Immigration News from September 23, 2021

The latest DHS figures show 3,901 Haitians released from Del Rio into the United States to await hearings, and about 3,100 still remaining under the bridge. Since Sunday, 1,949 migrants have been put on planes to Haiti, including 756 Haitian parents and children. These numbers come from the Department of Homeland Security, as reported by Camilo Montoya-Galvez, the excellent CBS News immigration reporter. Many others have fled back across the river into Mexico, where they are hunted down by Mexican authorities.

Beyond the numbers, today’s news shows the Biden administration immigration policy in complete disarray. BuzzFeed News reports on interviews with 20 government officials:

“To some, the first seven months of Biden’s administration have yielded a disjointed approach that pushes some progressive policies while favoring others that restrict immigration, especially at the border. This approach, the officials added, reflects a lack of consensus and an apparent effort to prevent Republicans from inflicting maximum political damage while avoiding alienating some voters.

“’There is a complete lack of direction,’ said one administration official. ‘Everything is deferred to the White House National Security Council, which can’t see past low polls on immigration and are terrified their own shadow may be a pull factor. Career and political staff are equally concerned.’

“Another administration official echoed those remarks. ‘I don’t know what our immigration strategy is at all,’ the official said. ‘I don’t know if we are building an infrastructure for the future, or what direction we will be going in as we head into a midterm election year.’

“Career DHS officials have increasingly started to notice similar inconsistencies.

“’We are slowly making progress on policies for creating a more humane immigration system while maintaining some of the most inhumane policies for asylum-seekers,’ one official said. ‘You can reverse all of the terrible court cases… but as long as Title 42 remains in place, none of that matters. We are turning our backs on the most vulnerable.’

“Other officials were more blunt.

“’They are almost exclusively focused on detention, deterrence, and generally treating asylum-seekers with as much violence and inhumanity as the prior administration,’ this official said. ‘Honestly, I don’t know how much longer I can stay at DHS if this continues. I stayed because I believed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris when they promised to build it back better. The despair I am feeling about what they are doing now is indescribable. I can’t go on like this.'”​​

Haitian Desperation

Daniel Foote, the U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti resigned in protest of Biden policies toward Haitian migrants and toward Haiti. From his resignation letter. (PBS)

“I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life, Our policy approach to Haïti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own….

“The people of Haiti, mired in poverty, hostage to the terror, kidnappings, robberies

and massacres of armed gangs and suffering under a corrupt government with gang alliances, simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy. The collapsed state is unable to provide security or basic services, and more refugees will fuel further desperation and crime. Surging migration to our borders will only grow as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery….

“Last week the U,S,. and other embassies in Port-au-Prince issued another public statement of support by for the unelected, de facto Prime Minister Dr. Ariel Henry as interim leader of Haiti, and have continued to tout his ‘political agreement’ over another broader, earlier accord shepherded by civil society. The hubris that makes us believe that we should pick the winner—again—is impressive. This cycle of international political interventions in Haiti has consistently produced catastrophic results.””

Blue, yellow, red, green: the color of your ticket determines your fate. Blue and yellow tickets mean you will get processed into the United States–probably. Red or green means expulsion to Haiti. (Los Angeles Times)

“Pedro Fisime wasn’t given any answers.

“Along with his 10-year-old daughter, Reyna, the Haitian migrant, who had spent the last six days in a chaotic and squalid encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande, was simply handed a numbered blue ticket by Border Patrol agents, bused into the border town of Del Rio, given a notice to report to immigration authorities and the opportunity to stay in the United States legally.

“’It’s a very difficult process for all of us,’ said Fisime, 24, a slim graphic designer wearing a T-shirt, shorts and green high-tops. ‘I had faith and I made it to the U.S. You have to try.’ 

“For the thousands of Haitian migrants at the U.S. border, news of the release of some into the U.S. by the Biden administration only added to their confusion in an escalating crisis. Some were flown back to Haiti. Others were still in the camp under a bridge. Still others, trying to avoid being sent back, crossed the treacherous river to stay in Mexico for the time being, some with blue and yellow tickets they were unaware would entitle them to enter the U.S. legally.”

In the middle of the night, Mexican police, National Guards, and immigration agents search for Haitians in Ciudad Acuña to send them back to Haiti or to the southern border of Mexico. (BuzzFeed)

“’If you send me to Haiti, I have no one there to help me,’ said a father, holding a shard of glass to keep Mexican authorities from entering a hotel room holding his family. ‘I can’t go back.’

“Returning to Mexico was a last resort for the Haitians after crossing the Rio Grande and setting up camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. Food, water, and medicine were lacking. Border Patrol agents on horseback chased them. Children were getting sick. There was no avoiding COVID-19. President Joe Biden’s administration started loading people onto planes and flying them back to Haiti, a place many of the immigrants haven’t lived in for years.

“Though Mexico has easier access to supplies and shelter (under the bridge, people slept on rocks, dirt, and cardboard), authorities there inflict nights of terror on those hiding from deportation. It’s the largely unseen impact of the Biden administration’s hardline handling of the Haitian immigration to the United States and years of Mexico being pressured by the US to stop immigrants from ever reaching the border.”

Understanding Migration

To understand migration, we need to understand what migrants are fleeing. This report from Honduras describes the government complicity in drug trafficking and violence that leaves migrants with no choice and no chance except to leave. The Reuters story begins in El Paraiso and traces complicity and connections from local government to the country’s president. (Reuters)

“It’s not just that cattle have replaced the more labor-intensive coffee crop in this highland corner of the third-poorest country in the Americas. Worse, drug trafficking and violence have overtaken the streets of El Paraíso and nearby towns and converted surrounding farms into passageways for cocaine headed north. Officials meant to safeguard stability and development, meanwhile, are increasingly involved in the very crimes now pushing many locals to flee to the United States. …

“’It is a major contributor to the violence, the corruption and the impunity that have polarized the country and caused many Hondurans to become migrants,’ U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, a longtime advocate of immigration reform and human rights issues related to Latin America, told Reuters….

“Initially, some landowners held out. But threats by [El Paraiso mayor and druglord Alexander] Ardón and his allies convinced most. Salomon Orellana, a university professor and economist in Santa Rosa de Copán, the state capital, described a common reply when a landowner declined to sell: ‘No problem, tomorrow I’ll negotiate with your widow.’…

“When young girls disappeared, often turning up dead, townspeople suspected men working for Ardón. ‘They pulled their trucks alongside girls and picked them up,’ said Nelson Guevara, a local priest at the time. He said he heard many girls, seeking solace in confession, recount rapes and other abuses.”

And in other news

The Biden administration appointed a strong critic of ICE to serve as the Principal Legal Advisor for ICE. (GBH)

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials confirmed to GBH that Doyle, previously of Graves & Doyle, will be its principal legal advisor. The office she will lead is the largest legal program within the Department of Homeland Security, with over 1,250 attorneys and 290 support personnel.

“The Office of the Principal Legal Advisor sends its prosecutors to litigate deportation cases before the Executive Office for immigration Review, the body that oversees the nation’s immigration courts. 

“Doyle has been an outspoken critic of the agency and has led many lawsuits against it.”

One more court case upholds sanctuary laws. (Reuters)

“U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom in Miami said in a 110-page ruling on Tuesday the 2019 law championed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution because it was adopted with discriminatory motives.

“Bloom had held a six-day bench trial in January on the lawsuit, which was brought by the City of South Miami and several advocacy and nonprofit groups.”

Changing the date of the federal immigration registry is being discussed as one approach to a path to citizenship. An estimated 49,300 Minnesota migrants would be eligible for permanent residence and a path to citizenship if the federal immigration registry date was updated from 1972 to 2010. The Registry Act was first passed in 1929. (Center for American Progress)

“Immigrants—both undocumented immigrants and immigrants with other temporary statuses—could qualify for the registry provisions if they met the registry’s arrival date, had lived in the United States continuously since then, and were of “good moral character.” That original date was June 3, 1921.

“Since then, Congress has updated the registry by advancing the arrival date multiple times in a bipartisan fashion. The most recent update to these provisions came in 1986—the last time the United States saw meaningful immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship—advancing the arrival date to cover anyone who had been in the country since before January 1, 1972.

“Given that the average undocumented immigrant has lived in the country for 16 years, updating the registry date to January 1, 2010—which could be as simple as just swapping out “1972” for “2010” in 8 U.S.C. 1259—would open the door for an estimated 6.8 million undocumented immigrants to become green card holders.”

Minnesota story

The Hmong American Partnership has selected May yer Thao as its new executive director. Thao grew up in St. Paul and has lived in Wisconsin for a number of years. (Pioneer Press)

“She served as the executive director of the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce in Milwaukee from 2015 to 2019, and prior to that as a grants administrator for five years with the Medical College of Wisconsin. She was previously a consultant and interpreter with the Moua Consulting Group and a coordinator of Hmong student groups with the Girl Scout Council of St. Croix Valley.

“She holds an undergraduate degree in American Studies from the University of Minnesota. After college, she supported development efforts and entrepreneurial trainings in high-poverty areas of Thailand for a year through the U.S. Peace Corps, and later taught weekly cultural orientation sessions to Hmong refugees in Thailand who planned to resettle in the U.S., working with some 1,500 refugees in ten months, according to her resume.”

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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