 260 people released from federal custody who test positive for COVID-19.

“The Monitor reported the search last week when Sister Norma Pimentel, CCRGV executive director, said they reached capacity. 

“Citing an ‘overwhelming number of immigrants stranded in McAllen by U.S. Customs and Border Protection,’ according to a city news release, commissioners approved the measure by a majority vote during a budget meeting Tuesday evening.”

And in other news

Three of twelve Mexican police officers charged in the January 22, 2021 massacre were trained by the United States “through a program aimed at fortifying and modernizing Mexico’s police force and justice system.” At least 20 police officers are believed to have participated, but so far only 12 have been charged. (Vice)

“Two trucks carrying migrants sped through dusty roads a few miles south of the U.S. border as four armored police cars gave chase. A man called his wife from one of the trucks: The police are shooting at us, he told her.

“By the time the hunt was over, Mexican police officers would fire more than 100 bullets at the trucks and set them on fire, leaving 16 Guatemalans, two Mexicans, and one Salvadoran burned beyond recognition, according to Mexican prosecutors….

“Most of the officers involved in the mass killing belonged to a Tamaulipas special forces unit whose members have received training by the U.S. In recent years, the unit has been accused of human rights abuses including kidnappings, forced disappearances, and torture.” 

Reunited families soon face financial problems, especially since parents may not be allowed to work in the United States. (BuzzFeed)

“Like many reunited parents, Lisy is waiting on a work permit she hopes will turn her situation around. Attorneys and advocates said the work permit process has been accelerated for this group of parents, but it could still be months before they get it and can start looking for jobs.

“In the meantime, these families have to figure out how to provide for themselves, said Carol Anne Donohoe, managing attorney for the legal aid organization Al Otro Lado’s Family Reunification Project.

“‘The public sees these parents and children hugging at the airport on the news and have no idea what comes after that,’ she said.”

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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