Immigration News: May 23, 2023

Single candle flame

Two heart-breaking stories lead tonight’s immigration news: the death of an eight-year-old child, who was denied medical attention while in U.S. Border Patrol custody and the ongoing immiseration of Afghan refugees who are refused entrance to the United States.

U.S. immigration officials repeatedly denied medical assistance to eight-year-old Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez, who died while in Border Patrol detention with her parents. A Border Patrol statement confirms that her mother repeatedly requested medical assistance on the day the child died. 

[My Rio Grande Valley News] “The mother of an 8-year-old girl who died in Border Patrol custody said Friday that agents repeatedly ignored pleas to hospitalize her medically fragile daughter as she felt pain in her bones, struggled to breathe and was unable to walk.

“Agents said her daughter’s diagnosis of influenza did not require hospital care, Mabel Alvarez Benedicks said in an emotional phone interview. They knew the girl had a history of heart problems and sickle cell anemia.

“’They killed my daughter, because she was nearly a day and a half without being able to breathe,’ the mother said. ‘She cried and begged for her life and they ignored her. They didn’t do anything for her.’

“The girl died Wednesday on what her mother said was the family’s ninth day in Border Patrol custody. People are to be held no more than 72 hours under agency policy, a rule that is violated during unusually busy times.”

Afghans left behind when U.S. forces withdrew are still fleeing for safety. Without a clear route to the United States, many travel first to South America and then north, through the dangerous Darien Gap. They endure robbery by Mexican officials, jailing, and when they finally reach the U.S. border—detention and deportation instead of welcome. 

[New York Times] “Taiba was being hunted by the men she had put behind bars.

“The death threats came as the Americans withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban marched across her country, she said. In the chaos, cell doors were flung open, freeing the rapists and abusers she had helped send to prison. …

“For months, Taiba kept trying to make it to America any way she could — even by foot. She and her husband fled with their 2-year-old son, first to Pakistan, then to South America, joining the vast human tide of desperation pressing north toward the United States. 

“Like thousands of Afghans who have taken this same, unfathomable route to escape the Taliban and their country’s economic collapse in the last 17 months, they trudged through the jungle, slept on the forest floor amid fire ants and snakes, hid their money in their food to fool thieves and crossed the sliver of land connecting North and South America — the treacherous Darién Gap. …

“Roughly 52,000 Afghans have applied for a program called humanitarian parole. As of mid-April, just 760 people had been approved.

“By comparison, more than 300,000 Ukrainians arrived in the United States under various programs in just over a year.”

And in other news

In an attempt to reduce unauthorized border crossings by asylum seekers, the Biden administration began a humanitarian parole program for Venezuelans last October. In January, it added Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans. Similar t a program for Ukrainians, this program specified that applicants had to have a sponsor inside the United States who would financially support the applicant, that they had to apply from outside the United States, that they had to have a visa from their country of origin, and meet more qualifications. The program would admit 30,000 applicants per month for a two-year temporary stay. Unauthorized border crossings by nationals of these four countries dropped and applications began to pour in. 

[CBS] “In just a few months, the U.S. received more than 1.5 million requests from individuals hoping to sponsor the entry of migrants from four countries, an extraordinary number that could jeopardize the Biden administration’s objective of reducing border crossings, internal documents obtained by CBS News show.

“The flurry of hundreds of thousands of sponsorship applications on behalf of would-be migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela has overwhelmed caseworkers at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which can approve no more than 30,000 arrivals under the program each month. …

“More than 100,000 migrants have arrived in the U.S. under the sponsorship initiative. But the government was overseeing more than 580,000 pending cases for Haitians, more than 380,000 for Cubans, nearly 120,000 for Venezuelans and more than 20,000 for Nicaraguans at the end of April. Other cases were being reviewed or had been approved. “

The temporary humanitarian parole option for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans is, unsurprisingly, over capacity, with more applicants than spaces. Applicants must have sponsors inside the United States, as well as visas and airfare to get here. U.S. authorities have responded by allotting about half of the numbers to a lottery system. 

[Bloomberg] “US officials previously considered applicants in the order in which they apply, placing thousands at the back of the line. Under the new provision, the US will randomly move half the applications each month to the top of the pile for consideration. The changes were outlined in a Department of Homeland Security notice posted Thursday. …

“The sponsorship effort, paired with stricter consequences for migrants seeking to illegally cross into the US, is part of a broader strategy to dissuade individuals from the four countries from traveling to the southwest border.”

Chinese residents of Florida are suing to overturn a new law that will prevent them from buying homes in the state. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claims the law will protect the state from the Chinese Communist Party. Opponents say the law is racist and discriminatory. 

[Politico] “[The new law] bars Chinese citizens who are not United States citizens from purchasing homes in Florida, with few exceptions. It imposes similar but less stringent restrictions on citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia and North Korea. …

“The ACLU, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and a Florida law firm, which are all representing the plaintiffs, say that the law would cast ‘an undue burden of suspicion’ on anyone trying to buy a house as long as their ‘name sounds remotely Asian.’

“’This misguided rationale unfairly equates Chinese people with the actions of their government, and there is no evidence of national security harm resulting from real estate ownership by Chinese people in Florida,’ the ACLU said in a news release.”

The U.S. Border Patrol has a lot of problems, including gross under-representation of female officers.

[Reveal] “The Border Patrol is one of the largest federal law enforcement agencies in the U.S., with roughly 19,000 officers. It also has one of the largest gender disparities – for decades, the number of women on the force has held steady around 5%. Despite years of demands for reform, the Border Patrol hasn’t managed to substantially increase the number of women in the agency. 

“Reporter Erin Siegal McIntyre set out to examine why this number has remained so low. She spoke with more than two dozen current and former Border Patrol agents and reviewed hundreds of pages of complaints and lawsuits in which agents allege sexual harassment or assault. Those interviews and documents reveal a workplace where a wide range of sexual misconduct is pervasive: from stale sex jokes to retaliation for reporting sexual misconduct and assault and rape.”

A Strauss Center report has some surprising historical data about 140 years of smuggling migrants across the border. For decades, the migrants smuggled across the Mexican border were not Mexican, because there were no restrictions on Mexican migration to the United States. 

[Strauss Center] “In the book Imaginary Lines: Border Enforcement and the Origins of Undocumented Immigration, 1882-1930, historian Patrick Ettinger tells the story of a typical migrant smuggling operation near Laredo, Texas in 1906.8 At this time, a Mexican smuggler would guide his Greek and Lebanese clients to a place where the Rio Grande was shallow. The group would wade to the U.S. side and wait for a driver to pick them up and take them to a nearby town. Alternatively, some smugglers attempted to disguise their banned clients as Mexicans in order to move them undetected through ports of entry. Until the Immigration Act of 1917 imposed a literacy test and an $8 head tax on all immigrants, there were no general immigration restrictions for Mexican nationals and this population could enter and depart the United States with limited inspection. …

“Over the following decades, changes in U.S. labor policies and enforcement efforts shaped clandestine migration in South Texas. In 1942, the U.S. government created the Bracero Program to address World War II labor shortages, which provided a short-term legal pathway for Mexican laborers to work in the U.S. agricultural sector. However, the program was not initially implemented across the entire border, with Mexico banning Texas from joining the agreement until 1949 due to its “racist and discriminatory treatment of Mexicans. …

“As legal pathways disappeared, southwestern farmers still maintained the same high demand for workers. This led Mexican laborers, who would have likely come to the United States through legal pathways only a few years prior, to travel along clandestine migration routes.”

Pending Texas legislation would create a civilian force to chase migrants, and would immunize them from legal liability for their actions. Human rights advocates warn that the force would increase racial profiling and act as vigilantes. 

[The Guardian] “The unit would be overseen by the Texas public safety department and would controversially give its officers broad authority to make arrests, build border barriers and search vehicles they deem suspicious.

“Rochelle Garza, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project, told the Dallas Morning News that she was ‘appalled by this dangerous and unconstitutional proposal designed to violate federal law at the expense of the border community I call home’.

“She added: ‘Not only does this bill mobilize a new military force under the governor, it also allows the head of the force to deputize almost anyone to enforce federal immigration law, including vigilante groups that have targeted Texas border communities.’”

As immigrants remain stranded in Mexico or deported to Mexico, the country is moving many south into the interior of the country to keep them away from the U.S. border. The result: more space in shelters near the northern U.,S.-Mexico border and overflowing shelters near Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala. 

[AP] “The Associated Press confirmed Mexican flights from Matamoros, Reynosa and Piedras Negras carrying migrants to the interior over the past week. A Mexican federal official, who was not authorized to speak publicly but agreed to discuss the matter if not quoted by name, said approximately 300 migrants were being transferred south each day.

“Among them were at least some of the 1,100 migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti and Cuba that the U.S. returned to Mexico in the week since the policy change. …

“Amid all of the movement, migrants are easy targets. Gangs have kidnapped them from the streets of border cities and entire busloads in north-central Mexico.

“This week, a busload of migrants disappeared near the border of San Luis Potosi and Nuevo Leon states. The migrants said a drug cartel abducted them when their bus stopped at a gas station. They had been travelling from the southern state of Chiapas.”

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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