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Migrant Justice Newsletter and Urgent Actions: May 2022

Migrant Justice Newsletter - May 16 and May 31, 2022

Welcome to IRTF’s May 16, 2022 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border! 

This month we’re starting a new layout, splitting the newsletter in two, so that you will get shorter updates every two weeks instead of a long newsletter once a month!

Detentions, Deportations, Debates - those three words round up the current political situation around immigration policies and the border pretty accurately. Migrants are being arrested and detained by ICE in cooperation with local law enforcement officers, they are still being deported and expelled in high numbers on grounds of racist policies like Title 42, and Republican and Democratic senators are discussing and debating on whether to keep these policies in place, or finally initiate the long-overdue reform of the U.S. immigration system. Once again, politicians are passionately defending their opinions, which mostly revolve around what is best for them and their legislative power, and not for the people who have to face these policies and return to dangerous environments because of them. Let us give you an overview of recent updates on U.S. immigration and what has been happening at the southern border!

In this newsletter, please read about

- Expelling Migrants in the Name of Health Measures: Amidst Discussions About the End of Title 42, Hundreds of Migrants Are Still Being Put on Removal Flights

- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): How the 287 (g) Agreement Allows for Racist Local Enforcement

- At The Border: Latest incidents at and around the U.S.-Mexico Border

- Take Action: Tell the Biden Administration to End 287 (g) Now!



On April 1, the Biden Administration announced that it will end the use of Title 42, an 1893 public health proclamation reinstated by Trump as a racist expulsion policy. With its end expected to be May 23, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was preparing for an influx in border crossings, as migrants—especially those from Haiti who have in the past months been repeatedly pushed back at the border and expelled on grounds of Title 42— were getting hopeful to finally be able to enter the U.S. But since that first day of April, Biden’s plans to end Title 42 in what should have been just about a week from now have been challenged repeatedly.

The three Republican-led states of Arizona, Missouri and Louisiana filed a joint lawsuit against the end of Title 42, and they did so in the Western District of Louisiana, hundreds of miles away from the border where it was likely that a judge appointed by the Trump Administration would be assigned the case. That person is U.S. District Judge Robert Sommerhays, who already stated that he is likely to rule in favor of the three states that initiated the lawsuit, as well as the about 20 states that joined their complaint over the course of last month, even though the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated several times that there are no public health reasons justifying to keep the proclamation in place.

And while the discussions about ending Title 42 in the Senate are flourishing, hundreds of people are still being “removed” from the US each month by expulsion under the health proclamation. Some are lauding the decrease in deportations over the past year. But too often overlooked is the persistent increase in the number of Title 42 expulsions, even now that the end of the regulation has been announced.

Removal Flights: Expulsion Flights, Deportation Flights

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 a total of 8,249 ICE air flights since Biden’s inauguration a little over a year ago, of which 1,455 were removal flights 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 enclose that information), it is striking that countries accepting Title 42 flights made up almost 90% of all removal flights in April. In April 2022, there were a total of 632 ICE air flights (114 of those being removal and 408 being flights that shuffle immigrants around from one detention center to another within the US), up 36% from April 2021. 

As we were able to see a significant increase in encounters of Colombians at the southern border from 3,911 in January of this year to 15,144 in March, expulsion flights to Colombia almost doubled in April, from 10 in March to 18 in April. This means that there was a removal flight to Colombia almost every weekday. And since we can anticipate about 100 people per flight, this means that about 1,800 people were removed to Colombia just in the past month, only a small fraction of the total encounters of Colombians at the border but still a significant one, since every person pushed back into a country of oppression and persecution is one too many. 

The number of flights to Haiti also increased significantly, from 10 in March to 16 in April, pushing the number of people returned to Haiti, a country with seriously declining conditions, via 191 ICE air flights to almost 20,000 in the last 7 months.

While most removal flights (31) still go to Honduras, there has been a slight decrease in the number of ICE air flights to Guatemala (27), Honduras, El Salvador (8), Mexico (6), and Brazil (2). In March there were 41 removal flights from the US to Guatemala. In April, that number was down to 27. Why the significant decrease? The decrease in Guatemala is partially due to a pause in flights accepted during Holy Week as well as fewer weekdays in April than in March. Also noteworthy is that the persistent trend of increasing Title 42 removal flights seems to have toned down over the past few weeks. Other, less significant removal destinations from the US in April included the Dominican Republic (2), Nicaragua (2), Jamaica (1), and Ecuador (1).

But the US is not the only country expelling migrants to Latin America. The government of Mexico runs its own expulsion flights to several countries: Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Ecuador. The number of expulsion flights from Mexico doubled from December 2021 (10) to January 2022 (22). Mexico now averages 30 expulsion flights per month. Many of these flights result from chain expulsion, i.e., the US expels foreign nationals to Mexico, then Mexico expels them to their country of origin. The 30 expulsion flights that Mexico operates each month might appear to be a small number, but they play a significant part in the racist expulsion policy of the US. 

With a judge’s decision on Title 42 expected later this week, the Biden Administration, some Democrats, but most of all those who are fleeing their home countries because of serious safety concerns, are waiting anxiously to see if Title 42 will end on May 23. It does not look like it will. And this is not a first. Since his inauguration, Biden has struggled to end a number of xenophobic immigration restrictions and policies, mostly because Republican-led and Trump-supported states have dragged many of those efforts to court, deliberately steering cases to districts with federal judges appointed by Trump to ensure the judges’ sympathy. It is likely that the end of Title 42 will not be an exception to this rule. Despite a lack of justifiable reasons to keep the policy in place and serious concerns about the racist use of Title 42, it looks like migrants at the US southern border will continue to be forcibly expelled back to countries where fear and danger await them, at least for the near future.

Sources: Witness At The Border (Death Flights Report), Morning in America, NPR


As part of the 1996 Immigration and Nationality Act, the 287 (g) agreement allows local law enforcement agencies, like sheriffs and police chiefs, to act as immigration officers by carrying out certain duties normally reserved for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Depending on the agreement, local officers gain authority to investigate a person’s immigation status or hold, refer, and transfer people to ICE detention facilities. As simple as this program sounds on paper, it has a tremendous impact on the lives of people without permanent residence living in areas where such an agreement was made. It means that even the smallest interactions with local police forces can lead to detention or even deportation. For some, the 287 (g) agreement grants authority and more power to perform certain law enforcement activities. For others, it can be a matter of life and death.

As of April 2022, there are 142 state and local law enforcement agencies spread over 24 states that have a running 287 (g) agreement with ICE. Most of these are sheriff partners and are located in Florida (49 out of 142) or Texas (26). 

Currently, there are two types of 287 (g) agreements. With the Warrant Service Officer (WSO) model, ICE trains and authorizes certain local law enforcement officers with local tax money in their ICE academy in South Carolina to execute ICE administrative warrants, allowing these officers to act as immigration officers within the law enforcement agency’s correctional facilities and perform actions that normally only ICE agents have authority to perform. 

The other 287 (g) agreement is the Jail Enforcement model, which allows officers to interrogate suspected noncitizens regarding their immigration status and hold those thought to be subject for removal to be referred to ICE detention. What this means, is that local enforcement officers are authorized to ask anyone they “suspect” to be a noncitizen about their legal status and arrest them to be processed for deportation. This is a practice usually reserved for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ICE officers, and it will lead to more local arrests and deportations of people who might have only run a red light, or simply “looked suspicious.” The more migrants without legal status local sheriffs can identify, the more they can arrest and be paid to send them into ICE detention, and eventually deportation.

And here is the problem: 59% of participating sheriffs have records of making anti-immigrant statements in their role as sheriff, claiming for example that migrants are a threat to public safety. Now, if these sheriff offices are given authority to ask anyone for their immigration status or even arrest and detain them, the threshold for law enforcement officers to abuse their power to intentionally harm and detain immigrants suddenly is very low, and they become a serious threat to anyone with an unresolved or unapproved immigration status. As a result, the local law enforcement turns into the enemy for many, and undocumented people have to fear being detained and deported for any minor wrongdoing and are often even scared to report on crimes where they were the victim, not wanting to be investigated for their immigration status.

This is not how it should be. People shouldn’t have to worry about encountering law enforcement and being separated from their families and detained for things as little as fishing without a license or not signaling a turn.

Despite promising to end them, the Biden Administration has continued many of those partnerships with sheriffs who entered into 287 (g) agreements under Trump, continuing to allow for xenophobia and racism in local law enforcement. As long as these agreements are continued, racial profiling will be a serious issue. The result will be more arrests of Latinx people and other marginalized groups, contributing to family separation with children left behind, higher detention and deportation numbers. All of this will only widen the gap between white US citizens and people seeking safety in this country and trying to build a better life.

Sources: ACLU, Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), American Immigration Council 



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.

May 3, 2022, Rio Grande Valley: Activist Scott Nicol reported finding a Nicaraguan birth certificate, a cell phone, and a child’s stuffed animal beside the border wall in Hidalgo, Texas. The items, discarded by Border Patrol agents, were the personal belongings of asylum-seeking migrants who regularly turn themselves in at this site.That day, the Border Chronicle featured Nicol’s documentation of items he has recovered near the wall in south Texas. “What really got to me were the x-rays I found. They were for a six-year-old boy, and it showed a steel rod in his spine. It was obviously for an asylum claim. Why would anyone part with those?”

April 10, 2022, Tucson: The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) staff received reports that Border Patrol expelled dozens of migrants over these last few days at around 2AM. Despite the fact that local CBP officials assured KBI staff that they would not expel women, minors or other groups that would be particularly at risk during the night, the group expelled on Sunday at 1AM included both women and minors.

Sources: WOLA Border Oversight

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

Read this report on how the 287 (g) Agreements empowers Racism 

The crisis in Haiti: The United States continues to block reform and the passage of people fleeing


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 stand in solidarity with migrants and their families:

End ICE’s racist 287 (g) program

Across the country, local law enforcement – primarily sheriffs – are being empowered to harass immigrant communities through ICE’s 287(g) program. We must put a stop to this racist program once and for all: Tell the Biden Administration to end 287(g) now by sending a pre-written message!


Migrant Justice Newsletter - May 31

Welcome to IRTF’s May 31, 2022 newsletter on migrant justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border! 

There is just no end in sight for refugees from Central America, and more than ever from other parts around the world, when it comes to the terrors of U.S. immigration and border enforcement. As the Biden administration is coming close to its 2 millionth expulsion under Title 42 at the end of May, a judge has ruled to keep the “health” proclamation in place for now, further enabling dangerous expulsions and family separations at the border. For those who do make it across to the U.S. and are facing asylum proceedings in immigration court, access to legal representation has become a more challenging issue, despite it being one of the main factors deciding an asylum case’s outcome. Let us give you an overview of recent updates on U.S. immigration and what has been happening at the southern border!

In this newsletter, please read about

- Expelling Migrants in the Name of Health Measures: These are the Consequences of Keeping Title 42 in Place

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

- Announcement: IRTF Border Focus Month June 2022

- Take Action: End Title 42 and Stop Dangerous Expulsions Now!


Amnesty International

In June 2021, Amnesty International published information about the forcible returns of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children into harm’s way as a result of policies like Title 42. From March to November 2020, the Department of Homeland Security apprehended and summarily expelled at least 13,000 unaccompanied migrant children based on Title 42. In mid-November 2020, a federal court temporarily ordered the US government to stop deporting children under Title 42; and in late January 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order to continue to exempt unaccompanied children from Title 42. 

These exemptions have led to mass separations of families, as parents make the impossible choice of sending their children to the US as unaccompanied children while parents stay behind in Mexico, where they face serious danger. 

WOLA: Washington Office on Latin America

1. The number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border each month is now very unlikely to decline. It will remain near historic highs

Despite its harsh impact on asylum seekers, Title 42 has done nothing to limit overall migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact, this migration is near record highs, and keeping Title 42 in place is likely to keep the numbers high for some time.

2. Protection-seeking migrants will continue to be forced either to cross improperly, or to wait for many more months in dangerous Mexican border cities

U.S. law clearly states that anyone who fears return to their country may ask for asylum once they are on U.S. soil. An asylum seeker may ask for asylum whether they arrived legally, approaching a port of entry, or whether they crossed between the ports of entry, which is a misdemeanor.  Title 42 has now closed the ports of entry to asylum seekers for more than 26 months. This has created an incentive for tens of thousands of asylum seekers each month to turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents in dangerous ways, like climbing the border fence or crossing the Rio Grande.

3. More migrants will come from “difficult-to-expel” countries, leaving Title 42 applied to only a minority of migrants

99 percent of the time, Title 42 gets applied to citizens of four countries. These are the countries whose citizens Mexico allows to be expelled over the land border into its territory: Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. (In early May, Mexico agreed to take a limited number of Cuban and Nicaraguan citizens as well.) If a migrant is from a country other than Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, or Haiti, they face little likelihood of expulsion. Instead, they get processed under normal immigration law.

Separation of Families 

During fiscal year 2021, Border Patrol processed 12,212 unaccompanied children whom it had already processed and expelled, usually as members of family units.

About 33 times per day in 2021, then, an expelled family in Mexico appears to have “self-separated.” Parents made the wrenching choice to send their children back, unaccompanied, across the border, where they might be safer. The U.S. government stopped using Title 42 to expel families after a Washington, DC district court judge halted the practice in November 2020. Expulsions of families have continued at a robust rate, though, creating a perverse incentive for “self-separations.” 

Source: Washington Office on Latin America (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.

May 14, 2022, El Paso: Two CBP officers fired gunshots at a vehicle during a southbound traffic inspection at the Bridge of the Americas port of entry in El Paso, Texas. “While attempting to inspect a vehicle, a driver made an abrupt movement, at which point the officers perceived a threat to themselves and fired at the driver who fled from the inspection area at a high rate of speed and crossed into Mexico,” a CBP spokesperson e-mailed the El Paso Times. Mexican authorities later found the vehicle in Ciudad Juárez. The incident is under investigation by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

May 13, 2022, Del Rio: A Los Angeles Times investigation found that Border Patrol and local law enforcement agencies in the vicinity of Eagle Pass, Texas, are working at times alongside “Patriots for America,” an armed conservative Christian citizen militia that the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas accuses of espousing White supremacist beliefs. A Times reporter witnessed militia members intercepting and interviewing migrant children in the field as Border Patrol agents looked on.

Sources: WOLA Border Oversight


Join us for a month filled with events and learning opportunities!

In the midst of a public health crisis, the ongoing war in Eastern Europe, and a spike in racism and xenophobia in our society, migrant justice has become more important than ever. That is why we at the InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF), together with other migrant support groups in Cleveland and Ohio, have decided to dedicate the whole month of June 2022 to migrant justice, immigration enforcement in Ohio, and border issues. Throughout the next four weeks, we will be advocating and educating around numerous migration issues and policies to raise awareness about the U.S.'s harmful immigration system and show our solidarity with those who are affected by it!

Participate in our events!

We will be hosting several events through the month of June, including two webinars, letter writing events to people in detention, and more! Visit our website for more information.

Follow Us on Social Media!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook so you don't miss out on announcements and infoposts! 

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


Since Biden’s announcement to end Title 42, many politicians have made great efforts to prevent the government from terminating the use of this xenophobic policy that enables more expulsions than ever. We must take action: Tell Congress to oppose any interference with CDC’s decision to end the racist, anti-immigrant Title 42 policy!


Monday, May 16, 2022