Immigration News from September 7, 2021

A September 6 New York Times article exemplifies the problems with reporting on immigration. The article uses unnamed “Biden officials” as its primary sources, though anonymous sources are always suspect. Based on these anonymous sources, the article speculates that the Biden administration might actually be glad that the Supreme Court struck down one of its first major policy actions.  (New York Times)

“Concern had already been building inside the Biden administration that the speed of its immigration changes may have encouraged migrants to stream toward the United States, current and former officials said.

The article goes on to assert that Biden “loosening the reins on migration” caused a “surge” of migrants to the border. Rather than “loosening the reins,” the Biden administration actually extended indefinitely the Trump administration’s Title 42 “public health” bar to all admissions. That bar is even more stringent than the Remain-in-Mexico (MPP) policy that sends asylum seekers back to Mexico to await court dates. Under Title 42, asylum seekers don’t even get a court date. If stringent bars to entry worked to keep out migrants, then Title 42 should do the job. Neither Title 42 nor MPP stops desperate migrants from coming, and that fact belongs somewhere in the article.

“In fact, some Biden officials were already talking about reviving Mr. Trump’s policy in a limited way to deter migration, said the officials, who have worked on immigration policy but were not authorized to speak publicly about the administration’s internal debates on the issue. Then the Supreme Court order came, providing the Biden administration with the political cover to adopt the policy in some form without provoking as much ire from Democrats who reviled Mr. Trump’s border policies.

“Now, the officials say, they have an opportunity to take a step back, come up with a more humane version of Mr. Trump’s policy and, they hope, reduce the enormous number of people arriving at the border.

“As migrants surged to the border, Republicans attacked the new administration on multiple fronts, forcing the president to retreat from key campaign promises and angering some in his base.” 

“Political cover.” That’s the point of the New York Times article. Is Biden administration policy driven more by domestic politics than by U.S. asylum law—which says asylum seekers must be heard and their cases decided on the merits? Does “political cover” trump humanitarian concerns? I sincerely hope that the anonymous “Biden officials” do not speak for the administration.   

Sister Norma Pimentel has worked with migrants in the Rio Grande Valley for years. She has seen firsthand the suffering inflicted by both MPP (Remain-in-Mexico) and Title 42 bars to asylum seekers. Her open letter to President Biden pleads for a humane response. (Washington Post)

“We must not make children live for months in rain-logged tents. We cannot abandon them to communities where their mothers are afraid to let them use the bathroom at night for fear they might encounter a gang member or be assaulted. In the name of God and in the spirit of decency that has been a hallmark of Americans for generations, I beseech you: If this policy must continue, let us find a way to end the worst cruelties that have defined it thus far.

“If your intent is to negotiate with Mexico over how to house asylum applicants while their claims are being processed, proper shelter and care for these families must be at the heart of those conversations. One option would be to request that the U.S. Agency for International Development be allowed to provide food, housing and medical assistance to the families waiting in Mexico. Another would be to grant humanitarian parole to the people currently in these camps, which would allow them to pursue their immigration claims in more stable conditions within the United States without acting as a permanent loophole in the immigration process.”

In April, humanitarian organizations began screening vulnerable people for admission to the United States as asylum-seekers and exceptions to the Title 42 “public health” bar to all admissions. They have stopped screening because the Biden administration has indefinitely extended the Title 42 bar, rather than ending it. (El Paso Matters)

“’The government would have been satisfied with extending this work, but the NGOs were being placed in an incredibly difficult position and it was just giving more fodder to the government to continue this unlawful policy,’ [Nicolas Palazzo of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy] said. ‘At some point you have to take a principled stand and say that no, we’re not going to facilitate a policy that we think is inherently unlawful and incredibly harmful.’…

“’But we can’t simply use this idea of exempting people from Title 42 as a reason or a pretext to keep the policy in place. The policy is unlawful and incredibly harmful,’ he said. ‘We continue to operate in the context as though asylum is a privilege, but asylum is a right. … To simply outsource (asylum-seekers) to Mexico and to have people try to fight for their lives and for their asylum claims from Mexico is not only unlawful but incredibly cruel.’”

Minnesota story

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s office, which runs the Hennepin County Jail, will no longer honor  immigrant detainer holds that are not signed by a judge, nor will it alert ICE about releases. (Star Tribune)

“The most recent change came in June when the sheriff issued a directive to greatly limit the use of immigration detainer warrants to hold people in jail who may otherwise be released. The warrants, used by the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), can no longer cause people to be held in jail unless authorities take the added step of getting a judge’s approval.

The sheriff also removed the ICE office at the jail and has stopped alerting the agency when undocumented people will be released….

“Immigrant advocacy groups say that Hutchinson should rethink his policy that allows federal law enforcement agents to interview people in jail. The interview subject isn’t able to voluntarily leave the space, and they might not have strong English skills, said Mary Georgevich, a lawyer with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.

“‘I don’t know of any authority that requires a sheriff to allow ICE access to people in custody,’ she said. ‘Ramsey County and Minneapolis and St. Paul have ordinances that forbid police to enforce federal immigration laws.'”

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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