Global refugee organizations express concern over Title 42’s end
The United Nations refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration are concerned about restrictions on asylum access as Title 42 lifts, they wrote in a joint statement.
“UNHCR and IOM welcome positive initiatives to expand resettlement and other regular pathways in the region, but are concerned about new restrictions on access to asylum following the long overdue lifting of the Title 42 public health order by the United States,” they wrote.
The organizations emphasized that expansion of regular pathways does not replace countries’ responsibilities to asylum procedures to migrants.
“Barriers preventing people from exercising the fundamental human right to seek asylum are unacceptable and contrary to States’ international obligations,” they wrote. “The new US Government Rule that restricts access for asylum-seekers who arrive irregularly after transiting through another country is incompatible with principles of international refugee law.”
Rain, storms could create treacherous conditions for migrants trying to cross Rio Grande
In an alert early Friday, National Weather Service forecasters said “excessive rainfall” could deluge a swath of Texas, from the Rio Grande Plain to the Gulf Coast — which could worsen conditions for migrants attempting to cross into the U.S.
The weather service’s real-time forecasting map showed that flash flood watches were in place for nearly all of south Texas. The map included a stark warning for motorists near the Rio Grande region: “Turn Around Don’t Drown.”
Forecasters said that the chances of heavy showers and thunderstorms will increase starting Friday afternoon and “linger through the weekend across Deep South Texas.” The heaviest rainfall is expected to arrive Saturday into Sunday, they said.
Officials and law enforcement officers in Texas were already preparing for water to be released from the Caballo Dam, 100 miles north of El Paso, into the Rio Grande, which flows through the southwestern U.S. into northern Mexico.
CBP says it will comply with judge’s ‘harmful’ order
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it will comply with a judge’s order to halt the implementation of a new policy that would ease overcrowding at detention facilities by allowing some vetted migrants into the U.S. without a court date or a way to track them.
The agency said in a statement that it is “assessing next steps.” It called the ruling by the federal judge in Florida a “harmful” one that “will result in unsafe overcrowding” at facilities, undercut the agency’s ability to efficiently process and remove migrants, and risk creating dangerous conditions for migrants and Border Patrol agents.
The order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. ET Thursday and expires in two weeks. It came after Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed an emergency motion to stop the policy, which would release some migrants on “parole” with a notice to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office but without enrolling them in the program.
NBC News first reported the plan Wednesday.
“The fact remains that when overcrowding has occurred in Border Patrol facilities, Republican and Democratic Administrations alike have used this parole authority to protect the safety and security of migrants and the workforce,” the agency said. “Individuals apprehended by CBP are thoroughly vetted against all national security and public safety systems, regardless of how they are processed.”
Water to be released into Rio Grande, raising safety concerns for migrants
Officials and law enforcement officers in Texas are preparing for water to be released from the Caballo Dam, 100 miles north of El Paso, into the Rio Grande, which flows through the southwestern U.S. into northern Mexico.
Water will be released Friday and could reach El Paso, along the U.S.-Mexico border, by next week, according to the International Boundary and Water Commission, which coordinates with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
It was not immediately clear how much water will be released.
To address safety concerns, law enforcement officials are erecting barbed wire near the river to prevent migrants from trying to swim into the U.S.
“We’re telling them in Spanish this is not an area to cross,” said Lt. Chris Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety. “It’s very dangerous. If you’re going to seek asylum, go to the ports of entry, where it’s much safer and it’s much more controlled.”
El Paso Water, a nonprofit public utility, said it has been informed of the plan and is working to partner with local organizations to inform migrants and asylum-seekers of the dangers of trying to swim across the river.
“In the past, EPWater worked with a local non-profit organization that handed out flyers at shelters in Juarez, warning migrants about the dangers of the river when water is flowing,” the utility said in a statement. “We are currently exploring the same option ahead of the water release in the next week.”
Mayorkas pushes back on criticisms of the administration’s planning for Title 42’s end
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday defended the administration’s handling of the end of Title 42 and blamed Congress for not providing it with more resources or advancing Biden’s immigration proposals over the last two years.
In an interview on NBC’s “TODAY,” Mayorkas criticized a judge’s order Thursday night temporarily blocking the administration’s effort to ease overcrowding at detention facilities by allowing some vetted migrants into the U.S. without a court date or a way to track them.
“We consider that ruling to be very harmful,” Mayorkas said. “The procedure that we were executing is something that other administrations have done. These individuals are screened and vetted, and then they are released and then placed into immigration enforcement proceedings. The Department of Justice is of course considering its options with respect the court’s ruling.”
The homeland security secretary also defended the administration’s efforts to severely restrict asylum for migrants who haven’t sought or have been denied protection in other countries before they reach the U.S.
“We have built lawful safe and orderly pathways for people to use,” Mayorkas said, adding that if asylum-seekers don’t adhere to those pathways, they don’t face a ban but “have a higher burden of proof to meet.”
“We have a security obligation and a humanitarian obligation to cut the ruthless smugglers out,” he continued. “We are going to deliver consequences for people who don’t use [lawful] pathways.”
Asked by co-anchor Savannah Guthrie if Biden bears blame for the situation at the border, Mayorkas said: “The fundamental point is that we need Congress to act. The president on Day One presented Congress with legislative reform. Our system has been broken for more than two decades. It’s time not to criticize. It’s time to act.”
Migrants wait for chance to enter U.S. after end of pandemic-era restrictions
EL PASO, Texas — Cheers and applause broke out as migrants prepared to cross the border into El Paso, hours after the lifting of pandemic-era restrictions on Friday.
Once across, men and women, some in hoodies and sweaters to guard against the chilly desert night air, walked in single file to a U.S. Border Patrol van. A man and woman held hands, the woman covering her nose and mouth with her sleeve as dust filled the air.
Dozens of migrants had already boarded three white school buses in small groups, flanked by members of the National Guard and Border Patrol in green and camouflage uniforms.
After the van left, border authorities closed the outermost chain link fence and sealed it with a heavy lock.
Read the full story here.
ACLU sues Biden administration over asylum policy
The American Civil Liberties Union and several immigration advocacy groups are challenging the Biden administration’s new policy of limiting asylum for people who cross the border without prior authorization.
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Northern California less than an hour after Title 42 expired argues that the updated immigration policy mirrors two Trump-era policies that were previously blocked by the courts. It prohibits asylum for migrants who traveled to the U.S. through third countries and did not obtain protections before arriving at the border.
“The Biden administration’s new ban places vulnerable asylum seekers in grave danger and violates U.S. asylum laws. We’ve been down this road before with Trump,” Katrina Eiland, the managing attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement. “The asylum bans were cruel and illegal then, and nothing has changed now.”
The filing argues that the Biden administration cannot restrict access to asylum based on how someone arrived at the border and that migrants often lack the ability to seek protections while in transit.
The challenge was filed on behalf of the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, American Gateways, the Central American Resource Center, the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Tahirih Justice Center.
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