Dozens of deaths in Texas and Spain highlight the dangers that many migrants face
Last week began with horrific reports of the deaths of migrants in both Texas and Spain. In San Antonio, Texas, 53 people were found dead in the back of a semi truck and 16 more were hospitalized due to heat-related causes. DHS has called the incident the deadliest human smuggling event in U.S. history. The incident furthers a disturbing trend of increasing numbers of migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border and across the world. The UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on Friday that at least 1,238 people lost their lives during migration attempts in the Americas during 2021, and at least 728 of those deaths occurred at the southern U.S. border.
More news came out last week regarding at least 23 people who were killed at Melilla Border as up to 2,000 migrants and asylum seekers attempted to scale a fence between Moroccan and Spanish territory. It is unclear whether the deaths were caused by the crush of the crowd or if there was violent involvement from authorities, but there have been calls for further investigation from multiple organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner.
Danilo Zak of the National Immigration Forum pointed out last week that as long as governments continue to focus on “Prevention through Deterrence” rather than comprehensive immigration policies, we will continue to see tragedies like these along national borders. We need meaningful reform that provides safe and orderly processing while also honoring the humanity of migrants seeking safety and hope.
Supreme Court rules the Biden administration can end “Remain in Mexico”
The Supreme Court closed their current term last Thursday by announcing in a 5-4 ruling that the Biden administration acted within their authority in terminating the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program or MPP. Over 71,000 people were forced to wait in Mexico for their asylum hearings under this policy, and there are reports of more than 1,500 violent attacks on those left vulnerable in dangerous border cities.
An earlier ruling from the lower courts had blocked the Biden administration’s attempts to end MPP, and in December a newer version of the program was created. From December 2021 to May 2022, around 5,000 asylum seekers were required to wait in Mexico. Of those, only 1,109 have completed their cases and only 27 people have received asylum (a 2.4% approval rate). In comparison, 50% of asylum seekers not in MPP received approvals during that same time frame. Only 5% of those enrolled in MPP were able to get attorneys.
Some good news
In some positive news, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that an American father who was separated from his son in the chaos of the Kabul airport last summer has been reunited with his child in California.
It was also reported that the U.S. government is expanding eligibility for Afghans to receive humanitarian parole. Two weeks ago we shared that over 90% of Afghans who had applied for this protection since last summer had been denied due to the stringent rules around humanitarian parole approvals that required third-party evidence of targeted threats of harm against the applicant as an individual. However, changes to this policy should allow more latitude for application approvals, as officials can now consider whether an individual is a member of a “targeted group” at risk of serious harm.