April 2023, Volume 29, Number 2
DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, committed to President Biden’s goal of a “fair, orderly and humane” immigration system, is criticized regularly by Republicans who want to impeach him for failing to secure US borders. Biden promised to reverse many Trump-era migration policies, but court decisions and DHS decisions have kept many Trump-era policies in place.
Efforts to reduce unauthorized migration over the Mexico-US border have drawn criticism from all sides. A program that allows citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to apply for parole into the US, and returns those who enter the US illegally to Mexico, is criticized by Republicans for opening doors to all and by Democrats for denying some foreigners the right to apply for asylum.
DHS in February 2023 announced that foreigners who illegally enter the US after May 11, 2023 from Mexico and apply for asylum would have a “presumption against asylum eligibility;” families with children are exempt. DHS is trying to deter illegal arrivals by encouraging foreigners with US sponsors to apply online via CBP One. Once accepted by CBP One, asylum seekers can fly into the US, apply for asylum, and receive work permits as parolees until their cases are resolved.
Border. A record 251,500 unauthorized foreigners were encountered by the Customs and Border Protection agency in December 2022. Apprehensions fell to 156,000 in January 2023, from over 8,000 a day to about 4,000 a day, and further to 129,000 in February 2023, as more unauthorized migrants were returned to Mexico under Title 42. There were very few encounters with citizens of Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Some 2.2 million migrants were encountered by CBP just inside the Mexico-US border in FY22, up from 1.6 million in FY21. The bodies of 890 migrants trying to enter the US were recovered in FY22; most drowned in treacherous portions of the Rio Grande river.
Title 42, which allows CBP to return migrants encountered inside the US to Mexico quickly, ended May 11, 2023. Since its introduction in March 2020, over 2.6 million unauthorized foreigners have been returned to Mexico soon after being apprehended.
The Biden administration aims to reduce unauthorized migration by expanding parole, which gives foreigners with US financial sponsors two-year work permits while they wait for decisions on their asylum applications. Up to 30,000 migrants a month from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela can be paroled into the US, while 30,000 migrants a month from these countries who are encountered just inside the US border can be returned to Mexico. About 40 percent of foreigners encountered in FY22 were from these four countries.
Over 80,000 Afghans and 100,000 Ukrainians have been paroled into the US, drawing criticism from those who say that parole is for unique individual circumstances rather than mass movements. Parole was used by President Carter to allow the 125,000 Cubans from the Mariel boatlift into the US.
About 40 percent of New York City residents were born abroad. The arrival of 45,000 migrants who crossed the Mexico-US border and were bussed to New York City to await decisions on their asylum applications prompted New York City Mayor Eric Adams to declared an emergency and ask for federal help to provide housing and social services to migrants.
New York City says it spends $200 to $300 per day per migrant for housing, food and health services, and expects to spend $1 billion on newly arrived migrants in 2023. A third of the 71,000 people in New York City homeless shelters are migrants, many of whom are housed in hotels rented by the city for up to $200 a night. About two-thirds of those housed in city shelters are families.
Chicago was criticized for re-opening closed schools in the Woodlawn area, which is 80 percent Black, to house Latin American migrants. About 80 percent of the 5,000 migrants who were bussed from the Mexico-US border to Chicago have been provided with city housing and services.
CBP One, designed to allow commercial truckers to speed up cargo inspections, is being used to allow foreigners to apply for asylum in the US from abroad. Up to 30,000 migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela can apply for asylum in the US each month, and the expansion of CBP One to all foreigners seeking asylum in the US is aimed at reducing illegal entries of asylum seekers over the Mexico-US border. Restrictionists say that CBP One encourages smugglers to tell migrants the US is open to all migrants. Admissionists complain that not all migrants have smartphones and internet access.
USCIS. There are 10,000 U-visas a year available to foreigners who assist US law enforcement to prosecute criminals; recipients can eventually receive immigrant visas and naturalize. As knowledge of the program spreads, the backlog of applicants has risen to 315,000, prompting discussion of a process to grant immigrant visas sooner.
The 600 immigration-court judges employed by DOJ who decide whether to grant foreigners asylum or other benefits have a backlog of over two million cases, up from a million-case backlog in 2019, which means applicants can wait in the US and work for an average of four years until their case is resolved. Immigration judges are expected to decide 500,000 cases in 2023, but a million more cases may be added as foreigners continue to seek asylum.