U.S. ramps up expulsions of migrants as border crossings rise
US immigration officials on the southern border carried out more than 20,000 summary expulsions of migrants last month as thousands of unauthorized border crossings increased - despite stringent US corona virus restrictions and barriers in Mexico and Central America.
Customs and border guards on the U.S.-Mexico border encountered more than 23,000 unauthorized migrants in May and displaced over 20,000 of them according to government statistics released on Friday, according to an emergency policy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 17,000 migrants were arrested in April, the first full month of public health. Over 15,000 of them were expelled.
The CDC directive, which has been extended indefinitely, has given the Trump administration the power to quickly remove most cross-border commuters from US soil - a long-awaited goal on the President's immigration agenda. According to the CBP, a total of almost 43,000 expulsions have been carried out since the CDC decision was issued on March 20.
Although higher than in April, the number of arrests last month is still fading compared to the more than 144,000 migrants arrested or rejected at the southern border in May 2019 - the culmination of a month-long migration wave of families from Central America.
CBP officials said that the application of the CDC regulation works as intended and reduces the number of migrants who need to be detained in border guards and immigration prisons. "Implementing the COVID 19 guidelines enabled CBP to process and return 96 percent of the people in the order in less than two hours, which drastically reduced human contact, the risk of spreading, and the burden on U.S. health care facilities, and helped the United States avert a public health disaster, "the agency said in a statement.
Unlike last spring - when families from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras made up the majority of those arrested - around 82% of the people processed by CBP came from Mexico in May, including many single men.
Despite the government's praise, the CDC directive has caused devastating condemnation among refugee lawyers and democratic lawmakers. In particular, they criticized the expulsion of asylum seekers and unaccompanied migrant children, whose protection was largely suspended under US law during the pandemic. In May, 2,562 migrants - or only 11% of all those affected - were processed in accordance with the regular immigration laws.
The directive's application to unaccompanied minors was first brought to court this week when the American Civil Liberties Union and other interest groups filed two lawsuits on behalf of a 16-year-old Honduran teenage boy in US custody and a 13-year-old Salvadoran girl who was im April was expelled. Although the relief sought in the lawsuits is limited to the two minors, the advocates said they could pave the way for legal efforts to block the CDC order.
In May the vast majority of those affected - or 21,043 migrants - were single adults. Officials also processed 1,045 family members with children and 1,001 unaccompanied minors. CBP declined to say how many were deported.
Those who have been processed under the CDC regulation have limited options to apply for humanitarian protection - which the Trump administration has accused migrants of exploiting to enter the United States in search of a better economic fate. Migrants whose officials have asked to be expelled have no right to asylum and can only request that their deportation be postponed in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Torture, signed by the United States. However, very few have accessed this relief.
Between March 20 and May 27, border officials allowed 85 migrants processed under the CDC to explain to asylum officials why they had fled their home countries. This comes from unpublished government data received from CBS News. Only four of them passed their interviews and were allowed to apply for protection under the United Nations Anti-Torture Treaty.
"It will be very difficult for the person fleeing the persecution to find a safe haven here in the United States," Thelma Garcia, an immigration lawyer in South Texas, told CBS News, noting that she was not in has been able to reach many asylum seekers since the CDC came into force.
On Thursday, the government unveiled a draft regulation to redefine who is eligible for asylum and other humanitarian measures in the United States. Among many other restrictions, people would find it extremely difficult to take refuge from gender-based persecution, gangs and torture from government officials who are considered "villains".
Taylor Levy, an immigration lawyer in El Paso, said the expulsion policy has caused many migrants in northern Mexico to make more dangerous border crossings. "I see families, small children, who are taking ever more risky paths through really dangerous terrain because they are now trying to enter undetected, unlike when we always saw families who came in very openly to seek asylum and apply for protection "Levy told CBS News.
Levy noted that U.S. officials have also used the CDC arrangement to largely stop processing migrants and asylum seekers at ports of entry - here the Trump administration has stated that people should seek US refuge.
"Mexico continues to be an incredibly unsafe place for migrants. We continue to hear of constant kidnappings, rapes, beatings, and people trying to save their lives," she added. "If there is no mechanism at all for people to enter the port of entry or put their name on a waiting list to apply for asylum, it only increases despair."
In its Friday statement, CBP also reported an increase in the number of tractor units that were intercepted to smuggle migrants to the United States. "Migrants should never listen to the false promises of smuggling organizations that don't care about their health and safety." "Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said in the statement," It is a dangerous, potentially fatal journey that will be futile if they survive. If they reach our border, they will be sent back quickly and must not stay in the United States. "
Although the CDC order should be checked every 30 days, there is currently no fixed end date. Ken Cuccinelli, the second-highest official in the Department of Homeland Security, citing the lack of a coronavirus vaccine this week predicted that the order would "stay for a while."
CBP cited a statement from the World Health Organization - a United Nations organization that President Trump has cut ties with - to defend the mass displacement.
"CBP is taking these unprecedented measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the number of cases in Latin America increases dramatically," the agency said. "On May 22, 2020, the World Health Organization announced that Latin America had surpassed Europe and the United States in the number of reported COVID-19 infections daily and is currently the epicenter of the global outbreak."
The World Health Organization has expressly raised concerns about the number of coronavirus cases in South America, particularly in Brazil - the second most affected nation worldwide with 40,000 deaths.
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