“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.”
“About 99 percent of asylum seekers who were not detained or who were previously released from immigration custody showed up for their hearings over the last year, according to new data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, a think tank that tracks data in the immigration courts.
Studies from previous years have also disproven the idea that most migrants will choose to live in the US without authorization rather than see their immigration cases through. But it’s nevertheless a central idea in Trump’s immigration policies, including those that aim to keep migrants in Mexico rather than letting them walk free in the US.”
“Data from the DOJ suggests that the rate at which migrants overall show up for their immigration court proceedings is lower than the rate TRAC cites. In 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, about 75 percent of migrants showed up for their court hearings in 2018 — similar to rates over the previous five years. The DOJ has also reported that the number of migrants and asylum seekers who fail to show up for their hearings is on the rise.”
“There are comparatively low-cost alternatives to keeping immigrants in detention or sending them abroad, including the now-defunct Obama-era Family Case Management Program. Under that program, which Trump ended in June 2017, families were released and assigned to social workers who aided them in finding attorneys and accommodation and ensured that they showed up for their court hearings.
The program was small in scale, with no more than 1,600 people enrolled at any one time, but appeared to be successful in ensuring that 99 percent of participants showed up for their court appearances and ICE check-ins.”
“The primary driver of this crisis is that President Donald Trump’s policies are sending thousands of migrants back to Mexico, where there isn’t enough safe, temporary housing in which they can stay.
In 2018, US Customs and Border Protection officials started limiting the number of asylum seekers it processes at ports of entry each day. Those waiting had to do so in Mexico, where migrant shelters are at capacity. Many have been forced to sleep on the streets. The amount of names on lists of those waiting to be processed exceeded 26,000 in August.
Once they are processed, though, they may quickly be returned to Mexico under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). More than 56,000 migrants have been sent back to await decisions on their US asylum applications.”