Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives began hearings on “the Biden border crisis” today. They did a lot of chest thumping about the threat posed by fentanyl, and said it was connected to unauthorized border crossings. That’s a lie.
Official U.S. reports show that 80- 90 percent of fentanyl crossing the border comes at official border crossings. Most drug seizures by the Border Patrol—91 percent according to official figures—find that drugs are carried by U.S. citizens—NOT by immigrants. That makes logical sense: drug dealers are not going to send their valuable products across the border with migrants who turn themselves in to U.S. border authorities and ask for asylum.
Fentanyl and other drug imports are a U.S. problem, carried mostly by U.S. citizens, to feed a U.S. drug market. The best way to stop drugs at the border is to give more resources to inspection of vehicles crossing at checkpoints, not to demonize asylum seekers.
But that’s not what the Republican “hearings” are about. They are pure political theater, start to finish. As the circus continues, America’s Voice offers four points to remember:
- “Republicans have empowered MAGA extremists who mainstream deadly white nationalism – the real threat to public safety.
- “The GOP’s political talking point that blames the Biden administration’s border policies started well before Biden even took office and obscures how complicated the underlying issues really are
- “Instead of working on real solutions in Congress, the GOP remains reliant on extremist policy and has built an anti-immigrant judicial pipeline to thwart progress
- “Defining themselves by their MAGA extremists is bad politics for the GOP.”
Apart from the hyper-partisan sideshow, real immigration issues need action. Two of the most pressing issues are DACA and the Afghan Adjustment Act.
DACA may be the popular immigration policy going—it’s the policy that allows people who came to the United States as children before 2007 to get temporary protection from deportation and permission to work. DACA recipients grew up here, know the United States as home, and contribute massively to the country in more ways than it is possible to list.
About three of every four Americans want DACA recipients not only to stay in the United States but also to have a pathway to citizenship. Despite that, Republican efforts to end DACA continue. The latest is a new court filing before one of the rabidly anti-immigrant judges in Texas, who has repeatedly ruled against DACA.
[CBS] “Nine Republican-controlled states asked a federal judge in Texas on Tuesday to shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in its entirety over two years, a move that would prevent nearly 600,000 immigrants known as “Dreamers” from renewing their deportation protections and work permits. …
“At the center of the Republican state officials’ request on Tuesday are rules the Biden administration issued to place DACA on firmer legal grounds by transforming the program into a federal regulation. In October, those regulations replaced the Obama administration memo that first created DACA in 2012. …
“However, the states challenging DACA’s legality asked Hanen on Tuesday to find that the regulations issued last year are also unlawful and to block the government from approving renewal applications two years after a decision is made.”
The two-year humanitarian parole for Afghans airlifted out of the country as the Taliban took over is running out. They need swift passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act to maintain legal status and work permission in the United States—and to bring family members who were left behind and remain in danger.
[Philadelphia Inquirer] “The International Rescue Committee estimated that newly arrived Afghans paid more than $189 million in taxes in their first year of employment, working in industries that include retail trade, food services, manufacturing, and warehousing.
“Their skills run the gamut. Some speak excellent English, having served as translators for U.S. forces.
“Some hold multiple college degrees, while others never went to school. Many are traumatized, and nearly everyone left family members behind.
“All were promised expedited asylum. And now they need help.”
This is not the promise the United States made to the Afghans who risked their lives to work with U.S. forces in the country. It is not the promise our asylum law makes to people fleeing terror. Read the four stories of Afghans fleeing their country and what they endured to get to the U.S. border. Then call your representatives in Congress and tell them to pass the long-overdue Afghan Adjustment Act.
[Reuters] “Their journey starts with a humanitarian visa for Brazil: one of the few remaining exit routes for Afghans fleeing Taliban rule.
“It ends – after a perilous trek overland through Latin America across at least 11 countries – with scaling the border wall and jumping onto U.S. soil.
“More than a year after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Kabul, the number of Afghans crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum in the United States has soared.
“Hundreds of people each month are risking their lives to get there on a human smuggling route notorious for kidnapping, robbery and assault.”
And in other news
The United States continues to expel migrants to Mexico. That is a potentially deadly move. Threats to non-profit migrant shelters in Tijuana range from threats of arson to menacing armed individuals outside shelters to multiple incidents of people shooting into a shelter from outside.
[WOLA] “The nature of shelters’ work makes them vulnerable to organized crime, often enabled by official corruption, that would profit from the chance to smuggle migrants like those behind the shelters’ gates. Recent months have seen what appears to be a sharp rise in violence and threats of violence against Tijuana migrant shelters, with little or no protective response from local authorities. …
“In recent years Tijuana shelters’ populations swelled as they took in asylum-seeking migrants in need of long-term stays: those forced to add their names to “waitlists” to apply in the United States, and those sent back into Tijuana by the U.S. government’s “Remain in Mexico” program and the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy. …
“Between October and December alone, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) used Title 42 to expel 24,320 migrants to Tijuana, from 16 countries.”
The CBP One app is now the only way for migrants in Mexico to get appointments to ask for asylum at the border and the only way for humanitarian parole applicants to submit necessary photos. Among the problems: the app is glitchy and frequently crashes, the Spanish version has many words in English rather than Spanish, and it’s not even available in Haitian Creole, which blocks many Haitian applicants for either asylum or humanitarian parole.
[Roll Call] “The app requires each asylum-seeker, or each family unit, to have access to a smartphone and to a WiFi network, which presents an initial challenge for migrants in crowded shelters. They also must have an email address to create an account, which providers said not all migrants have.
“’It’s a glitchy app. If you don’t have really robust internet service, it’s not going to work for you,’ said Erika Pinheiro, executive director of legal services organization Al Otro Lado.
“’The refugee who has the resources to get a hotel with very strong internet access will be the one who gets an appointment,’ Pinheiro said. ‘The refugee staying at a shelter where a thousand people are sharing one internet connection will not.’”
In early January, the Biden administration announced that it would expel Cuban, Haitian, NIcaraguan, and Venezuelan migrants who crossed the border, and that Mexico had agreed to accept them. At the same time, it offered the possibility of humanitarian parole to migrants who applied from their home countries, with passports, with money for an airline ticket, and with U.S. sponsors who agreed to support them. The threat of immediate expulsion to Mexico, with the prospect of possible deportation from Mexico back to home countries, drastically curtailed border crossings.
[Washington Post] “Illegal crossings by migrants from the four countries were down more than 95 percent [in January], preliminary figures obtained by The Washington Post show.
“Overall, the number of migrants stopped along the Mexico border last month fell to about 150,000, down from the record-high 251,487 tallied in December, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data and officials who were not authorized to discuss enforcement figures not yet finalized. …
“About 6,000 Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans have been allowed into the United States through the new parole program since Jan. 5, according to the latest figures. …
The for-profit GEO group, one of the largest private prison operations in the country, runs 15 immigration detention centers across the country and has been a frequent target of complaints about its treatment of the immigrants in these facilities. Immigrants in the detention centers have not been convicted of crimes but are in civil detention awaiting immigration hearings.
[Los Angeles Times] “California regulators levied $104,510 in fines against the private prison operator GEO Group last month after detained immigrant workers at the Golden State Annex in central California complained about unsafe conditions, including a lack of protective equipment and proper training, while cleaning the facility for $1 per day. …
“Detainees alleged that they routinely wiped black mold off shower walls at the facility, saw black dust spew from the air vents and used cleaning solutions that lacked instructions, leaving them wondering whether they were being exposed to high concentrations of chemicals. Complaints were ignored, according to the complaint, and the hazards went unaddressed.”
The Mexican consulate reports that the border wall is costing lives and injuring hundreds of people, reporting “bruises, fractures, lacerations, spinal cord and brain injuries” from falling off the wall. The statistics include only Mexican nationals, not migrants from other countries.
[Border Report] “Statistics released by the consulate show 42 migrants from Mexico died last year, slightly up from 41 in 2021. In 2020 the figure was just 16.
“When injured migrants are added, the number goes up to 646 dead or injured for the three previous years.
“The 30-foot border barrier is blamed for most of the injuries and deaths.
“’It is a significant increase that we attribute to height of border wall. It went from 17 feet to 30 feet,’ said Carlos González Gutiérrez, Mexico’s Consul General in San Diego.”
Redesigned green cards and employment authorization documents will be issued beginning in February, but old cards will remain valid until their expiration dates. The redesign increases security for the cards to prevent fraud.
[The Hill] “Green cards are granted to legal permanent residents, a majority of whom are eligible to apply for citizenship. EADs are granted to foreign nationals who can work but don’t have a temporary work visa, such as recently graduated higher education students, green card applicants, asylum-seekers and refugees.
“According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are almost 13 million legal permanent residents in the United States — that number declined by 1.7 percent from 2021 to 2022 as more permanent residents chose to pursue naturalization.”
A new DHS system allows exploited workers to get temporary permission to stay in the country while their complaints against employers are processed.
[American Prospect] “Exploitative bosses have long weaponized immigration laws to scare their workers into silence. In 2019, a Boston construction worker applied for workers’ compensation after an injury from falling from a ladder. He was detained by ICE immediately following a meeting about his case at his former employer’s office, an instance of unlawful retaliation. The same year, a California dairy worker sued his employer for unpaid wages; the dairy’s attorney called ICE ten weeks before trial, seeking to get the worker deported. It wasn’t the only time this attorney had made such a call. Not surprisingly, research has shown that fear of deportation reduces immigrant workers’ reporting of labor violations.
“Fortunately, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this month announced a new process that could prevent some of these situations. The agency has set up a system for federal, state, and local government agencies to request temporary legal status for workers who are witnesses or potential witnesses in workers’ rights enforcement cases. …
“The new streamlined DHS process isn’t really about immigration at all. It’s about upholding the rule of law for the most shameless subset of our country’s employers. More than anything, it’s about protecting working people.”