Things That Matter

The Trump Administration Has Made Dozens Of Chilling Changes To Immigration That Haven’t Made The Headlines

QZ has compiled a list of all the ways the Trump administration has quietly and secretly dismantled protections for immigrants. These efforts include revoking citizenship, alleged covert policies, and making it more difficult for poorer migrants and refugees to enter the U.S.

Trump’s anti-immigrant bigotry was always just anti-immigrant bigotry,” Catherine Rampell wrote in the Washington Post. “Trump’s rhetoric may focus on ‘llegals,’ but recent data releases suggest this administration has been blocking off every available avenue for legal immigration, too.”

Denaturalizing citizens.

In one of its most unusually cruel moves, the Trump administration has sought ways to undermine the citizenship of naturalized Americans. The ongoing project since 2017 has wielded little results despite being costly and using questionable methods.

“The Trump Administration has launched a denaturalization operation—a project to strip a large number of Americans of their citizenship. Denaturalization is a drastic measure that should only be taken in the most extreme circumstances. But the administration is dramatically expanding denaturalization, using questionable standards and proceedings,” the ACLU said in a statement.

The efforts required $200 million in funds to investigate naturalized citizens for irregularities. Fewer than 100 citizens were found to have such irregularities between 2017 and 2018.

“In its 2019 budget request, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed its intention to review the files of 700,000 U.S. citizens, putting even more individuals into the denaturalization pipeline,” the ACLU wrote. “Despite the administration’s statements minimizing their denaturalization efforts, their own numbers indicate a dramatic shift from the last several decades—throwing away standards, due process, and fairness, and devaluing the sanctity of American citizenship.”

Credible Fear Interviews

“Credible Fear Interviews” are preliminary interviews to determine if an asylum seeker has a legitimate threat back home. Since July, something strange has happened with these interviews. Before the summer, “experts” who conducted the interviews found that 97 percent of asylum seekers were credible since then only 10 percent have been found credible.

“This administration is trying to end asylum in the United States,” Elora Mukherjee, an attorney who worked on the lawsuit, told the Guardian. “What we’re seeing in the credible fear process is one part of a systemic effort by this administration to end asylum.”

QZ found three factors contributed to this massive drop: the Migrant Protocols Protection requires asylum seekers to apply in any country they pass through to get to the United States, credible fear interviews are being conducted by Border Patrol officers instead of asylum specialists, and according to a September lawsuit the administration is not publishing these new policies.

“This seems to be based on secret policies and procedures that have not been made public by the administration,” said Mukherjee. 

Because the Trump administration is not transparent about their new regulations, if they have modified the credible fear policies in any way, according to the lawsuit, the Trump administration would have circumvented Congress illegally. 

Attorneys believe Donald Trump’s administration made secret changes to the credible fear process at the same time it announced it would force people to seek asylum outside the US before they can seek it at the southern border,” according to the Guardian

Social media tracking of migrants.

In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security implemented a policy that required migrants list their social media handles on forms. The intention is to monitor the applicant’s activity, any of which can be interpreted to deny the migrant legal entry to the U.S.

Even after a migrant becomes naturalized, the social media records are kept. According to QZ, “That detail is worrisome in light of the administration’s push to denaturalize citizens, which includes investigating old records in search of inconsistencies on applications the government could interpret as fraud.”

Denying Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

The Trump administration has attempted to revoke TPS from countries like the Sudan, Nicaragua, Nepal, Honduras, Haiti, and El Salvador and has only been thwarted by various court rulings. Most notably, this September TPS was not granted to the Bahamian victims of hurricane Dorian.

The public charge rule.

The new October rule was designated to hurt the poorest migrants the most. If a migrant will require financial assistance or public services from the government for 12 months out of 36, they can be denied legal entry. The system is particularly cruel, if two different benefits are used in the same month that counts as two months of benefits rather than one. This means migrants would have to prove they won’t use Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps or housing support.

Domestic violence no longer qualifies for asylum.

Despite international asylum law, migrants fleeing domestic violence, largely women and LGBTQ people, no longer qualify as refugees. Attorney general Jeff Sessions claimed it wasn’t the United States’ job to provide refuge for those whose countries didn’t protect them — a so-called point that literally contradicts the entire purpose of a refugee program in the first place.

There Is Chaos At The Mexico-Guatemala Border As The Next Migrant Caravan Tries To Enter Mexico And AMLO Pushes Back

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There Is Chaos At The Mexico-Guatemala Border As The Next Migrant Caravan Tries To Enter Mexico And AMLO Pushes Back

Jose Torres / Getty

Last week news broke that another migrant caravan was forming in Honduras, in an attempt to safely cross Guatemala and Mexico on the way to the United States. Immediately, the reports were met with a mix of panic and indignity among Central American leaders who vowed to stop the caravan before reaching the US-Mexican border.

And it looks like that plan has been put into motion. Although Guatemala allowed many migrants through its territory, upon reaching the border with Mexico, many migrants were turned away, or worse.

A caravan of nearly 3,000 people has been met with force as they’ve tried to cross into Mexico from Guatemala.

Credit: Jose Torres / Getty

According to Guatemala, at least 4,000 people entered from Honduras since Wednesday, making for one of the biggest surges since three Central American governments signed agreements with the Trump administration giving them more of the responsibility for dealing with migrants. Even though these exact same countries are ill-equipped to handle the influx of migrants – let alone fight back against their country’s own poverty, violence, and corruption that force many migrants to flee in the first place.

Mexican government officials ordered them to block entry into the country. 

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute issued a statement saying it would detain any migrants without legal status, and deport them if they couldn’t legalize their status. 

Video footage showed scattered groups of migrants throwing rocks at a few members of the National Guard militarized police who were on the banks of the river attempting to thwart illegal crossings, while hundreds of others ran past into Mexico.

Hopes were raised on Friday after Mexican President AMLO announced that there were 4,000 jobs along the southern border available to migrants.

The day after AMLO’s statement regarding possible job opportunities, more than 1,000 migrants attempted to cross into Mexico. According to the country’s National Institute of Migration (INM), each migrant was interviewed and told about opportunities with two government development programs. which will be implemented along the southern border and in both El Salvador and Honduras.

Meanwhile, as migrants waited to be processed for entry into Mexico, a loudspeakers warned migrants against applying for asylum in the US. However, many migrants are doubtful when it comes to Mexico’s offer of work.

“I don’t believe that. It is a lie,” one migrant told Al Jazeera. “They are just trying to find a means trap us and to debilitate the caravan.”

The violence at the Mexico-Guatemala border has left children separated from their families as crowds were sent fleeing from pepper spray.

Credit: Jeff Abbott / Flickr

As Mexican security forces launched tear gas and pepper spray into a crowd of migrants attempting to enter the country – hundreds were forced to flee. The ensuing chaos left children lost without their parents and mothers and fathers desperately searching for their children.

A Reuters witness spoke to at least two mothers said their children went missing amid the chaos, as the migrants on Mexican soil scattered in an attempt to avoid being detained by Mexican officials.

“We didn’t come to stay here. We just want to cross to the other side,” said Ingrid, 18, a Honduran migrant. “I don’t want to go back to my country because there is nothing there, just hunger.”

Many have harsh words for Mexico’s President AMLO – calling him a puppet and a coward.

Although most agree that every country has the right to enforce its own immigration laws, many are upset with AMLO for the way his administration has cracked down on Central American migrants. Many see the crackdown as little more than bowing to pressure from Trump – turning him into a puppet of the US.

So what should AMLO do when dealing with unauthorized migrants and pressure from a US President?

First, violence and attacks on migrants simply crossing territory should never be on the table. Second, AMLO’s administration should let the caravan reach the US-border and let the asylum process play out as it was meant to do under international law. Just because Trump wants AMLO to join him in breaking international norms, doesn’t mean he should.

But many doubt that will ever happen. Neither of these presidents, Trump nor AMLO, will change course to support legal asylum claims.

So what’s next? Will Mexico relent and agree to pay for Trump’s border wall? Don’t dismiss the idea, not when the Mexican president has so far carried out Trump’s every whim.

Hundreds Of Migrants Are Attempting To Form Another Caravan To The United States But Here’s Why Mexico Won’t Let Them Pass

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Hundreds Of Migrants Are Attempting To Form Another Caravan To The United States But Here’s Why Mexico Won’t Let Them Pass

@Delmar_Martinez / Twitter

Migrants often group together to form large groups for reasons of safety, child care, and increased presence during confrontations with police, gangs, and immigration agents. It’s these reasons that helped spur the large caravans of migrants that traveled from Central Mexico to the United States in 2018.

In 2018, the migrant caravans were a major talking point for conservative politicians who used them to instill fear in voters. However, few migrants actually made it to the US-Mexico border and those that did were turned away to await their asylum claims in Mexico. Now, thanks to new immigration agreements and unilateral pressure by the US, most migrants realize that their journey across Central American and Mexico won’t likely result in them successfully making it to the United States.

Hundreds of mostly Honduran migrants grouped together to try and form a caravan to help aide passage to the United States.

Credit: @Delmer_Martinez / Twitter

So far, according to reports, about 1,300 Honduran migrants have successfully crossed the border into Guatemala.

Guatemalan police officers were accompanied at the checkpoint by four agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Agent Alex Suárez told the AFP that ICE was there to train Guatemalan authorities in immigration control.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Homeland Security personnel — ICE as well as Customs and Border Protection — are in Guatemala “providing advisory and capacity building support” to deal with irregular migration.

According to Guatemala’s new president, Mexico plans to contain the caravan before it’s able to make it to the US.

Credit: EqualityNow / Instagram

Mexico’s government is bracing for the arrival of hundreds of Central Americans on its southern border in coming days, an event likely to be closely monitored by the U.S. government, which has made curbing illegal immigration a priority.

Guatemala’s president said he had met with Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who had told him that Mexico would not allow the caravan to advance into its territory.

“The Mexican government advised us that it is not going to let them pass … that it is going to use everything in its hands to keep them from passing,” Giammattei said. 

“We will warn those in the caravan that they are probably going to be able to arrive to the border (with Mexico), but from there on they are going to collide with a wall that they will not be able to penetrate and we believe many of them are going to give up.” 

Later, Mexico Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero, said Mexico would welcome those seeking asylum or protection and offer opportunities for those who wanted to enter legally and seek permission to work or study.

Giammattei said travel agreements between Central American nations required Guatemala to grant the migrants passage.

Credit: ZaraConZ / Instagram

In his first full day in office, Guatemala’s new president, Alejandro Giammattei, said the Hondurans would be allowed to enter Guatemala, which they must cross to reach Mexico and the United States.

“We cannot prevent people who have identification” from entering, Giammattei said. “We are going to ask for their papers from the parents of guardians in the caravan, and if they don’t have them they will be returned to Honduras. We have to protect the rights of children.”

Arriving in Guatemala chiefly via crossings on its northern border with Honduras, around 1,350 migrants had been registered entering legally by late morning, said Alejandra Mena, a spokeswoman for Guatemala’s National Migration Institute.

The US has put Mexico and Central American nations under pressure to accept a series of migration agreements that aim to shift the burden of dealing with asylum-seekers on to them, and away from the United States.

Credit: Department of Homeland Security

Most attempts at forming caravans in 2019 were broken up by police and the national guard in Mexico, which has come under increased U.S. pressure to prevent migrants from arriving at the U.S. border.

The prospects for any kind of caravan like the one in 2018, which involved thousands of people, appear remote. Many of the migrants from the 2018 caravan applied for asylum, something that is now difficult or impossible.

The U.S. has used a carrot-and-stick approach in bilateral agreements struck since July with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to deny people an opportunity to apply for asylum in the U.S. They are instead to be sent to Central America with an opportunity to ask for protection there.

“The truth is, it is going to be impossible for them to reach the United States,” said human rights activist Itsmania Platero. “The Mexican police have a large contingent and they are going to catch all the migrants without documents and they will be detained and returned to their home countries.”