Immigration News from December 2, 2021

Today’s biggest story: The United States and Mexico have agreed to restart Remain in Mexico (MPP) next week. The Trump-era policy, which bars asylum seekers from entering the United States while their cases are pending, was halted by the Biden administration in January, but a Texas federal court ordered it reinstated.  Under the policy, thousands of asylum seekers were forced to remain in dangerous camps in Mexico, without access to legal representation. 

(CBS) “‘All individuals from the Western Hemisphere will potentially be eligible’ to be turned back to Mexico, one senior official said.  …

“On the campaign trail in 2020, President Biden said the program forced asylum-seekers to live ‘in squalor.’ In his latest termination memo, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas decried the policy’s ‘unjustifiable human costs.’…

“More than 70,000 asylum-seekers from Latin America were returned to Mexico under the protocols during the Trump administration. Many were returned to areas of northern Mexico that the State Department warns U.S. nationals not to visit because of violent crime and rampant kidnappings.

“Hundreds of migrants subjected to the policy reported being kidnapped, extorted or assaulted while waiting in Mexico, according to reports by Human Rights First, a U.S. organization that advocates on behalf of asylum-seekers.” 

“Humanitarian improvements?” If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale. 

(Washington Post) “Implementation of the program, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), will begin Monday at one border location and quickly expand to seven cities, U.S. officials said in a separate court filing. A federal judge in Texas ordered the Biden administration in August to negotiate the reinstatement of the MPP with Mexican authorities.

“’Mexico has demanded a number of humanitarian improvements as conditions of agreeing to accept enrollees,’ said one U.S. official, including guarantees that asylum seekers will have access to legal counsel and that their humanitarian claims will be processed within six months.”

American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Executive Director Benjamin Johnson denounced the agreement to resume the Remain in Mexico program:

“The Remain in Mexico policy initiated by the Trump administration has led to the deaths and assaults of migrants as they were forced to stay in Mexico. There is no dispute that the program violates America’s asylum laws which require the U.S. government to provide asylum seekers with a meaningful chance to claim protection. There is simply no way, despite the administration’s attempts, to make Remain in Mexico kinder and gentler. The fact remains the program’s purpose is impossible to rework to meet our country’s legal and moral commitments to protect those fleeing persecution. AILA and our members will continue to fight this program and continue to urge the administration to end the use of the public health law Title 42 to expel asylum seekers without due process as well. Together, Title 42 and MPP cruelly work to simply keep people seeking protection out.” 

The actual impact of reinstating the Remain in Mexico program is unclear, since the Biden administration has continued a second Trump-era policy, Title 42, which bars all immigrants crossing the Mexican border on phony “public health” grounds. 

U.S. immigration enforcement is complicated and split among different agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), more commonly known as the Border Patrol. While ICE and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have administered vaccine doses to more than 90,000 immigrants in deportation proceedings, the Border Patrol has refused to vaccinate immigrants that it detains. 

(CBS) “For months, however, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) declined to offer vaccines, leaving hundreds of thousands at risk of being unvaccinated when they were deported or released into the U.S. Since January, CBP has processed migrants along the southern border over 1.6 million times, agency data shows….

“Unlike other federal agencies, CBP resisted calls from public health experts to vaccinate migrants in its custody, despite internal plans to do so dating back to the summer.” 

Recognizing the abuses and inadequacy of for-profit prisons, the Biden administration ordered that no prisoners serving sentences for federal criminal convictions be held there. But they continue to allow immigrant detainees–who have not been convicted of crimes–to be held in for-profit prisons. 

(Washington Post) “Moshannon Valley Correctional Facility, a former federal prison owned by Geo Group, just reopened in Pennsylvania as a 1,994-bed detention facility, the largest in the Northeast. The 600-bed West Tennessee Detention Facility, a former prison owned by CoreCivic, may also hold immigrants, according to an inspection report posted on the agency’s website and later taken down. Officials from ICE declined to comment on the Tennessee facililty. Geo Group also declined to comment. A spokesman for CoreCivic said in a statement that the company is “actively” seeking another government contract.

“Officials also have renewed contracts with four Geo Group detention facilities in Florida, Colorado and Texas, and in September, they signed an agreement to open a women’s detention center in Berks County, Pa., a county-owned facility that used to house migrant families. ICE also extended its contract with the last detention center in New Jersey, CoreCivic-run Elizabeth Detention Center, company and state court records show.

“Approximately 15,000 immigrants were in detention when Biden took office, the lowest number in decades, but that number has since risen as high as 29,000.” 

The Liberian Refugee Immigrant Fairness program (LRIF) ends on December 20. Advocates urge extension of the program, which offers a path to legal residence and citizenship to an estimated 10,000 Liberians living in the United States. Only 3,500 applications have been filed.  

(Sahan Journal) “Abena Abraham, a co-director for the Black Immigrant Collective, which offers legal services, mutual aid, and advocacy work for Black immigrants in Minnesota, said there have been barriers to applying.

“’There’s a lack of trust,’ Abraham said. ‘We had a super anti-immigrant administration that was in power when this bill passed so folks were really afraid to put their information out there because it could lead to deportation.’…

“Abraham added that application fees, which can add up to more than $1,000 per person, have also kept eligible people from filing. Lifting the deadline could give attorneys and advocates more time to conduct outreach in the Liberian community.

“Abraham also raised concerns about the slow processing time for applications.” 

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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