Immigration News: March 13, 2023

Too often, we in the United States look at migration as if it is a movement of people limited to this country, That’s not true: most refugees live in other countries, most migration goes to other countries, and other countries also have immigration policies that help or hurt migrants. 

In an opinion column in El Pais, the president of Colombia points out that his country and others in Latin America have given refuge to far more migrants than the United States, and critiques short-sighted U.S. policies.

[El Pais] “Too often, migration in the Americas is viewed simplistically – migrants fleeing the region for the United States. The truth, however, is far more complex. Consider the nationalities at the center of so much attention given to the US-Mexico border in recent months – Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians. While it is true that until last month individuals from these three countries were arriving in numbers never before seen, those numbers mask a complex reality that, if disrupted, could intensify, not lessen, activity at the US-Mexico border.

“Since the beginning of last decade, countries throughout the hemisphere have taken in millions from Haiti, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. All told, more than seven million Venezuelans and hundreds of thousands from each of the other two countries have fled in search of survival; nearly all have found a new home in Latin America and the Caribbean. …

“The LA Declaration’s implementation, however, is imperiled by a hard-to-shake impulse, especially in the United States–the pursuit of short-term, imposed solutions thought to deter migration. The Biden Administration´s recent proposal to limit access to asylum is just such a misguided move.”

Britain is preparing to join the United States in breaking international covenants on refugees and human rights. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron announced an agreement to block migrants trying to cross the Channel. And a new law introduced in Parliament would bar asylum seekers arriving without advance permission.

[Vox] “Under the terms of the new agreement, announced Friday at a UK-France summit in Paris, the UK will fund a new migrant detention center in France and an increased French police presence in the English Channel to intercept attempted crossings via boat. France is expected to contribute funding to the enforcement efforts as well, but the French government has not yet released those details. …

“Braverman’s bill, meanwhile, which was introduced in the House of Commons on March 7 and has yet to face a vote, would deport people who arrive to the UK via irregular migration channels — primarily small boats crossing the English Channel — and bar them from seeking asylum in the UK. The bill has been widely criticized as racist and legally fraught, and both the UN’s refugee agency and the European Court of Human Rights have objected on human rights grounds.

“As described by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Twitter, the bill, if passed, would not only prevent asylum claims, it would shut undocumented immigrants out of the UK’s modern slavery protections …”

It’s a familiar story in Europe, with desperate migrants packed in small boats and drowning at sea. Now it’s coming to the United States, with two boats capsizing off the coast of California last week.

[New York Times] “Along a San Diego beach chewed away by winter swells, at least eight people died after the small boats they were in capsized in what the authorities said on Sunday was a human smuggling operation gone awry.

“Capt. James Spitler, sector commander of the U.S. Coast Guard in San Diego, said that one boat carrying approximately eight people made it ashore, while the other, carrying an estimated 15 people, overturned in the surf.

“James Gartland, the head of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s lifeguard division, called the deaths ‘one of the worst maritime smuggling tragedies’ in recent years.”

With more migrants crossing the northern border, especially in the New Hampshire/Vermont/New York area, the Border Patrol has moved 25 additional agents there.

[NBC] “In January, the latest month for which data is available, 367 migrants were stopped in the sector, compared to just 24 in January 2022.  …

“Those migrants who can afford the $350 one-way plane ticket from Mexico City or Cancun to Montreal or Toronto and then cross the northern U.S. border are less likely to be turned back because of Title 42 than migrants at the southern border. On a per capita basis, the Border Patrol invokes Title 42 to block migrants from claiming asylum less frequently at the northern border than at the southern border.

“But hypothermia and freezing to death are risks, particularly this time of year. On Feb. 3, CBP encountered a family with a 2-year-old and 8-month-old crossing at night into Newport, Vermont, as temperatures dipped to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.” 

Mexican immigration officials found 340 people in a truck trailer in Veracruz. 103 were unaccompanied minors, who were put on planes and flown back to Guatemala. 

[BBC] “The migrants were from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador. It is one of the biggest recent discoveries of migrant children traveling through Mexico.

“All appeared unharmed and the trailer had fans and ventilation ports, officials said. …

“They were found on a common route used to take migrants to the US border.

“The migrants wore colour-coded bracelets to identify them as smugglers’ clients, officials said.”

And in other news

President Biden’s budget proposal increases funding for enforcement at the border and also inside the country. In addition, the budget proposes funding to rebuild refugee resettlement services, which were decimated under the previous administration. 

[USA Today] “In his proposed 2024 budget, the president would allocate nearly $25 billion to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It’s a nearly $800 million increase over the 2023 enacted level.

“Breaking down the proposed $25 billion budget:

CBP would be able to hire an additional 350 Border Patrol agents

• $535 million would be allocated for border technology at and between ports of entry

• $40 million would be used to combat fentanyl trafficking and disrupt transnational criminal organizations

• Funds necessary to hire an additional 460 processing assistants at CBP and ICE …

“Biden is proposing a new $4.7 billion contingency fund to help the Department of Homeland Security respond to surges of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. …

“Biden is proposing $7.3 billion to the Office of Refugee Resettlement to help rebuild the refugee resettlement infrastructure.” 

Solutions are possible. While Texas Governor Greg Abbott continues posturing and denouncing immigrants, El Paso prepares to help. A new Migrant Support Center will help migrants move on to their destinations within the United States. Elena had heard horror stories about what happens when U.S. immigration authorities take them into custody, and was surprised by the reception in El Paso. 

[Border Report] “’They gave us clothes, they let us shower and then they took us to a shelter. We never lacked food or medicine,’ Elena said. ‘Here, they helped us book a flight (to New York City) and reserve a hotel because we could not travel today.’

“The mother of two was among the first migrants served at El Paso County’s new Migrant Support Center. It is run by a private contractor the county hired through $6 million in advance funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“’This is not a shelter. They’re not staying here for long periods of time. The purpose of this center is to help people get to their destination,’ said County Commissioner Iliana Holguin. ‘And an important thing to know is that the travel is paid by the migrant or the migrant’s sponsor. The travel arrangements are not paid for by the county or the FEMA funds.’ …

“Elena, the Colombian mom, said her entire family is on the run ever since his father and stepmother refused to work for a criminal organization in San Vicente, Colombia.

“’They put bullets in my stepmom’s head. They shot my father here (the chest) in front of their two daughters, 5 and 7,’ she said. ‘I’m coming for protection […] I had to leave everything behind. I came here with a daughter but had to leave the other daughter behind because I did not have enough money.’”

A bill introduced in the Texas legislature would effectively take over federal immigration enforcement powers.

[Texas Tribune] “Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan threw his support behind a striking border security bill that would create a state unit of officers empowered to “repel” and arrest migrants crossing the border outside a port of entry and return migrants to Mexico if they were seen trying to illegally cross the border.

“House Bill 20, the priority legislation filed by state Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, would certainly test the boundaries of the state’s ability to enforce immigration law, which courts have historically ruled falls under federal purview.

“And in a signal that the upper chamber is also willing to test the bounds of the state’s immigration enforcement authority, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, announced he was backing Senate legislation that would make it a state crime for people who cross into Texas illegally. The Senate bill, proposed by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, would jail a person for a year or two years if the person tried to enter the country a second time. The proposal would also punish the person to life in prison if they had been previously convicted of a felony.”

Human trafficking means labor trafficking—exploitation and abuse of workers, often immigrants lured here by lies. Saket Soni was a labor organizer who rescued 500 workers and broke wide open a massive scheme that involved abusive employers, armed guards, and a corrupt ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) official. 

[The Guardian] “The story starts with a mysterious midnight phone call that I received on my 29th birthday. I was a labor organizer in New Orleans at the time, months after Hurricane Katrina had destroyed large parts of the Gulf coast. …

“The man who called was clearly from close to my home town, somewhere in north India, and he sounded desperate. Most workers I was helping at the time were from Central and South America. I wondered: how on earth did he end up here?

“What I discovered was that he was one of 500 Indian laborers who had been convinced to pay $20,000 apiece to come to the US on legal guest worker visas to rebuild storm-damaged oil rigs, on false promises that they could become green cards – the American dream. The workers had raised that money by selling ancestral land and taking high-interest loans. Turns out they’d been dropped into an American nightmare. They arrived into a barbed wire labor camp, where they were forced to pay $1,000 a month to live 24 people to a room, in trailers placed on top of a dump. They were fed frozen rice and moldy bread. And there were never any green cards.”

Ukrainians came to Minnesota, fleeing war in their homeland. As the war continues, they wonder whether they should stay—and what will happen when their temporary humanitarian parole runs out.  For families who came under the Uniting for Ukraine sponsorship program, that humanitarian parole is granted for two years. 

[Pioneer Press] “When a fireball erupted at 4:30 a.m. in Maryna Kyrylkova’s quiet suburb outside Kyiv, her 12-year-old son remarked on the flame and ash falling with misleading grace in the distance.

“’My kid said, ‘Are those butterflies?” said Kyrylkova, a school teacher, who found herself bathed in the unnaturally bright and devastating light.

“Then came another explosion. And another. And more the next day, which is when the family hurriedly packed what they could — Kyrylkova threw the family’s belongings in trash bags until her husband convinced her they had just enough time for suitcases — and drove, fleeing toward Romania, logjammed next to hundreds, if not thousands, of other families with the same idea. …

“That was last June, and the family has made the most of their time so far in America. Dad works construction. Mom is a navigator with the International Institute of Minnesota in St. Paul, helping other refugees understand how to apply for government benefits and get acclimated to a foreign land.”

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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