“The Trump administration is holding unaccompanied migrant children in hotels before rapidly expelling them from the US under a new policy that allows officials to turn away anyone who poses a risk of spreading coronavirus — even if they show no symptoms and are seeking asylum.”
“It’s just the latest in a long line of Trump administration policies designed to gut the asylum system on the southern border. Before the pandemic, officials were turning away tens of thousands of migrants at the southern border through the “Remain in Mexico” program, under which asylum seekers were forced to wait in Mexico, often for months at a time, for their immigration court hearings in the US. The new expulsion policy has largely replaced that program as a mechanism for keeping migrants out.
According to court documents, the administration had expelled about 2,000 unaccompanied children under the policy as of June. Though the government has not released more recent data on unaccompanied children specifically, CBP reported expelling more than 105,000 migrants total under the policy by the end of July.
“They’re coming here because they have legitimate claims for humanitarian protection,” Steven Kang, an attorney for the ACLU, said Friday. “For this country turn them right around is not only wrong — it’s not what Congress wanted. This whole shadow deportation scheme bypasses and ignores all the important rights that Congress gave them.””…
“Though overcrowding of such facilities was a concern at the outset of the pandemic, HHS shelters are now operating at 5-to-10-percent capacity — well below normal, Kang said. That suggests that there is plenty of room to safely enforce social distancing and quarantine anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 or develops symptoms.
The lawsuit also argues that children have the right to an attorney and a full immigration court hearing to determine whether they are entitled to protections that would allow them to stay in the US, which is required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA).
The government has argued that it has the authority to reject any migrant who poses a risk of spreading communicable disease under Title 42, a federal public health provision. Mark Morgan, the acting CBP commissioner, said earlier this month that the policy helps mitigate the risk of spreading the virus to anyone the migrants might come into contact with while being processed and in HHS shelters.”