Immigration News from October 14-15, 2021

Leading tonight’s immigration news: Minnesota stories about a young immigrant politician, a pardon impasse, and news from the northern border. After these stories, three more about major U.S. immigration policies, all holdovers from the Trump era.  The Biden administration says it will restart the failed Remain-in-Mexico policy by mid-November, and that it has ended the expedited removal policy as applied to immigrants arrested in the interior of the country. A new government report details just how badly the Title 42 policy violates U.S. amnesty law and international human rights laws. 

Minnesota news

This young immigrant can’t run for president, so she’s running for Duluth City Council.

(Sahan Journal) “Azrin Awal, a City Council candidate in Duluth, all but ruled out a career in politics by the time she was in third grade. Hailing from Bangladesh, she had just found out she could never be president, since she wasn’t born in the United States.

“’I was a little peeved, given the fact that I’ve been here since I was three years old,’ Awal, 25, said with a laugh. ‘Any child who’s come to the U.S. under the age of five, this is our home.’” 

Governor Tim Walz is seeking to prevent deportation of Amreya Shefa. Because a unanimous vote of the Board of Pardons is required, he was unable to grant her a pardon. 

(Star Tribune) “The governor has asked federal immigration officials to halt deportation proceedings against Amreya Shefa, after she failed to receive a pardon for her 2014 manslaughter conviction for killing her husband in an act that she described as self-defense. Walz is asking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to “administratively close” removal proceedings against Shefa while officials consider her applications for nonimmigrant status for crime victims.

“‘Due to the recent ruling, I am unable to grant Ms. Shefa the clemency that she deserves, leaving her at risk of deportation,’ Walz wrote in a Sept. 24 letter to Timothy Perry, chief of staff for ICE in Washington, D.C. ‘Ms. Shefa’s life will be in grave danger if she is deported to Ethiopia. She will be vulnerable to the practice of retaliatory killing at the hands of her late husband’s family, who have made credible threats against her life.'” 

Minnesotans are looking forward to a return of Canadians, once COVID restrictions are lifted for vaccinated people in November. 73% of Canadians are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared with 57% of Americans, and Canada has allowed U.S. residents to enter since August. 

​​(Star Tribune) “‘We consider ourselves sister cities with Fort Frances [Ontario], and we balance each other out,’ said Tricia Heibel, president of the International Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. ‘There are certain community services, like a movie theater and bowling alley, we can’t afford to maintain on our own. We have Menards, they have Walmart.’

“‘While the commerce aspect is important,’ she added, ‘we’re also looking forward to a full community reconnection, a reunification.'” 

Like Minnesotans living near the Canadian border, Texans welcome the reopening of border crossings coming in November.

(Texas Tribune) “David Jerome, president and CEO of the El Paso Chamber, said El Paso businesses depend on shoppers from Ciudad Juárez. ‘This will help us,’ he said.

“U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, said keeping the border partially closed for so long ‘has hurt our border communities economically and barred many from seeing loved ones. Reopening our borders to legal travel is a critical step in returning to normalcy.’

“Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., chair of the Texas Border Coalition — a group of elected officials, community and business leaders from the Texas-Mexico border — said restricting travel at the border ‘has done untold damage to our local economies, especially our retail, dining and hospitality industries.’

“Steve Ahlenius, McAllen Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said he was thrilled about the news and hopes that requiring proof of vaccination doesn’t cause delays at the international bridges.” 

Three Trump policies—continued

Expedited removal, a Trump-era policy, allowed immigration agents to arrest and deport immigrants without a hearing if the immigrant could not prove that they had lived in the United States for longer than two years. The policy was suspended by a judge, then reinstated, and had been used a handful of times by the Biden administration before DHS ended it on October 14. 

(BuzzFeed) “DHS’s review of expanded expedited removal is ongoing. This particular application of expedited removal was used in an exceedingly small number of cases under the Biden Administration and will not be used moving forward until the Department’s review is completed,” a DHS spokesperson said in a statement….

“Advocates for immigrants have said it would destroy their due process rights and questioned the use of ‘expedited removal’ away from the border, where it had been previously used. Within the US, ICE officers typically arrest immigrants and place them into deportation proceedings. “

The Biden administration announced plans to resume the Remain-in Mexico policy in mid-November. The court-ordered resumption cannot happen without cooperation from Mexico. As long as Title 42 bars to immigrants remain in place, the Remain-in-Mexico policy seems redundant. 

(Washington Post) “Biden officials said they have signed contracts to reopen soft-sided ‘tent courts’ at border crossings in Laredo and Brownsville, Tex., where asylum seekers placed into MPP would appear for hearings via videoconference, as occurred under President Donald Trump. The decision to spend $14 million to rebuild the facilities was made because of ‘substantial progress’ in talks with Mexico, senior border official Blas Nuñez-Neto told the court in a declaration….

“’Mexico is a sovereign nation that must make an independent decision to accept the return of individuals without status in Mexico as part of any reimplementation of MPP,’ the DHS statement said. ‘Discussions with the Government of Mexico concerning when and how MPP will be reimplemented are ongoing.’”

The latest government report shows once again that the use of Title 42 to bar asylum seekers violates U.S. and international law. The head of the union representing U.S. asylum officers told CBS News that, “Because of the way this policy is being carried out, our officers are being prevented from carrying out their mission, which is to ensure that people asking for asylum have a fair hearing and are treated humanely.”

(CBS News)”Since March 2020, U.S. authorities along the border with Mexico have used a public health authority known as Title 42 to rapidly expel migrants more than 1,163,000 times without allowing them to see an immigration judge or an asylum officer, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) figures show.

“As of the end of September, only 3,217 migrants processed under the public health law have been referred for interviews with U.S. asylum officers, who are charged with upholding humanitarian laws designed to prevent the government from returning people to places where they could be harmed.

“These migrants received screenings that are more difficult to pass than traditional asylum interviews.”

And in other news

Immigrant workers are often victims of wage theft by employers. Undocumented workers are even more vulnerable to this widespread abuse.

(AP) “Audelia Molina, a Mexican immigrant, was earning 10 cents for every garment she trimmed at a factory in Los Angeles, America’s clothing-assembly capital. Her wage was so meager that she started putting in 11-hour days to drive up production. When she asked for a raise, a supervisor denied her request, so she quit in July 2017 — and turned to a labor-rights attorney to help her file an unpaid-wage complaint with the California Labor Commissioner.

“A year later, the state found that Molina was paid, on average, $199 a week, violating overtime law and rules that piece-rate workers earn at least the state’s then $10.50 hourly minimum wage. …

“When workers press for unpaid earnings, some employers try to get them to back down, said Jessica Lorena Rangel, manager of the group’s Community Consultation Legal Center.

“’Employers fill their minds with stuff, like telling them: ‘You can’t do anything about me, you have to suck it up because of your status. You’re not even supposed to be working. I’m doing you a favor,’’ Rangel said.”

UnDocuBlack and other organizations filed a complaint with DHS charging severe physical and psychological harm inflicted by “The WRAP,” described as “an FDA-registered medical device and human restraint.” This restraint was used on African asylum seekers before their deportation flights, applied on top of shackles, “binding their legs together, and cinching them up at a 45-degree angle, in some cases for hours, which left them shrieking in pain.”

(UnDocuBlack press release) “One of the Cameroonians, who suffers from asthma, said he couldn’t breathe while in the WRAP. ‘I truly felt I was meeting my death in that moment.’  

“Another complainant, who was not only placed in The WRAP but also hooded, suffers from a heart condition and experienced chest pain after being carried onto the flight in The WRAP. He had to be removed from the flight shortly before takeoff and was treated in an ambulance at the airport before being taken back to the detention center. ‘I could have had a heart attack and died that day,’ he writes. He describes being in The WRAP as ‘one of the most terrifying and dehumanizing experiences of my life.’” 

Immigration officials say it doesn’t matter that Rodriguez thought he was a U.S. citizen and never intended to deceive anyone: he’s still deportable for making a false statement.

(NPR) “AILSA CHANG, HOST: So here’s a true story that sounds like bad fiction. Imagine a U.S. immigration agent who was born in a foreign country and, it turns out, is actually undocumented. In spite of serving his country for nearly 25 years, first as a sailor and then as a federal officer, he is suddenly deportable. This is what happened to an agent in South Texas who told his story to NPR’s John Burnett.

“JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: More than a million foreign-born people are living in the United States, waiting to convince an immigration judge to let them stay here legally. But none has the profile of Raul Rodriguez. His nightmare started one day in 2018 when he was on the job at a Customs and Border Protection station in South Texas. Two managers came up and told him to surrender his gun and his badge. They had discovered that he was an undocumented immigrant – the same type of person he’d been ejecting for 18 years as a federal immigration agent. They’d found out that he actually had a Mexican birth certificate and had been falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen all along.” 

Even if Biden administration plans to address the root causes of immigration in Central America have an impact–and that’s a serious challenge, because of massive government corruption in those countries–the plans will have no effect on immigration from other countries.

(CNN) “The recent surge of Haitians into Del Rio, Texas, underscored the immense challenge of tackling migratory flows that are constantly changing. As efforts were launched in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to set up internet access and invest in farmers, thousands of migrants, primarily Haitians, made their way up from South America, fleeing deteriorating conditions that were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“‘They have a great strategy mapped out for Central America, but the flows have changed. They go much beyond the Northern Triangle. Now, that’s complicated the narrative and the response,’ said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute.” 

The “Arepa Lady” was once a judge in Colombia. She fled death threats, seeking refuge in the United States, but was undocumented during her first years here. She went from being a judge to being a street vendor. 

(CBS) “With the help of a friend, Cano was introduced to the street vendor world, where she learned how to make her signature arepas with cheese. 

“‘I had never made arepas before,’ she said, with a laugh. ‘But necessity creates solutions. It was something I needed to do. In a desperation to pay rent, feed my kids and satisfy the needs of an entire family, I saw an opportunity.’…

“Despite the adversity, Cano and her sons finally opened their first storefront location in 2014 after saving up $70,000 for six years. (They later relocated). She now has two brick-and-mortar restaurants with her nickname and face — one a few blocks from where she sold arepas on Roosevelt Avenue and another in Brooklyn. A third location is in the works, according to Osorio.” 

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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