Immigration News: January 31, 2023

Three news stories remind us that immigration is about much more than the border. The first is a story of twin sisters whose immigration status and lives are dramatically different because of the ongoing attacks on DACA. A second story focuses on airports, and specifically on abuses by CBP at airports that threaten U.S. citizens as well as non-citizens. The third is a much-needed good news story about immigrants in Bloomington, Illinois, German and Mexican, yesterday and today. 

Karen Briseno Ortiz mailed her DACA application the day after her twin sister. That one-day delay has meant a huge difference in their lives. Her sister’s application was approved, but Karen’s was put in legal limbo after a federal judge agreed that Trump’s order could put an end to the program. Both are now enrolled at Texas A&M University. One twin sister has legal protection from deportation and legal permission to work. The other has neither. 

[KTBS] “Briseno Ortiz is the only one of her three siblings not in the program, despite being eligible for DACA. The Migration Policy Institute, a think tank that tracks migration, estimates that as of December 2021, there are 1.5 million undocumented people who are DACA-eligible but not enrolled. …

“[The twin sisters] sent their applications one day apart to avoid any confusion with immigration officials or hold-up with their applications because they share the same birthday and first and last name. …

“As of now, the lower court is hearing arguments about whether the Biden administration’s new rule, which is nearly identical to the memo creating DACA, is lawful. A schedule for that case has not been set yet.”

If you travel abroad, beware: U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents can demand access to your phone and other electronic devices, download your information, keep it in a database for 15 years, and allow access to it by other agents without warrant or any kind of judicial oversight. And that is true for citizens as well as non-citizens. 

[Washington Post] “U.S. government officials are adding data from as many as 10,000 electronic devices each year to a massive database they’ve compiled from cellphones, iPads and computers seized from travelers at the country’s airports, seaports and border crossings, leaders of Customs and Border Protection told congressional staff in a briefing this summer.

“The rapid expansion of the database and the ability of 2,700 CBP officers to access it without a warrant — two details not previously known about the database — have raised alarms in Congress about what use the government has made of the information, much of which is captured from people not suspected of any crime. CBP officials told congressional staff the data is maintained for 15 years. …

“CBP’s inspection of people’s phones, laptops, tablets and other electronic devices as they enter the country has long been a controversial practice that the agency has defended as a low-impact way to pursue possible security threats and determine an individual’s “intentions upon entry” into the U.S. But the revelation that thousands of agents have access to a searchable database without public oversight is a new development in what privacy advocates and some lawmakers warn could be an infringement of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

In Bloomington, IL, Mexican immigrants form community and support one another—just as German immigrants did more than a century ago. It’s the American way. 

[Pantagraph] “With more than a dozen Mexican restaurants, two Mexican groceries and some church services conducted in Spanish, longtime residents might be wondering how immigrant communities have coalesced here over time.

“Two local institutions reach out to incoming Mexicans and other Spanish speakers to offer help finding medical, school, legal and other resources. …

“[M]uch of this is nothing new — not in a community that once had a German American Bank, a German-language newspaper and three elementary schools in which most of the courses were taught in German. While the list of government requirements was much smaller before 1900, the availability of help from other Germans was comparable or perhaps even more extensive than what Mexicans and other Spanish-speaking immigrants can find today.”

And in other news

The new Biden administration restrictions on asylum seekers hit many people just as they crossed the border—legally seeking asylum. Hector Gonzalez and his wife flew from Cuba to Nicaragua and then came overland through Mexico to the U.S. border on January 8.  They crossed the Rio Grande and turned themselves in to border officials, relieved to have made it to safety. Or so they thought. 

[Guardian] “A couple of days later, the vast majority of the group – which included women and children – were taken back over the border to a Mexican immigration facility in Piedra Negras. …

“[O]ver the next few days, the Cubans were split up and bussed hundreds of miles south to different cities across Mexico.

“González was driven 500 miles south-west to the state of Durango with around 40 others. After spending a night in detention, they were bussed another 200 miles south-east to neighbouring Zacatecas state – and given a letter which said they had 20 days to leave Mexico.

“Meanwhile, his wife was among a group dropped off 200 miles further south in San Miguel de Allende, while others were taken down to Acapulco, one of the most dangerous cities in the country.”

The Biden administration announced that it will end the COVID emergency in May. Among the effects of this action: an end to the Title 42 bar to asylum seekers. 

[Politico] “Lifting the health emergency could also mean the abrupt termination of Title 42, a health policy reinstated during the Trump administration in March 2020 at the beginning of the Covid pandemic and used to shut down the southern border. The authority gave border officials the ability to rapidly “expel” migrants without a chance to seek U.S. asylum.”

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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