“Biden is now allowing a trickle of asylum seekers to enter the U.S. from Mexico, but it’s unclear why some people may come and others may not.
The Associated Press reported in June that the Biden administration had quietly recruited six humanitarian groups to recommend which migrants should be allowed into the U.S. and initiate the asylum-seeking process. Only one of those groups—the International Rescue Committee—was publicly identified. According to the A.P.’s anonymous sources, the others are the London-based Save the Children, the American organizations HIAS and Kids in Need of Defense, and two Mexican groups, Asylum Access and the Institute for Women in Migration. Though the U.S. government has final say over who receives asylum, it relies on those organizations’ referrals.
Officials have not publicly confirmed that these are the responsible groups, and the criteria the organizations are using to select lucky entrants are just as fuzzy. The administration has reportedly asked them to prioritize migrants with serious medical issues, migrants who face imminent danger, and members of marginalized groups. But no guidance has been published, and many of the selected migrants “fall outside those categories.”
Under domestic and international law, all migrants who present themselves at U.S. ports of entry or on American soil are granted the opportunity to make asylum claims. Eligibility for asylum hinges on proving you’ve been persecuted on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership in certain other social groups, or political opinion. That process ground to a halt during the pandemic, after the Trump administration implemented Title 42. This policy—which Biden has maintained—allows Customs and Border Patrol officials to expel migrants immediately upon arrival and bar them from arguing their vulnerability before U.S. immigration officials.”
“The Mexican Supreme Court first ruled that marijuana prohibition was unconstitutional in 2015. That decision became binding nationwide three years later, when the court gave the Mexican Congress 90 days to pass a legalization bill. Legislators missed that deadline and several others, and last week the court lost patience, ordering the federal government to issue permits that will allow cannabis consumers to possess and grow marijuana at home.
Similar permits have been available since 2015, but until now they were limited to marijuana users who had filed lawsuits and obtained injunctions. Commercial cultivation and distribution remain illegal.”
“Mexico legalized limited medical use of marijuana in 2017. Last year President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confidently predicted that the legislature would approve a framework for licensing and regulating recreational marijuana suppliers in early 2021. But legislators still had not agreed on the details when the most recent court-imposed deadline came and went on April 30, and this time they did not request an extension.”
“Mexico might be the third country to legalize marijuana—or possibly the fourth, if Israeli legislators follow through on a legalization plan that was endorsed last fall by both of the major parties that controlled the government at the time. The new governing coalition, a hodgepodge of right-wing and left-wing parties, is also officially in favor of legalization.
In the U.S., 18 states, representing 44 percent of the national population, now allow recreational use of marijuana, but the federal ban remains in place. Since President Joe Biden wants to keep it that way and congressional Democrats who favor legalization are not making a serious effort to attract Republican support, the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.”
“As of February 19, 2021, there are at least 1,544 publicly reported cases of murder, rape, torture, kidnapping, and other violent assaults against asylum seekers and migrants forced to return to Mexico by the Trump Administration”
“These figures are likely only the tip of the iceberg, as the vast majority of the more than 68,000 individuals already returned to Mexico have not been interviewed by reporters or human rights researchers, let alone spoken to an attorney.”
“The marines would soon be charged with kidnapping three men in early 2018 in the border city of Nuevo Laredo. These may be the first of many indictments stemming from that six-month deployment, which human rights activists said turned into an extrajudicial reign of terror over the city. Altogether, 257 of the marines special forces unit are suspected of kidnapping or murdering at least 49 people in the spring of 2018, some bodies found tortured and shot through the head in the desert. Others have never been seen again.
One of the disappeared, Jorge Dominguez, was a U.S. citizen, whose case was documented in December by POLITICO. He was 18, running an errand for his father, when he was snatched off the street by soldiers in military vehicles. But despite witness accounts and evidence of a slew of similar abductions, the Trump administration did not intervene on behalf of Dominguez’s family.”
“Mexico’s military is regularly accused of crimes, and the army has been implicated but not prosecuted in the 2014 disappearances of 43 school teachers in the city of Iguala. But soldiers are typically untouchable, and in the rare circumstance that Mexican soldiers have found themselves in court, it’s usually after intense international pressure.”
“the arrests could be viewed as an olive branch to a new U.S. administration. “Trump didn’t really care about oversight of human rights abuses by Mexican forces,” says Raul Benitez, a Latin American security professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “But now, the Biden government may be looking with more detail toward the violations of human rights.”
But the arrests might also have a purely domestic explanation.
“One idea I’ve seen suggested is that, from the Mexican side, AMLO really doesn’t trust the navy in the same way his predecessors did,” says Duncan Tucker, who works with Amnesty International in Mexico City. Since his election, AMLO has increased the army’s power exponentially, awarding it building projects, giving it control of some ports and hospitals, granting it increased control of the border and expanding its budget. Past Mexican presidents had always favored the navy, perhaps because the U.S. also favored them. But AMLO is something of a nationalist. He may view the navy as tainted by U.S. influence, Tucker says, and so might be willing to see it punished publicly.”
“the difference in Nuevo Laredo is that one man, former journalist turned human rights activist Raymundo Ramos, investigates, documents and publicizes the cases. Without him, it’s almost certain the marines would never have appeared in court.”
“While the 30 arrests are not insignificant, there were 257 marines deployed to the area, sharing three small barracks where some of the missing were hidden. And it seems that no high-ranking officials have been charged. The navy has even sealed the records of special forces commanders for five years, so that no one can know who was stationed where.”
“there are a lot of factors that have nothing to do with Biden pushing migration higher. However, the level of increase, and evidence from on the ground, make clear that Biden is also a factor. I’ll split the Biden effect into two related mechanisms: perceptions and policy.”
“That migrants perceived their chances as better under Biden has been attested to by several interviews of migrants. They thought Biden would let them stay, but they were misinformed…and therefore sent back. Based on some of these interviews, it seems like some migrants have really gotten their hopes up due to Biden. That’s sad. Sad because these are false hopes, and sad because nothing Biden did should have given them that much hope. Smugglers have lied to people, telling them they could get across now, but they are usually returned in disappointment. One woman wailed while being sent back across the border, “Biden promised us!” But…he did not.”
“did Biden’s foolish policies allow a massive surge of migrants? No. Biden’s role in total migration numbers is the perception of him being more open than Trump, which there wasn’t anything he could do about. On the influx of unaccompanied children, Biden policy did at least partially cause this because: by taking unaccompanied children into the country to process their claims while at the same time returning families to the border, he created an incentive for desperate people to send their children alone.
However, much of the jump in numbers isn’t the result of Biden coming or Trump leaving. The numbers follow seasonal patterns of migration. Seeing huge month to month jumps is misleading because it ignores that there are usually huge month to month jumps at this time of year. Comparing to 2020 is misleading because Covid-19 made it a suppressed year. The best comparison is to 2019, where we see migration following the same seasonal pattern under Trump.
The elevation above those numbers is likely caused by: pent up demand due to Trump and Covid restrictions keeping people out and at the Mexican border, people crossing multiple times because they’re sent directly to the border rather than being fully processed due to Covid protocols, push factors like two record breaking hurricanes and Covid, as well as the perception that Biden would be nicer to migrants.
As far as criticisms of Biden go, this has nothing to do with open border policies because Biden doesn’t have open border policies. This has nothing to do with Biden advertising himself as opening the borders because he has been doing the opposite. Big general criticisms that blame this surge on Biden are nonsense. Criticisms more focused on removing remain in Mexico or on allowing unaccompanied children across the border but not families, may be valid, but these policy changes didn’t cause the current surge in migration.”
Joe Biden’s immigration agenda overshadowed by migrant challenges in first 100 days Rebecca Morin. 4 29 2021. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/politics/2021/04/29/bidens-100-days-immigration-agenda-overshadowed-migrant-challenge/4821671001/ Biden to push citizenship for US illegal immigrants in speech despite surging border crisis Steven Nelson. 4 28 2021. New York Post. https://nypost.com/2021/04/28/biden-to-push-citizenship-for-illegal-immigrants-in-speech-amid-border-crisis/
“There’s the crisis of unaccompanied minors arriving in the U.S., of too few beds to house them and of family separations happening in Mexico. There’s the crisis of an asylum system that’s broken, and that has become, with most other legal routes into the country severely restricted, America’s de facto immigration system. There’s the crisis of overflowing communities on the Mexican border, populated by people expelled from the U.S. There’s the crisis of immigration courts that take too long; of virtually no work visas available for Central Americans; of economies in Honduras and Guatemala that have been ravaged by Covid-19, a recession, and two hurricanes within the past year; of the misconception all this can be solved by better enforcement at the border; of a political system in the U.S. that seems unable to rise to the enormity of the challenge.
Right now, the number of unauthorized immigrants crossing the border is lower than it was in the early 2000s. It’s lower than in 2019”
“What there is not is a crisis of migrants — at least not yet. There’s not a crisis of large numbers of unauthorized migrants staying in the U.S., as we saw in 2019, 2016 and 2014. There have been periods where the government took people in and released them into the U.S. in large numbers. That’s not happening right now because of the [pandemic-era] public health order, which allows the U.S. to expel people more quickly.”
“Every time we beef up enforcement, or do something slightly more draconian, it works for a while, and then, sooner or later, people find a way around it. Enforcement works if it pushes people into real legal [immigration] channels. But if there are no legal channels, then people will just keep finding their way around enforcement.”
“Every two or three years, we get a spike of migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border. Yet we deal with this each time as though it’s a separate incident that can be controlled, rather than looking at the larger forces at play. There’s something long-term here that we should deal with. So maybe it is a crisis, but it’s within a larger crisis that needs to be managed and has been going on for a long time.”
“the immediate crises. Unaccompanied minors: [The federal government] made the decision to allow them in without yet having the capacity to be able to house all of them. In the immediate term, they just have to figure out bed space—it’s literally that. They can figure that out, they just haven’t yet in ways that meet the needs of a vulnerable population. That’s resolvable. There’s also a really big policy question with long-term play-out: An open-ended policy of taking in any minor and putting them in the long-term process in the U.S. is likely to encourage even larger flows [of unaccompanied minors] in the future.
[The federal government] needs to make sure they can continue to expel newly arriving families and adults to Mexico. Even though the Biden administration doesn’t want to, they need to do it to buy time. There are a lot of things they’d like to be doing on immigration policy that have nothing to do with the border. But as long as there’s a perception that they can’t control the border, they’re not going have the political space to do anything else. They need to be “tough” at the border right now and return adults and families to Mexico in an efficient way.
We need legal pathways for workers, and an asylum system that works, because we know some people are legitimately fleeing from violence. Those two things alone would make an enormous difference.
Our asylum system has become the catchall for everything. Either you can get to the border, convince people you’re being persecuted, and stay in the U.S., or nothing: You stay home, because there’s not a line for you to get into if you’re from Central America and want to come and work. That makes no sense. Asylum shouldn’t be used [to give] labor pathways. Where we should be headed is creating two different paths: one for people who clearly are motivated by the need to leave their home country because of safety, and another for people aspiring to make their lives better by making more money.
The way you fix the asylum system is by taking it out of the hands of the immigration courts and putting it in the hands of asylum officers at the border. Immigration courts are actually quite uneven because they’re political appointments, so their decisions tend to be all over the place depending on which judge you get. Asylum officers can make decisions quickly, tend to be fairly consistent, are efficient, and you can hire them much more easily.”
“we also need a legal pathway for people who want to come and work. For Mexicans who want to work in the U.S., there’s an actual line to get into. We don’t have that for Central Americans.
One of the reasons why Mexican migration [to the U.S.] went down so much after 2007 is that there are about 260,000 people every year who come from Mexico to work legally in the U.S. and go back home. In 2019, the comparable number [for Central Americans] was 8,000; last year, it was about 5,500. There really is no line for a Central American to get into. But people are coming anyway, so let’s give them a chance to come legally—at least some of them. It’s what we did with Mexico, and that has kept numbers [of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico] low because they’re getting what they need: a chance to make money.”
“The demand is constantly there for people to leave and come to the U.S., but the huge surges happen when people either have a greater motivation to leave or they think they have a greater opportunity of getting into the United States. In this case, those came together.
Over the past year, there were two hurricanes in Honduras and Guatemala, plus the collapse of fragile economies because of Covid. And that created a huge demand for people to come north to the U.S. There was also an expectation around the transition to the Biden administration that made people believe that they could get in. And—probably more important than that—there is a reality that the U.S. does let some people in, particularly unaccompanied minors and some families.”
“At the border, our options are either you send people back quickly or you release them into the U.S. for the next two or three years, during which time their case goes through a very slow process in the immigration courts. What ends up happening is that if you’re released into the U.S., you almost certainly never go back [to your home country].
There’s a very reputable study that the [Department of Homeland Security] did where they looked at what happened from 2014 to 2019 with Central American and Mexican migrants. The Mexican migrants mostly got sent back pretty quickly. But 72 percent of the Central Americans who arrived between 2014 and 2019 were admitted into the U.S., and there’s no record of their departure. And if, in fact, you’re being allowed into the U.S. and there is no real process to figure out what happened to you, that’s a lousy system.”
“Biden’s critics say his messaging is squarely to blame for the thousands of migrants coming now: But more than half a dozen asylum-seekers interviewed by POLITICO said they would make the trek regardless of who was in the White House. Some of their reasons: lack of job opportunities, concern for the safety of their family and devastation from last year’s back-to-back hurricanes that walloped parts of Central America.
For Reyes, the decision came after she received threats that Meylin and Freddy would be kidnapped and killed if she didn’t pay a fee to keep them safe. She said she knew the threats were real because her husband’s friend recently was kidnapped, tortured and killed even though his family paid the ransom. (Reyes did not discuss her husband’s whereabouts.)”
“It’s also clear that the number of migrants crossing — including unaccompanied minors — has increased sharply with the start of the Biden administration.”
“This isn’t the first surge of migrants arriving at the border. It happened in 2019 under Trump. It also happened in 2014 under former President Barack Obama.”
“The door to the U.S. has been shut tight to asylum seekers since last March, about the time when Janiana first arrived in Tijuana, when the Trump administration issued an order at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that every migrant — child or adult — would be immediately “expelled” back to Mexico or their home country if they attempted to cross the border, without even a chance to make a case that the persecution they face qualifies them to stay. After he took office this year, Joe Biden kept the policy largely in place, but began to admit unaccompanied minors even while continuing to expel both adults and children who enter with families. Since the shift in policy, some parents and guardians have made the devastating decision, calculated only out of desperation, to send their children off ahead of them, alone, to cross the border.
The result is a new form of family separation — but instead of happening at the hands of federal agents in American government facilities, it’s taking place, family by family, in camps like the one Janiana lives in. The fact that minors won’t be expelled like everyone else has rapidly spread by word of mouth across the length of the border. And while many families choose to stick together, the pressure to separate weighs heaviest on the most vulnerable — families who fear death, whether from persecutors who have followed them to the border, or from extreme hunger.
For Janiana, the possibility of being sent back to Honduras reads as a death sentence. She shows me the scars from her torture at the hands of a powerful gang back home that her family got on the wrong side of. Fearing further reprisals, Janiana fled with her sister’s children”
“When the Trump administration implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols — better known as the “Remain in Mexico” program — in December 2018 to force asylum seekers to wait for their hearings outside of the U.S., the policy exempted unaccompanied minors, and many parents released to Mexico with their children made the same decision migrant families are making today: to send their children to cross the border alone so they at least could wait in the U.S.
Then the pandemic hit. In March 2020, the White House strong-armed the Centers for Disease Control to invoke an obscure public health order, Title 42, which gives the executive the power to close the border in a time of health emergency. Citing Covid-19, the U.S. began to immediately turn away thousands of people who would normally be able to make their asylum cases in court — including unaccompanied children.”
“The White House has, as its spokesperson indicated, repeatedly told migrants that “now is not the time to come.” But for would-be asylees like Janiana, the act of leaving home to travel thousands of miles northward in a perilous journey in search of safety isn’t something they can just delay for a more convenient time in the calendar. And, like her, many didn’t leave recently. They’ve been waiting at the border for months.”
“In Tijuana, Janiana says she’s grappled seriously with the idea of separating from her niece’s son. (Her niece, who is too old to be considered a minor, wasn’t available to comment for this story.)
“It is a truly heartbreaking choice to make,” she says, as tears start to well in her eyes. “After everything they have gone through with me. We have gone days without food, together.” On a bus ride to Tijuana, she says the baby went three days without anything to eat or drink besides flour tortillas and bottled water that a kind Cuban migrant shared with them. Sometimes, when she’s feeling at her lowest, Janiana says she has been most tempted to send the baby to cross the border alone, but she remains resolute for now that they must remain together. However, she can understand how others have made the decision already.”