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Migrant Justice Newsletter and Urgent Actions: July 2022

Migrant Justice Newsletter - July 14
Welcome to IRTF’s July 14, 2022 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border!

After the legal discussions around Title 42, expulsion flights under the questionable health proclamation continued to increase this month, as did the number of people enrolled in ICE’s electronic monitoring program Alternatives to Detention. While the general focus on migrant justice issues and the U.S. immigration system within the public has been increasing, the numbers are not showing much progress, and the Biden administration as well as the Department of Homeland Security/ICE are working towards a more enforced border and detention/surveillance system, rather than a more humane way of treating individuals who are coming to the U.S. in search for refuge and community.

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

- Expelling Migrants in the Name of Health Measures: Three Times as Many Title 42 Removal Flights as Last Year

- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): The Alternatives to Detention (ATD) Program is Expanding - Here’s Why That’s Not a Good Sign

- Migrants vs. Immigrant vs. Refugee - This is How to Use the Right Terminology When Talking About Migration

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

- Take Action: Support campaigns against racist immigration policies!


After we saw record high numbers of ICE air flights just last month, the legal fight around the suspension of Title 42, which was initially supposed to happen at the end of May, seems more urgent than ever. While numbers have decreased a little in June in comparison to May, the decrease can almost entirely be attributed to the decrease in lateral flights within the U.S. (i.e., transporting detained migrants from one detention center to another), meaning that the number of removal flights out of the country stayed more or less the same (down 3 from May). With a rough estimate of about 100 passengers per removal flight, we are safe to assume that in June, almost 1,400 people were removed from the U.S. on 139 flights, utilizing 34 different planes operated by charter carriers such as iAero/Swift, World Atlantic, and GlobalX.

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.

Removal Flights: Expulsion Flights, Deportation Flights

139 removal flights in June 2022, mainly due to Title 42

Most flights still go to Guatemala

The expulsion of migrants under Title 42 can be tracked by looking at the number of ICE air flights. According to statistics gathered and analyzed by the nonprofit Witness at the Border, there have been 9,708 ICE air flights since Biden’s inauguration,  and a total number of 14,814 ICE air flights since the start of Title 42 in March 2020. 2,806 of those were removal flights, mainly to countries accepting Title 42 flights—namely Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Brazil and Colombia. And although this does not mean that everyone on these flights was subject to Title 42 (since ICE does not disclose that information), it is striking that countries accepting Title 42 flights made up 90% of all removal flights in May. 

In the section above we pointed to 139 ICE air flights in June 2022. Those were the removal flights. There were a total of 641 ICE air flights–139 removal flights, 502 domestic lateral flights shuffling migrants to different detention centers within the US). While this is a 21% decrease from last month’s record numbers, the numbers are still in line with the 6-month average. The current number of 139 removal flights is up almost 300% from June of last year . This means that while the Biden administration is fighting Republican states and their courts to end Title 42, it is also removing three times as many people as last year to countries of great danger.  [ Note: 72% of removal flights originated in Southeast Texas, showing its significant role in Title 42 expulsions by air.]

But this increase in removals is not only causing more deaths and despair in the migrants’ home countries, it is also effectively forcing them to take on more remote, dangerous routes when trying to cross the border without being processed under Title 42, leading to tragedies such as the 53 deaths in a truck in Texas, or the 500% increase in sea crossings by mainly Haitians and Cubans that often end in mass drownings. This strategy of prevention through deterrence, that the Department of Homeland Security is committed to and not scared to enforce, is not decreasing immigration, it is only making it a more deadly and inhumane system.


The composition of removal flight destinations changed significantly in June, with only 6 ICE air flights returning about 400 people to Haiti in June, compared to 36 flights with almost 4,000 passengers in May. Almost all of the Haitian removals were completed in the first 3 days of June. The origin of this significant decrease in removal flights to Haiti is still unclear;  it is the fewest number of flights to Haiti since August 2021. The 6 removal flights of June still add to the total of 271 ICE air flights to Haiti since the Biden inauguration, expelling about 1 in every 430 people in Haiti back to the currently very unstable and unsafe conditions in that country. 

A recent report by the University of Washington Center for Human Rights also shows that there have been several single adults who are not from Haiti, as well as over 400 children born in South America to Haitian parents, who were sent back to Haiti on removal flights despite never having set foot in the country before. One thing these people had in common was the color of their skin, which goes to show how deeply racism is anchored in the U.S. immigration system and its policies, especially towards Haitian migrants.


10,000 returned to Guatemala in just one month!

Following the unpleasant trend of last month, and nearly offsetting the decrease in flights to Haiti, removal flights to Guatemala continued to increase significantly in June, up 12 from May and bringing the total number to 44 in June, the second highest since January of 2020. This continues to make Guatemala the country receiving most ICE air flights, and therefore most migrants expelled under Title 42 in the month of June. Combining the 44 ICE air flights with the 14 deportation flights by the Mexican government and the 3,400 Guatemalans that were returned by land from Mexico, over 10,000 Guatemalans were returned to Guatemala by Mexico and the U.S. in June of this year.


9,000 returned to Honduras in just one month!

Removal flights to Honduras increased by 30% to 39 flights in June, the highest number of flights since at least January 2020. This means that an estimated 4,800 Honduras were returned by the U.S. this month, in addition to the 15 Mexican government removal flights and the 2,953 Hondurans removed to Guatemala by Mexico - pushing the total number of Hondurans expelled by the U.S. and Mexico up to over 9,000 in June.

Colombia, El Salvador, Other destinations

ICE air flights to Colombia (17 ) and El Salvador (18) in June saw slight decreases from the previous month.  Other, less significant removal destinations from the US in June 2022 included the Dominican Republic (3), Nicaragua (3), Jamaica (1), Brazil (1) and Ecuador (2). There were no removal flights to Mexico during the month of June.


ICE air flights have been occurring periodically on small jets operated by the charter company Gryphon Air, with each plane only holding about 13 people. These removal flights are harder to track, but in June there were 4 removal flights going to Liberia, Nigeria, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

Sources: Witness At The Border (Death Flights Report), University of Washington Center for Human Rights


Alternatives to Detention (ATD) might sound like a more humane part of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) immigration system, and it seems like its expansion would be a positive development and a move away from detention centers. However, the program’s name is very misleading. ATD’s are not an actual alternative to ICE detention. In fact, ICE itself states that the ATD program is not meant as a substitute for detention. Rather, it is an expansion of the U.S. detention system, adding to the concerning conditions in detention centers the immense pressure and insecurity that comes with mass surveillance and monitoring of migrants awaiting their asylum case decision.

Alternatives to detention is a program which, on paper, is supposed to present a more humane alternative to detaining migrants in detention centers. When enrolled in the program, the migrant might have to wear a GPS ankle monitor, report to a local ICE office in regular intervals or perform periodic check-ins via telephonic reporting. Currently, over 266,000 people are enrolled in the electronic monitoring program.

But these so-called alternatives aren’t much different from being held in a detention center. Many have raised concerns about the limits of mobility when wearing an ankle monitor that beeps when you are too far from your home, or when having to report to ICE through your smartphone every couple of hours. And, more importantly, many have experienced feeling like they are constantly under surveillance, and the emotional distress from having to wear an ankle monitor in public and the fear of it going off in uncomfortable situations has led to increased isolation and mental health issues among migrants in detention.

And while the number of migrants with GPS ankle monitors has been on a steady decrease since the beginning of this year (in May, about 20,000 people were on ankle monitors, compared to 35,000 in August 2021), there is a new ATD system called SmartLINK, that is rapidly expanding and bears new consequences for the migrants enrolled in it. SmartLINK is a mobile app that migrants have to install on their phones and that performs both fixed and random check-ins and allows the person to upload documents, confirm appointments, get updates on court proceedings and more. Since the start of this year, the usage of SmartLINK has skyrocketed, doubling from 100,000 in January to nearly 200,000 now, accounting for over 80% of all migrants enrolled in ATD’s. It is the main cause for the overall growth we are seeing in ICE’s ATD program. This way of electronic monitoring causes migrants to constantly be on alert, terrified that they might miss a call or notification from the app to report to their enforcement officer and will end up being deported, or put back into a detention facility. Over 1,000 people are being added to the SmartLINK system every day, allowing ICE to monitor and “remotely detain” so many more people than just using detention facilities, and to collect large amounts of data and track every movement of those who are enrolled in the program.

This rapidly expanding system of electronic monitoring that ICE calls Alternatives to Detention is anything but an alternative. In fact, it is more of an addition to detention. Detention centers still exist, and the Department of Homeland Security is eagerly renewing and signing new contracts for detention facilities. The number of migrants in detention has been increasing since April, to nearly 25,000 at the start of June, indicating that the declining effect of the pandemic might be over and numbers could be heading back up to pre-pandemic levels, which could mean up to 50,000 people held in detention centers at a time. The average number of days spent in a detention center has increased to around 25 days on average. ICE’s budget has gone up significantly, and the growth in funding for electronic monitoring (the latest ATD contract was worth $2.2 billion) has no decreasing impact on the funding of detention facilities. 

All of these numbers and the reports we have heard from so many migrants enrolled in ATD’s about the emotional and physical distress that comes with it, making them feel like they are still in detention, should make us reconsider how accurate the term Alternatives for Detention really is and that freedom is not only the freedom of movement, but also the freedom to not fear constant surveillance or wake up in the middle of the night to a notification requesting immediate response with a photo of your face.

Sources: Austin Kocher, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)


When it comes to immigration, there are many different terms and phrases that are being used and that, if used in certain ways, can have both an empowering or a demeaning effect on those they are being applied to. This is especially important when we are referring to people leaving their home country for various reasons, like war, persecution, for economic necessity and coming to the U.S. in search of refuge. Here is a list of terms used to describe those people and how to use them correctly.

Refugee: A refugee is a person who is seeking protection and security from persecution or other factors like violence, war, climate disasters etc., outside their country of origin. Once arriving at the U.S. border, a refugee can apply for asylum to receive legal permission to stay in the U.S. and be put on track to become a permanent resident. The term refugee often implies that the individual can prove that they fled their home country out of a well-founded fear of persecution or danger, and have undergone a complicated procedure to become a legal citizen of their new country. 

The designation of “refugee” is given to someone residing outside the US; they are legally admitted into the US as “refugee” according to the national ceiling of admittances for refugees in each year. The person who might have experienced the same conditions as the “refugee” but has not sought or been given that designation might migrate “illegally” to another country and seek political asylum.  The short difference: refugee is someone outside the US ; asylum-seeker is someone who shows up at the border or is detected for residing “illegally” within US boundaries. 

Immigrant/Migrant: In the U.S., an immigrant is someone who has already come to the U.S. to live permanently in the country, and who has been granted legal status to stay there. An “unauthorized” or “undocumented” immigrant would be someone who is staying in the U.S. who entered without papers and without legal permission to do so.  While  those two terms are more appropriate than “illegal immigrant” (no human should be called illegal, no matter their legal status), it is still implying that the person does not belong here unless they have been officially authorized to stay. Overall, in most cases it is better to use the more neutral term migrant, as immigrant implies for many a migration into “our country” and the fact that the person doesn’t belong here. 

Generally, the term migrant refers to someone who has migrated from one country to another . The migrant might end up residing temporarily or even permanently in a country where they were not born. The migrant, while living in the foreign land, often acquires significant social ties to that country.

Alien: “Alien” is a legal term used in the Immigration and Nationality Act and many legal situations to refer to a non-citizen. Similar to the terms “illegal” or “unauthorized” immigrant, this term should be avoided as it is degrading to those seeking refuge in a new country and it suggests that they are inhuman individuals (and, as many believe, criminals) who have come to the U.S. not to seek refuge, but for other questionable reasons.

Asylum seeker: An Asylum seeker is someone who applied for asylum in the U.S. because of violent, unsafe circumstances or fear of persecution in their home country. While refugees are outside the United States and seeking resettlement in the U.S., an asylum seeker is already physically present in the U.S. or at a port of entry and is seeking permission to enter and remain in the country.

Asylee: An Asylee is someone who has come to the U.S. seeking political asylum due to fear of violence or persecution, and who has been granted the asylum. Asylees are legally allowed to stay and work in the U.S. and can apply for citizenship after five years of being in the country.

Words matter. And when it comes to immigration issues, they matter a lot. Referring to someone as a refugee vs a migrant, a migrant vs an immigrant, an immigrant vs an illegal alien, comes with an underlying connotation supporting the person’s view on migration, and it can have a great emotional impact on the person that is being referred to. Moreover, people have been known to be more likely to support admitting and helping people described as refugees rather than migrants, due to the negative connotations associated with the latter. To many, the term refugee describes someone in a much more vulnerable and desperate situation who was forced to flee, compared to a migrant or immigrant, who has “merely” come to the U.S. to seek better opportunities and not to escape dangerous conditions such as war or persecution. But the fact is that all of these terms describe humans whom we should recognize as such and therefore refer to with the most humane terms. It is the exception that someone leaves their home country voluntarily and without fear of persecution or even death, and we should recognize everyone’s search for refuge, no matter what they are referred to as.

Sources: Freedom for Immigrants, Migration Policy Institute


This is a space where we share current incidents from the 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.

Early June, Tucson: The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a Mexican husband and wife who turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents near Nogales, Arizona. “The agents took their belongings and threw away their suitcase with clothing and medicine and their wallets. They tried to ask for asylum, but US officials ignored them and expelled them back to Mexico the next day.”

Sources: WOLA Border Oversight

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

Appeals Court Panel Casts Doubt on DACA Legality

The Supreme Court Hands Biden the Smallest Possible Victory in it’s “Remain in Mexico” Case


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:

End Title 42!

The decision to end Title 42 was a critical victory in our fight to restore the human right to seek asylum. But now, anti-immigrant lawmakers are attempting to override CDC and the Biden administration by passing legislation in Congress that mandates Title 42’s continuation. We must take action: Tell Congress to oppose any interference with CDC’s decision to end the brutal, anti-immigrant Title 42 policy!

Reuniting A Young Family! We are much closer & we need help!

Who this is for: MVIC (Miami Valley Immigration Coalition) is assisting a young Spanish speaking couple. The young man is in immigration detention in the southwest. He fled his home country of Colombia suddenly after a close family member was murdered, and cannot return safely.  His bond is now set at $8,000, decreased from $10,000 (Yes, it’s a large amount! But we have $4,000 already!).  The young woman is in Dayton and expecting their child. MVIC volunteers are supporting her by connecting her with housing, prenatal care, food resources, legal help, and companionship.  Raising $4,000 more will reunite this couple and allow Fernando to prepare his case for asylum and apply for a work permit.  

Donations made through our 501c3 fiscal sponsor LEAD are charitable deductions; choose Immigration Bond Fund at or mail a check made out to LEAD with “MVIC Bond Fund” in the memo line and mail to 505 Riverside Dr., Dayton, Ohio 45405.  You can also donate by PayPal

ICE detention conditions include overcrowding, substandard hygiene and food, poor or absent medical care, extreme challenges with communicating with the outside world, including with loved ones and legal resources.  Those who remain in immigration detention are known to be less successful in pursuing their asylum case and much more likely to be deported to dangerous conditions and continued separation from their loved ones. 

More about MVIC is at


Migrant Justice Newsletter - July 29

Welcome to IRTF’s July 29, 2022 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border! 

In the Biden administration’s battle against anti-immigrant states and legislators, the U.S. immigration system’s path to being restored continues to be in limbo. Two Republican senators have introduced a bill that aims to keep all the xenophobic policies in place, while encounters at the border are still on the rise. But Biden isn’t so innocent himself. In a meeting some weeks ago, he agreed with Mexican president López Obrador that Mexico spend $1.5 billion towards enforcement along the U.S. border. Join us as we look at what else the Mexican government is doing to counteract rising numbers of immigration. Here we analyze 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: Deportation Proceedings Continue to Rise

- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): The Risch-Portman Bill is Promoting Harmful Border Policies, Sending Us Back in Time

- Al Otro Lado: Immigration Enforcement in Mexico

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

- Take Action: Support campaigns against racist immigration policies!


Ohio ranks #19 nationally in the number of deportation proceedings filed. Ohio ranks #8 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 8,706 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 #8 nationwide, meaning that there are only 7 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 Filings Are Almost Double the Amount of Last Year

As recent TRAC* data shows, since October 1, 2021, the government has filed 623,550 new deportation proceedings, with 65,908 new cases just in the last month (June 2022). During the previous 12-month period (FY 2021), there were 308,115 filed. That means that over twice the amount of deportation cases over the course of a whole year have been filed in just these past 9 months.

Cleveland EOIR - Deportation Proceedings Filed

In Cleveland, 8,706 of these 623,550 deportation proceedings have been filed at the EOIR (immigration court) in the past nine months. During the previous 12-month period (FY 2021), just over 3,000 cases were filed in Cleveland. If current trends continue, we’re on track to see the number of deportation proceedings filed in Cleveland EOIR triple this year, from 3,000 to nearing 9,000. 1,223 of these cases have been filed against nationals of Guatemala, followed closely by Honduras (1,196), Venezuela (1,177), and Nicaragua (994).

New deportation proceedings filed (Oct 2021 - Jun 2022)

Cleveland, Ohio


In total















This isn’t about the court. It’s about enforcement. The number of deportation proceedings filed can be used to reflect the activity of federal immigration law enforcement. In other words, an increase in the number of deportation proceedings filed by ICE suggests that the government is increasing enforcement measures against undocumented residents, as has been the case consistently for the past few months. 

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

Aside from the new deportation proceedings filed, there have been 2,302 deportations ordered in Cleveland in FY 2022, 368 of these in June alone.  That is already more than throughout the whole Fiscal Year 2021. Out of the 2,302, Guatemalans make up 817 of those numbers, and 501 are Hondurans.

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


The S.4518 “Solving the Border Crisis” bill, introduced this month by Senators James Risch (R-Idaho) and Robert Portman (R-Ohio) is like a big compilation of harmful, anti-immigrant measures at the southern U.S. border and throughout the U.S. immigration system. The six main points of the bill would undermine many of the recent efforts made by the Biden administration to restore asylum in the U.S. If the bill passes, it would inarguably lead to more harm and suffering for people at the border and throughout the country. Here are the six problematic proposals of the Risch-Portman Bill:

  1. Keep Title 42 in place

The xenophobic Title 42 policy has been used for more than two years now, illegaly blocking and expelling migrants seeking asylum at the border, using the pandemic as an excuse. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has long stated that there is no public health basis to keep the order in place anymore, and both the CDC and the Biden-administration have been making efforts to terminate the policy. Several state lawsuits (and blocking attempts in the Senate) have kept Title 42 in place so far, and the Risch-Portman Bill is trying to do the same thing. But reinstating Title 42 indefinitely and continuing with harmful rejections and expulsions at the border–as well as the politicizing of public health and immigration–will further weaken the U.S. asylum system and contribute to racist stigmas around immigration and contribute to life-threatening dangers for the people seeking safety.

  1. Continue with the construction of the border wall

The Risch-Portman Bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to resume with all border wall construction efforts that were previously underway, and to carry out the Trump administration’s plans to expand surveillance technologies around the border. The border wall has caused serious harm in more than one way. It has led to destruction of the natural environment around the border.  Another striking aspect is the irony of spending tens of millions of dollars on an unnecessary and dangerous wall while many border communities are lacking resources in healthcare, education and other infrastructure projects. Last, but definitely not least, the continued construction of a 30 ft high border wall is not going to impact the number of migrants arriving at the border in search of refuge. The wall only contributes to DHS’s harmful “prevention through deterrence” strategy, forcing migrants to take on far more dangerous routes through remote, inhospitable terrain in attempts to safely cross the border. This “deterrence” ends us increasing the number of severe injuries and deaths at the border. For example, at least 25 people have fallen to their death trying to scale the wall within the last three years.

  1. Revoking the new asylum processing rules

Earlier this year, the Biden administration proposed a new asylum process, giving the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) authority to perform initial credible fear interviews at the border and, if the migrant qualifies, grant them asylum without the migrant having to go through a long and exhausting court process. This new rule would relieve the immensely backlogged immigration courts by sending fewer cases to immigration judges. It would also create a strict timeline for quick processing so that asylum seekers would not have to spend as much time in uncertainty as they do now. With the Risch-Portman Bill seeking to nullify this new rule, the asylum case backlog would continue to increase, leaving migrants in a state of limbo for sometimes multiple years. It would also allow for many more barriers on a person’s way to asylum: navigating the financial and logistical difficulties of obtaining legal representation, facing the possibility of months in detention until their case is resolved, and being subject to the discretion or potentially biased whims of the immigration judge. 

  1. Making the Remain in Mexico policy a mandatory step in the immigration process

The Migrant Protection Protocols I(MPP), also known as the Remain in Mexico policy, have caused a lot of suffering for many migrants seeking asylum at the border. Sent back to the  Mexico side of the border to await their immigration court proceedings, they are exposed to the dangers of many Mexican border towns, such as kidnappings, violence, and abuse. The added difficulty of finding legal representation (from an attorney who practices in the US) makes it nearly impossible to prepare for one’s immigration hearing, significantly diminshing the chances of a successful asylum process. Biden sought to end this harmful policy at the start of his administration, but some states have filed suit in federal district courts to stop Biden from ending MPP. In June, the Supreme Court of the US ruled that Biden had indeed acted within the law when he initiated the process of ending MPP.  But that ruling only sends it back to lower courts to hash out again.  Supporting Risch and Portman’s efforts to restart the Remain in Mexico program would mean going against the Supreme Court’s decision and continuing to send more asylum seekers into misery.

  1. Minimum staffing levels for ERO and Border Patrol

The Risch-Portman Bill seeks to introduce minimum staffing levels for both the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO, at least 10,000 full-time employees) and U.S. Border Patrol (BP, at least 25,000 active agents), increasing the current number of employees at ERO by 1,400 and the number of BP agents by 5,260. Both agencies have not shown any need for additional staff, and the expensive and complicated hiring and training process would take crucial financial resources from training for the existing staff and other immigration agencies. Additionally, increasing the number of BP agents in action and expanding the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations would send a clear message to migrants and asylum seekers that overall border enforcement is increasing and that immigration agencies are making great efforts to make crossing the border a more difficult and dangerous process.

  1. Expand the use of detention

The Bill is attempting to push the Department of Homeland Security to increase the number of detention facilities maintained in order to comply with what Risch and Portman call “mandatory detention” as part of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA). Not only is this legally problematic, as the INA clearly states that detention is not mandatory, but simply a measure that the DHS is authorized to make use of while an asylum seeker is awaiting results for their credible fear interview or further processing of their asylum case. Making detention mandatory for every single individual arriving at the U.S. border would clearly violate international standards and basic human rights. The bill would also lead to further harm and unnecessary traumatizing of migrants who have already had to experience severe physical and often mental trauma, as it would separate them from families and communities, make it more difficult to obtain legal representation for their immigration hearings, and expose them to abuse and deficient conditions in ICE detention centers.

As Human Rights First concludes in a collective statement on the Risch-Portman Bill, “if the bill passes, it will mark a significant step toward the end of asylum in the United States and will increase the suffering of people seeking safety. This bill marks a legislative codification of cruelty and punishment as the United States’ primary response to refugees trying to access asylum protections at our borders”. 

Passing the bill would mean nullifying nearly all of the Biden-administration’s efforts over the last two years to restore asylum in the U.S., sending us back in time. This is not only about keeping the xenophobic, inhumane border policies in place, it is also and promoting unjust prejudices towards migrants and asylum seekers and further shifting our society towards an anti-immigrant mindset, while actively putting human lives at risk and preventing many adults, children and families from seeking safety.

Sources: Human Rights First,


Most of our reports and concerns revolve around the U.S. immigration system and border enforcement, but there is, quite literally, another side to this issue. As the United States has continued to restrict access to asylum, Mexico has been following its northern neighbor’s trend of increasing immigration enforcement and securing the border. Here’s what you need to know about immigration enforcement in Mexico:

Apprehensions of Migrants at the Mexican Border

Like the United States, Mexico has encountered an increasing number of migrants, often families and unaccompanied minors and primarily from the “Northern Triangle” in Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras), at their borders. In 2021, Mexico apprehended over 307,000 migrants, the highest number ever recorded. Just 10 years ago, only a few thousand applied for refugee status in Mexico; last year it was 130,863 people, the third-highest number in the world. In May of 2022 alone, Mexican authorities apprehended 32,948 migrants at their borders.

Most asylum seekers enter Mexico undocumented, and they are often Black, Brown and Indigenous people from Central America (migrants from the Northern Triangle region often make up 80% or more of Mexico’s migrants apprehensions) or the Caribbean. When arriving at the border near the city of Tapachula, Chiapas - the most used port of entry - and asking for protection, many are turned away by INM (National Migration Institute) agents or the National Guard and either sent back immediately or have to wait several months for their asylum applications to be processed.

Military and Other Enforcement at the Mexican Border

Since immigration through Mexico increased severely in 2014 and the following years, with the help of the United States, Mexico has extended security of its border as well as the use of surveillance technologies, especially along its borders with Guatemala and Belize. The National Migration Institute (INM) has increased operations along train routes and bus stations and has created mobile highway checkpoints.

In early 2019, less than a year after López Obrador took office, the Mexican president followed a more harsh approach to migration, and similarly to the United States, migrants have taken on more dangerous routes and have increasingly had to rely on smugglers and drug cartels when crossing the border. Since January 2022, Mexico has imposed new visa requirements for people coming from Brazil, Ecuador, and Venezuela, which has resulted in a spike in transit through the dangerous, roadless Darien Gap jungle region because the visa restrictions have limited many in taking safer routes to seek protection in the United States.

Corruption and impunity within INM have made migrants crossing the borders into Mexico subject to crime and other abuses. As hundreds of thousands of migrants have been sent back to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) in the last two years and have been  forced to await their asylum hearings in shelters in dangerous border towns, human rights organizations have reported at least 1,300 cases of murder, rape, kidnapping, torture or assault as of January 2021. 

As the National Guard, Mexico’s armed forces, is now accounting for more migrant detentions than immigration agencies, Mexico’s immigration enforcement is becoming increasingly militarized. In August 2021, Mexican Defense Secretary Sandoval stated that the main objective for the National Guard was to “stop all migration and cover the northern and southern border with soldiers.” Especially along the southern Mexico-border, enforcement has been on the rise, and migrants coming from the Northern Triangle, South America, Haiti, and other countries have had to face racial profiling, abuse and inhumane conditions. Those who cross the southern border, escaping violence and persecution in their home countries, are often forced to wait for months, even years for processing to travel further north while struggling to find work or housing. 

Mexican Funding of Border Security

After a meeting between President López Obrador and President Joe Biden, Mexico announced earlier this month it would spend $1.5 billion between 2022-2024 on border infrastructure at its northern border with the U.S., primarily focusing on upgrading the smart border technology and extending the ports of entry. What is supposed to be a refreshing of the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico and a joint commitment on addressing the root causes of migration and tackling immigration in both countries will only further contribute to the U.S. “prevention through deterrence” strategy and–rather than decreasing the number of border encounters–make it harder and more dangerous for migrants to cross the border. Moreover, many human rights organizations are concerned that this agreement for Mexico to invest $1.5 billion into enforcing the U.S.-Mexico border is more of a political stunt than a solution-based approach to the immigration crisis both countries are facing. During his time in office, former president Trump said: “We’re going to build a big, beautiful wall, and Mexico is going to pay for it,” yet Mexico never invested any money into the construction of the border wall. Democrats have long used this fact against him in their campaigns, and now experts are saying that this is just the Biden administration’s way of showing that what Trump couldn’t achieve over four years–for Mexico to pay for the wall– Biden achieved in less than two years.

Whether that is the reason behind this agreement or not, it shows once again that immigration has become more and more a political issue and an instrument for election campaigns and empty promises, rather than a humanitarian issue.

Mexico Operated Removal Flights

For over two years now, the U.S. has been pushing back migrants, primarily Haitians, at the border without due process under Title 42 and sending them back to their home countries on so-called removal flights. Since May 2021, Witness at the Border has been tracking additional removal flights, operated by Mexico (Magnicharter), and the quantity has been increasing ever since. In June 2022, there were 41 Mexico operated removal flights in total, the highest number since May 2021. The flights went to Honduras (15), Guatemala (14), Nicaragua (5), Cuba (4), Ecuador (2), and Peru (1). Besides these out of country flights, there have also been internal deportation flights reported, moving migrants between different points of entry and states within Mexico. Most flights went to Tapachula, which is also where most international flights depart from, suggesting that migrants have been moved from Northern Mexico to Tapachula to be removed to their home country from there.

Between May 2021 and June 2022, 477 Magnicharter removal flights have been reported, with 416 of them going to Honduras, Guatemala, or Tapachula. 

Mexico is also “returning” migrants by land to Guatemala.  (They don’t have to be Guatemalan citizens; often Mexico is removing Hondurans or other Central Americans to Guatemala as well, leaving it up to them how to return back home from there). In May 2022, at least 2,953 Hondurans and 3,400 Guatemalans were sent to Guatemala by land, which usually means that they were put on a bus somewhere in Mexico to be driven over the border.

In the fall of last year, Mexican immigration authorities announced the start of voluntary “humanitarian return flights” for Haitians who wish to return to their home country. However, there have been many concerns as to how voluntary and humane these return flights really are, since Haiti is experiencing a severe political and humanitarian crisis and many migrants have been turned down by Mexican and U.S. authorities when asking for protection. It is hard to believe that anyone would return to Haiti voluntarily, and there have been documented cases of Mexican immigration agents pressuring migrants into signing papers to be “voluntarily” returned.

It is important to look at and repeatedly question U.S. immigration policies and border enforcement. While policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and Title 42 are greatly responsible for the rising numbers of migrants who find themselves stuck in desperate situations along the northern and southern Mexico border, the government of Mexico is also playing a bigger role in the suffering of migrants. The Mexican government’s contributions to the enforcement of the U.S.-Mexico border and their wide use of National Guard soldiers along their borders play their own part in the misery that many migrants and asylum seekers have to endure while traveling north in search of refuge. Mexico’s role should not be overlooked.

Sources: Heritage, Witness At the Border, Congressional Research Service, Human Rights Watch, WOLA


This is a space where we share current incidents from the 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.

June 30, Laredo: A Border Patrol-involved vehicle pursuit on Interstate Highway 35, reaching speeds of 90-100 miles per hour, ended in a crash that killed four of seven migrants aboard a Jeep Wrangler in Encinal, Texas. The deceased were male citizens of Mexico and Guatemala. “This incident is being investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety and reviewed by CBP’s OPR [Office of Professional Responsibility],” CBP reported. “The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General was notified of the incident.”

June 23, Tucson: Though a May 23, 2022 District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruling prohibited CBP personnel from using Title 42 to expel asylum-seeking families to places where they will be persecuted or tortured, the practice continues, the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reports:

* Pablo [name changed to protect privacy], a Nicaraguan man traveling with his daughter to escape political persecution in their country, crossed into the US last week to seek asylum. Border Patrol threw away their toiletries, food and other personal items, and expelled them to Nogales, Sonora without a fear assessment. Pablo was not given the chance to speak about his case to anyone. 

* Several young mothers and their children from an indigenous community in Guatemala tried to cross into the US to seek asylum earlier this month. All of them spoke Mam, their indigenous language, and some spoke limited Spanish. They were detained in the desert, where Border Patrol agents confiscated their personal items like clothing and medication. When they told a Border Patrol agent that they wanted to seek asylum, the agent dismissed them and ignored their request, saying “Ustedes sabrán qué hacer” [“you’ll know what to do”].  Border Patrol told one of the women from the group that the border was closed and she would need to seek asylum in Mexico. When she shared about the violence she suffered in Guatemala, the agent would not believe her. Another woman from the group was so disoriented by the expulsion process and language barrier that when she arrived at Kino, she asked the staff whether she was in Mexico or the US.

* Yanet, [name changed to protect privacy], a Honduran woman fleeing death threats from organized crime groups because she refused to sell drugs for them, traveled north to seek asylum in the US. Despite the fact that she suffered multiple incidents of rape and assault at the hands of her smugglers, Border Patrol quickly expelled her back to Mexico.

Sources: WOLA Border Oversight

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

The Deadly Connections between Climate Change and Migration

The Clock Ticks Down on Immigration Deal That Could Help Rein in Food Inflation


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:

End Title 42

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. Tell Congress: Defend the right to asylum!


Shut Down ICE Detention

ICE detention is known for abuse, pervasive medical neglect, and complete disregard for the dignity of people in its custody. The Biden administration has not only failed to put an end to this harm - it has expanded on it by awarding new contracts. Tell the Department of Homeland Security to end its misguided pursuit of new detention contracts and close existing detention facilities!


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Thursday, July 14, 2022