From the November-December 2020 issue of News & Letters
‘Remain in Mexico’ policy goes to Supreme Court
The “Remain in Mexico” policy, in which border guards physically prevent asylum seekers from approaching U.S. border stations on the U.S./Mexico border, will be reviewed by the Supreme Court in 2021.
Remain in Mexico requires the asylum seekers—many of them fleeing extortion, rape and murder—to make an appointment months in the future when they will be allowed to approach and state their case. In the meantime, they must remain as undocumented foreigners in Mexico, at risk of extortion, rape and murder.
The court will also review Trump’s executive order declaring a state of emergency, in which he diverted money from other parts of budget to pay for border wall construction. Both cases will be too little, too late to contain any damage to human rights, assuming that an incoming Biden Administration cancels both of these policies. The court’s rulings might only be useful as legal precedent against any possible future administration that tries to mimic Trump.
Efforts to find parents of separated immigrant children continue
Before the family separation policy on the border went into effect nationwide, eventually leading to protests and a popular outcry, there had been a 2017 pilot program operating exclusively in El Paso, Texas. About 1,000 families were separated that year in El Paso, and now according to a legal brief filed in San Diego on Oct. 20, the parents of 545 (later updated to 666) children still have not been found. The parents were deported long before courts ordered the practice halted in 2018 and that the parents’ whereabouts must be recorded. In a horrifyingly purposeful move, the Trump Administration lacked any kind of plan to keep track of the deported parents before they were actually ordered to make one.
A steering committee made up of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Justice in Motion, and other non-governmental organizations have acted as court-appointed monitors in an attempt to locate the parents at the expense of the federal government. The passage of time and complications due to pandemic travel have slowed some of these efforts, which include working with organizational partners within Mexico and Central America. In addition, the deported parents may be in hiding, as they face the same dangers and challenges that they originally fled.
According to the status report filed by the ACLU and the administration, the parents of 75 of the children are likely contactable but have not yet been reached; another 187 children have parents whose likely location is determined but without a method of contact; and the remaining 283 children have parents who could not be located so far.
Some of the parents who were contacted opted to have their children stay with sponsors in the U.S. (other relatives or foster homes). Sabrina Rojas Weiss, an expert on parenting, wrote: “this is an act of desperation made by people who want better lives for their kids than they can have at home. Of course they would like to be reunited, but not if it means they’ll all be in danger again.”