January 2022, Volume 28, Number 1
DHS: Border, Haitians, Separations
DHS in fall 2021 signaled a return to policies that aim to prevent unauthorized entries at the Mexico-US border while relaxing interior enforcement. DHS has maintained Title 42 turnarounds of most solo adult foreigners encountered at the border for public health reasons, even though US borders were reopened to vaccinated travelers arriving via land ports on November 8, 2021. Title 42 allows most solo adults to be returned quickly to Mexico.
A federal judge in June 2021 ordered DHS to restart the Migration Protection Protocols that were first implemented in January 2019. The MPP requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico until an immigration judge can hear their case.
DHS issued memos that changed internal enforcement priorities to focus on foreigners who commit US crimes or are terrorist threats and employers who exploit unauthorized workers. Under the Bush and Trump administrations, there were workplace raids that resulted in the arrest of large numbers of unauthorized workers but imposed few penalties on their employers. The Obama and Biden administrations aim to target abusive employers while protecting unauthorized workers who complain about such employers.
CBP. A record 1.7 million foreigners were apprehended at the Mexico-US border in FY21, including 655,000 Mexicans, 309,000 Hondurans, 279,000 Guatemalans, 96,000 Salvadorans, and 367,000 other foreigners, including Haitians, Venezuelans, Ecuadorans, Cubans, Brazilians. Almost 44 percent of those apprehended were from Northern Triangle countries. Mexicans typically pay at least $8,000, and Northern Triangle citizens at least $10,000, to be smuggled into the US.
Apprehensions include persons encountered between ports of entry and those detected at ports of entry using false documents or concealed in vehicles. About 400,000 foreigners were apprehended in FY20, and between FY12 and FY20, apprehensions averaged 540,000 a year. The FY21 total is three times this average. The previous record was 1.6 million apprehensions in FY00.
Over 64 percent of those apprehended in FY21 were solo adults, 28 percent were adults with children, and eight percent were unaccompanied children under 18. Some 61 percent of all persons apprehended were returned to Mexico under Title 42 of the Public Health Act, which allows the CBP to prevent the entry of foreigners to limit the spread of covid. A quarter of the families were expelled under Title 42, but none of the unaccompanied children.
Between March 2020 and October 2021, some 1.3 million of the two million migrants who were encountered were returned to Mexico under Title 42. Since February 2021, unaccompanied children who are apprehended just inside the US are placed into shelters. A quarter of foreigners who arrived in family units were returned under Title 42, as were 84 percent of the 1.1 million adults apprehended. Foreigners can be returned under Title 42 within 15 minutes of being processed.
Countries including Brazil, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela do not accept the involuntary return of their citizens, which means that citizens of these countries are often allowed to enter the US. However, under Remain in Mexico, some asylum seekers from these countries may have to wait in Mexico.
Foreigners returned to Mexico often try to re-enter the US. During the summer of 2020, when apprehensions exceeded 200,000 a month, 25 percent of the foreigners encountered were recidivists, meaning they had been apprehended at least once within the previous year.
Most of the migrants entering the US illegally and applying for asylum are relatively poor, but some are middle class Brazilians and Venezuelans who fly to Mexican border cities, take taxis to the Mexico-US border, and request asylum. If admitted to the US, they fly to US relatives to await a court date for their asylum hearing. Mexico permits citizens of many South American countries to arrive without visas and often refuses to accept the return of non-Mexicans apprehended in the US.
Haitians. Some 30,000 Haitians arrived in Del Rio, Texas in September 2021, including many who moved from Brazil and Chile, countries that welcomed Haitians who were displaced after a 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed over 200,000 people.
The US granted temporary protected status to Haitians who were in the US by July 29, 2021, including some who had just crossed the border and were scheduled to be deported to Haiti. Many of the Haitians in South America who moved north heard this news and assumed that they too would be granted TPS once they entered the US.
To stop the influx of Haitians, some 8,500 Haitians were deported to Haiti on over 80 flights, prompting other Haitians to return to Mexico; perhaps 8,000 Haitians were admitted to the US. The US government explored returning the Haitians who were admitted and do not qualify for asylum back to Brazil and Chile, countries that Haitians left for the US because they believed there was more opportunity in the US.
More Haitians are reported to be en route to the US in fall 2021; some 1,100 were apprehended in October 2021, down from almost 18,000 in September 2021. Many Haitians apply for asylum in southern Mexico so that they can travel freely to the US border.
The US has an uneven record of intervention in Haiti. After Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed in a military coup in 1981, Haiti descended into gang violence and migrants set out in boats for the US, prompting the US to intervene in 1984 and restore Aristide to power. In the 1990s, there were more problems and more migration that ended with the resignation of Aristede in 2004.
Despite $5 billion in US aid over the last decade, Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has few prospects for growth. The US controlled Haiti’s finances for most of the first half of the 20th century, and the US supported the father and son dictators François and Jean-Claude Duvalier in the 1960s and 1970s as bulwarks against communism in Cuba. Aristede was elected to replace Duvalier.
Venezuelans. Some six million Venezuelans left their country over the past decade. Most went to neighboring Colombia and Brazil, but a rising number are attempting to enter the US via Mexico. Over 13,400 Venezuelans were apprehended in January 2021 including some, as with Haitians, who were settled in Colombia but wanted more opportunities in the US.
The US government does not recognize the Maduro regime in Venezuela, making it hard to deport Venezuelans. Venezuelans do not need visas to enter Mexico, so many fly from Colombia to Mexican border cities and walk into the US. The US, which granted TPS to an estimated 323,000 unauthorized Venezuelans who were in the US by March 8, 2021, wants to return those who enter the US from Mexico to Colombia and other countries where they were settled.
Separations. In May-June 2018, some 5,500 children were separated from their parents after illegally entering the US, including 3,000 in May-June 2018. The policy was stopped after an outcry, and the ACLU sued on behalf of some of those who were separated, asking for payments and immigrant visas for parents and children who were separated.
In October 2021, the Biden administration discussed paying each person in separated families up to $450,000 to settle the ACLU suits. President Biden rejected this sum as too high because a mother with two children would receive almost $1.4 million and total payments could exceed $1 billion. Republicans emphasized that the families that were separated entered the US illegally and have introduced bills to block payments to them.
Immigration advocates say that Biden’s approach to resolving family separation cases reflects his failure to fulfill campaign promises and reverse Trump’s migration policies. Biden reversed the ban on travelers from some Muslim-majority countries, ordered an end to the use of terms such as “illegal alien,” and reduced the enforcement of immigration laws inside the US. However, many migrants encountered at the border are returned to Mexico under Title 42 of the Public Health Act despite widespread US vaccinations.
Texas is supplementing CBP efforts by using state and local police to detect and arrest unauthorized foreigners for trespassing on private land in several border-area counties. Operation Lone Star led to the arrest of at least 2,000 migrants in 2021, most of whom are processed in Del Rip and tried for trespassing, sentenced, and then turned over to ICE. State judges are releasing many of those awaiting trial and, because they are inside Texas, they are not expelled under Title 42.
ICE. The enforcement of immigration laws inside the US declined in FY20. ICE’s 6,000-agent Enforcement and Removal Operations agency made 72,000 administrative arrests in FY21, about half of the average 148,000 a year between FY17 and FY19. ERO arrests peaked at over 322,000 in FY11.
DHS ended large workplace raids in October 2021, instead focusing on “unscrupulous employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities or impose unsafe working conditions.” Under the new worksite enforcement policy, ICE will explore with USCIS ways to protect workers who report exploitative employers, including offering them work permits and determining whether employers use E-Verify to retaliate against workers who complain about their employers.
In September 2021, DHS announced that interior enforcement would focus on foreigners convicted of US crimes, those who threaten public security, and recent border crossers. ICE began 4,000 worksite investigations in 2020, typically audits of I-9 forms completed by newly hired workers and their employers.
USCIS. The US had an estimated 46 million foreign-born residents at the end of 2021, making them 14.2 percent of US residents. The Census projects that the US will have 54 million foreign-born residents in 2030, when they will be 15 percent of US residents, and 65 million and 17 percent in 2050.
There was an initial drop in foreign-born residents after covid lockdowns in March 2020, but a rebound in 2021. The foreign-born population was stable at about 45 million in 2018 and 2019.
DOS reported that the total number of visas issued dropped from 8.7 million in FY19 to four million in FY20, including a drop from 619,000 to 468,000 H-visas for workers and their dependents. The number of F-student visas dropped from 389,000 to 121,000.
Immigration judges granted some type of legal status to half of the one million applicants for asylum between FY01 and FY21; there were 670,000 asylum cases pending at the end of FY21. USCIS asylum officers may also grant asylum and, considering their grants, 64 percent of the 1.3 million completed asylum cases over the past two decades resulted in foreigners being allowed to remain in the US legally.