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Migrant Justice Newsletter and Urgent Actions: August 2022

Welcome to IRTF’s August 2022 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border!

With all the faults the U.S. immigration system has, one specific issue is often overlooked: the processing of stateless persons seeking protection in a world that is governed by nation-states and designed only to protect and ensure rights to those with a nationality. Moreover, anti-immigrant policies like Title 42 continue to deny the right to asylum to many people crossing the U.S. border, sending more migrants back on expulsion flights each month. And although the immigration court backlog is not getting smaller, immigration courts across the nation seem to order deportations at alarmingly high rates. 

Here is an overview of recent updates on U.S. immigration and what has been happening at the border!

In this newsletter, please read about

- Immigration Court in Cleveland, OH: 18 Deportation Orders a Day in July

- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Being Stateless in a System that Revolves Around Borders

- Expelling Migrants in the Name of Health Measures: Over 10,000 Expulsion Flights Under Biden

- At The Border: Recent Incidents at and around the U.S.-Mexico Border

- Take Action: Tell your legislator not to endorse the reinstatement of Title 42


Ohio ranks #19 nationally in the number of deportation proceedings filed. Ohio ranks #9 nationally in ordering deporations.

The immigration court in Cleveland (actually called the Executive Office for Immigration Review, or EOIR) is the only immigration court in the whole state of Ohio. In Fiscal Year 2021 (October 2020 through September 2021), the US government filed about 3,100 cases for removal of immigrants in the Cleveland EOIR. Now, in Fiscal Year 2022 (since October 2021) there have already been 9,735 cases filed. This is consistent with the numbers of cases rising nationally.  Currently, Ohio ranks #19 nationally in the number of deportation proceedings filed. But when it comes to the number of people ordered deported in immigration court in Cleveland, Ohio ranks #9 nationwide, meaning that there are only 8 states in the country that have ordered more deportations this fiscal year than Ohio. These are the recent numbers from TRAC (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, based at Syracuse University).

Deportation Proceedings Filed Are Still Going Up

Within the last ten months, since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22: October 2021-July 2022), there have been 702,741 deportation proceedings filed in immigration courts across the country. Just this past month, 79,191 cases were added. During the previous 12-month period (FY21), just over 308,000 cases had been filed. Comparing these numbers, we learn that the number of deportation proceedings filed over all of last fiscal year has already been more than doubled this current fiscal year (228% increase). 

Also notable is a drastic increase in the number of cases filed against Cubans over the month of July (88,145). In Cleveland, that number is not too significant (122 last month), but nationwide Cuba has suddenly jumped up from below #10 to #2 in the number of deportation proceedings filed by nationality, leaving only Venezuela (94,056) with more cases filed as of July 2022. So why the big increase in Cubans being placed into deportation proceedings? Since Cuba does not accept Title 42 expulsion flights from the US, we can assume that as more Cubans are crossing the border, more are being placed into deportation proceedings (likely detained). (Question: why are so many more Cubans coming to the US?)

Cleveland EOIR - Deportation Proceedings Filed

Out of the 702,741 deportation proceedings filed nationwide, 9,735 were filed at the immigration court in Cleveland in July, putting Ohio–since Cleveland is the only immigration court in the state–in place #19 of the most cases filed by state throughout the country. These 9,735 cases, with over 1,000 added in July,are already more than three times the amount of deportation proceedings filed last FY. Most of the deportation proceedings filed in July in Cleveland have been for Guatemalans (1,329), Venezuelans (1,277), Hondurans (1,274) and Nicaraguans (1,132). 

This consistent and accelerated increase in the number of cases filed should be alarming to us, as it directly suggests that the government is continuing to increase immigration law enforcement measures against undocumented residents. And we can only assume that the expansion of digital surveillance and increased enrollment in the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program are an immediate cause of these trends.

New deportation proceedings filed (Oct 2021 - Jul 2022)

Cleveland, Ohio

U.S. total

In total


















Deportations Ordered from Cleveland EOIR: 35% are Guatemalan, 22% Honduran

Besides the almost 10,000 new deportation proceedings filed since October 2021, there were  350 new deportations ordered from the Cleveland immigration court in July 2022. This increases the total number of people ordered deported from Cleveland to 2,652 in FY22, of which 934 are Guatemalans and 581 are Hondurans. Thinking about what we hear in the news every week about violence, insecurity and repression in these (and others) countries, it is saddening to think about the large group of Hondurans and Guatemalans who are being sent back to those inhospitable conditions after having given up so much to take on the dangerous journey north in search of refuge.

Source: TRAC at Syracuse University (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse)


Every month, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) releases new data on the outcomes of deportation proceedings and the number of people ordered deported in immigration courts across the nation since FY22 (October 2021 to date). And somewhere in that list of nationalities of the people ordered deported, 25 persons are listed as stateless - Alien unable to name a country. Under the international legal definition, a stateless person is an individual who is “not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law,” meaning that they don’t belong to any nation and are therefore often not legally allowed to stay in that country either. This poses several big questions that we as immigrants rights activists and people with the privilege of a valid passport should ask ourselves: How does one become stateless, how are they treated when applying for asylum in the U.S., and where are stateless people being deported to?

How does one become stateless?

Usually, a child will receive citizenship of the country they were born in or–with exceptions–the nationality their parents belong to, from the moment of birth. But every country that issues citizenship also has rules and regulations on who is eligible to become a citizen of their nation. And due to political and other external factors, these rules can change one’s eligibility for citizenship of that country, or any country for that matter, throughout the course of their life, thus deeming them stateless. There are two main pathways to becoming stateless: either by law (de jure) or by circumstance (de facto).

Becoming stateless by law (de jure)

When a person does not meet the requirements for citizenship of the country they reside in, e.g., due to laws restricting certain ethnicities, religious groups, genders, etc. from obtaining citizenship, they can become de jure stateless. This is the case for groups such as the Rohingya of Myanmar, a mostly-Muslim minority group who Myanmar does not count as eligible for citizenship.

Gaps in nationality laws and regulations can also be a major cause of statelessness. If the laws of a nation determining eligibility for citizenship of that country are not written out and applied carefully and faultlessly, smaller marginalized groups in the population can end up being excluded from citizenship rights altogether and be left stateless.  

Becoming stateless by circumstance (de facto)

There are a number of ways that de facto statelessness can occur.  One example is when a country ceases to exist. The successor state occupying the territory of which the person was previously a citizen may set requirements for nationality status that the former citizens of the previous country do not meet. This was the case for a large group of people after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s when new maps were drawn. Many people who lost their Soviet citizenship were not able to obtain nationality in the newly formed nations.

De facto statelessness might also occur if an individual is unable to sufficiently document evidence of their nationality. This is the case for many Mexicans and Central American persons who–due to growing up in rural areas or structural difficulties in the government–have never received a proper birth certificate and therefore cannot prove that they are a national of their country of origin. They will often be denied a request for citizenship and/or travel documents and experience complications when trying to apply for asylum in another country.

How are stateless people treated when applying for asylum?

An individual’s nationality is the practical source of individual and collective rights and freedoms, including the right to seek asylum and the right to move freely. Stateless persons therefore often come across many obstacles when trying to gain legal status in the United States. 

But because the U.S. lacks a consistent legal framework for stateless persons and their specific needs, they are mostly treated the same as other non-U.S. citizens who hold legal citizenship in other countries. They are placed into legal proceedings designed for those who can prove citizenship and therefore their right to petition for political asylum. Since stateless persons do not have a country to which they can be deported once their asylum request has been denied, they often end up in detention for long periods of time. And before two Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2005, there was nothing keeping the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from treating stateless non-U.S. citizens as “lifers” - people held indefinitely in detention facilities awaiting the unlikely or even impossible prospect of detention. 

There are ways for stateless individuals to receive an order of supervision (i.e., release)  after being detained 90 days and not having been deported (because there is no nation that will receive this stateless person). Once they are released, they can work legally in the U.S. while still having to complete periodic check-ins and re-applications. However, once a stateless person’s deportation case is dropped, their work authorization is withdrawn, and they are left alone in uncertainty, allowed to legally reside in the United States, but lacking any formal legal status or right to work, get married, obtain financial or medical aid and so on. 

Where are stateless people being deported to?

Though placed into deportation proceedings, the legal case might be dropped for stateless individuals after an extended time in detention. In that case, the person is left to legally stay in the U.S. while trying to obtain nationality of another country and re-applying for asylum as a citizen of that nation. However, if a stateless person does end up with a deportation order, as was the case for the 25 people listed as stateless in the TRAC report on people ordered deported, it is possible that the U.S. government will simply “assign” them to a country to be deported to, sending them off without proper political and financial resources in an entirely different part of the world. And if no other nation will agree to take them in, they could end up back in detention for several months, or years, until their case is finally dropped.

No right to rights

According to an estimate by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are at least 10 million stateless persons in the world–although the actual number could be much larger due to underreporting–who do not legally belong to any country. In a world that is dominated by nation-states and governed according to rules that apply only within the borders of each of those nations, stateless people are left on their own, making them “legal ghosts.” Without a nationality, they are deprived of their right to have rights, and they are forced to exist outside the realm of a nation-state and the legal structures that come with it. 

Sources: Center for Migration Studies, UNHCR, U.S. Department of State


The end of the anti-immigrant policy Title 42, a public health proclamation first implemented by Donald Trump in early 2020, is still up in the air. And the number of observed removal flights to ten different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean continues to rise. For the first time since the Biden-inauguration in January 2021, there have been over 10,000 likely ICE Air flights. To be exact, there have been 10,325 over the last 18 months, including almost 1,900 removal flights. With an estimated average of 100 passengers per flight, this means that over the past one and a half years, as many as 190,000 people could have been returned to Latin America, the Caribbean and a small number to Africa by air by the U.S.

The continuation of Title 42 has passed the debate on whether the health order is still relevant and justified; it is threatening a person’s basic human right to seek refuge in the U.S., and it bears life-threatening consequences to many who are coming to the U.S. border and are met with xenophobia and immediate removals.

The total numbers of migrants expelled under Title 42 are much higher than the 190,000 on removal flights (according to Customs and Border Patrol, 1.7 million since Biden came into office). Most migrants are immediately expelled (without processing) back across the Mexican border by land. According to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), 37% of migrants “encountered” (i.e., apprehended) at the US southern border in July were immediately expelled–denied their legal right to petition for asylum–back into Mexico. Of all the migrants expelled in July, 99% came from four countries: Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. 

Removal Flights, Lateral Flights, Domestic Shuffles:

In July 2022, there were 617 likely ICE Air flights, operated by the charter carriers iAero/Swift, World Atlantic, GlobalX, Eastern Air, and OMNI. Although this number is down 24 from the previous month of June, this decrease can be tied entirely to the decrease in domestic flights, meaning flights transporting people laterally in between different ports of entries and ICE locations along the U.S. border.

Removal flights, meaning flights transporting people internationally and returning them to their home countries, are up 3 from June, from 139 to 142. 

The countries from the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador) all continue to break records in the number of monthly removal flights, a trend that is both devastating and alarming. They made up almost 79% of all removal flights in July 2022. Removals operated by the government of Mexico are holding steady; although removal flights from Mexico are down (41 in June, 15 in July), removal by bus is up.   


ICE Air flights to Guatemala increased by 2 for a total of 46 in July, continuing the trend of exceeding all numbers since the recording of the flights started in January 2020. One year ago, in July of 2021 and before the country started accepting Title 42 return flights, there were only 5 flights to Guatemala each month. With the deportation flights operated by the Mexican government added to the ICE Air flights, there were over 5,250 Guatemalans returned to Guatemala by air in July.  Adding the 4,100 Guatemalans returned by land (bus) by Mexico, this adds up to 9,350 people being returned to Guatemala by the U.S. and Mexico this past month.


To Honduras, flights decreased slightly from 39 to 36, still ranked as the second highest since January 2020. This means that an estimated 4,050 Hondurans have been returned by air by the U.S. in July. Adding Mexico-operated removal proceedings by air or land, a total of 7,900 people have been returned to Honduras by the U.S. and Mexico in July, up 550 from June.

El Salvador

Flights to El Salvador increased significantly by 67% in July (18 in June, 30 in July), setting a new record since the start of recording these statistics in January 2020. More than half of these 30 were coupled with removals to other countries, expelling people to El Salvador and then continuing on to Colombia (17 flights) and Ecuador (1).


In June, four flights carried five persons deported from the US. In July,  there were no ICE Air flights to Africa.

Other destinations

There were 19 removal flights to Colombia performed in July, down 2 from the previous month. Seventeen of these were coupled-flights to El Salvador (mentioned above), compared to only 4 coupled flights in June.

Flights to Haiti dropped to just two in July (6 in June, 36 in May), suggesting a significant drop in Haitian encounters and resulting Title 42 expulsions from the US southern border.

Flights to Brazil increased slightly from 1 in June to 3 in July

Other destinations for ICE Air flights this month were the Dominican Republic (2, coupled with Haiti), Nicaragua (2), Jamaica (1) and Ecuador (1). For the second month in a row, there were no flights to Mexico, following a decreasing trend since April of this year.

Mexico operated removal flights

Removal flights operated by the Mexican government dropped significantly from 41 in June to just 15 in July. However, for Hondurans this decline in air returns is almost offset by a staggering increase in land returns. And although the increase in land returns to Guatemala has not been significant, a similar trend can be observed for that country. It appears that Mexico has been shifting its removal operations from reducing deportation flights to increasing the number of land returns by bus. (This is not the case for Nicaragua; the reason for the drop in removal flights to Nicaragua is not entirely clear).

Sources: Witness At the Border


This is a space where we share current incidents from the US southern border to show that these issues that we write about do, in fact, immediately affect people at the border and in detention, and the horrible things many migrants have to experience while seeking refuge in the U.S.

August 9, El Paso: A DHS Inspector-General report, based on seven October 2021 unannounced inspections of El Paso-area CBP facilities, found Border Patrol holding hundreds of migrants in custody for longer than the normal 72-hour limit, despite a lack of overcrowding [sic]. In addition, “Border Patrol held some migrants placed for expulsion under Title 42 authorities for longer than 14 days, which is inconsistent with Border Patrol policy,” and CBP was “inconsistent” in its separation of juveniles from unrelated adults in custody.

August 1, Border-Wide: Data obtained by the Cato Institute show that, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, CBP personnel have used the Title 42 health provision to expel thousands of families with toddlers and babies into Mexico in the post-midnight hours, despite safety risks. The statistics “show that as of May 31, CBP had used its Title 42 ‘health’ authority to expel 30,806 children ages 3 and under—with about 41 percent of these expulsions occurring at midnight or later,” noted a blog post from Cato’s associate director of immigration studies, David Bier. Under normal circumstances, CBP’s repatriation agreements with Mexico prohibit removals to Mexican border towns between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM, except under emergency circumstances. Title 42 expulsions have occurred without regard to these repatriation restrictions. “The Biden Administration is actually expelling more children at night than even the Trump Administration did,” Cato noted.

Sources: WOLA Border Oversight

Want to find out more about the conditions at the southern US border?

Immigration Attorneys Share Stories of Trauma and Burnout

Behind the Headlines: What is the Afghan Adjustment Act?


Now that you are up to date on the issues at and around the southern border of the U.S., here is what you can do to take action this week and act in solidarity with migrants and their families:


Everyone deserves to live in safety and peace. But for the past two years, a federal policy known as Title 42 has blocked migrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum, a human right. Now some members of Congress are attempting to indefinitely extend Title 42 rather than taking action to ensure that our policies heal not harm. They must hear from us today. Tell Congress to defend the right to asylum!


Today, millions of people around the world are denied a nationality. As a result, stateless people have difficulty accessing basic rights such as education, healthcare and freedom of movement, and can face a lifetime of obstacles and disappointment. Sign this open letter by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and become part of the #IBelong Campaign to end statelessness!

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Friday, August 19, 2022