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El Paso Immigration Legacy: 600 Separated Children And Shoeless Haitians

The Biden administration announced a series of executive orders this week addressing immigration reform. One of them is a task force to help reunite immigrant children with their parents after they were separated under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. There remain about 545 children whose parents have not been found.

Some of the almost 600 immigrant children are part of the El Paso pilot program from 2017 where separating children was tested as a deterrent to immigrants seeking asylum in America.

Trump’s “zero policy” not only separated immigrant families, but some families chose to accept deportation just to be allowed to keep their children. [1] It is unknown how many of the asylum seekers were economic immigrants and how many were fleeing a dangerous situation only to be sent back to the danger. El Paso’s immigration judges have been singled out as the worst judges for asylum seekers.

The other Biden executive order addresses the Migrant Protection Protocol, also known as the Remain in Mexico program. Biden’s executive order does not cancel the MPP, rather it tasks the secretary of Homeland Security to “review” the policy.

The Biden administration has asked asylum seekers awaiting their court hearing in México to remain in place. How many migrants are in Juárez under the MPP program is difficult to quantify because of the fluidity of the migrants.

However, it is estimated that there are over 60,000 migrants waiting in México for their asylum cases to be heard in U.S. courts. Of those, it is estimated that there are around 20,000 in Juárez. [2]

El Paso remains central to the nation’s immigration debate. Several El Paso politicos officially support asylum seekers and other immigrants while financially benefiting from them in the form of payments by the federal government to jail them.

Over 100 Haitians Deported Through El Paso

Last week, a large group of Haitian immigrants were deported through El Paso. [3] Juárez officials were surprised by over 100 Haitian immigrants who were deported through El Paso will little more than the clothes they were wearing. [4]

American officials have cited Title 42 for the deportation. Under Title 42, adopted by the Trump administration as a public health protocol because of Covid-19, the U.S. can deport immigrants to México. [5]

Title 42, enacted by Donald Trump on March 21, 2020, prohibits allowing immigrants into the country because of the potential of spreading Covid-19. “Expulsions under Title 42 are not based on immigration status and are tracked separately from immigration enforcement actions,” says the U.S. Border Patrol. [5]

Although Joe Biden ordered a pause on deportations, a Texas judge barred the Biden administration from enforcing the order. [6]

When U.S. officials announced they were preparing 14 deportation flights to earlier this month, public outcry forced the flights to be canceled. Among the deportation flights included several to Haiti. [6]

Under Title 42, enacted by the Trump administration, the government of México agreed to accept Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans deported under the health directive. [6]

However, Haitians were not included in the agreement between the U.S. and México. [3]

Haitian immigration advocates have noted “a rush to deport as many people as possible during the 14 days of the Texas retraining order.” [4]

The Haitians deported through El Paso arrived in Juárez “without socks or shoes.” According to immigrant advocates, the American officials took away the Haitians’ identity documents before deporting them. [4]

Footnotes:

  1. Julia Ainsley, Jacob Soboroff and Geoff Bennett, “Biden effort to reunite migrant families separated under Trump is not enough, say advocates,” NBC News, February 2, 2021.
  2. Julián Aguilar, “Biden administration pauses deportations for 100 days and suspends ‘remain in Mexico’ policy for asylum seekers,” Th Texas Tribune, January 20, 2021.
  3. Jose Luis Gonzalez and Lizbeth Diaz, “U.S. expels dozens of Haitian asylum seekers to Mexico,” Reuters, February 3, 2021.
  4. Jacqueline Charles, Michael Wilner and Monique O. Madan, “Biden team under fire for deportation uptick, backing Moise as Haiti tensions multiply,” Miami Herald, February 6, 2021.
  5. “Nationwide Enforcement Encounters: Title 8 Enforcement Actions and Title 42 Expulsions,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection Press Release, January 7, 2021.
  6. Julian Borger, “US suspends Haiti deportation flights as Biden administration tries to control ICE,” The Guardian, February 5, 2021.

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