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April 2021, Volume 27, Number 2


CBP. Apprehensions of unauthorized foreigners just inside the Mexico-US border began rising after Joe Biden was elected president in November 2020 and continued to increase in 2021. There were 78,000 apprehensions in January 2021, 97,000 in February 2021, and 170,000 in March 2021.

The March 2021 apprehensions included 18,700 unaccompanied children and 53,000 migrant families. Mexico is rejecting the return of families with children under seven. Unaccompanied children and families with children under seven were not returned, and they quickly filled detention spaces.

Some 382,000 foreigners were apprehended by the Customs and Border Protection agency in the first five months of FY21, putting the US on track for over a million apprehensions a year, double the number in FY20.

Single adults were 82 percent of these 382,000 apprehensions, and 60 percent were single Mexicans. Over 40 percent of the single adults apprehended in recent months were caught at least once before in the previous six months, demonstrating that many of those who are apprehended and returned to Mexico try again.

CBP believes that it apprehends over half of the foreigners attempting to enter the US illegally, meaning that over 1,000 foreigners a day escaped apprehension in March 2021.

Smugglers who charge $10,000 to take people across the border illegally call Biden the ?Migrant President? and urge people to hire them to illegally enter the US. Some promise that families with children will be released into the US and receive a work permit while they await a hearing on their asylum application.

A record 11,000 unaccompanied children under 18 were encountered by CBP in May 2019. There is an incentive for solo children to illegally enter the US. In 2019, over 70 percent of cases involving unaccompanied minors resulted in deportation orders, but most of the teens remained in the US.

The CBP in February 2021 began to allow migrant families arriving at the US border and applying for asylum to enter the US, and sent some unaccompanied youth to their US relatives within 72 hours of encountering them. Allowing solo teens and families into the US encouraged more Central Americans to set out for the US.

Of the 290,000 unaccompanied youth who arrived in the US between 2014 and 2021, only four percent were removed. Over half have pending immigration cases, and a third were granted protection in the US. A sixth were ordered removed, but it is unknown if they left the US.

By March 2021, apprehensions topped 4,500 a day, and agents said another 1,000 migrants a day eluded them. CBP reported that three-fourths of the unaccompanied children are 15 to 17 years old, that 70 percent are boys, and that most arrive in the US in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. In some cases, parents travel with their children to the US border and then send their children across the border alone.

The increased number of families and unaccompanied children seeking asylum posed challenges. The Border Patrol turns unaccompanied children over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which spends $750 per minor per day to house them in shelters that have capacity for 13,600 children. A record 11,000 unaccompanied youth were apprehended in May 2019.

President Trump invoked Title 42 of the Public Health Act in March 2020 to block unauthorized foreigners from entering the US to prevent the spread of Covid. Some 400,000 foreigners were returned from the US to Mexico, some several times, since solo men who were apprehended were returned quickly and often tried to re-enter the US.

Solo children were among those turned back at the border, prompting a federal district court in November 2020 to order the government to allow children arriving at the border to apply for asylum. The DC Court of Appeals in January 2021 lifted a lower court order, allowing children to continue to be returned to Mexico. The Biden administration did not return children, opting to put them in HHS shelters until they can be sent to US relatives.

Trump implemented the Migration Protection Program in January 2019, which required 60,000 asylum seekers arriving from Mexico to wait in Mexico for their asylum hearings. Many elected to return home rather than wait in informal camps by ports of entry, but the 25,000 waiting were allowed to trickle into the US in February 2021. President Biden suspended the MPP and began to allow the asylum seekers waiting in Mexico to enter the US.

Some 1.7 million Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans entered the US and applied for asylum between 2014 and 2019, but fewer than eight percent were recognized as refugees or given another form of legal residency. However, only 28 percent were removed. The fact that two-thirds of Central Americans who applied for asylum are still in the US helps to explain why more attempt to reach the US.

A caravan of 7,000 Hondurans set off from San Pedro Sula for the US in mid-January 2021, timing their trek to the inauguration of President Biden. Guatemala prevented the migrants, who said they were seeking opportunity in the US after suffering from two hurricanes in November 2020, from moving north, which may reduce efforts to organize future caravans.

DHS is discouraging Central Americans from setting out for the US border. An Obama-era program that allows Central Americans to apply for asylum without leaving their country was re-established, and Biden is seeking $4 billion to attack the root causes of migration, including poverty, corruption and violence.

President Biden in February 2021 appointed a task force to deal with the separation of parents who entered the US illegally from their accompanying children in May-June 2018. There were about 3,000 parent-child separations during the two months that the policy was in effect, and 1,000 children remained in the US in 2021 after their parents had been removed. Children seeking asylum have more rights than adults.

DHS in March 2021 announced that it aimed to reunite families separated in May-June 2018 in the US or in their countries of origin.

By some estimates, a third of the parents who were separated from their children in 2018 are living illegally in the US with their children, but do not want to acknowledge their presence. Parents of separated children abroad want financial compensation and immigrant visas. Meanwhile, smugglers continue to send migrants to the US with children whom other parents want in the US, so separations are likely to continue when CBP is not sure whether the adult is the child?s parent to prevent human trafficking.

ICE. President Biden promised to halt deportations for the first 100 days of his presidency, but a federal judge in Texas blocked implementation of the deportation ban. However, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced new guidelines in February 2021 that prioritize national security threats and foreigners convicted of aggravated felonies for detection and removal.

Some 93,000 foreigners were arrested inside the US in FY20, but less than 20 percent were convicted of the aggravated felonies that would make them priorities for deportation. Deportations were down in March 2021, when the number of foreigners being detained by ICE fell to 14,000.

USCIS. The Biden administration in March 2021 declined to defend the Trump administration public-charge regulations that were issued in August 2019 and could have denied immigrant visas to foreigners who received benefits such as food stamps, housing assistance or Medicaid for a total of 12 months during a three-year period. The US Supreme Court allowed the Trump regulations to go into effect.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced in March 2021 that Venezuelans in the US before March 8, 2021 could apply for Temporary Protected Status, an 18-month renewable status that allows TPS holders to live and work in the US. Up to 320,000 people may benefit.

US consulates abroad normally issue about 500,000 immigrant visas a year, while over 600,000 foreigners already in the US adjust their status to immigrant while in the US. The closure of most US consulates since March 2020 led to a backlog of almost 400,000 foreigners abroad awaiting interviews so they can obtain immigrant visas. Consular operations are funded by a $3.5 billion a year in fees collected to process all types of visa and passport services.

President Biden ordered the processing of immigrant visas to resume in February 2021, which will allow relatives of US citizens, foreigners sponsored by US employers, and winners of diversity immigrant visas to enter the US. President Trump blocked immigrant admissions in April 2020. Advocates want DOS to hire more consular officers and to waive personal interviews, or to substitute remote interviews, to clear the backlog.

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