Immigration News: May 19, 2023

Dreamer and best-selling author Karla Cornejo Villavicencio argues that immigrants are the best hope for keeping democracy alive in the United States. Many have fled countries where they experienced political repression and authoritarianism. They know what is at stake when democracy is threatened, and they will fight to keep it. 

[New York Times] “Immigrants believe in the American story about freedom and self-governance. In fact, nobody believes harder than we do. The migrants at the border right now are there because they acted on the belief that we are all born with a God-given right to self-determination. They were willing to risk everything on their belief in liberty, on their belief in the kind of freedom you fight for. Human beings who have known freedom their whole lives cannot fully appreciate it — in the same way that fish cannot really appreciate water.

“It is a cruel twist that the country we fled to can sometimes remind us of the places we left, but the irony is the point. In an attempt to keep nonwhite immigrants out of the United States, many Republican lawmakers have turned against its crown jewel: democracy.

“The good news is that immigrants can be our secret weapon in the fight against authoritarianism. Immigrants love America in a way that America needs to be loved if it is going to survive.”

And in other news

As more immigrants arrive in New York every day, the city administration has veered from one proposed housing solution to another, meeting criticism at every turn. The real solution: work permits for asylum seekers awaiting their hearings. And that’s not something New York City can give them. 

[New York Times] “More than 67,000 migrants have arrived in New York City since the crisis began. Of those, 41,500 people are currently being cared for by the city, Anne Williams-Isom, the deputy mayor for health and human services, said at a news conference on Wednesday. She said 4,300 people had arrived in just the past week. …

“Unlike other large cities, New York is required to give anyone who asks for shelter a place to stay, a guarantee based on decades of court cases. …

“‘We have seen too many criticisms couched in half truths,” [the deputy mayor] said. ‘We are looking for constructive, real suggestions, not idle talking points.’

“She said that the city was running out of options and that its shelter capacity was full, which had forced it to turn to temporary options like gyms and ‘large open spaces.’”

Rather than the predicted increase in border crossings after the May 11 expiration of the Title 42 ban, border crossings have decreased. 

[Los Angeles Times] “The reasons for the decline in border crossings are still unclear — and the trend still in its infancy — but interviews with migrants offer some possible explanations.

“Many U.S.-bound asylum seekers, aware of the risks of entering the country after the end of Title 42 — including the threats of deportation, a five-year ban on reentering and even criminal prosecution — are playing a waiting game in Mexican border cities.”

Despite the lower numbers of migrants entering the United States during the week since the end of the Title 42 bar, thousands have been deported.

[CBS] “The U.S. deported or returned more than 11,000 migrants to Mexico and more than 30 other countries in a week as part of a Biden administration effort to increase and publicize deportations following the expiration of Title 42 border restrictions, officials said Friday. 

“Since U.S. border agents lost their ability to summarily expel migrants under the Title 42 public health authority on May 11, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it had carried out over 11,000 formal deportations and returns of migrants who recently crossed the southern border illegally.”

Here’s a new low in anti-immigrant propaganda: a conservative activist recruited 15 homeless men, promising them payment for an easy job. After dinner at a restaurant, they were told their “work” was to pretend that they were veterans and had been evicted from a hotel to make room for immigrants. A local assemblyman was duped into making an appearance on a conservative TV network to spread the propaganda. The scam came to light when the men complained about not being paid the $200 they were promised for their performance. 

[Mid Hudson News] “Once recruited, the men were loaded in vehicles and transported to the Daily Planet Diner in LaGrange where they were joined by a third person, now identified as Sharon Toney-Finch.  Finch told the men they could order anything they wanted from the menu and their drinks were also being paid for.

“’We ate like kings,’ said one of the men who asked to remain nameless.  ‘Sharon introduced herself and told us we could have whatever we wanted and she would pick up the tab.’  After eating and drinking, Finch gathered the men in the parking lot to explain the actual ‘work’ they were about to perform.

“One of the men said Finch told them they were going to a meeting where she would be explaining how they had been kicked out of a hotel to make room for migrants.  ‘She told us to act like we were the veterans that had been displaced.  And she told us that if asked, we were supposed to say we had been kicked out and Sharon found us rooms in Fishkill.’  He also noted that men who were unwilling to answer were told to respond with ‘I am too traumatized to talk about it,’ if asked.”

In discussions of immigration, people often ask, “But what do other countries do?” Obviously, there are as many answers to that question as there are countries. Some, like Canada, are far more welcoming and inclusive than the United States. Some, like Costa Rica, have admitted far more immigrants per capita than the United States, despite having fewer resources. Even among the various shades of unwelcome in Europe, the latest news from Greece stands out as truly horrendous. A video and New York Times analysis and investigation show Greek authorities loading migrants on an inflatable black life raft and putting them adrift in the ocean. Before doing so, the Greek officials robbed the migrants of cell phones and other belongings. 

[New York Times] “The asylum seekers had already hopscotched countries for years to escape war in the Horn of Africa. They had barely set foot in Europe, hoping to start new lives, when masked men rounded them up and stripped them of their belongings.

“Now they were crammed into the dinghy, rocking on the open waters and trying to shield themselves from the bright sun as Naima Hassan Aden clutched her 6-month-old baby and wept. …

“In interviews at the Izmir detention facility, all the migrants recounted being pushed onto a black inflatable life raft and set adrift. The use of these engineless rafts has been documented in the past, but the Greek authorities have denied leaving migrants afloat in them, because they are unnavigable and can overturn.”

Florida and Texas Republican administrations continue to compete to enact the most anti-immigrant laws. Florida’s law was signed by the governor last week. Anti-immigrant legislation pushed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott is about to be passed by the legislature.

[Texas Public Radio] “A Senate bill that would expand the powers of U.S. Border Patrol agents in Texas was sent to the governor’s office for his signature on Friday, May 12. Under current law, Border Patrol agents are only allowed to detain people suspected of state crimes while they await transfer to a state peace officer. Senate bill 602, authored by state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, would expand the search-and-seizure and arresting powers of Border Patrol agents and allow them to enforce state laws if a suspected felony occurs at a port of entry or a checkpoint. …

Senate bill 1403 would create an interstate compact between border states for border security purposes. The legislation, by state Sen. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, would permit Texas to share with other states resources to build a physical or technological barrier on the southern border, and share intelligence for other border enforcement efforts  …

“The Senate Border Affairs Committee on Thursday will hear House bill 7. Authored by state Rep. Ryan Guillen, R-Rio Grande City, HB 7 would create the so-called Border Protection Unit, a law enforcement agency solely for border security purposes. …

“Also on deck before the Senate committee Thursday is House bill 800, also by Guillen, which would mandate a 10-year prison sentence for people convicted of smuggling immigrants.”

Florida farmers and farmworkers alike fear what will happen to them under the state’s anti-immigrant legislation. 

[NBC] “For a large swath of Florida’s population, the law affects their livelihoods. In Homestead, known for its plant nurseries, most workers live year-round here working in plant production and landscaping; only a minority are seasonal workers. Many of the mostly Latino workers don’t have legal immigration status. 

“Some immigrant workers have already left the state and many are asking questions and wondering if they should leave, too. 

“’What we’ve heard and seen since the signing of the law is that many of the workers are scared, are fearful, and are asking themselves what’s the path forward,’ said Óscar Londoño, co-executive director at We Count!, a local organization advocating for immigrant workers. ‘At the same time, we know that a growing number of employers are also concerned about this law because it won’t just affect immigrant workers. It will also affect the employers who depend on their labor.'”

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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