Things That Matter

They Were Told To Wait In Mexico And Followed Every US Law, Now They’re Being Denied The Right To Claim Asylum

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other immigrant advocacy groups believe the Trump administration is using three recent measures to effectively pull a “bait and switch” on migrants seeking asylum. The first measure is referred to as “metering” which limits the number of asylum seekers accepted at the United States and Mexican border. 

The second is the Migrant Protection Protocols which requires Central American asylum seekers to stay in Mexico for the duration of their legal proceedings.

The third measure known as the “safe third country” deals requires that migrants seek asylum in the first country they pass through before applying in the United States. This essentially bans all asylum seekers at the southern border except for Mexicans. 

Advocates say the result of the third measure means thousands of migrants who were stuck waiting due to metering or MPP will never be able to apply for asylum in the U.S. and are being punished for correctly using the legal system.

How the “safe third country” deal works to ban most asylum seekers.

The “safe third country” deals or transit ban, which is being challenged in the courts by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), requires migrants to apply for asylum in the first country they pass through before they’re eligible to apply in the United States. Any migrants from Central America who travel through Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala would have to apply there first.

 According to Vox, “under both international torture agreements and the asylum system,” the administration can send migrants, “back to Central America, where rampant crime, violence, and corruption is driving tens of thousands to flee.” 

However, because this policy only took effect on September 12, many asylum seekers who were forced to wait due to metering or MPP before the rule was in place, will now be turned away. 

Attorneys say the government pulled “immoral bait and switch.” 

The Associated Press highlighted one Salvadoran family who was put in the situation many migrants now face. Julio Lopez and his family chose to seek U.S. protection legally. The new ban applies to any migrants who arrived after July 16, the Lopez family reached the border before the cut off date, but are still suffering the consequences because of a different policy. The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) require asylum-seeking Central Americans to remain in Mexico while their legal proceedings take place. 

This means that although the Lopez family arrived in the U.S. before the July 16 cut off, because they were forced to wait in Mexico long enough for the “safe third country” deals to go in effect last September, they are no longer eligible to seek asylum in the United States — they would have to apply in the country they passed through before. 

“I’m being punished for doing it the correct way,” Lopez told the Associated Press. “It’s unjust.”

The SPLC and ACLU believe this is unfair and have challenged the procedure in court so that the new restrictions do not apply to anyone who was claiming asylum before July 16. 

Advocates are challenging the policies in the courts. 

Multiple lawsuits by the SPLC, ACLU, and advocacy groups like Al Otro Lado have been filed to challenge the three policies. However, the battle to ban asylum seekers has taken a bizarre turn in the courts. The Supreme Court ruled that the ban can take effect while lawyers challenge the policy going against a previous Supreme Court ruling of the same ban. 

“On September 11th, this year, the Supreme Court ruled—and issued a stay, in contrast to what it had done with the first asylum ban. This time the Court said that the second asylum ban could go into effect immediately nationwide,” Lee Gelernt a lawyer with the ACLU told the New Yorker

Gelernt believes the ban assumes that El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are safe countries with functioning asylum systems, but migrants will “continue to be in danger, that the gangs who have been attacking them—or the perpetrator of the domestic violence they’re fleeing, or other types of danger—can easily locate them in Guatemala or Mexico; they will not be safe.”

SPLC will challenge metering claiming that the daily migrant limits deny the individual’s right to seek asylum under international and U.S. laws. 

“This is not the DMV. This is not the deli counter. There shouldn’t be numbers,” said SPLC attorney Melissa Crow.

Challengers to the MPP assert that the executive branch of the U.S. government does not have the legal authority to force asylum seekers to go to Mexico to wait for legal proceedings. 

While these legal proceedings take place and migrants are forced to wait in dangerous countries their lives are increasingly put at risk. In the meantime, Julio Lopez and his family are prepared to do what is necessary to survive.

“I can go to (immigration) court with my head held high and say, ‘Sir, I have followed the laws of the United States,” he told said. 

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Guatemala Shifted Tactics With The Latest Migrant Caravan And Here’s Why

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Guatemala Shifted Tactics With The Latest Migrant Caravan And Here’s Why

Jose Torres / Getty Images

The Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t reduced violence or poverty or many of the other reasons that people flee their homes in an attempt to reach the United States. In fact, in many places violence and poverty are at record levels as the virus leaves millions of people without work, access to medical care, or education.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that even though the Coronavirus pandemic continues to pose a serious health threat, thousands of Central Americans banded together in another caravan. However, this time it barely made it out of Honduras before being forced back by Guatemalan security forces.

The country has completely changed its approach to how it handles these ‘migrant caravans.’ Previously, the country had allowed many of them safe passage. However, under pressure from the Trump administration, the country’s president has decided a heavy-handed approach is better.

Under pressure from Donald Trump, Guatemala halted more than 3,000 migrants set for the U.S.

As a caravan containing roughly 3,500 Honduran migrants attempted to cross into Guatemala on their path to the United States, Guatemala halted their progress and ordered their removal from the country. This was a starch contrast to the migrant caravans of year past as many were allowed to seek asylum or even cross Guatemala’s border with Mexico.

In a televised message, Giammattei said Guatemalan security forces were able to “contain” the caravan, that according to the president was a factor in the transmission of the Coronavirus.

According to the Guatemalan Migration Institute (IGM), the caravan entered eastern Guatemala on Thursday, pushing over a military barrier setup along the border before splitting into groups to reach Mexico, which had already closed its borders in anticipation of the caravan’s arrival.

By Friday and Saturday, hundreds of Guatemalan police and military personnel set up roadblocks forcing migrants — including young children and people in wheelchairs — to turn back.

Guatemala’s president said the containment efforts were to protect the country from further Coronavirus infections.

Credit: Jose Torres / Getty Images

Shortly after the caravan entered Guatemala by foot and overwhelming the border security forces, the country’s president – Alejandro Giammattei – vowed to send them back to Honduras, citing his efforts to contain the pandemic.

“The order has been given to detain all those who entered illegally, and return them to the border of their country,” Giammattei said in a broadcast address to the nation. “We will not allow any foreigner who has used illegal means to enter the country, to think that they have the right to come and infect us and put us at serious risk.”

Giammattei issued an order that would suspend some constitutional rights in the provinces they were expected to pass through, apparently in order to facilitate detaining them.

“We are experiencing a pandemic in Guatemala which has cost us to control with months of efforts,” said the president, adding it was an “obligation” to reduce the risk of further contagion.

At the onset of the pandemic, Guatemala instituted a strict lockdown of the country, even closing its airports and borders to all travel. So far, the country of about 17 million has seen more than 94,000 Covid-19 infections and 3,293 people have died since March.

These so-called caravans have become more common in recent years as migrants band together for protection.

In recent years, thousands of Central American migrants traveling in large groups have crossed into Mexico, with the aim of reaching the U.S. border. In the U.S., these caravans have become a hot-button issue for political conservatives, including President Trump.

During the 2018 caravan that occurred close to the midterm elections, Trump threatened Mexico with steep tariffs and economic pain if the country didn’t do more to stop the caravans before they reached the U.S. – Mexico border. The country bowed to Trump’s demands and deployed its National Guard and more immigration agents to break up attempted caravans last year. They dispersed large groups of migrants attempting to travel together in southern Mexico.

The odds of a large migrant caravan reaching the U.S. border, already low, have grown increasingly slim over the past year. In fact, crossing into the U.S. legally is virtually impossible now thanks to inhumane policies implemented by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, attempting an unauthorized crossing into the U.S. is as difficult as ever.

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

Gerald Herbert / Getty Images

In what many are calling a landmark decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just handed a major victory to migrant’s rights advocates. Although the major ruling seems simple on paper, it has major legal implications and could truly change the way that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrest undocumented immigrants.

However, the decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court – where it would face an uncertain legal future given the possible future makeup of the nation’s highest court.

The 9th Circuit Court just issued a landmark legal decision that could greatly affect ICE arrests.

Credit: Eric Risberg / Getty Images

Long-standing rules for arresting migrants may soon need to change, thanks to a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court says that ICE needs to align its arresting and detention procedures with those of all other law enforcement agencies in the country, which are guided by rules within the U.S. constitution. When police arrest people for suspected crimes, the constitution requires them to show probable cause to a judge within 48 hours. But ICE does not do that. When ICE arrests people, it typically holds them for weeks before any judge evaluates whether ICE had a valid legal basis to make the arrest.

But ICE’s policies may no longer be legal.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the usual constitutional rules that apply to normal police all over the country also apply to ICE. “The Fourth Amendment requires a prompt probable cause determination by a neutral and detached magistrate,” the court said. This really shouldn’t be a big deal. Prompt independent review by a judge of whether the government has a legal basis to take away a person’s freedom is an essential safeguard against tyranny.

ICE’s arrest and detention policies have long come under scrutiny for seemingly skirting constitutional rules.

Credit: Joseph Sohm / Getty Images

For almost 200 years, immigration enforcement has existed in a sort of grey area, where the usual rules never applied. For example, when ICE arrests people, individual officers have much more legal discretion than other law enforcement authorities. Detainees may be held for weeks or months before going to a judge who will ask the person how they plead to ICE’s allegations against them.

Only then, long after the initial arrest, might ICE actually be required to show a judge any evidence to back up its case. The person would have spent all of that time detained, likely at a private detention center in a remote area.

For any other person in the U.S., this procedure goes against every legal protection in the constitution. But ICE has gotten away with treating immigrants this way for generations.

The ruling comes as other courts are making it easier for ICE to abuse migrant’s constitutional rights.

The ruling by the 9th Circuit comes less than a week after the 1st Circuit overturned a ban prohibiting ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants at courthouses in Massachusetts.

In 2018, ICE created a policy of attempting to arrest undocumented immigrants when they appeared at state courthouses for judicial proceedings. However, a district court granted an injunction against the policy after migrant advocates filed a lawsuit against ICE. They claimed that ICE was in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and lacked authority to make civil arrests at courts.

Meanwhile, ICE has resumed large-scale enforcement operations, announcing roughly 2,000 arrests over several weeks amid the Coronavirus pandemic. The 9th Circuit’s decision raises an obvious question: How many of those people were detained for more than 48 hours without a review by a judge?

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