Immigration advocates are holding a protest near the White House in Washington on April 28 calling on President Joe Biden to secure a path to citizenship for immigrants living illegally in the country. (CNS / Reuters / Kévin Lamarque)
The election of Joe Biden as President of the United States was greeted with great joy in immigrant circles in the United States and much of Central America.
The feeling of goodwill was such that in the first months of his presidency thousands of people flocked to the US-Mexico border, confident they would be allowed entry.
Then he sent Vice President Kamala Harris on a short jaunt to Central America, where she delivered an unequivocal message on June 7 to Guatemala for “the people of this region”, that is, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras: “don’t come”.
Harris warned them, “If you come to our border, you will be turned away.
Yet many are still convinced that the Biden administration is their best way to have a chance of staying or entering the United States, even though his administration seems increasingly to be leaning towards a policy of deterrence – du. less with regard to Central America.
Groups defending migrants have noticed this.
At a CNN televised town hall on July 21, Biden was asked to explain the vice president’s comments to Guatemala as he and administration officials said they favored the entry of refugees into the country. United States.
“Could you please explain your administration’s basic position on immigration?” Asked a participant.
Biden said he was referring to refugees from places such as Afghanistan, especially those who assisted soldiers there during the United States’ involvement in the country. But those in the region of Central America called the Northern Triangle fell into a different category.
President Joe Biden arrives with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Acting Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Tracy Renaud for a naturalization ceremony at the White House July 2 in Washington. (CNS / Reuters / Kévin Lamarque)
“They shouldn’t come,” Biden said, crafting a different plan for Central America, one that encouraged asylum claims at home, not at the US-Mexico border.
“We are settling in these countries, if you are asking for asylum in the United States, you can apply for it from the country, from your home. You can apply for it at an American embassy. You can come in and look and see if yes or no you qualify, ”he said.
“We have dramatically increased the number of officers who can hear cases as to whether or not you qualify under the law to be here as a refugee… that’s what we did,” Biden added.
In the latest move towards deterrence, the administration announced a return to a policy of accelerated evictions.
On July 26, the US Department of Homeland Security announced it would pave the way for resuming use of “expedited refoulement” procedures, the rapid deportations of some immigrant families who entered the United States illegally and failing to meet asylum conditions.
It was a tool put in place under the Clinton administration in 1996 and used by several US presidents on both sides of the political aisle.
“They shouldn’t be coming.”
– President Joe Biden encourages Central American migrants to seek asylum at home, not at the US-Mexico border
“One of the main issues with expedited removal is that the immigration officer making the decision has virtually uncontrolled authority,” the US Immigration Council said in an introduction to the procedure posted on its website. July 22.
“When an immigration official encounters someone who they believe may be the subject of an expedited removal, the onus is on the individual to prove otherwise,” the council said.
“This means,” he added, “that a person suspected of being the subject of an expedited removal will have the burden of proving to an immigration officer that he or she is physically present in the United States. two years or more or has been legally admitted or released on parole in the United States.
The immigration officer becomes the prosecutor and judge, the organization said.
But DHS said the policy is “a legal and more expedited process to remove family units that do not have a basis under US law to be in the United States.”
The process would apply to families who cannot be turned away under a section of the Public Health Safety Act invoked by the Trump administration and known as Title 42, the statement said.
Title 42 pushes back some immigrants to the border, citing public health measures to contain the coronavirus. It was activated by the Trump administration in March 2020 as COVID-19 infections began to increase in the United States – and around the world. Biden held it in place.
By not relinquishing Title 42 and reinstating expedited removals, immigrant advocates have begun to express disappointment with the direction the administration appears to be taking.
In a July 29 conference call sponsored by the Welcome with Dignity campaign, a coalition of pro-immigrant groups, Eleanor Acer, senior director of Refugee Protection for Human Rights First, said the organization was “deeply disappointed” that ‘an administration which had claimed human rights did not respect them.
A border wall construction site is seen mostly abandoned on January 22 in Sunland Park, New Mexico, after President Joe Biden signed an executive order stopping construction of the US-Mexico border wall. (CNS / Reuters / Paul Ratje)
During the same call, Gracie Willis, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Nicole Phillips, legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, also expressed concerns about the direction the administration was taking, particularly with the expedited removals and other meetings involving immigration and migrant officials.
Racism always plays a role, they said, in deciding who is believed when making “credible fear” claims, a test used to decide whether the person’s case for asylum or other protection in the matter. immigration can go ahead or be denied.
“Expedited removal should not be used,” Willis said. “The stakes of getting it wrong are too high.”
On July 27, the administration released a “blueprint” for its next steps on immigration policy.
While praising his work to reunite separated parents and children under the Trump administration’s immigration policies, he also highlighted efforts to stop newcomers and the work of smugglers trying to smuggle them. migrants at the border.
The American Immigration Council said that “from January to May 2021, due to seasonal migration patterns in addition to the figures for the previous year, arrests of single adults increased from 62,560 to 117,397”.
The council also said that 65.4% of all people encountered by the border patrol at the border were deported under Title 42. The council said the exceptions are children and some families.
The Biden administration said it “is also strengthening public messages on migration by ensuring consistent messages to discourage irregular migration and promote safe, legal and orderly migration.”
Much of this involves people applying to come to the United States while they are still in their country of origin, not at the border; reduce visa backlogs; and the expansion of temporary work visas for agricultural workers from the region to come to the United States
“Expedited removal should not be used. The stakes of getting it wrong are too high. “
– Gracie Willis
But following the announcement at the end of July about expedited removals and not removing Title 42, some pro-immigrant organizations have started to publicly express their disappointment as well as what they say is a “betrayal” of the. part of the administration.
“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to restoring asylum protections and protecting those seeking refuge, as well as immigrant communities. However, the decision to favor expedited removals is a betrayal of this. promise, ”said Oscar Chacon, executive director of Alianza Americas. in a July 28 press release.
“It is evident that the Biden-Harris administration remains trapped by those who continue to see migration as a negative factor for the well-being of the United States of America, when it is the opposite,” he said. -he declares.
“It is truly shameful to see the richest nation in the world dealing with families and children who run for their lives being sent back to the very conditions that made them flee, especially in the context of the global pandemic,” added Chacon.
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