Immigration News from September 21, 2021

President Biden raised the refugee cap for 2020–the fiscal year ending on September 30–to 62,500. The actual number of refugees resettled in 2020 was far lower: fewer than 8,000 in all. Biden proposes a cap of 125,000 for fiscal year 2021. 

Refugee agencies, gutted during the Trump administration, face major challenges in both rebuilding and in responding to the needs of newly-arrived Afghans. That task is complicated by the fact that vast majority of the Afghans do not have refugee status and so are ineligible for federally-funded resettlement assistance. 

The Biden administration plan for refugee admissions in the year ahead includes a focus on Central Americans and Afghans–but not Haitians. Neither the Afghans evacuated during the U.S. withdrawal nor the more than 12,000 Haitians in the camp at Del Rio are officially classified as refugees. 

(CBS) “According to its 44-page notification to Congress, the Biden administration plans to distribute 40,000 refugee spots for Africa, 35,000 for the Near East and South Asia, 15,000 for East Asia, 15,000 for Latin America and the Caribbean, 10,000 for Europe and Central Asia and 10,000 unallocated spots.

“During fiscal year 2022, the U.S. will give “particular focus” to resettling Central Americans fleeing violence, LGBTQ refugees, Afghans who worked for U.S.-based organizations, at-risk Uyghurs, Hong Kong dissidents and refugees from Burma, including members of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority, according to the notification.

“The administration said it would also unveil a private sponsorship program during the coming fiscal year that will allow non-governmental groups and individuals in the U.S. to finance the resettlement of refugees.”  

Many of the Haitians in Del Rio and many of those expelled to Haiti have been outside the country for years. Some have lived in Brazil or Chile or Panama since Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, or even longer. Some say they were told by U.S. Border Patrol agents that they would be flown to “a less crowded place” and did not know they were being sent to Haiti. Arriving in Haiti, they have nothing and nowhere to go.  (New York Times)

“But instead of the reception they’d expected, they were detained in the small border town of Del Rio, Texas, and without warning deported — to Haiti, a broken country many no longer recognized — in a head-spinning sequence that left them feeling mistreated and betrayed.

“Some said they never talked to an immigration agent. Others said they’d been tricked — told they were being released or sent to Florida, and instead packed on a plane to Port-au-Prince, where they landed on Sunday, some in hand and ankle cuffs after protesting….

As the first three flights arrived, Haitian officials beseeched the United States to grant a “humanitarian moratorium,” as their country reels from the assassination of its president in July and a powerful earthquake in August.

“But the Biden administration, facing the highest level of border crossings in decades, has enforced policies intended to slow the entry of migrants. The Haitian deportations are consistent with those policies, officials said this weekend.”

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the behavior of mounted Border Patrol agents unacceptable, and ordered an immediate investigation. (CBS)

“Over the weekend, news outlets captured photos and videos depicting mounted Border Patrol officials herding and chasing migrants who had crossed the Rio Grande near Del Rio, a small border community in southwestern Texas.

“Some footage showed Border Patrol agents on horseback swinging lariats, a rope used by horse riders, while trying to block the passage of Haitian border-crossers, actions that fueled concerns that agents were whipping or threatening to whip desperate migrants.

“In one video, a mounted agent is heard telling a migrant who huddled with a group of women and children, ‘This is why your country’s sh**, because you use your women for this.’ The officer repeatedly tried to impede the man’s path.” 

Mayorkas may be shocked at the behavior of some Border Patrol agents, but the larger cruelty is in the expulsion of Haitians without any hearing, to a country that does not have the capacity to receive them or to guarantee their safety.(Washington Post)

“The United States is preparing to nearly double the number of Haitians being deported to this Caribbean state starting Wednesday, raising alarm that thousands of cash-strapped migrants will add a new dimension to the humanitarian crisis in a country torn apart by violence, natural disaster and political strife.

“The Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation is already dealing with a convergence of crises — including the aftermath of a presidential assassination, a deadly earthquake, worsening food insecurity and rising social anarchy amid a grab for territory by gang warlords. So limited are resources to aid returning deportees — some of whom are coming back to their country for the first time in years — that they are essentially leaving the airport with little more than a hot meal, basic hygiene kits, a medical assessment and a small cash handout before setting out into a capital reeling from a wave of kidnappings and killings, without the promise of transportation or shelter….

“The deportees are arriving in a country where U.N. agencies are making emergency appeals to fend off a mounting food crisis, thousands have fled their homes in the capital to escape takeovers by violent gangs allegedly linked to politicians, and where the weak and corrupt police force has essentially been overwhelmed.”

Race has been a driving force in immigration policies since the United States was founded. That plays out now in the expulsion of Haitians. (The Intercept)

“The Biden administration’s response to Haitians on the border is not just unconscionable, [Nicole Phillips, legal director at Haitian Bridge Alliance, a San Diego-based nonprofit,] argued, it’s also contradictory. In May, Mayorkas announced a new 18-month designation of temporary protected status for Haitian nationals in the U.S., offering an avenue for protection from deportation on the grounds that Haiti is “currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Last month, DHS extended that protection to Haitians who had made it onto U.S. soil prior to July 29. In a notice filed in the federal register on August 3, department officials noted that Haiti is currently ‘grappling with a deteriorating political crisis, violence, and a staggering increase in human rights abuses.’

“Those conditions have not evaporated in the weeks since the notice was filed, Phillips noted, and yet the White House and DHS are proceeding as if they have. For her, and for many others, the conclusion is crystal clear. ‘Our immigration system still has anti-Black racism that is fueling this Biden administration’s response to this Haitian migration problem,’ Phillips said. ‘This is anti-Black racism in our immigration policy. Period.’” 

In contrast to the failed (and cruel) deterrence-through-enforcement policies of the Trump, and now the Biden administrations, Adam Isaacson has a plan. (Washington Office On Latin America)

“So voters, including those who view themselves as welcoming, want order and predictability. Migrants want order and predictability too.

“Also, residents of border counties and states—many of them hit hard by COVID and economic blight—don’t want to feel overwhelmed. That’s fine: most migrants have support networks elsewhere in the US, far from border counties and states….

“The goal here is no more chaos, even in our 2014-to-present environment of very high family and asylum-seeking migration. Ideally, this entire process—work with other countries, processing, alternatives to detention, adjudication—would be efficient, data-driven, and… even boring….

“An orderly, ‘boring’ process would mean no more Fox News B-roll, no more squalid camps, and no more anxiety in border communities. It would devastate smugglers. It would cost money, but probably less than hundreds of miles of border wall construction.”

And in other news

After the Senate parliamentarian said no to inclusion of a path to citizenship in the budget reconciliation bill, Democrats look for a different approach. (The Hill)

“At the top of the list is a congressional mandate for the executive to change the registry date for certain undocumented immigrants and beneficiaries of humanitarian parole programs, essentially implementing a statute of limitations for past unauthorized entries.

“That method of legalization has the benefit of having been successfully implemented in the past, and it wouldn’t require changing the law. Instead, it would just update a cutoff date….

“One reason the registry approach was not Plan A is it grants benefits to people based on how long they’ve been in the United States, rather than the subgroup of immigrants they belong to, which could mean more recently arrived “Dreamers,” Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries and essential workers could be left out of status.”

Dr. Raju Kumar Vaddepally is a lung cancer specialist practicing in Yuma, Arizona, an area with a shortage of doctors. Under our current immigration system, he can’t get a green card. (Arizona Republic)

“I’m one of 16,000 doctors from India and China who are stuck in a frustrating immigration backlog that prevents us from receiving our green cards. Without permanent residency, the careers we’ve built here are at risk and so are the Americans we serve. 

“Under the current system, only 7% of applicants from any given country can apply for employment-based green cards each year. According to one estimate, nearly 200,000 Indian applicants will die before immigration officials process their cases….

“I’m saving lives and dollars. But without a green card, I don’t have the security to purchase a home or put down roots. I want to stay here in Yuma, but immigration policy has put a big question mark on my ability to do so.” 

The Biden administration is appealing a court order that invalidates the Trump-era “Title 42” bar to all migrants. (NPR)

“That expulsion plan rests on a rarely used public health law known as Title 42. Immigration authorities say a public health order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allows them to expel migrants crossing the border quickly without giving them a chance to apply for asylum.

“President Biden came into office promising a more humane immigration system. Yet his administration has continued to use the Title 42 policy — and defend it in court — despite mounting pressure from immigrant advocates….

“But physicians and immigrant advocates said that position is merely a pretext to remove migrants from the country quickly — with the most recent example being those sheltered under the international bridge at the Del Rio port of entry.”

Among the many people welcoming Afghan refugees are refugees from past generations and past U.S. wars. Among them: Dr. Thuy Do and her family. (AP)

“A 39-year-old doctor in Seattle, Washington, Do remembers hearing how her parents sought to leave Saigon after Vietnam fell to communist rule in 1975 and the American military airlifted out allies in the final hours. It took years for her family to finally get out of the country, after several failed attempts, and make their way to the United States, carrying two sets of clothes a piece and a combined $300. When they finally arrived, she was 9 years old.

“These stories and early memories drove Do and her husband Jesse Robbins to reach out to assist Afghans fleeing their country now. The couple has a vacant rental home and decided to offer it up to refugee resettlement groups, which furnished it for newly arriving Afghans in need of a place to stay.”  

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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