Tag: Expulsions

September 9, 2021

September 9, 2021

Biden administration weighs “Remain in Mexico Lite,” feeds into Mexico’s southern-border “chain expulsions”

The Biden administration continues to consider how it will revive the Migrant Protection Protocols or “Remain in Mexico,” a policy that it bitterly opposes and sought to shut down. As detailed in our August 27 update, the Supreme Court refused to suspend a Texas judge’s order, still under appeal, forcing the Biden administration to make a “good faith effort” to revive the program, which Donald Trump’s administration launched at the end of 2018.

“Remain in Mexico” sent over 71,000 non-Mexican asylum-seekers back into Mexican border towns, penniless, homeless, and vulnerable to crime, to await eventual immigration hearing dates in the United States. Over 1,500 suffered assault, kidnapping, or other abuse, and less than 2 percent of those who were present for all of their hearings were granted asylum. President Joe Biden suspended Remain in Mexico the moment he was sworn in, in January 2021, and officially ended it on June 1.

Now, though, the court is ordering a restart, and on September 15 the administration must provide Amarillo, Texas District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk its first monthly report on the progress of its “good faith efforts.” What those next steps might look like isn’t clear, but reporting is pointing to some sort of limited “Remain in Mexico ‘Lite.’”

Homeland Security Department (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas repeated his opposition to Remain in Mexico in an interview with CBS news, but acknowledged that “We’re planning to implement the program while we litigate the ruling.” CBS revealed that “the department’s policy office has been working on logistical plans to facilitate its ‘expeditious reimplementation,’ including cost estimates, according to an internal memo.” Mexico, too, will have to give at least an informal green light; it is not clear where talks about this currently stand.

“Some Biden officials were already talking about reviving Mr. Trump’s policy in a limited way to deter migration,” unnamed officials told the New York Times. They say the Supreme Court’s ruling gives them a chance to “come up with a more humane version of Mr. Trump’s policy.” A proposal under consideration, three sources told Politico, “would require a small number of asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their cases to be processed but give them better living conditions and access to attorneys.”

Asylum advocates reject the idea that a “lite” version of the program can exist.

  • “There’s no lite MPP just as there’s no lite police brutality or lite torture,” tweeted Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council.
  • “The answer is not to simply find a gentler, kinder MPP 2.0. That completely flies in the face of his [President Biden’s] promise” to end the program, said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of National Immigration Law Center.
  • “There’s no way to implement it in a way that will satisfy actual due process or keep people safe, because it’s impossible to keep migrants safe in Mexico,” said Taylor Levy, an attorney who represented many victims of Remain in Mexico.
  • “The reinstatement of MPP will place thousands of asylum seekers in harm’s way and deny them the right to a fair hearing of their claims,” said asylum officers’ union leader Michael Knowles.
  • “I rejoiced when you declared an end to this immoral policy on your first days in office, and despaired when the Supreme Court required your administration to implement it once again,” reads a letter to President Biden, published in the Washington Post, from Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs Catholic Charities of Rio Grande Valley’s large migrant respite center in McAllen, Texas. “We must not make children live for months in rain-logged tents. We cannot abandon them to communities where their mothers are afraid to let them use the bathroom at night for fear they might encounter a gang member or be assaulted.”

Instead, advocates are calling on the administration to meet the court’s requirements by “re-terminating” the program. That would mean issuing a memo, as it did when it formally shut down the program in June, addressing Judge Kacsmaryk’s and the Fifth Circuit of Appeals’ concerns that the administration didn’t consider the “benefits” of Remain in Mexico when it decided to close down the program.

A letter from 31 Democratic congressional representatives and senators, led by Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), proposes exactly that. “The court orders leave ample room for your administration to ensure MPP never again puts another person in harm’s way,” it explains:

The decisions suggest that the potential perceived problem with your administration’s termination of MPP was that it did not say enough to demonstrate that it had sufficiently weighed the potential consequences of its decision to terminate. The court did not endorse the states’ claims that the government is actually required to return people to Mexico under the immigration statutes. As amicus briefs explained, those claims were egregiously wrong. Thus, we believe your administration can and should re-terminate MPP with a fuller explanation in order to address any perceived procedural defect of the termination.

While the Biden administration continues to deliberate over what to do about a program that sent 71,000 people to Mexico, though, it continues to carry out a program that, to date, has sent people—including asylum seekers—back to Mexico more than a million times since March 2020. “Title 42,” the pandemic policy permitting rapid expulsions of migrants, without regard to asylum or protection needs, remains in place.Mexico continues to receive expulsions of its own citizens and those of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Expelled migrants filling a plaza in Reynosa, Mexico are living in even worse conditions than Remain in Mexico victims who had inhabited an encampment in the nearby, and similarly crime-plagued, city of Matamoros, the Los Angeles Times reported. “There’s less potable water, fewer bathrooms, showers and other sanitation that U.S.-based nonprofits spent months installing in Matamoros. Mexican soldiers circle in trucks with guns mounted on top. Migrants face not only cartel extortion and kidnapping, but also COVID-19 outbreaks and pressure to leave from Mexican authorities.” Reynosa’s critical security situation scares off U.S. volunteers and attorneys. The L.A. Times estimates that 2,000 people are currently inhabiting the plaza. Sister Pimentel’s letter notes, “Recently we estimated that there are close to 5,000 migrants in Reynosa.”

Another encampment with a large number of expelled migrants persists at the other end of the border, right outside the main pedestrian border crossing in Tijuana. There, on September 3, migrants were gathering for vaccinations when word quickly spread—inaccurately—that U.S. authorities had opened the border. Hundreds of people rushed to the line, only to find a phalanx of riot gear-clad CBP officers.

Expulsions don’t just happen at Mexico’s northern border. Since early August, DHS has put expelled Central American migrants, including many families with children, on planes destined for Mexico’s far south: the cities of Villahermosa, Tabasco and Tapachula, Chiapas. Once those planes land, Mexico’s INM has gathered the expelled migrants onto buses and driven them to southern border crossings, instructing them to exit into Guatemala. At no moment do the expelled people have any migratory status in Mexico, much less any opportunity to ask for asylum or protection.

“These expulsions ridicule public health and human rights by crowding people into planes and buses and preventing legal access to asylum in violation of domestic and international law,” reads a report and list of recommendations for the U.S. and Mexican governments produced by several organizations, including WOLA. This document, based on Witness on the Border’s monitoring of deportation and expulsion flights, counted 34 planeloads of migrants to Villahermosa and Tapachula—about one every weekday—between August 5 and August 31.

There is no official count of the number of people who have been subject to these “chain expulsions.” Animal Político, citing Guatemala’s migration authority, reports that 4,243 people were expelled between August 22 and September 6. Many were pushed across the line into the very remote village of El Ceibo, a village of a few hundred people in Guatemala’s sparsely populated frontier department of El Petén, on the edge of the Lacandón jungle a few hours’ drive from Villahermosa.

The 4,243 are not all migrants from the U.S. government’s long-distance expulsion flights. The number includes some migrants whom Mexico’s INM apprehended in southern Mexico. Unnamed official sources tell Animal Político that the number of people expelled by the United States “could be around 3,500”: 2,000 whom Mexico went on to expel in El Ceibo, and 1,500 at the Talismán border crossing near Tapachula.

“While the majority are Central American, the expulsion of Venezuelans, Cubans, and even a Senegalese person was recorded.” One may have been a U.S. citizen, Reuters reports. Animal Político has seen evidence that southern Chiapas municipal police captured Haitian families in mid-August, then handed them over to INM, which expelled them into Guatemala.

“Upon their arrival,” migrants expelled at El Ceibo and Talismán “don’t have a peso or a quetzal in their pockets,” Mexico’s La Jornada puts it. At times, the expulsion buses have dropped people in El Ceibo in the middle of the night. “Mexican immigration authorities have not coordinated these expulsions with the Guatemalan government; nor notified the Guatemalan, Honduran, or Salvadoran consulates; nor arranged for onward transport,” reads a briefreport from Human Rights Watch. “Many of those expelled have been forced to sleep on the street upon arrival in El Ceibo.” Some of those expelled, HRW reveals, had pending asylum applications in Mexico.

On September 2, Guatemala’s foreign minister announced an agreement with the U.S. government to send expulsion flights to the airport in Guatemala City instead of to southern Mexico. That agreement, though, will not go into effect until the end of the month—and it of course maintains Title 42’s refusal to consider migrants’ asylum or protection needs.

Tags: Expulsions, Mexico crackdown, Mexico-Guatemala Border, Remain in Mexico

July 2

July 2, 2021

The Biden administration plans to lift Title 42 in a massive border policy overhaul. Title 42 expulsions for migrant families should stop by the end of July. Once the public health order is lifted, those families that request asylum at the border will be allowed to remain in the U.S. for the duration of their case. Still, government officials plan to continue expelling single adults under Title 42 for the next few months, as they make up the largest population of those attempting illegal border crossings. The administration is also planning a phased reopening of nonessential travel ports of entry along the border this summer, which were also shut down due to the pandemic.

Tags: Expulsions

June 18

June 18, 2021

The Biden administration has resumed lateral expulsion flights, transporting migrants crossing the border in high-traffic areas to lower density regions. This practice has been largely criticized by immigration advocates as many times immigrants are led to believe that they will be staying in the U.S., only to be dropped off in an unfamiliar area where they do not necessarily have any resources or connections. DHS had previously suspended lateral expulsions as a part of the ongoing negotiations over Title 42, and for now will only be placing single adult migrants on lateral flights.

Tags: DHS, Expulsions

May 24

May 24, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General released a report which documented cases of ICE agents expelling separated parents without their children, despite knowing that those parents wanted their children with them. The report also notes that it was unclear whether or not ICE gave some parents the option to reunify with their children before being expelled from the U.S. These cases occurred under the Trump administration’s family separation program. Between July 2017 and July 2018, as many as 348 parents were expelled from the U.S. without their children, with no documentation of whether they had agreed to be separated.

Tags: Expulsions, Family Separation, ICE

May 17

May 17, 2021

Due to pressure from advocates and a lawsuit raised by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Biden administration has conceded to narrow changes to Title 42 expulsion policies. These changes include an end to both lateral expulsion flights and late night expulsions. The Biden administration has also agreed to allow up to 250 vulnerable migrants into the U.S. per day, working with a consortium of nongovernmental organizations to identify at-risk migrants. These concessions are meant to buy the Biden administration time before the public health order is fully lifted.

Tags: Asylum, Coronavirus, Expulsions

April 23, 2021

April 29, 2021

Migrants are being expelled into dangerous Mexican border cities in the middle of the night, which is outside the cutoff times of 8/10 pm and violates the US-Mexico repatriation agreement.

Tags: Expulsions

March 15, 2021

March 17, 2021

Asylum-seekers being flown from the Rio Grande Valley to El Paso due to limited capacity are being expelled to Mexico by CBP, according to the Dallas Morning News. Exact numbers are unclear, but at least 50 migrants have been expelled into Juarez.

Tags: CBP, El Paso, Expulsions, Rio Grande Valley

February 9, 2021

February 10, 2021

The first few weeks of the Biden administration have seen an uptick in ICE’s deportations of Haitian migrants, with dozens of asylum seekers being dropped off in Mexico without processing or credible fear interviews. Others, including children and infants, are being sent back to Haiti, which is experiencing mounting political violence due to U.S-backed president Jovenel Moïse attempting to extend his term. 

Tags: Border and Migration Politics, Deportations, Expulsions, Haiti, ICE

February 2, 2021

February 2, 2021

President Biden released executive orders creating a task force on family separation and calling for a review, with intent to end, “safe third-country” agreements, Title 42, the Remain in Mexico program, and other Trump policies restricting migration. The administration has not yet committed to ending these policies. One order calls for a new policy framework to address migration’s root causes in Central America.

Tags: Border and Migration Politics, Expulsions, PACR and HARP, Remain in Mexico, Root causes, Safe Third Country Agreements

June 29, 2020

June 29, 2020
  • The New Humanitarian releases a briefing on how the actions of the Trump administration to cut off access to asylum will outlast the pandemic and affect not only asylum seekers but regions of Latin America that have suffered outbreaks due to the United States’ expulsions.

Tags: Asylum, Expulsions, Human Rights, Migration, Public Health

June 18, 2020

June 18, 2020
  • According to unpublished government data obtained by CBS News, the United States allowed only 39 unaccompanied migrant children to stay in the country in the month of May when there were over 1,000 arrests of unaccompanied children. Jennifer Nagda, a policy director at the Youth Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, argues that because of these record-low rates, the Office of Refugee Resettlement can and should offer refuge to unaccompanied children during the pandemic, as the Office now has ample bed capacity.

Tags: Apprehensions, Expulsions, Human Rights, Migration, Unaccompanied Children