Date: Nov 09, 2020
Authors: Lauri Alvarez, Daniella Burgi-Palomino
This article was first published in the Fall 2020 issue of The Advocate.
We’ve had our work cut out for us these past few months. The Trump Administration has continued its assault on asylum seekers by weaponizing the pandemic under the guise of public safety through mass deportations and expulsions. There’s also been continued attacks against members of our immigrant communities in the United States. Here’s a recap of what’s been happening, what we’ve been doing to push back, and how you can get involved.
Halting deportations and expulsions from the border and ICE detention facilities
The Trump Administration is succeeding at keeping immigrants and asylum seekers out—by violating international law. Since March 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been rapidly expelling asylum seekers at our borders under Presidential CDC order Title 42. Over 200,000 asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, have been denied their chance of due process and their right to apply for asylum in the United States since then and instead have been rapidly expelled and returned to the same dangers they were fleeing.
If that weren’t enough, ICE is continuing to export coronavirus to countries with fragile healthcare systems through deportations. There have been 456 deportation flights during the pandemic and 1,219 ICE flights between ICE detention centers. The conditions in detention centers are inhumane with reports of no soap, receiving one mask per month, and no social distancing. A whistleblower complaint recently filed by nurse Dawn Wooten demonstrates the extent of ongoing human rights violations in ICE jails as it alleges gross medical misconduct in the Irwin detention center in Georgia, failure to provide migrants with COVID-19 tests when symptomatic, and migrant women undergoing hysterectomies without their consent. Over 6,500 detainees have already tested positive in custody but that doesn’t account for those who weren’t tested and were deported—and who then tested positive upon landing. Many receive only a temperature check before being forced on a flight to their home countries where they are greeted by stigma from their own communities who fear contracting the virus.
We’ve been working tirelessly to bring awareness to these shameful practices endangering the lives of asylum seekers and migrants. We hosted a congressional briefing with Representatives Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and a webinar with our partners on how deportations and expulsions are exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 and forcing asylum seekers back to danger and instability. And we didn’t stop there—we created a graphic and explainer for you to easily explain to your members of Congress and to your networks the impacts of these practices. And we contributed to the introduction of the Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act (S.4011 and H.R. 7569) which would halt all deportations during the pandemic and prohibit federal funds from implementing mass expulsions at the border. As we look towards building more humane immigration policies, we need your help to contact your members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor these bills to show strong opposition to halting expulsions and deportations during the pandemic.
Working to halt future possible deportations of TPS beneficiaries
The shameful anti-asylum policies are harming not only asylum seekers in Latin America and at the border but members of our communities in the United States. Last September, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Trump Administration stripping Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries from their humanitarian protections as early as March 2021 (in the Ramos v. Nielsen case). This would mean that unless there is a rehearing of the case, over 300,000 beneficiaries would be deported to countries they no longer call home. And in many cases, they would be deported to situations of violence and poverty, and few support systems. In the midst of a global pandemic, in which over 130,000 essential U.S. workers have TPS status, this decision would be detrimental to our economy and healthcare system as well as to so many members of our communities. Our TPSianos need permanent protections and they need them now. Last year, the House passed H.R. 6, The Dream and Promise Act, and it’s time to pressure the Senate to follow suit. We need your help advocating for the rights of our TPS community members and to build the momentum for a new Congress to pass these protections immediately next year.
Now is not the time to stand idly by as the rights of our community members and asylum seekers are being stripped away by this administration. These extreme anti-asylum policies are inhumane and against the values we hold dear as a country. We must speak up and stand up to protect our community. And we must lay the groundwork for rescinding these anti-asylum policies all together, ending the criminalization of all migrants, reverting away from militarized enforcement, and work to build immigration policies that are truly humane and inclusive.