On March 24, 2020, a 31-year-old Mexican national in Bergen County Jail, New Jersey, became the first federal immigration detainee to test positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). By April 10, 2020, New Jersey had more confirmed COVID-19 cases among immigration detainees than any other state in the nation. This article examines the relationship between COVID-19 and processes of migrant detention and deportation through a case study of New Jersey — an early epicenter of the pandemic and part of the broader New York City metro area. Drawing on publicly available reports and in-depth interviews with wardens, immigration lawyers, advocates, and former detainees, we describe the initial COVID-19 response in four detention facilities in New Jersey. Our findings suggest that migrant detention and deportation present distinct challenges that undermine attempts to contain the spread of COVID-19. We provide testimonies from migrant detainees who speak to these challenges in unsettling personal terms. Our interviews highlight the insufficient actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to contain the spread of the pandemic and a troubling lack of due process in immigration court proceedings. Based on these findings, we argue that reducing the number of migrants detained in the United States is needed not only in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic but also as a preventative measure for future health crises. Reductions can be achieved, in part, by reforming federal immigration laws on “mandatory detention.”
The number of unaccompanied children and asylum-seekers crossing the US-Mexico border in search of protection has increased in recent weeks. The former president, his acolytes, and both extremist and mainstream media have characterized this situation as a “border crisis,” a self-inflicted wound by the Biden administration, and even a failure of US asylum policy. It is none of these things. Rather, it is a response to compounding pressures, most prominently the previous administration’s evisceration of US asylum and anti-trafficking policies and procedures, and the failure to address the conditions that are displacing residents of the Northern Triangle states of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), as well as Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and other countries. In Central America, these conditions include:
Through a survey of 125 long-term resident households in Pima County, Arizona, this study finds that an immigration arrest costs each household an average of more than $24,000. These costs accumulate through the value of assets seized and not recovered, out-of-pocket costs for hiring an attorney, immigration bond, and other expenses involved in supporting an immediate family member as they navigate the immigration court system. But they also include lost income due to disruptions to employment resulting from the arrest, and a physical inability to work while in detention, appearing in court, and immediately following deportation. In this article, we discuss how, when measured at the scale of the household, these financial costs fail to discriminate according to immigration or citizenship status, and accumulate to affect issues of poverty, education, housing security, health and development, and generational wealth inequality — all matters of sustained interest to state and local government. In the second half of the article, we draw on our research findings to evaluate various policies that states, counties, and municipalities can implement to mitigate these financial burdens while promoting the overall well-being of their constituents. Policies considered include:
- The “Immigrant Welcoming City” paradigm
- The limitation of routine cooperation and custody transfer between local and federal law enforcement
- Expanding access to permissible forms of identification
- Universal representation for immigration defendants
- The cultivation of community bond funds
- The promotion of worker-owned cooperatives
Although these kinds of state or local initiatives cannot replace meaningful federal action on immigration reform, they can do much to provide relief and promote economic security for established immigrant and mixed-status families living in the United States, while contributing to overall community well-being and economic vitality.
Enforcement along the US-Mexico border has intensified significantly since the early 1990s. Social scientists have documented several consequences of border militarization, including increased border-crosser deaths, the killing of more than 110 people by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents over the past decade, and expanded ethno-racial profiling in southwestern communities by immigration authorities. Less attention has been paid to the pervasive and routine mistreatment migrants experience on a daily basis in CBP custody.
This paper traces major developments in border enforcement to three notable initiatives: the “prevention-through-deterrence” strategy, the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Consequence Delivery System, initiated in 2011. Despite the massive buildup in enforcement, CBP has operated with little transparency and accountability to the detriment of migrants. The paper provides an overview of the findings of nongovernmental organizations and social scientists regarding migrant mistreatment while in CBP custody. It then highlights important shifts in migration patterns over the past decade, as well as changes in border enforcement efforts during the Trump administration. It discusses how these transformations affect migrants’ everyday encounters with CBP officials.
The paper concludes by providing specific recommendations for improving CBP conduct. Its core theme is the need to emphasize and inculcate lessons of appropriate police behavior, civil rights, and civil liberties in training and recruiting agents and in setting responsibilities of supervisors and administrators. It offers recommendations regarding important but underrecognized issues, including ending the use of CBP agents/officers as Asylum Officers, as well as better-known issues such as militarization and the border wall.
Black Lives Matter and that includes the lives of Black immigrants. Although the narrative around immigration usually focuses on Latinx people crossing the southern border from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, or Honduras, black immigrants from these countries, from the Caribbean, and from Africa comprise a significant and growing part of the story of immigration in the United States.
A new featured story from The Marshall Project profiles three families in northeast Ohio who have faced “financial ruin, mental health crises—and even death” after one member of each family was deported. Using extensive analysis of census data from the Center for Migration of New York (CMS), the feature concludes that about 909,000 mixed-status families, those with undocumented and US citizen members, would face financial hardship and risk falling into poverty if their undocumented breadwinners were deported.
This episode of CMSOnAir features an interview with Anna Gallagher, the executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC). She explains how CLINIC supports lawyers across the country as they adapt to the fast-paced policy changes of the current administration. She also discusses her concerns about access to asylum on the US-Mexico border and CLINIC’s Estamos Unidos Asylum Project in Ciudad Juarez — a response to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) or “Remain in Mexico” program.
The routine human rights abuses and due process violations of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have contributed to a mounting humanitarian and legal crisis along the US–Mexico border. In the United States, the treatment of UAC is governed by laws, policies, and standards drawn from the Flores Settlement, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), and CBP procedures and directives, which are intended to ensure UAC’s protection, well-being, and ability to pursue relief from removal, such as asylum. As nongovernmental organizations and human rights groups have documented, however, CBP has repeatedly violated these legal standards and policies, and subjected UAC to abuses and rights violations. This article draws from surveys of 97 recently deported Mexican UAC, which examine their experiences with US immigration authorities. The study finds that Mexican UAC are detained in subpar conditions, are routinely not screened for fear of return to their home countries or for human trafficking, and are not sufficiently informed about the deportation process. The article recommends that CBP should take immediate steps to improve the treatment of UAC, that CBP and other entities responsible for the care of UAC be monitored to ensure their compliance with US law and policy, and that Mexican UAC be afforded the same procedures and protection under the TVPRA as UAC from noncontiguous states.
This episode of CMSOnAir features an interview with Josiah Heyman, Professor of Anthropology, Endowed Professor of Border Trade Issues, and Director of the University of Texas, El Paso’s Center for Inter-American and Border Studies. CMS’s communications coordinator Emma Winters asks Josiah Heyman about a CMS Essay he authored with Jeremy Slack and Daniel E. Martínez. The essay, titled “Why Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers Should Not Serve as Asylum Officers,” examines findings from the Migrant Border Crossing Survey and concludes that US Border Patrol agents and other CBP officers should not serve as asylum officers because they “abuse migrants, physically and verbally, with significant frequency.” In the episode, Josiah Heyman also presents a positive vision of the US-Mexico border and lifts up Annunciation House as an example of the openness and generosity of border communities.
In June 2012, the Obama administration announced the establishment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which sought to provide work authorization and a temporary reprieve from deportation to eligible undocumented young immigrants who had arrived in the United States as minors. Hundreds of thousands of youth applied for the program, which required providing extensive evidence of identity, age, residence, education, and good moral character. The program allowed its recipients to pursue higher education, to access more and better job opportunities, and to deepen their social ties in the United States. This paper provides a statistical portrait of DACA recipients based on administrative data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and estimates drawn from the 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) Census data. Beyond its statistical portrait, the paper provides testimonies from DACA recipients who recount how the program improved their lives and their concerns over its possible termination. It also recommends passage of legislation that would create a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and programs and policies to support and empower young immigrants.