Processing centers form latest front in border externalization strategy—05-03-23
Immigration news, in context
This is the 155th edition of BORDER/LINES, a 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.
If you find what we do useful, you can help us keep it going and keep improving by becoming a backer. That will also give you access to the much more fleshed-out premium version of our Big Picture analysis.
This week’s edition:
In The Big Picture, we analyze the Biden administration’s attempts to keep asylum seekers away by externalizing the US’s southern border.
In Under the Radar, we discuss Florida’s new restrictive immigration bill.
In Next Destination, we look at House Republicans’ proposed immigration bill, which would reinstate Remain in Mexico.
The Big Picture
The news: With the May 11 end of Title 42 looming, the Biden administration is scrambling to find ways to control humanitarian migration. Among other things, the administration has decided to double down on a longtime tried-and-true method to control the arrival of migrants without arousing much outrage on the part of domestic political constituencies: border externalization, or the notion of essentially outsourcing border control functions to places outside the border, either directly or via external actors like international organizations or foreign governments.
In an announcement last week, the administration delineated a plan to open processing centers run by international organizations in Latin American countries including Colombia and Guatemala to pre-screen would-be migrants for potential immigration avenues — not just to the U.S. but also Canada and Spain — before they try to make the overland trek to the U.S.-Mexico border. There are a lot of open questions about the exact contours and implementation of this initiative, but one thing is clear: the administration wants these pathways to exist not in tandem with the existing asylum system but to some extent instead of it.
Obviously, external humanitarian processing has long existed to the benefit of the global refugee pipeline. The question is, who gets to access these pipelines, and who gets left entirely out if the more ad-hoc asylum process — where anyone at least theoretically gets to just show up and plead their case — gets stripped down until it barely exists anymore. The processing centers might get the headlines, but the administration’s pursuit of the revamped transit ban and expanded use of expedited removal make clear that the Biden administration is interested in continuing the Trump-era project of making asylum as it had been understood for decades a thing of the past.
Under the Radar
Florida passes restrictive immigration bill
A bill supported by Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who seems to be gearing up for a 2024 presidential run, passed Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature. The legislation provides $12 million for a DeSantis program to fly migrants from the state to other parts of the country, used last year to transport migrants under false pretenses to Martha’s Vineyard in a case that involved a former Army counterintelligence operative and would eventually prompt a criminal investigation by a Texas sheriff.
It also prohibits local governments from using taxpayer funds for IDs for people who can’t provide proof of citizenship, invalidates driver’s licenses issued in other states to people who cannot prove their citizenship, requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to ask patients about their citizenship status, prohibits the Florida Bar from accepting undocumented law school graduates, requires employers with 25 or more workers to use the employment verification program E-verify, requires anyone subject to ICE detainers to submit DNA samples to a statewide database, and increases penalties for human trafficking-related offenses.
Florida Democrats have spoken out against the bill but were effectively powerless to stop it. State Rep. Dottie Joseph is among those who introduced amendments to defang the bill. “These amendments sometimes feel futile, but I am identifying all the points that could make the bill better,” Joseph told NBC News, adding that she knew the amendments were unlikely to pass.
House GOP immigration bill would reinstate Remain in Mexico policy
The House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees approved a bill introduced by Rep. Tom McClintock, a New York Republican, that seeks to further crack down on asylum at the southern border. The bill would order the Biden administration to resume construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, require employers to check all workers’ status through E-verify, and reinstate the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (commonly referred to as the Remain in Mexico policy), which required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases were adjudicated by U.S. immigration courts. Per the New York Times, the bill will likely be voted on this month.
Some Republicans objected to the E-verify requirement. Rep. Thomas Massie told the Times that he was opposed to it because people “shouldn’t have to go through an E-verify database to exercise your basic human right to trade labor for sustenance.” Others are concerned that it would lead to more pronounced labor shortages in the agricultural sector, where the bulk of workers are immigrants.
The bill will likely pass in the House but is unlikely to succeed in the Democratic-controlled Senate.