According to reports, the Trump administration is implementing a procedure to force certain asylum-seekers wishing to come to the United States to remain in Mexico while their cases are processed. The plan, to begin at the San Ysidro border crossing, reportedly includes busing asylum-seekers to their hearings at a courthouse in San Diego, California, from Tijuana, Mexico.
This activity follows a December 2018 announcement by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen of a new “Migration Protection Protocols (MPP),” which will apply to individuals arriving in or entering the United States via Mexico without documentation. ” ‘Catch and release’ will be replaced with ‘catch and return,’ ” the announcement states.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released information on the MPP on January 24, 2019. Among other things, the information notes that:
With certain exceptions, MPP applies to aliens arriving in the U.S. on land from Mexico (including those apprehended along the border) who are not clearly admissible and who are placed in removal proceedings under INA § 240. This includes aliens who claim a fear of return to Mexico at any point during apprehension, processing, or such proceedings, but who have been assessed not to be more likely than not to face persecution or torture in Mexico. Unaccompanied alien children and aliens in expedited removal proceedings will not be subject to MPP. Other individuals from vulnerable populations may be excluded on a case-by-case basis.
The December announcement outlines the following process:
- “Aliens trying to enter the U.S. to claim asylum will no longer be released into our country, where they often disappear before a court can determine their claim’s merits.
- Instead, those aliens will be processed by DHS and given a ‘Notice to Appear’ for their immigration court hearing.
- While they wait in Mexico, the Mexican government has made its own determination to provide such individuals humanitarian visas, work authorization, and other protections. Aliens will have access to immigration attorneys and to the U.S. for their court hearings.
- Aliens whose claims are upheld by U.S. judges will be allowed in. Those without valid claims will be deported to their home countries.”
It is unclear how many are expected to follow this process or whether Tijuana has sufficient capacity to keep asylum seekers safe while they await their proceedings in the United States. Litigation is considered likely. The American Immigration Lawyers Association called the new policy a “due process disaster for asylum seekers” and said that asylum seekers waiting in Mexico “would encounter substantial barriers to accessing U.S. attorneys.”
Secretary Nielsen’s December announcement is at https://www.dhs.gov/news/2018/12/20/secretary-nielsen-announces-historic-action-confrontillegal-immigration. A related Department of Homeland Security announcement is at https://www.dhs.gov/news/2019/01/24/migrant-protection-protocols. DHS released U.S. Customs and Border Protection data about apprehensions along the southwest border with the United States and related demographics, at https://www.dhs.gov/news/2019/01/24/cbpreleases-apprehension-data#.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently announced three indictments charging eight individuals with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit, following an undercover investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Six of the defendants were arrested in the metropolitan Detroit area. Two others were arrested in Lake Mary, Florida; and Culpeper, Virginia.
According to the indictments, from approximately February 2017 through January 2019, the defendants, a group of foreign citizens, conspired with each other and others to facilitate hundreds of foreign nationals in illegally remaining and working in the United States by actively recruiting them to enroll in a metro Detroit private university that, unbeknownst to the conspirators, was operated by HSI special agents as part of an undercover operation. As part of the scheme, ICE said, the defendants/recruiters assisted foreign citizen “students” in fraudulently obtaining immigration documents from the school and facilitated the creation of false student records, including transcripts, to deceive immigration authorities. The documents obtained as a result of the conspirators’ actions were based on false claims, false statements and fraud, ICE said, since the purported foreign students had no intention of attending school, did not attend a single class, and were not bona fide students. All participants in the scheme knew that the school had no instructors or actual classes, the agency said. “The defendants intended to help shield and hide their customers/’students’ from United States immigration authorities for money and collectively profited in excess of a quarter of a million dollars as a result of their scheme,” ICE noted. If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
The ICE announcement is at https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/8-individuals-indictedexploiting-us-student-visa-system.
The U.S. Embassy in Caracas has suspended routine visa services due to the ordered departure of non-emergency personnel.
Due to the unrest in Venezuela, on January 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of State ordered non-emergency U.S. government employees to leave Venezuela. The U.S. embassy said the U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Venezuela. U.S. citizens are directed to contact U.S. Embassy Caracas for consular assistance. U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Venezuela “should strongly consider departing Venezuela,” the embassy said. Commercial flights remained available. U.S. citizens in Venezuela are advised that if they stay in Venezuela, they ensure that they have adequate supplies to shelter in place, review personal security plans, and monitor local media for updates. The embassy’s Twitter account notes that demonstrations are scheduled to take place throughout Venezuela on February 2, 2019, and may continue in the following days. Movement of U.S. government personnel will be restricted to the vicinity of the U.S. embassy.
The Department’s announcement is at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visasnews/20190125_routine-visa-services-suspended-in-caracas.html. The U.S. embassy’s security alert is at https://ve.usembassy.gov/security-alert-u-s-embassy-caracas-venezuela-january-24- 2019/.
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