Immigration News: May 19, 2022

Cruelty Is Not a Family Value
From photo by Fibonacci Blue, published under Creative Commons license.

The Title 42 ban on asylum seekers and other migrants began under the Trump administration and continued under the Biden administration. The Centers for Disease Control caved in to Trump administration pressure and imposed the ban, despite their own medical experts saying it would do nothing to combat COVID. Now that the CDC has said the ban should be lifted, effective May 23, Republicans are suing to keep it in place indefinitely. Amid the political wrangling over ending the Title 42 ban on all migration, the actual asylum seekers stranded at the border are often overlooked. They flee violence, running for their lives. They are the people most harmed by court actions and political posturing delaying the end of the Title 42 ban. 

Emilsa and her daughters, ages 9 and 11, have been in a shelter in Juarez for a year.  An immigration officer told her there’s no way she can come to the United States because of the Title 42 ban. 

[Texas Tribune] “While her daughters, who are U.S. citizens, can cross the border anytime, Title 42 has blocked Emilsa from requesting asylum in the U.S. She said she fled the Mexican state of Michoacán after local drug cartel members began demanding extortion payments from her while she worked at a water purification plant. …

“[The men] said they knew she and her daughters were not Mexican and if they wanted to continue living in the area, Emilsa would have to pay $50 a month — half of her monthly salary.

“’If you don’t want to pay to live here, then your daughters are going to pay,’ Emilsa said one of the men told her. ‘If you don’t pay, we’re going to kidnap them — we know they’re American.’ 

“She said she paid them a few times but knew she couldn’t continue for long because she had no money left for her daughters’ school materials….

“So they wait, hoping Title 42 will be lifted so she can make an asylum claim, or that an advocacy group can help her find a way to legally cross with her daughters.

“’Maybe if it was just me, I wouldn’t be worried about being stuck here,’ she said. ‘But what does worry me the most is that my girls aren’t going to school and learning.’”

[New York Times] “Guadalupe Garcia crossed the border into Arizona with her 11-year-old daughter early this year, saying she was seeking to escape the brutal beatings she was suffering at the hands of her husband in Guatemala. The Border Patrol informed her that the United States was not open for asylum, and quickly put the pair on a bus back to Mexico.

“Five months later, Ms. Garcia and her daughter are still in the Mexican border city of Nogales, where she has found work at a restaurant. “We are waiting patiently for the U.S. to open,” she said on a recent day while filling orders for breaded chicken, enchiladas and tacos. Isilda was in a side room, making collages from magazine cutouts while her mother worked. …

“A Mexican woman named Betzaida and her three children are among hundreds or more displaced families from Guerrero, a Mexican state convulsed by cartel violence, who have been waiting in Nogales for Title 42 to end. The family is renting an apartment and receiving assistance from the Kino Border Initiative, a nonprofit that provides meals, clothes and legal services to migrants.

“’We never considered leaving Mexico. We had a stable life,’ said Betzaida, who did not want her last name published out of fears for her safety. That changed, she said, when gang members, determined to seize their property, kidnapped and beat her husband unconscious. ‘All we want to do is disappear from Mexico so that they can’t find us,’  she said.”

Adam Isacson of WOLA visited Tijuana, looking at the dangers migrants face, the network of shelters, and the challenge posed by a large and temporary migrant population. He reports that after Title 42 ends, the number of asylum seekers processed by U.S. immigration officials will increase, but the overall number of migrants entering the country will decrease. 

[WOLA] “In Tijuana, though, the migrant population is large and growing. In the category of “people who have recently arrived from somewhere else” are:

Deportees from the United States: Mexican data show that ICE and CBP sent an average of 9,147 Mexican citizens per month into Tijuana—over 109,000 deportations—between April 2021 and March 2022.

“That figure does not include the 11,538 people expelled each month (over 138,000 expulsions) during that period from Border Patrol’s San Diego sector and CBP’s San Diego Field office, under the “Title 42” pandemic order. 96 percent of those expelled into Tijuana are from Mexico, including unaccompanied Mexican children; Mexico also accepts land expulsions of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans. During our visit, the Biden administration began expelling Cuban and Nicaraguan citizens into Mexico as well, including at least a few dozen per day into Tijuana.

“A few hundred more (344 as of March 31) have been sent back into Tijuana since December under the court-ordered revival of the “Remain in Mexico” program.

“An unknown number of people, likely well into the tens of thousands, have arrived in Tijuana from other countries, and from violence-plagued states in Mexico (especially Guerrero and Michoacán). Some plan to cross into the United States as soon as possible despite the risks, while others are waiting for Title 42 to end so that they may present themselves at ports of entry to ask for asylum or other protection.

“Adding together these sources of migration, we estimate that at least 300,000 people, probably more, have migrated to or through Tijuana in the past year. That is at least 15 percent the size of the city’s population (nearly 2 million), 1 for every 6 or 7 people.”

Visiting the border, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said again that the immigration authorities are prepared for the end of Title 42.

[AP] “Mayorkas offered public reassurances of readiness after a whirlwind tour of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings. Homeland Security has said it will prepare for as many as 18,000 daily crossings, compared with a daily average of about 7,800 in April, though Mayorkas emphasized that those are not projections.

“Mayorkas visited a remodeled processing center in McAllen, the region’s largest city, where migrants sat on metal benches and on sleeping mats spread on the floor, as aluminum thermal blankets made rustling noises. Televisions pointed into cells.

“The center reopened about six weeks ago for about 1,200 migrants. Chain-link fences have been replaced with cinder block walls. Cells have an open roof that Border Patrol officials said provides better ventilation.”

The Title 42 bar to all migrants means expulsions like this flight back to Guatemala continue every day. 

[Border Report] “The Biden administration gave reporters rare access to the tarmac where 132 shackled and chained asylum-seekers boarded a deportation flight from South Texas back to Guatemala early Tuesday morning.

“Three busloads of migrants, including 29 women, were driven to a remote back section of the tarmac before 7 a.m. Tuesday at Valley International Airport in the border town of Harlingen. They were removed from the United States under Title 42 expulsion orders, an official told Border Report. …

“All migrants were to remain handcuffed and their feet shackled until an hour prior to the plane landing around noon CDT in Guatemala, an ICE official said.”

And in other news

In late March, the Biden administration launched a massive campaign to vaccinate asylum seekers and other migrants in Border Patrol custody. That’s working, with 20,000 migrants vaccinated so far, 

[CBS] “During an interview this week, Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, the chief medical officer at DHS, said as many as 1,000 migrants are being vaccinated every day at 24 processing facilities across the U.S.-Mexico border as part of one of the largest medical initiatives the government has set up for undocumented individuals in U.S. custody.

“It is something that I believe is historic, because we are building a health system all along the southwest border, an area that has been historically neglected for years, if not decades,” Gandhi told CBS News on Tuesday during a tour of the migrant holding center in McAllen, Texas, one of the sites offering vaccines. …

“Gandhi said … the ‘overwhelming majority’ of migrants opt to get vaccinated. The vaccine refusal rate among migrants in border custody, he added, stands in ‘the low teens.’ …

“Gandhi said the border vaccinations are not just designed to protect the health of migrants, noting the effort also protects U.S. border personnel and American communities.”

Schools should be safe places. Instead, routine school disciplinary actions can escalate to immigration detention and deportation.

[National Immigration Law Center] “In 2017, a high school sophomore named Alex doodled the name of his Honduran hometown and his high school mascot on a desk. This small action, which could have been addressed by asking him to wash it off, started a chain of events that led to Alex’s deportation from the United States. Alex’s family fled Honduran gang violence in search of asylum in the United States. Employing strict monitoring policies meant to remove members of the MS-13 gang from New York schools, school administrators and the resident school resource officer (SRO) misinterpreted Alex’s doodles as gang symbols. Alex’s resulting three-day suspension alerted immigration officials that he could be a “threat” to the United States, and after a lengthy detention, he was deported back to Honduras.

“Unfortunately, Alex’s story is not unique. A large number of public school students are drawn into the dragnet of immigration authorities and face the threat of deportation as a result of zero tolerance discipline and policing practices in schools.” 

When foreign policy and immigration intersect, political partisanship still blocks an obvious move backed by business and education sectors. 

[Roll Call] “The House passed legislation with several immigration provisions, including one that would allow more immigrants who have a doctorate degree in science, technology, engineering or math to get green cards to live and work in the U.S.

“The Senate passed a much slimmer version of the bill that does not include those provisions — one of the differences that dozens of conferees from both chambers will hammer out in the coming months.

“Democrats say the provisions to exempt STEM advanced-degree holders from annual limits on green cards could attract more international students at a time of declining enrollment and help high-skilled immigrants from countries like India and China avoid lengthy visa application backlogs.”

Trump and his travel ban are gone–but recalcitrant Border Patrol officials still sabotage immigrants and immigration policy. A renowned diabetes researcher offered a fellowship by Harvard University is among the people barred from entry. 

[Washington Post] “According to the suit, Shamloo was recruited to join a team of researchers at Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center developing gene therapy-based approaches to treating Type I autoimmune diabetes.

“The family attempted to cross into the U.S. at the Pembina-Emerson port of entry at the North Dakota-Manitoba border on April 2, 2021.

There they “faced unjust scrutiny” due to their country of origin. Border agents interrogated her husband about his mandatory military service while in Iran and his political opinions before denying them entry, the Harvard law clinic said.

“When Shamloo tried take a plane from Toronto to Boston without her family on April 18, 2021, she was again denied entry to the U.S., and told by Customs and Border Protection officers that she is ‘Iranian and there is a travel ban,’ even though she is Canadian and the travel ban had been revoked, according to the suit.”

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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