Immigration News: September 19, 2022

Border near Tijuana, photo by Jonathan McIntosh, published under Creative Commons license
Border near Tijuana, photo by Jonathan McIntosh, published under Creative Commons license

As the year’s total for encounters at the border tops two million, context remains important. First, the number of “encounters” is not the same as the number of people crossing the border. Many people cross multiple times, and are counted each time as a separate “encounter.” In August, 22 percent of those who crossed had previously attempted a crossing and been turned back. Second, desperation drives the increasing number of migrants trying to get to safety in the United States. 

[Washington Post] “The historic migration wave this year has been driven by soaring numbers of border-crossers from outside Mexico and Central America, the two largest traditional sources of illegal entries. Migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba accounted for more than one-third of those taken into custody along the southern border last month, according to Customs and Border Protection, a 175 percent increase over August 2021. …

“Many of the migrants apply for humanitarian protection in the United States and tend to have strong asylum claims. …

“About 36 percent of the 203,598 migrant “encounters” resulted in an expulsion last month, down from 83 percent when Biden took office.”

And in other news

A newly-filed administrative complaint to the Department of Homeland Security  details abuse of migrant detainees in a Florida county jail. In addition to physical abuse, the jail has blocked communications with government help lines and advocacy organizations to prevent detainees from filing complaints. 

[Florida Phoenix] “The complaint, which follows a similar submission in July, alleges 130 detainee allegations. They include that guards beat one detainee severely enough to damage his ear, pepper sprayed someone while kneeling on the person’s body, sent someone into a diabetic coma from medical neglect, denied women sanitary products, and more.

“It also alleges that guards denied water to detainees who attempted to protest conditions through a hunger strike.

“’In addition to retaliating against the individuals who have come forward, Baker appears to be taking steps to stop those communications altogether. Baker has reportedly blocked the phone numbers of federal government help lines and advocacy organizations that detained individuals had previously contacted to report complaints about the facility,’ the complaint continues.”

An administrative complaint filed with the Department of Homeland Security describes use of solitary confinement as punishment at the Imperial Detention Facility in Calexico, CA, and action taken to punish migrant detainees for complaining to DHS about conditions there. The private, for-profit detention center is run by Management and Training Corporation. 

[Los Angeles Times] “One detainee said that he faced retaliation after talking with officials from the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties about issues at the facility, and several detainees said they were disciplined after participating in a complaint about the facility’s air quality in January. …

“The complaint also details the case of a detainee, Alvaro Galindo, who has spent more than 130 days in the segregation unit after arriving at the facility in January. That means he’s spent more than half of his time at the facility in isolation …

“The first time he was sent to solitary confinement, he was given 30 days because a guard threw away a bottle of soda that he was drinking, and he retrieved the bottle from a garbage can, the complaint says. …

“The second time, he was sent to solitary on charges of fruit possession and medication misuse that were ultimately determined to be unfounded ,,,

“The third time, Galindo was sent to the segregated housing unit after a fight with another detainee. Both were given 15 days, but then Galindo was held longer, for about 70 days, the complaint says. It notes that at the time, he had an open grievance against the official presiding over his disciplinary proceedings because that person had allegedly thrown away his personal photos.

“Now he’s back in solitary for a fourth time”

Some migrants bused out of Texas find much better conditions and opportunities elsewhere. Lever Alejos arrived in Texas after an arduous journey from Venezuela. He was given a choice of a free bus ride to Washington, D.C. or a $50 bus ride to San Antonio. He chose the free ride. 

[New York Times] “[Alejos] had no family or friends to receive him, and spent one night in the plaza across from Union Station. He soon settled into a homeless shelter. …

“Two months later, Mr. Alejos is making between $600 to $700 a week, saving up to buy a used car and planning to move out of the shelter. …

“Migrants like Mr. Alejos are at once symbols of a burgeoning humanitarian crisis, pawns in a partisan debate, and people simply following the economics of supply and demand. …

“Mr. Alejos said that he had followed instructions he received from authorities to check in at the local immigration office, and that he planned to apply for asylum.”

Anti-immigrant propaganda is working, shifting the attitudes of people in the United States, and selling false ideas about immigration.

[America] “A majority of Americans—52 percent—now believe the nation is experiencing an “invasion” on the southern border, and 49 percent say that migrants are responsible for an uptick in U.S. drug overdoses because they are transporting fentanyl and other drugs. Those are among the findings of an NPR/Ipsos poll released in August that suggests support for immigrants is diminishing. …’

“The NPR/Ipsos survey suggests anti-immigrant rhetoric is working. Fewer Americans today—56 percent—said immigrants reflect an important aspect of national identity than in 2018, when 75 percent believed that. Slightly more—46 percent, up from 42 percent in 2018—now support building a wall along the southern border.”

Washington DC has been welcoming migrants that Texas sends there by bus as they are dropped at Union Station. On September 15, with no notice or warning, the buses instead dropped 101 migrants, the youngest only one year old, in front of Vice President Kamala Harris’s official residence. 

[DCist] “Abbott’s office declined to say whether they’ll continue to send migrants to Union Station or pick new drop-off locations. …

“But the local nonprofit staff and mutual aid volunteers who have been welcoming migrants for months tell DCist/WAMU the move does not fundamentally change their operation of supporting the new arrivals. They’ll continue to do what they can to ensure migrants aren’t left abandoned in D.C., and pivot if they have to. Still, new drop-off locations complicate their efforts and could further confuse migrants who have come to expect to be welcomed by locals.”

New York Mayor Eric Adams said that an asylum seeker has died by suicide in a city shelter.

[ABC] “The mayor did not name the individual or the shelter and said the city is prohibited by law from sharing additional details at this time. It is unclear how and when the woman arrived in New York City or how long she had been at the shelter.

“‘Our hearts break for this young woman and any loved ones she may have, and we, as a city mourn her,’ Adams said. ‘This tragedy is a reminder that we have an obligation to do everything in our power to help those in need.'”

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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