Immigration
April 13, 2021

The Biden administration has reached a deal with Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala to increase security at their borders in order to curb increased migration at the U.S. southern border.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said Mexico will keep 10,000 troops stationed at its southern border and Honduras has deployed 7,000 police officers and members of the military to its border. Guatemala has sent 1,500 police officers and troops to its southern border and will also set up 12 checkpoints inside the country, along a route taken by migrants.

Psaki said the "objective is to make it more difficult to make the journey" to the U.S. "and make crossing the borders more difficult." Last month, Border Patrol agents encountered almost 170,000 migrants at the U.S. southern border, the highest number since March 2001, The Guardian reports.

Migrants are fleeing poverty, violence, corrupt governments, and extreme weather. Security forces in Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala have all been accused of abusing migrants and targeting them for extortion and robbery, The Guardian says. Catherine Garcia

March 24, 2021

Vice President Kamala Harris will lead the Biden administration's efforts at the United States-Mexico border, where there's been a recent influx of migrants, Axios reports. "President Biden said during the transition, whatever the most urgent need, he would turn to the vice president," said an administration official briefing reporters, per Axios. "And today, he is turning to the vice president."

Biden has made it clear he wants Harris' role to be similar to the one he played when he served as former President Barack Obama's vice president. Back in 2009, Obama tapped Biden to handle the U.S. economy in the wake of the financial crisis after the pair assumed office.

Harris will reportedly work with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador "to manage the flow of unaccompanied children and migrant families arriving at the border in numbers not seen since a surge in 2019," Axios writes. Read more at Axios. Tim O'Donnell

March 23, 2021

The Biden administration has maintained that its policy at the southern border during the COVID-19 pandemic is to expel families trying to enter the United States. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, for instance, said there are only "narrow, narrow circumstances in which families can't be expelled." But Department of Homeland Security data leaked to Axios suggests expulsions are actually happening infrequently.

The data reportedly shows an average of 13 percent of nearly 13,000 family members attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border were turned away between March 14 and March 21, which Axios notes is "a sign of how the administration is struggling to keep up with a migration surge." But it also highlights the fact that Mexico has been unable to take in the amount of families the U.S. would otherwise turn away. "In situations where expulsion is not possible due to Mexico's inability to receive the families, they are placed into removal proceedings," a DHS spokesperson told Axios. Those proceedings can sometimes take years, Axios writes. Read more at Axios. Tim O'Donnell

March 17, 2021

President Biden on Tuesday pushed back against Republicans who claim that more migrants are crossing the border because he has rescinded the Trump administration's hardline immigration policies.

"There was a surge in the last two years," Biden told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "In '19 and '20, there was a surge as well." Biden said he recently heard that migrants are crossing the southern border "because they know I'm a nice guy. Here's the deal — they're not."

There is an influx in unaccompanied minors crossing the border, and due to a lack of space at shelters, many are being held for longer periods of time at Border Patrol facilities, which are not meant for children. Last week, Border Patrol encountered on average 565 unaccompanied minors every day at the border, NBC News reports, up from an average of 313 per day in February.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Biden administration is immediately expelling asylum seekers, except in the case of unaccompanied minors. "Still intact families who are desperate for their children's safety are going to send their children to cross alone," immigration attorney Amy Maldonado told NBC News, especially when there are relatives in the United States able to care for the children. "I feel like a lot of this could be avoided if intact families were processed through the border and allowed to seek asylum," she added.

Biden told Stephanopoulos the U.S. is "sending back people" who cross the southern border, and discouraged migrants from starting the trek north. "I can say quite clearly: Don't come," he said. "We're in the process of getting set up, don't leave your town or city or community." Catherine Garcia

March 1, 2021

The Biden administration is seeking to give separated migrant families the option of reuniting in either the United States or their country of origin, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Monday. And, he added, if the families choose the former, "we will explore lawful pathways for them to remain" in the United States and "address the family needs, so we are acting as restoratively as possible."

President Biden established a task force focused on the reunification effort earlier this month via executive order. Under the Trump administration, The Hill notes, around 2,800 families were separated in 2018; some were reconnected, but around 550 children had not yet been reunited with their parents. Mayorkas said the Biden administration has brought 105 families together so far. Tim O'Donnell

February 7, 2021

In what is seen as the latest example of President Biden's efforts to roll back former President Donald Trump's restrictive immigration policiues, Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday said the Biden administration has notified El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that the United States has suspended, with immediate effect, the Asylum Cooperative Agreements and will begin the process of terminating them.

Under the pacts, which were struck by the Trump administration in 2019, the U.S. could send people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to the three Central American countries to "share the distribution of asylum claims." Critics argued the policy put asylum-seekers at risk, since the three countries could not credibly provide refuge, meaning the U.S. was not meeting its obligations under international law to help people fleeing persecution.

Blinken said while the move does not mean the U.S. border is "open" and laws "must be enforced," the "Biden administration believes there are more suitable ways to work with our partner governments to manage migration across the region," including addressing "the root causes of forced displacement and irregular migration."

Transfers under the agreements were already on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic — in fact, the pacts with El Salvador and Honduras were never implemented, the State Department said. Read more at NPR and ABC News. Tim O'Donnell

February 1, 2021

Banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and rescinding DACA were well-known, highly public actions carried out by former President Donald Trump as he sought to curb immigration during his lone term in the White House, but his administration also implemented "an extensive, bureaucratic" strategy to "transform immigration through rule changes, adjustments to asylum officers' guidelines, modifications to enforcement norms, and other measures," The New Yorker reports.

Many of these "deceptively mundane" rule changes have been tracked by immigrants' rights groups, and they could be as simple as "changing one single word on a form," said Lucas Guttentag, a law professor at Yale and Stanford who is considered "one of the most fastidious chroniclers" of the low-key alterations over the last four years. For example, the ombudsman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services discovered the agency began rejecting some paperwork if the blank spaces weren't filled out with "N/A," the shorthand for "non-applicable." And the USCIS also redesigned its civics exam so that the answer for the question "Who does a U.S. senator represent?" from "All people of the state" to "Citizens of their state."

Per The New Yorker, Guttentag's tracking project logged 1,058 changes to the immigration system by the end of Trump's presidency, which helped cut the number of legal immigrants to the U.S. nearly in half. Read more at The New Yorker. Tim O'Donnell

January 18, 2021

On his first day in office, President-elect Joe Biden will propose a sweeping overhaul of the country's immigration laws, while also addressing the reasons why people migrate, The Washington Post reports.

Biden's legislative proposal will include an eight-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants; the expansion of refugee admissions; and a security plan that deploys technology to the border, at and between ports of entry.

To qualify for the pathway to citizenship, a person must have been in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, several transition officials told the Post. Eligible immigrants will be placed in a temporary status for five years, and after meeting requirements like passing a background check, they will receive a green card. They will be able to apply for citizenship three years later. Undocumented immigrants who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and temporary protected status programs would be able to immediately apply for a green card.

Whether it's due to economic insecurity or safety concerns, "ultimately, you cannot solve problems of migration unless you attack the root causes of what causes that migration," one transition official said, adding that Biden "knows that in particular is the case in Central America." Read more at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

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