Immigration News: January 11, 2022

Border wall mural, photo by Jonathan McIntosh, used under Creative Commons license

Remain in Mexico is a Trump administration policy that barred asylum seekers from the United States, in violation of U.S. and international law. Under this policy, asylum seekers are forced to wait for months in Mexico, entering the United States only for scheduled court hearings. That not only left them vulnerable to kidnapping, extortion, and all manner of criminal attacks, but also made it difficult-to-impossible to find a lawyer to represent them and exceedingly difficult to even show up for court cases. 

The Biden administration ended Remain-in-Mexico, but a Texas court ordered the policy reinstated. The Biden administration promised that the reboot of Remain-in-Mexico would be more humane, and that asylum seekers would have an opportunity to consult a lawyer, would be vaccinated for COVID, would have their rights respected.. Two Colombian men, among the first migrants returned to Mexico, said the promises were not kept. They were not allowed to speak with attorneys. Only one of them was vaccinated. Documents scheduling their hearings had errors. 

[San Diego Union Tribune] “Agents took them to a station and placed them in a cell packed with dozens of other men. There were only six bunk beds, the men said, so they slept on the floor, sandwiched among all of the people in custody. Because the lights were always on in the cell, they struggled to keep track of time. …

“They were not given an opportunity to bathe or shower while they were in custody, they said, though they were there for nearly a week.

“According to the documents they were given, they signed documents related to MPP on Monday, after they’d already been in the cell for several days. The men said they didn’t know what they were signing, that many of the documents were in English and even for the documents in Spanish, they were not given time to read them before signing.

“After they’d been selected for MPP, an agent asked if they were afraid to go back to Mexico. The men said another agent tried to keep that official from asking the question, which is now a required question under the new rules for the program before someone can be returned. 

“’He said we would have to spend more time in those conditions,’ one man recalled.

“They told the agent that they were terrified. …

“Documents from the asylum officer’s interview corroborate the men’s claims that they didn’t have access to attorneys and that they were forced to sign paperwork that they did not understand.” 

So far, a few dozen asylum seekers have been allowed to return for initial hearings. The Remain-in-Mexico policy requires them to be sent back to Mexico between hearings, despite widespread threats and violence against asylum seekers in Mexico. 

[Border Report] “Most of the migrants told the judge they were ready to proceed without a lawyer and were told to return for a second hearing in three months. That’s an improvement over reported waits of six months to a year between hearings in 2019. The judge urged the migrants to complete asylum applications and bring evidence of persecution to their next hearing.

“She also asked them if they were afraid of being returned to Mexico. All of them said yes. 

“Migrant advocates have stated repeatedly that citizens of the Caribbean, Central and South America become targets of border gangs once they’re expelled to Mexico.”

Remain in Mexico is only one of the continuing issues on the border. High speed chases by the Border Patrol are costing more lives. These and other use-of-force “incidents” are investigated by the Border Patrol’s own “critical incident teams,” which often means that no police or other independent investigation takes place. 

[New York Times] “The number of migrants crossing the border illegally has soared, with the Border Patrol recording the highest number of encounters in more than six decades in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. With the surge has come an increase in deaths and injuries from high-speed chases by the Border Patrol, a trend that Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, attributes to a rise in brazen smugglers trying to flee its agents.

“From 2010 to 2019, high-speed chases by the Border Patrol resulted in an average of 3.5 deaths a year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. In 2020, there were 14 such deaths; in 2021, there were 21, the last on Christmas….

“Crossing the border without documentation or helping people do so is full of risk regardless of the circumstances, and stopping such crossings — and the criminal activity of smugglers — is central to the Border Patrol’s job. But the rising deaths raise questions about how far the agency should go with pursuits of smugglers and migrants, and when and how agents should engage in high-speed chases.”

Ursula, a problematic Border Patrol processing center closed in November 2020, is about to reopen. 

[Rio Grande Valley News] “Now instead of chain-linked fencing, the facility was built to ‘create modern detention areas,’ according to the previous CBP statement. ‘The new design will allow for updated accommodations which will greatly improve the operating efficiency of the center, as well as the welfare of individuals being processed. 

Additionally, the facility is being designed to allow more space for individual interactions with representatives of nongovernmental organizations. 

“‘Room partitions will be designed and built which afford modest housing accommodations. The RGV CPC will also provide for a common recreation area for younger children.’

“Once open, the capacity is expected to be close to 1,100 people.”

And in other news

She was a victim of domestic abuse, cooperated with law enforcement, and was approved for a U visa. But the waiting list is long, and her number will not come up for years. Should she be deported? An immigration judge said yes, but the Fourth Circuit says no.

[Reuters] “A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the board ignored the fact that Patricia Garcia Cabrera will likely receive a U visa, which allow victims of serious crimes who assist law enforcement to remain in the U.S. for up to four years, when it denied her request to put off her case.

“The court said the likelihood that an individual facing deportation will be granted lawful status is the primary factor in determining whether to stay a case, and an immigration judge who denied Garcia’s bid gave too much weight to other considerations.”

Senators are asking President Biden to give Temporary Protected Status (TPS)  to 2 million undocumented immigrants. Only Congress can create a path to legal permanent residence and citizenship. 

[Reuters] “They want President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat, to take executive action to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Central American immigrants from Guatemala and expand eligibility for those from El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua….

“‘It is our assessment that the severe damage caused by back-to-back hurricanes just over one year ago, combined with extreme drought conditions, and the social and economic crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, warrant such an action by the administration,’ the lawmakers wrote in the letter seen by Reuters.”

Current worker shortages in the United States are directly related to policies that have slashed immigration.

[NBC] “Immigration has dropped sharply in the last few years, and the declines have had real impacts on the worker pool.

“The impacts can be seen by looking at the most basic measure, net international migration into the U.S. According to the census, that figure last year was one-quarter what it was in 2016. …

“The net international migration figures have been falling every year since 2016. So even though the pandemic has almost certainly played a role in the last few years, policy changes also seem to have had an impact.

“And all those declines since 2016 mean there would have been millions more immigrants in the country today if migration had kept at a steady pace.”

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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