Immigration News from September 27, 2021

The Biden administration will publish a proposed regulation on DACA on September 28 in the Federal Register. At this point, the rule is only a proposal, beginning a 60-day comment period, which will be followed by consideration of comments and then issuance of a rule. If adopted, he proposed rule would—at least temporarily—restart the DACA program, allowing first-time applications from eligible individuals who have been in the United States since before 2007. The attempted regulatory fix is, at best, a stopgap measure, and Congress needs to act to provide a path to citizenship. 

(National Immigration Forum) “The new DACA largely would resemble the original in terms of eligibility requirements. However, the use of the formal rulemaking process is intended to address concerns about DACA’s creation in 2012, raised by ongoing legal challenges to the program.   

“In the absence of permanent legislation, the new DACA rule could still be halted by the federal courts, or be reversed by a future presidential administration, as former President Trump unsuccessfully attempted when he was in office. Even with the issuance of the proposed rule, much remains uncertain, even for current DACA recipients.” 

(CBS) “The rule’s publication will represent the latest and most significant effort by the Biden administration to safeguard an immigration program that has been threatened since 2017, when the Trump administration tried to discontinue it.

“In July, a federal judge in Texas declared DACA unlawful and barred the government from adjudicating applications filed by first-time applicants. The ruling dashed the hopes of tens of thousands of immigrant teenagers and young adults who applied, or hoped to apply, for the program.

“In addition to questioning DACA’s broader legality, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen said the policy should have been enacted through a federal regulation open to comments from the public, not a Department of Homeland Security memo.”

Biden Immigration Policy

President Biden has had good things to say about immigration. Talk is not enough. The treatment of Haitians at the border is only one aspect of continuing exclusion of and harsh policies toward migrants. 

(The Atlantic) “As he extends Trump-era policies, President Biden discovers that many voters are no longer willing to give him the benefit of the doubt….

“The broader pressure that President Biden is facing to reckon with the racial overtones of America’s immigration policy may require an acknowledgment of that history, and of the searing pain this moment has caused for many Black and brown immigrants, their children, and their grandchildren. These photos from Del Rio haven’t cut fresh wounds. They’ve reopened old ones.” 

Edwidge Danticat writes of the long history of U.S. anti-Haitian immigration policies. 

(The New Yorker) “This past week, while looking at the heart-wrenching images of Haitian migrants—packed by the thousands under the Del Rio International Bridge, in Texas, or crossing at shallow points of the Rio Grande, or being chased by Border Patrol agents on horseback, or landing back in Haiti for the first time in years—I thought of some of my family’s own migration nightmares. I remembered my mother telling me how, while living in New York on an expired tourist visa, in the nineteen-seventies, she was arrested during an immigration raid at a garment factory. She was pregnant at the time with one of my younger brothers. Spotting and cramping, and held in a crowded cell, she thought that she’d miscarried, until she was finally seen by a doctor a few days later. I remembered my eighty-one-year-old uncle Joseph dying in U.S. immigration custody in Miami, in 2004, after fleeing Port-au-Prince’s Bel Air neighborhood in the wake of a bloody United Nations forces operation. He was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after requesting asylum at Miami International Airport. His medications were taken away, and, after his health deteriorated, he was brought to a local hospital’s prison ward, where he died shackled to a bed. I also remembered the hundreds of men and women I have seen at Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint Louverture Airport over the past decade, heading out of the country toward newer destinations, as hopeful and determined as my parents once had been to travel abroad, find work, send money home to their families, and eventually offer a better life to their children.

“The mass expulsions from Del Rio this week are not the first time the current Administration has moved forcefully against Haitian migrants. During Joe Biden’s initial weeks in office, invoking a public-health measure known as Title 42, which had previously been used by the Trump Administration at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the Administration deported more than a thousand Haitians, including babies. (Last week, a federal judge ruled that migrant families could not be expelled under Title 42, a decision the Biden Administration is currently appealing.) Since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake, in January of 2010, which killed roughly two hundred thousand and left a million and a half without homes, thousands of Haitians have been living in Brazil and Chile. As anti-immigrant sentiment in those countries grew and opportunities dwindled, Haitians and other migrants—including Cubans, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans—travelled across Central and South America to reach the U.S.-Mexico border and request asylum. In March, though, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti tweeted a message from President Biden translated into Haitian Creole: ‘Mwen ka di sa byen klè: pa vini’—’I can say quite clearly: don’t come.’” 

Haitian Migrants

Expelled Haitians land in a city torn by urban warfare. Camilo Montoya-Galvez reports that the International Organization for Migration says it has received 3,456 deportees in Haiti, 44% of whom are women and children.

(AP) “Deported from the United States, Pierre Charles landed a week ago in Port-au-Prince, a capital more dangerous and dystopian than the one he’d left four years before. Unable to reach his family, he left the airport alone, on foot.

“Charles was unsure how to make his way to the Carrefour neighborhood through a city shrouded in smoke and dust, often tolling with gunfire from gangs and police. On the airport road, the 39-year-old laborer tried unsuccessfully to flag down packed buses. He asked motorcycle drivers to take him but was told again and again that the trip was too risky….

“Philipo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, … questioned the US ‘mass expulsions of individuals…without screening for protection needs.’ Grandi said that international law forbids the return of individuals to a country in such dangerous chaos.”

Why was the United States surprised when Haitians showed up at Del Rio? And will U.S. officials continue to ignore the large numbers of migrants still on their way?

(Univision) “According to Panamanian authorities, approximately 80,000 people – 70 per cent of them Haitian – have crossed into Panama from Colombia so far this year. The pace picked up in the summer, with as many as 20,000 in August….

“’What continues to surprise me is that neither the U.S. nor Mexico, seem to have any intelligence and capability to monitor how people are being smuggled across Mexico,’ said Ali Noorani, president of the National Immigration Forum. ‘Unless 3,000 Honduras line up in a caravan, pushing strollers, are both Mexico and the United States incapable of understanding how people are moving in large numbers?’ he added.” 

Evens Delva, his wife, and their two young daughters were among thousands expelled to Haiti last week. Their four-year-old daughter, born in Chile, is not even a Haitian citizen. They have nowhere to go in Haiti. 


(The Guardian) “Last week, the world was shocked by images of police officers on horseback charging at desperate Haitian migrants near a camp of 12,000, set up under the Del Río-Ciudad Acuña International Bridge. Delva was on his way to buy food and water for his family when the cavalry charge sent him and dozens of his compatriots running in a frenzy.

“’We were rounded up like cattle and shackled like criminals,’ he said, having spent the six-hour flight from San Antonio with his hands and legs tied.

“’They treated us like animals,’ added Maria, his wife. ‘We’ll never forget how that felt.’

“US authorities were so slapdash in their rapid deportation of the migrants that they also swept up an Angolan man who had never set foot in Haiti. ‘I told them I am not Haitian,’ said Belone Mpembele, as he emerged, dazed, from the terminal. ‘But they didn’t listen.’”

The views of 16-year-old Kimberly reflect the racism underlying much of the reaction to Haitian migrants. In contrast, Juan José Lechuga expresses more sympathy for the migrants whose presence focused international attention on Del Rio, a border town of 36,000 people. 

(The Guardian) “Kimberly’s dad did not want her to be alone in a parking lot anymore, worried migrants might ‘get’ her.

“‘They’re not clean people – not saying that in a bad way,’ Kimberly said. ‘I don’t want to say animals, either … they’re a different breed, in my opinion.’…

“At a local shopping center, Juan José Lechuga said he wasn’t personally bothered by his city’s pervasive security. But he was worried about how the migrants were being treated and blamed both the state and federal governments for mismanaging the situation.

“He didn’t blame the migrants. They just had needs, he said.

“’They’re the ones who suffer,’ Lechuga said, ‘because they come from very far away, and they crash into a reality that wasn’t what they were hoping for. And that is pretty serious.’” 

Minnesota Stories

Lack of a driver’s license has impacts far beyond driving. The driver’s license is an essential form of identification. Undocumented immigrants are barred from getting Minnesota driver’s licenses, and many other immigrants and unhoused people also lack identification. 

(Sahan Journal)  “Immigration status is one of the largest barriers facing people and families who are unhoused and seeking long-term shelter or daytime services, according to Patience Zalanga, a shelter advocate with Simpson Housing, a Minneapolis nonprofit. …

“That leaves the burden on unsheltered people and families to keep track of a few critical pieces of paper, Lazo said, or risk losing housing opportunities. 

“’Can you imagine: you’re trying to figure out where you’re gonna lay your head, and everything you own is in a backpack, and it gets stolen? I’ve had clients who had their bag stolen and their green card was in it. You practically have to give blood, mail everything in, and wait,’ Lazo said.” 

Psychologist Ia Xiong explains the trauma of language loss. 

(Star Tribune) “On her Facebook page promoting Hmong mental health and wellness, Xiong posted, ‘Dear Hmong kids who aren’t fluent in Hmong: It is not shameful or a personal failure. It is an example of loss associated with historical trauma.’…

“‘Both my parents were orphaned during the war, so I didn’t have any grandparents growing up,’ says Xiong, who was raised in Spokane, Wash. ‘Deep down I always wanted to speak Hmong. So many of our elders were killed during the war. How are we supposed to learn culture and traditions from our elders, when so many of our elders weren’t there?’

“Language loss is a story as old as immigration itself.” 

And in other news

Governor Greg Abbott’s “catch and jail” program has no provision for due process. Courts are overwhelmed and failing to meet legal deadlines for appointment of lawyers and for hearings. 

(Texas Tribune) “Most of the men are Latino and many don’t speak English. Arrested on the border and dropped in prisons hundreds of miles away, they’ve spent weeks or months with little to no legal help, few opportunities to talk to their families and often fewer chances to find out what is happening to them or how long they will be imprisoned.

“Citing the widespread violations of state laws and constitutional due process rights that have mushroomed as local justice systems remain overwhelmed by the volume of arrests, defense attorneys and immigrant advocacy groups are asking courts to release the men….

“In the backlog and chaos, attorneys fear migrants are getting lost in the system. Jindal said her attorneys couldn’t find one of their assigned clients when they went to visit prisons last week. It was assumed he had been able to post bond to be released, but there wasn’t clear communication or documentation detailing that, she said, or any indication if the man would be deported while on bond. For other clients, she said attorneys were hard pressed to find any paperwork describing when or why they were arrested.”

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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