Immigration News: January 30, 2023

In Minnesota, today’s big immigration news is that Driver’s Licenses for All passed the House! The final vote was 69-60, coming after several hours of debate on January 30. Now, on to the Senate!

Other immigration news today includes the impact of policy changes at the border, including—no surprise—big problems with the CBP One mobile app, now the official way to request appointments for vulnerable asylum seekers and to submit photos for humanitarian parole applicants. 

Policy Changes Impact the Border

The CBP One mobile app is now the only way for vulnerable asylum seekers to get appointments at the border—but it’s not working well. Many asylum seekers get error messages. The app is available only in English and Spanish, leaving out Haitian asylum seekers who speak Haitian Creole. 

[AP] “New appointments are available each day at 6 a.m., but migrants find themselves stymied by error messages from the U.S. government’s CBPOne mobile app that’s been overloaded since the Biden administration introduced itJan. 12. 

“Many can’t log in; others are able to enter their information and select a date, only to have the screen freeze at final confirmation. Some get a message saying they must be near a U.S. crossing, despite being in Mexico’s largest border city.

“At Embajadores de Jesus in Tijuana, only two of more than 1,000 migrants got appointments in the first two weeks, says director Gustavo Banda.”

According to the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM), new U.S. policies have discouraged migrants, resulting in fewer attempting the dangerous route through the Darien Gap. 

[Reuters] “Earlier this month Washington expanded COVID-19 pandemic-era restrictions to include migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua and not just Venezuelans as people who can be expelled back to Mexico if caught crossing the border into the United States. The restrictions are known as Title 42. …

“IOM Director General Antonio Vitorino … said 133,000 people made the Darien crossing in 2021, the same number as in the whole previous 10 years, and the crossings almost doubled to 250,000 last year, mostly Venezuelan migrants but also Haitians.

“The migrants have suffered murders and rape, and been subjected to extortion and prostitution by armed gangs crossing through dense jungle between Colombia and Panama, he said.

“They arrive in Panama extremely dehydrated and in terrible medical conditions, especially the women and children, he added.” 

Plans to “speed up” the initial asylum screening, known as the Credible Fear Interview (CFI), make it much harder for asylum seekers to present their stories. The Biden administration should restore full and fair asylum processing instead of looking for faster ways to deport asylum seekers. 

[National Immigrant Justice Center] “Under expedited removal, people who fail CFIs can be deported (without seeing a judge to present their claim) and barred from re-entry for five years. Someone who fails a CFI and is deported under expedited removal may be prevented from ever seeking asylum in the future — no matter how faulty the prior screening was, or the conditions they faced when they underwent this screening. …

“Holding asylum seekers in CBP custody while rushing them through fear screenings is a recipe for disaster. CBP custody is largely inaccessible to attorneys and legal service providers. Conditions in CBP jails are so unsanitary that a federal court has found them to be unconstitutional. Abuse is rampant (CBP holding cells are infamously referenced as “dog pounds” or “ice boxes”) with scant oversight, putting lives at risk. These conditions would unsettle anyone, including people fleeing life-threatening harm and required to confide their greatest fears to the U.S. government.

“Further, Freedom of Information Act records under the prior administration revealed that access to counsel is a near impossibility under these conditions. …

“Just last year, asylum seekers documented a wide range of disturbing practices occurring during current CFI adjudications, including routine scheduling of interviews without notice to counsel; interviews proceeding without proper interpretation, at disparate harm to Black and Indigenous asylum seekers; adjudicators requiring higher burdens than the low bar set by Congress for this initial screening; and subjecting traumatized asylum seekers and torture survivors to adversarial treatment. ” 

As soon as a new U.S. immigration program is announced, unprincipled scammers follow, taking advantage of desperation and fear. The United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) sees scammers taking advantage of migrants who are confused by the complicated directions for the CBP One app. 

[Border Report] “’Yes, we have problems with that, more so now that we have so many vulnerable people on the streets,’ [IOM Juarez office chief Tiago Almeida] said. ‘They come with promises to help them cross into the United States for a fee, they pose as lawyers and other professionals offering to help with CBP One, which is free. Our advice is for migrants to come to us or other organizations here in Juarez to help people in a situation of mobility.’ …

“Protecting migrants from scams is just one facet of the UN’s work in Juarez – which along with its U.S. neighbor El Paso, Texas, became the epicenter of mass migration into the United States during the latter part of 2022.”

The latest U.S. policy changes are driving asylum applications in Mexico.

[NPR] “[EYDER] PERALTA: It’s left them in limbo. A lot of them have decided to stay here in Mexico. So they make these huge lines at immigration offices. And recently, I went to talk to a few of them. They were sleeping outside, waiting for a work permit because they say that all these new requirements make it impossible to get to the U.S. And it’s not necessarily the big things, like the sponsors that Joel mentioned. For a lot of them, it’s that they don’t have a passport. They left home in a hurry. Or they’ve gotten wet or destroyed along the way. And it takes hundreds of dollars to replace them in Haiti.”   

In 2021, while reporting for Al Jazeera, journalist Belén Fernández was detained for 24 hours in Siglo XXI in Tapachula, Mexico’s largest immigration detention center. In an interview with Border Chronicle, she discusses this part of the U.S. border. 

[Border Chronicle] “I can only speak for the women’s section of the prison, although there is a unanimous consensus that the conditions in the men’s part are even more atrocious. When you enter Siglo XXI, you are first relieved of your shoelaces and most of your other possessions …

“Once you’ve been effectively stripped of personhood, you are admitted to the bowels of the 21st century, which consist of a large room with concrete tables and a corridor to the left, where there are smaller rooms containing toilets with no doors (for our own “security,” as one immigration official assured me). I am bad when it comes to estimating numbers of human beings, but Siglo XXI is notorious for its overcrowding, and there were definitely many hundreds of women in there—such that every last bit of table and floor space was occupied by bodies at night. Since there was literally no space for my floor mat, a Cuban girl named Daniely insisted that I share hers—and furthermore insisted that I use her spare clothes as a pillow: ‘Here we share everything.’

“In addition to many Cuban detainees—whose country was of course going on six decades of the asphyxiating U.S. embargo and attendant scarcities that fuel migration—there was a range of other nationalities: Haitians, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans. There was a lone Bangladeshi woman, who had traveled for nine months in the hopes of reaching the U.S. only to end up behind 21st-century bars—where she had been taken under the wing of a group of Haitian detainees. A pair of Cubans had undertaken to teach Spanish to the lone Chinese inmate, who could not communicate with anyone—much less the jailers—but who by all accounts had been in Siglo XXI a long, long time. …

“There may not be human rights in Siglo XXI, but there’s lots of humanity.”

And in other news

USCIS has issued a strategic plan for 2023-2026, outlining broad goals and objectives.

[USCIS] “Goal 1 – Strengthen the U.S. Legal Immigration System

“Ensure that immigration policies, regulations, strategies, processes, and communications support a strong legal immigration system with integrity and promote integration, inclusion, and citizenship.

“Goal 2 – Invest in Our Workforce

“Attract, recruit, train, and retain a diverse, flexible, and resilient workforce that drives high-quality organizational performance.

“Goal 3 – Promote Effective and Efficient Management and Stewardship

“Enhance organizational capability for efficient and effective use, management, and sharing of resources entrusted to the agency, and to evaluate and balance competing demands and priorities to serve the agency’s mission.” 

Responding to questions about an earlier column, Strib columnist Evan Ramstad provides some statistics on immigrant income, cost, and contributions.

[Star Tribune] “Census data shows that, as of 2019, foreign-born Minnesotans who arrived since 2010 had a median income of $49,700 while those here since before 2000 had a median income of $68,400. The poverty rate of the most recent arrivals was 26%, while it was just 11% for those who had been in Minnesota for 20 years.

“‘Immigrants do have a cost when they first come here. Refugees in particular might need some serious health care assistance or housing assistance. So there is a cost to this,’ said Laura Bordelon, a senior vice president at the Minnesota Chamber, which advocates for welcoming more immigrants. ‘But the facts also show that over time these folks contribute in a meaningful way just like any other citizen does when they build wealth.’

“Contrary to what a lot of people hear, immigrants — legal or undocumented — are not immediately entitled to U.S. welfare benefits …” 

Hakizimamana Emmanuel’s parents were killed in genocidal violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He fled in 1996. Now 35, he recalls “hectic, hard and terrible” years as a child and young adult refugee before finally being resettled in the United States in 2019, along with his wife and children.  Now a housing case manager for the International Institute of Minnesota, Emmanuel is still waiting for the United States to allow his wife’s parents and his brother to come here from the refugee camps where they still live. 

[Star Tribune] “Over the last year, [Hakizimana Emmanuel] has eagerly helped the surge of Afghans and Ukrainians arriving here from war-ravaged nations through expedited channels. A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Emmanuel has a passion for assisting refugees from around the globe.

“Yet he laments that the U.S. has accepted a mere trickle of refugees from other nations — including his Congolese relatives trapped in camps for decades — through the traditional resettlement system despite President Biden’s promises to dramatically increase their numbers.

“‘There should be a balance of working on the old traditional resettlement cases and … the current situation of Afghanistan and Ukrainian [arrivals] as well,’ Emmanuel said.”

Protection for Hong Kong residents who were in the United States on August 5, 2021 has been extended for 24 months. 

[The Hill] “The White House cited the increasingly aggressive steps that China has taken in recent years to restrict the ‘human rights and fundamental freedoms’ of the people of Hong Kong as the reason behind the extension.  …

“The extension will apply to any Hong Kong resident present in the U.S. on the date it was issued, except for those who have voluntarily returned to Hong Kong or China after it was issued, have not continuously resided in the U.S. since the date of the extension, who are subject to extradition and who are not admissible into the country under federal immigration law.” 

Growing numbers of migrants from Haiti and Cuba try to make their way to the United States by boat. They will be ineligible for the new “humanitarian parole” program—that is only available to people who apply from outside the United States, with visas, airline tickets, and U.S. sponsors. 

[CBS] “More than 4,400 migrants have made their way by boat to the U.S. since August, officials say. Since October, Customs and Border Protection’s Miami sector has responded to more than 250 migrants landings — a 350% increase over the same time last year. …

“Many of the boats are made of anything that might float. Adam Hoffner, division chief for U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Miami operations, said they often are ill-equipped to handle the voyage. 

“‘There’s not even seats for them to sit in,’ said Hoffner. ‘They don’t have any life preservers, things like that.’

“When migrants arrive, they’re often dehydrated and sunburned. 

“Officials said at least 65 migrants have died at sea since August.”

Besides growing numbers of immigrants from Venezuela, Cuba, and Haiti, the number of immigrants from Ecuador increased last year. 

[Border Report] “Border agents encountered 35,510 Ecuadorians between October and December of last year, compared to 24,936 in all of fiscal 2022, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.

“Some analysts who track the mass movement of people from that South American country worry the numbers will continue to go up and blame Ecuadorian government policies for it.

“’There is no doubt we are seeing a new wave of migration and it shows the failure of the public policies of the Ecuadorian state, which result in the forced migration of its citizens,’ said William Murillo, cofounder of New York City-based 1-800 Migrante. …

“The group says the trend points to the fiscal year 2023 topping the record 97,074 encounters with Ecuadorians that U.S. border agents reported in fiscal 2021.”  

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,, 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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