Immigration News: May 13, 2022

Haitians seeking asylum are in the news today, with 200th U.S. deportation flight since September 2021 and the tragic deaths at sea of at least 11 would-be migrants near Puerto Rico. The United States has now barred asylum seekers for more than two years, and asylum has become a political football. Despite the drumbeat of news, facts about asylum law are little known. Did you know, for example, that crossing a border to request asylum is not illegal? And that asylum—not refugee status— is the only option open to people in the Western hemisphere? 

In an interview with Frank News, immigration prof Austin Kocher explains how asylum works, the difference between asylum and refugees, and much more.

“Those requesting asylum, typically, just come to the US-Mexico border. The US-Mexico border receives refugees from all over the world. Anytime there’s any kind of geopolitical activity, anywhere in the world, you will see people from the countries with unrest show up at the US-Mexico border to request asylum. 

“The world shows up at that border.

“In normal times, when Title 42 is not in place, these people approach the border, cross into the country, illegally, and then request asylum. They are then screened and go to a detention center for what right now is an average of about three weeks. After those three weeks, they are released on a monitoring program until they are able to go through the rest of the process. The rest of the process involves going to an immigration court, and having several hearings with an immigration judge until that judge makes a decision. …

“]If] you are fleeing a country as a refugee, ideally, you should be able to go to a safe place, register as a refugee, and then wait for the international community to find a place to resettle you. Unfortunately, because countries have not responded as much as they should have to the needs of refugees, many refugees in the world actually stay in these very dangerous, impoverished camps.  … There are children who are adults now who have spent their entire lives in the camp. …

“There’s one final point that is almost never talked about in the news. Unfortunately, there are basically no refugee camps in the Western hemisphere, so there isn’t even an option for people from El Salvador, let’s say, to go to a UNHCR refugee camp. There are no refugee camps.”

At least 11 migrants died off the coast of Puerto Rico, when their boat capsizedt. Haitians continue to flee violence and chaos in their country. About 150 people have been killed in ongoing gang warfare in the capital city, with hundreds more wounded and entire neighborhoods held hostage behind gang barricades. The government seems to have taken no action to defend people against the gang violence. 

[The Guardian] “The incident was the latest in a string of capsizings across the region as people from Haiti and the Dominican Republic flee violence and poverty in their countries. A US Customs and Border Protection helicopter spotted the overturned boat late Thursday morning. …

“The capsizing comes less than a week after the US coast guard and Dominican navy on Saturday rescued 68 people in the Mona Passage, a treacherous area between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. One woman believed to be from Haiti died, Castrodad said. ,,,

“Kidnappings in the country of more than 11 million people [Haiti] have increased 180% and homicides are up 17% in the past year, according to the United Nations, which last week expressed concern over “the rapid deterioration of security and human rights” in Haiti.”

Thousands of Haitian migrants have arrived in Nuevo Laredo. Thousands more are waiting in Reynosa. 

[Border Report] “Nuevo Laredo, where street gunfights among rival drug cartel groups regularly occur, is not a typical migration point for asylum-seekers.

“Solloa, who lives in Nuevo Laredo herself, said the arrival of Haitian migrants is highly unusual.

“She said since they began arriving at the end of April she has seen hundreds of Haitians living on the streets and on sidewalks outside the city’s few migrant shelters, seeking assistance. …

“There are an estimated 10,000 Black migrants, including Haitian asylum-seekers, currently living in Tijuana, McPherson said. They are hoping to cross, like the Ukrainians recently did, and are confused by the various exceptions to U.S. immigration laws for different groups of people.”

And in other news

Forty years ago, in Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court ruled that children of undocumented parents, and undocumented children themselves, may not be denied a public education. Now Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he wants to reverse that decision. As a new father, Mario Carillo worries about what that means for his family’s future. 

[El Paso Matters] “We are what is known as a mixed-status family. I am a naturalized U.S. citizen, born in Mexico and raised in El Paso, while my wife is DACA-recipient, also born in Mexico and raised in Utah. Our daughter is a U.S. citizen by birth thanks to the 14th Amendment, which guarantees her citizenship because she was born here, regardless of her parents’ immigration status. And, she’s not alone. Of the 29 million residents of Texas, there are almost 1,000,000 ​​U.S. citizen children living with an undocumented parent.

“You see, to Greg Abbott, my daughter is not deserving of her citizenship. To him, my wife and her family don’t belong in his version of America. If Gov. Abbott had it his way, my wife would be deported back to a country she left more than 25 years ago, and my daughter’s citizenship status should be questioned. 

“If you think this is a stretch, Gov. Abbott himself has said that this ruling is worth exploring to see if it might be overturned, due to the “burden” faced by the state in having to educate children, regardless of theirs or their parents’ immigration status. He sees children like 15-month-old Izel only as a burden, and not as the future of our state. …

“That our daughter might be made to feel less than because of her mother’s immigration status is heartbreaking.”

There’s a nationwide shortage of baby formula, due to closure of an Abbott plant after dangerous bacteria were found. (Several babies were sickened and two died.) Now the right wing is attacking the Biden administration for providing baby formula to infants held in immigration custody. But that’s the law. When infants are in U.S. custody, they must be fed, not starved. 

[Washington Post] “‘CBP takes seriously its legal responsibility to ensure the safety and security of individuals in our custody,’ a DHS spokesman said. ‘Ensuring migrants, including children and infants, in our custody have their basic needs met is in line with this Administration’s commitment to ensuring safe, orderly, and humane processes at our border. CBP complies with all applicable regulations for the purchase of products used in CBP facilities.’” 

Right-wing militia members still patrol the border, with the tacit or active consent of law enforcement officials.

[Los Angeles Times] “Assembled law enforcement were not fazed to see the half-dozen armed figures emerge from the shadows, some toting AR 15-style rifles. For seven months, they have been working with the Patriots for America militia in South Texas, routinely allowing militia members to question migrants. …

“The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas maintains Patriots for America is a racist group that has been patrolling without adequate training, detaining, questioning and intimidating migrants, who often assume they are law enforcement.”

Many of the farm workers who produce and harvest food for U.S. tables cannot afford to feed their own families. Undocumented immigrants make up a large part of the frontline farm workers and they are not eligible for any government food assistance programs. Even legal permanent residents are barred from federally funded nutrition programs until they have held that status for at least five years. 

[The Counter]Senate Bill 464, introduced last year by state Senator Melissa Hurtado, would expand eligibility for state-funded nutrition benefits regardless of immigration status. … 

Forty-five percent of undocumented immigrants in California are affected by food insecurity, but have few options for assistance—and many are wary of government programs because of fear of repercussions and confusion caused by complex state and federal laws. …

“Nearly half of the farm workers in California’s Central Valley report that they experience food insecurity—and this is the community that Senator Hurtado had in mind when she introduced SB 464.

“Hurtado’s district is in the Central Valley, known as the “salad bowl” because it produces a fourth of the nation’s food. The senator said it’s a “cruel reality” that the farm workers who toil in the fields to keep Americans fed cannot afford to put food on their own tables. As the daughter of immigrants who grew up in poverty and experienced food insecurity, she wanted to do something about it.”

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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