Family detention and other restrictive policies eyed for post-Title-42 border—03-26-23
Immigration news, in context
This is the 153rd edition of BORDER/LINES, a weekly newsletter by Felipe De La Hoz and Gaby Del Valle designed to get you up to speed on the big developments in immigration policy. Reach out with feedback, suggestions, tips, and ideas at BorderLines.News@protonmail.ch.
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This week’s edition:
In The Big Picture, we analyze the Biden administration’s decision to potentially reinstate family detention.
In Under the Radar, we delve into the deaths of two migrants in a train car in Texas.
In Next Destination, we analyze Canada and the United States’s expanded safe third country agreement.
The Big Picture
The news: After some anonymous reports, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged recently that the Biden administration is considering reinstating family detention centers, facilities that are intended to hold not single adults nor single children—as ICE detention centers and Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters are intended to do, respectively—but both at the same time. These facilities had been phased out by the administration in 2021.
As we explain in more detail below, the centers had been launched by the Obama administration in part to contend for the changing demographic of border arrivals, which over the course of the early 21st century had transitioned from being primarily single adults looking for work to people, including families and unaccompanied minors, seeking asylum. The administration couldn’t actively separate the families — this was before any administration had been sadistic enough to attempt family separation as a deterrence strategy, though we of course now know that it was not long before — and didn’t want to simply release them, so it created the family detention centers.
Now, the administration is putting that option on the table as part of its larger slate of deliberations about how to approach border processing in the aftermath of the end of the Title 42 policy. What these deliberations make clear is that the administration is not considering a return to normal processing of the sort that had preceded Title 42 and some of the many Trump-era asylum restrictionist machinations that we’ve broken down at length throughout the more than three years of this newsletter. Instead, the Biden administration has somewhat quietly staked out a position favoring some type of permanent restrictions, as also exemplified by the recent transit ban announcement.
Under the Radar
Two migrants found dead in train car in Texas
Border Patrol agents found seventeen migrants in a freight train near Uvalde, Texas after they received a call from a distressed person in the train car, KENS5 reports. Two of the people in the car were dead, and four others were taken to local hospitals.
It’s currently unclear where the people were from or how they ended up in the train car, which was heading easy from Eagle Pass to San Antonio. It is worth noting that a host of restrictive border policies—namely Title 42, which the Biden administration recently began applying to Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, Cuban, and Haitian nationals—have likely disincentivized asylum seekers from asking for protections at the border. Generally speaking, the implementation of restrictive border policies leads to a rise in migrant deaths, as people opt for more remote and often dangerous routes or migration tactics to avoid coming into contact with Border Patrol.
U.S. and Canada expand safe third country agreement
Canada and the United States have expanded a bilateral agreement that requires migrants to ask for asylum in whichever of the two countries they reach first. The so-called safe third country agreement has been in place since 2004, but until this week it only applied to people who asked for asylum at ports of entry—not to people who entered either country between official entry points.
There has been a significant increase in migrants crossing into Canada between official entry points over the past few years, likely due to both the Biden and Trump administration’s immigration policies and to the byzantine nature of the U.S. asylum process. New York City has even begun busing migrants to the U.S.-Canada border so they can cross into Canada to ask for asylum. Last year, more than 39,000 migrants crossed into Quebec alone, according to NPR. As of this week, however, anyone who crosses into Canada between ports of entry will be returned to the United States.
The deal has reportedly been in the works for over a year. Canada has also agreed to provide “access to legal pathways” to 15,000 people per year from Latin America and the Caribbean.