Immigration News from September 20, 2021

This photo (Paul Ratje for AFP/Getty) shows a mounted Border Patrol officer with a whip chasing a Haitian migrant. The photo went viral on Twitter today. Other photos and video of mounted Border Patrol agents chasing migrants, and of verbal ab use of migrants followed.

Two stories dominate today’s news: the continuing plight of Haitians on the border at Del Rio,Texas, and the parliamentarian’s rejection of inclusion of immigration reform in the budget reconciliation bill. One photo captures all that is wrong about the U.S. response to Haitian migrants: the photo taken for AFP by Paul Ratje. 

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas expressed dismay over this photos and video of Border Patrol officers on horseback and with whips pursuing Haitian migrants. But really — is that much more horrifying than loading hundreds of parents and children on a plane and sending them back to a country without resources to receive them, still staggering from an earthquake, and with a government in disarray even before the president was assassinated? (Washington Post)

“Photographer Paul Ratje was standing in the Rio Grande when he captured a remarkable image: a Border Patrol agent mounted on horseback, grabbing the shirt of a migrant unlucky enough to be within reach. Every detail — the apparent anger on the face of the officer, the food in the migrant’s hand, the isolation of the location — is evocative and revealing. Nor is it possible to ignore the historical echoes suggested by a White officer of the law apprehending a fleeing Black man.” 

The Boston Herald editorial asks: “With friends like Joe Biden, who needs natural disasters?” 

“On Aug. 14, a 7.2 earthquake hit the island nation of Haiti. At least 2,189 people were killed and 12,000 injured. Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed. It was followed by a tropical storm, and preceded by the assassination of its prime minister. A month later, the need for clean water, food and shelter continues….

“‘That ICE would continue to carry out the mass deportations of our Haitian neighbors — with Haiti in the midst of its worst political, public health and economic crises yet — is cruel and callous,’ said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).” 

The Mexican National Guard rounded up many Haitian immigrants and sent them to the southern Mexico border at Tapachula. For those who remain inside Mexico, danger awaits. (Rio Grande Valley News)

“‘They’re just in a more vulnerable position, since they are easier to spot,’ [Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, a cofounder with Sidewalk School,] said. Criminal organizations often seek to kidnap and extort migrants, and often racially profile those who speak or look different.

“’They don’t speak the language. It’s harder for them to get jobs to support themselves while they’re here in Mexico. People don’t want to rent apartments to them,’ Rangel-Samponaro said.”

For thousands of Haitians at the U.S.-Mexico border, there is not choice. (El Paso Times)

“U.S. officials say the priority is to quickly process and deport the migrants and asylum seekers. In Mexico, authorities have tightened immigration controls, choking off the entry points to Ciudad Acuña to prevent more migrants from approaching the border.

“The thousands of Haitians caught in between, both at the encampment and in Ciudad Acuña, are left with few options: try to stay in Mexico or turn themselves in and face the risk of deportation to the country they abandoned….

“Charles Edirame was resting on Sunday in Ciudad Acuña with his wife and daughter. First they had crossed to the encampment, but when they heard about the deportations, they returned to Mexico. The Haitian family was deciding what to do next. 

“‘We don’t have money, we don’t have anything. We spent two months getting here on foot,’ he said. ‘In Haiti, we don’t have a president. There was just an earthquake. How can I go back to Haiti? If I go back, I could die the next day.'”

Democratic lawmakers want deportations to stop–but they are unlikely to have any effect on Biden policy. (CNN)

“In a letter to the department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, the lawmakers pointed to the continued instability in Haiti, saying: ‘The Haitian government’s ability to safely receive its citizens will take months, if not years, to secure.’

“A Homeland Security official told CNN Thursday that expulsion and deportation flights to Haiti will continue.”

Conditions at the Del Rio encampment remain a humanitarian disaster. Some of the migrants had been wading back and forth across the river to bring food and water from Mexico. Then the Border Patrol stopped those crossings, leaving many stranded on the opposite side of the border from family members. (Buzzfeed)

“Over the past days, the immigrants arrived and set up under an international bridge in the US city of Del Rio after wading across the Rio Grande in hip-high water. They carried with them everything they have: clothes, food, and blankets packed into plastic bags and backpacks. Since then, water, food, and medicine have grown scarce as they use sheets and bamboo to avoid the rain and pounding sun….

“Facing the prospect of being separated from their families or the people they came with, the immigrants from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and other nations, scrambled for a few hours on Sunday to find another section of the Rio Grande where they could safely cross. They finally found a point about a mile from the previous crossing, where the water was chest-deep but stagnant enough for them to safely make the journey. Many made it back to US soil, but it’s unclear if everyone did, and some may now be stranded in Mexico.

“Lorvens, a 27-year-old Haitian, watched in desperation as his 1-year-old daughter was fighting a fever and diarrhea. Earlier in the day, he approached Border Patrol agents at the front of the camp and asked if they could do anything for his daughter. He was told there was no medicine to give out.”

Some Haitians came to the border believing that the Biden administration would be more sympathetic to their plight. Others came out of sheer desperation and a lack of options. (New York Times)

“Mr. Biden’s term has coincided with a sharp deterioration in the political and economic stability of Haiti, leaving parts of its capital under the control of gangs and forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes. The assassination of Haiti’s president and a magnitude 7.2 earthquake this summer have only added to the pressures causing people to leave the country. Shortly after the assassination, hundreds of Haitians flocked to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, many carrying packed suitcases and small children, after false rumors spread on social media that the Biden administration was handing out humanitarian visas to Haitians in need.

“Most of the Haitians in Mexico — a country that has intercepted nearly 4,000 this year — were not coming directly from Haiti, but from South America, where, like Mackenson, they had already been living and working, according to a top official in the Mexican foreign ministry. The number of Haitians heading northward across the border that separates Colombia and Panama — often by traversing the treacherous jungle known as the Darién Gap — has also surged in recent years, increasing from just 420 in 2018 to more than 42,300 through August of this year, according to the Panamanian government.”

Many migrants flown back to Haiti were not told where they were going. When they arrived, they had nowhere to go. (Washington Post)

“He crossed the Mexican border into Texas only two weeks ago, joyous at the prospect of building anew in the United States. Now part of the first wave of deportees rapidly ejected by the Biden administration amid a fresh surge at the border, Johnson Bordes, 23, stepped off a Boeing 737 on Sunday and into the Haitian capital, terrified by a city torn apart by violence in a homeland he could barely remember.

“Like many deportees arriving on charter flights at the airport in Port-au-Prince, 15 minutes from neighborhoods controlled by brutal armed gangs, Bordes’s family left Haiti in the great migration after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. He was 12 when they left, first for the Dominican Republic, then on to Chile, where he was living with his mother and brother when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Encouraged by relatives in the United States, the family set out on a 4,500-mile trek to the U.S. border — never imagining the road would lead back to the devastated country they left more than a decade ago….

“‘When they realize they are coming back to Haiti, it’s really difficult for them,’ [Giuseppe Loprete, Haiti mission chief for the International Organization for Migration,] said. ‘Some of them, they don’t have any contacts anymore with their families, or they live in areas that are now no longer accessible because of the earthquake or the gangs.'”

The Haitian government says they do not have resources to take back the refugees and they want the deportation flights to stop. (New York Times)

“’The Haitian state is not really able to receive these deportees,’ [the head of Haiti’s national migration office, Jean Negot Bonheur Delva,] said.

“The Haitian appeal for a suspension of deportations appeared likely to increase the pressure on the Biden administration, which is grappling with the highest level of border crossings in decades….

“The director of migration and integration at the Haitian office of migration, Amelie Dormévil, said several of the returnees told her they had been cuffed by the wrists, ankles and waist during the flight.

“After the first plane carrying the deportees landed, the first to climb out were parents with babies in their arms and toddlers by the hand. Other men and women followed with little luggage, save perhaps for a little food or some personal belongings….

“Mr. Bonheur Delva  said “ongoing security issues” made the prospect of resettling thousands of new arrivals hard to imagine. Haiti, he said, cannot provide adequate security or food for the returnees.

“And then there is the Covid-19 pandemic.

“’I am asking for a humanitarian moratorium,” Mr. Bonheur Delva said. “The situation is very difficult.'” 

And a reminder: Under US law, migrants have the right to claim asylum at the border, however they cross. Ports of entry have been closed almost completely to asylum seekers under “public health” since March 2020, and effectively long before that, with the Remain-in-Mexico (MPP) policy and metering. Some asylum seekers have waited years to do it the “right way”—and there is still no right way. 

Pariliamentarian Says No

Meanwhile, on Sunday night, the Senate parliamentarian said that provisions for a path to citizenship could not be included in the budget reconciliation bill. That leaves Democrats with no clear way to accomplish any kind of immigration reform. 

(Washington Post) “Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, a nonpartisan arbiter of the Senate’s rules, advised against including immigration in the budget bill more than a week after she heard arguments from Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

“Her decision is a blow to Democrats’ plans to create a path to legal residency, and then U.S. citizenship, for as many as 8 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, including many who have lived here for years. The last major legalization was a bipartisan bill signed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan.

“Her ruling could foreclose legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants via the budget reconciliation package, which progressive Democrats have said they want to pass together with a bipartisan infrastructure package.

“Senate Democrats and advocates for immigrants said Sunday night that they would keep trying to include immigration in the budget plan, and will soon offer alternate ideas to the parliamentarian. Among the proposals circulating in recent weeks would be setting a more recent “registry” date, which currently allows an undocumented immigrant who entered the United States before Jan. 1, 1972, to apply for legal status.”

{CBS) “MacDonough’s ruling is a crushing setback for immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers, who hoped to use the budget reconciliation process to create a massive legalization program for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, farmworkers and other coronavirus-era essential workers.”

What’s next? Not sure, but Democrats are making plans. (Roll Call)

“New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a key player in immigration discussions, told reporters Monday that Democrats “will be going back to the parliamentarian with other options in the coming days.”

“’She gave her view on only one approach on including a pathway to citizenship in reconciliation,’ Menendez said, just hours after Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough shot down efforts to include a path to legal status for certain immigrants in the bill.

“’I certainly intend to keep working until we get to a yes, and we’re not going to take no for an answer,’ Menendez said….

“One alternative being explored, according to Menendez, could be to move up the date on the immigration registry, an existing law currently set at 1972, which would allow immigrants who have resided in the U.S. since that date and who have demonstrated “good moral character” to become permanent residents.”

Minnesota News

Thanks to the Knight Foundation for supporting citizenship programs and ILCM’s work with naturalization. (Pioneer Press)

“The funds will allow the New Americans Campaign to submit at least 8,500 new naturalization applications per year in Akron, Ohio;  Charlotte, N.C.; Detroit; Miami; Philadelphia; San Jose, Calif.; and St. Paul. In St. Paul, the campaign works with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and the International Institute of Minnesota. The funds will help screen residents to ensure eligibility, and some money can be used toward citizenship application fees, which are $725.

“’A lot of these legal permanent residents are individuals who have been in the country for many, many years but just haven’t taken that last step,’ said Lilian Coral, Knight’s director for national strategy and technology innovation. ‘They’re Americans in many ways already. A lot of folks, they’re more American than apple pie.’” 

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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