Migrant Justice Newsletter and Urgent Actions - October 2022
Welcome to IRTF’s October 2022 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border!
As we have seen over the past couple months already, numbers in Venezuelan and Cuban migrants have skyrocketed, and Venezuelans now rank #1 in the number of deportation proceedings filed in Ohio. In light of this new wave of migrants arriving at the southern U.S. border, the Biden Administration has urged Mexico to take in more migrants, while upholding xenophobic border policies and allowing for continued incidents of abuse, persecution and torture along the Mexican side of the border. Just as things seem to be moving in the right direction, it once again becomes clear that there are many legal gaps and tricks embracing a migrant’s state of uncertainty while, at the same time on paper, working to lift some barriers to the asylum process (e.g., Remain in Mexico, aka MPP).
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: Venezuelans Rank #1 in Deportation Proceedings Filed Nationwide; Guatemalans still #1 in Cleveland
- Migrant Protection Protocols: Despite the Termination of MPP, Migrants Are Still Told to Wait Indefinitely in Mexico
- Title 42: Expelling Migrants in the Name of Health Measures: Biden Urges Mexico to Take Migrants under COVID Expulsion Order He Promised to End
- At The Border: Recent Incidents at and around the US-Mexico Border
After reading the articles, please take a few moments to advocate for migrant justice with our TAKE ACTION items (listed at the bottom of this newsletter).
1- Protect DACA Recipients
2- Extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaragua, Nepal, El Salvador and Honduras
3- National Petition Regarding the Unlawful Movement of Migrants
Immigration Court in Cleveland, OH: Venezuelans still Rank #1 in Deportation Proceedings Filed Nationwide
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 12,195 cases filed. This is an increase of 913 more cases compared to last month. Currently, Ohio holds onto 19th place nationwide in the number of deportation proceedings filed. When it comes to the number of people ordered deported, Ohio even ranks #9 nationwide; 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).
Venezuelans are again Ranking #1 in deportation proceedings filed nationwide with 112,778 cases filed. That is more than 4 times as many as 2021 (24,184) and 8.5 times as much as 2020 (13,252). A similar development can be seen in Ohio where Venezuelans Rank #2 after Guatemalans. Through September 2022, 1,575 cases were filed against Venezuelans, over 5 times as many as in 2021 (276) and a harrowing 10.5 times more than 2020 (150).
Cleveland EOIR - Deportation Proceedings Filed
Out of the 865,825 deportation proceedings filed nationwide, 12,195 have been filed at the immigration court in Cleveland through September, putting Ohio in 19th place of the most cases filed by state throughout the country. This is more than three times the number of deportation proceedings filed last FY. Most of the deportation proceedings filed in September in Cleveland have been for Guatemalans, Venezuelans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans.
This rapid rise is a clear sign that Biden’s election promise to introduce more immigrant friendly policies was an empty promise. Through his two years in office 1,180,163 new cases have been filed, just 298,629 cases shy of the total cases filed under the Trump administration (1,478,792), and almost double the number of cases filed in Trump's first year (607,666) in office. We have to raise the pressure to bring attention to this alarming development.
SEPTEMBER 2022 (most recent data available)
New deportation proceedings filed (Oct 2021 - Sept 2022)
New cases filed this month in Cleveland
Besides the 12,195 new deportation proceedings filed in the Cleveland EOIR since October 2021, there were 403 new deportations ordered from the Cleveland immigration court in September, 47 more than in August. This increases the total number of people ordered deported from Cleveland to 3,517 in FY22, of which 1,207 are Guatemalans and 768 are Hondurans.
Deportations ordered (Oct 2021 - Sept 2022)
New deporations ordered this month from Cleveland
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 Central Americans 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.
Deportations Ordered for Minors from Cleveland EOIR
Children ordered deported (Cleveland EOIR Juvenile Court docket) were 190 through the month of September, 15 more compared to August. Most of the children being ordered deported are from Guatemala (97). Others are Honduran (73), Mexicans (9), Salvadorans (8), Chinese (2) and Brazilian (1).
Source: TRAC at Syracuse University (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse)
Migrant Protection Protocols: Despite the Termination of MPP, Migrants Are Still Told to Wait Indefinitely in Mexico
The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also called “Remain in Mexico”, is a Trump-era border policy that forces migrants who were processed under it to leave the United States after arriving at a port of entry and await their immigration court hearings in northern Mexico. There in the dangerous border towns, 41% of migrants (1,109 people) have been subject to physical and sexual abuse, kidnapping, and even death threats between January and August 2022 alone. Many have not been able to appear at a designated port of entry in time for their hearing date or to find adequate legal representation which – as mentioned in previous migrant justice newsletters -- increases a migrants´ chances of a successful asylum process greatly. For thousands of migrants, being processed under MPP and sent back to Mexico was the end of any kind of hope for a positive outcome in their efforts to seek protection in the U.S. The Biden Administration had previously made efforts to end this xenophobic border policy but was stopped by lawsuits from several states such as Texas.
In early August of 2022, the Northern District of Texas lifted its injunction that required the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reimplement the Migrant Protection Protocols. With that, the DHS began the termination process of the MPP program. The Biden Administration has stopped enrolling new people into MPP, but many immigration lawyers and human rights organizations, such as the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) have raised concerns about the unclear disenrollment process and the treatment of those currently enrolled in the Remain in Mexico program. It is even uncertain whether migrants who are disenrolled from MPP will be able to enter the United States and seek asylum.
Currently, people can only be disenrolled from MPP if they…
1. Appear for their next immigration court hearing and are then released into the United States for further processing
2. Are able to prove a significant vulnerability or change of circumstances, in which case they may apply for disenrollment from MPP online and have to await approval.
As imaginable, both scenarios leave a lot of room for violations of the protocol and targeted refusals:
1. A migrant's next court date can be weeks, or even months away, and until then they will continue to be exposed to the dangers of many northern Mexican border towns, unprotected and often unsheltered.
Additionally, migrants who are navigating their asylum case on their own because they haven’t been able to obtain proper legal representation, will have to continue to do so at least until their next hearing date since they are not allowed into the United States any earlier than that day, making it nearly impossible to find a legal representative from their position. As access to counsel in immigration court is a due process and has an immense impact on an asylum applicant’s outcome, this delayed disenrollment allows for many more unjust removal orders for those who are still waiting in Mexico for their next court date.
2. As we have seen with migrants being processed and removed under Title 42 and denied their credible fear interviews and right to seek asylum upon entering the United States, many migrants who are able to prove increased vulnerability or exposure to dangers in Mexico or the country they might be sent back to are not given due process and are told by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that the evidence for their fears is insufficient. There is very little oversight on this evaluation process, and people are often subject to an agent’s personal opinion or perception.
While the termination of the Migrant Protection Protocols and the gradual disenrollment process is a step in the right direction and brings the Biden Administration closer to their promises on ending Trump-era border policies, thousands of migrants are still left in a state of limbo. They will have to endure violence and abuse in northern Mexico at least until their next immigration court hearing, which could still be months away. And since they have little to no access to legal representation and a thorough preparation of their case until then, many migrants will likely face removal proceedings or even be deported after being released from MPP. As much as we like to see this development as a positive breakthrough, the indemnification of due process is questionable and people are still living in fear and uncertainty.
Sources: WOLA, Reuters, National Immigration Law Center
Title 42: Expelling Migrants in the Name of Health Measures; Biden Urges Mexico to Take Migrants Under COVID Expulsion Order He Promised to End
Even after fighting to end Title 42, the Biden Administration is urging the Mexican government to accept more migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela under the COVID-19 expulsion order. There have been concerns raised by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the escalating number of crossings by migrants but Mexico has not yet promised any specific actions. Mexico already accepts US returns from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
The end of the anti-immigrant policy Title 42, a public health proclamation first implemented by the previous president 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. Over the last 12 months, there have been 7,783 ICE Air flights compared to 4,845 in 2020 and 1,528 removal flights in the past 12 months. With an estimated average of 100 passengers per flight, this means that over the past 12 months, as many as 152,800 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. Furthermore, 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, Lateral Flights, Domestic Shuffles:
82% of all removal flights are to El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia
In September 2022, there were 641 ICE Air flights, utilizing 28 different planes operated by the charter carriers iAero aka Swift, World Atlantic, GlobalX, and Gryphon Air. This number is down 45 from August and is below the average of the prior 6 months.
The decrease of 45 flights (compared to August) can be attributed to the decrease in the removal, connection, and return flights, which offset the increase in domestic flights of 14.
Removal flights, meaning flights transporting people internationally and returning them to their home countries, are lower in September (107) than they were in August (140) , while domestic shuffle flights in September were 437.
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. Flights to Guatemala (25), Honduras (28), and El Salvador (13) comprised 62% of all removal flights in September 2022, and with Colombia (22) they make up 82% of all removal flights.
To Honduras, flights decreased slightly from 32 (August) to 28 (September), the lowest month since January 2022 at 27. Over the last 3 months encounters of Hondurans dropped significantly from 24,192 in June to 16,083 in August as flights decreased by 11 to 28 in September.
Combined with the 11 Mexican Government deportation flights, Honduras received 39 return flights in September, down from 42 in August, returning an estimated 4,000 citizens by air.
ICE Air flights to Guatemala decreased by 4 for a total of 24 in September. This is the lowest number of ICE Air flights to Guatemala since January of 2022 when there were 23 removal flights. The US returned 148 fewer people by air in September at 2,696. September returns by air were down dramatically from June at 5,350 (down by 2,654, or 50%), reflecting flights falling from 44 in June to 25 in September.
With the 7 Mexican government deportation flights to Guatemala added to the ICE flights, Guatemala received 32 flights, returning around 3,400 citizens by air. With the additional 2,789 Guatemalans returned by land by Mexico, about 6,189 Guatemalans were returned to Guatemala by the US and Mexico in July.
Flights to El Salvador decreased from 32 (August) to 13 (September), ranking third highest in removal destination cities. In August, 24 of the 32 flights were coupled with returns to other countries (23 Colombia and 1 Ecuador), leaving only 8 flights just to El Salvador. In September, 5 of the 13 flights were coupled with other flights (3 Colombia and 2 Ecuador), leaving again only 8 flights to just El Salvador.
Colombia: flights decreased from 23 to 22, still pacing at about one flight everyday. With the coupling of flights to El Salvador, it is likely that more people have been returned, perhaps 400-700.
Peru: With Peru now accepting Title 42 flights, they received 5 flights in September. Peru is categorized in the “other” category so we can not know actual encounters at the US southern border. However, the country ranks 5th in destinations for removal flights.
Brazil: flights decreased from 10 in August to 2 in September. There was an unusual, aborted removal flight which would have made 3 in September.
Haiti: flights dropped to just 1 in September from 3 in August. We are now a year past the violence by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) against Haitian migrants at the Del Rio border. Since 19 September 2021 there have been 240 flights to Haiti, removing about 24,622 Haitians; since the inauguration of President Biden, there have been 277 flights removing 26,721, or 1 in every 425 people in Haiti.
Other destinations for ICE Air flights this month were:
Dominican Republic (2 - one flight coupled with Haiti)
Ecuador (3 - all coupled flights)
Sources: Witness At the Border, Reuters
At the Border: Recent Incidents at and around the US-Mexico 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.
September 1, San Diego: “The Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector has a new challenge coin that features concertina wire around the Border Patrol’s badge,” wrote Pedro Rios, of the American Friends Service Committee’s U.S.-Mexico Border Program, at the San Diego Union-Tribune. “In its description on its website, it says the concertina wire symbolizes ‘a new way of thinking about border security in San Diego.’” Rios added, “That the Border Patrol would promote coils of razor-sharp wires made for a battlefield as its emblem to display its philosophy is concerning.”
On September 3, CBP removed the challenge coin from its website. “That challenge coin is not in keeping with the agency’s mission and values, and we are reviewing the process by which it was produced and displayed on our website,” read a statement from CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus.”
Late August, Tucson: The Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative reported a case of Border Patrol agents’ non-return and destruction of a Mexican migrant’s belongings and identification documents. “When BP apprehended Samuel [name changed to protect privacy], agents confiscated all his belongings. They took his phone and removed the SIM card and pocketed it, took his wallet that had $300 in it and removed the credit cards and pocketed them as well. They ripped up his birth certificate in front of him.The agents were speaking in English amongst themselves, so he couldn’t understand what they were saying. He was only able to save his Mexican ID because he had previously hid it in his shoe.”
Source: WOLA Border Oversight
Want to find out more about the conditions at the southern US border?In Record Numbers, Venezuelans Risk a Deadly Trek to Reach the U.S. Border NILC Statement on Fifth Circuit Decision in Texas v. United States
TAKE ACTION NOW
Now that you are up to date on the issues at and around the surthern 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:
URGENT Take Action
1- Protect DACA Recipients
2- Extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaragua, Nepal, El Salvador and Honduras
3- National Petition Regarding the Unlawful Movement of Migrants
In light of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent ruling on DACA, this situation of judiciary limbo which keeps DACA recipients in a state of uncertainty, now more than ever is the time for Congress to pass a legislative solution to provide permanent security for the 800,000 current DACA recipients living in the United States. Join us in calling on the U.S. Senate to bring to the floor for debate and pass a clean Dream Act of 2021 by sending this pre-written message to your senators!
While the Biden Administration has re-designated Haiti and Sudan for TPS, it has yet to make new TPS decisions for El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua or Nepal, and the Ramos litigation is ongoing. Thus, about 300,000 people, the vast majority of whom have U.S. citizen children, remain in fear that the Trump Administration’s TPS termination decisions will go into effect. Contact the White House with this pre-written message and urge them to extend TPS for Nicaragua, Nepal, El Salvador and Honduras!
Find more information on TPS for those countries in this joint letter by numerous NGO’s to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security
Since April, the Republican governors of Florida, Texas and Arizona have bused or flown thousands of migrants to Washington DC, New York and Massachusetts in high-profile stunts designed to put pressure on the Biden administration’s border policies. This isn’t simply political theater during an election cycle. The most vulnerable among us are being used as unwilling pawns in a disgusting political spectacle. Sign this petition to investigate this unlawful movement of migrants in the United States!
Thank you for reading IRTF’s Migrant Justice Newsletter!