Hundreds of Mexicans deported daily to Nogales after Biden's executive action (2024)

Advocates are seeing hundreds of Mexican families deported daily to Mexico because their requests for asylum are being denied by U.S. Border Patrol agents after President Joe Biden's recent rule restricting asylum in between border crossings.

Around 200 Mexican nationals, mostly families with young children and many of whom are escaping violence and persecution, are being deported daily to Mexico, said Pedro De Velasco, the director of education and advocacy for the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative.

Migrants told the Kino Border Initiative they tried to surrender to U.S. Border Patrol agents to seek asylum, but their requests were ignored.

“Even after they explained to the Border Patrol agents … they are fleeing from violence and persecution, or explicitly asking for asylum, they're being summarily ignored and deported to Mexico," De Velasco said.

Hundreds of Mexicans deported daily to Nogales after Biden's executive action (1)

That goes against the order that still allows people facing persecution or who show an intention to apply for asylum to take a credible fear test, he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the president’s executive action allows "noncitizens" who cross the southern border and are processed for expedited removal to be referred for a credible fear screening with an asylum officer if they express a fear of returning to their country or country of removal, fear of persecution or torture, or an intention to apply for asylum.

“Not everybody has a valid asylum claim, but even if one person is fleeing violence or persecution, that's enough to ask that Border Patrol listens to every single one of them,” De Velasco said. “You cannot ignore them all, because the risk is that you're sending somebody to danger or you're sending somebody to death.”

What does Biden's executive action mean for migrants?

Biden released a proclamation on June 4 to allow the U.S. Border Patrol to shut down all asylum processing under sections 212(f) and 215(a) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act when the number of migrant crossings in between the ports of entry exceeds 2,500 per day over a seven-day period.

Processing would resume when the number of migrant crossings falls below 1,500 per day over a seven-day period. The order would not impact asylum processing at legal border crossings.

The executive action prohibits migrants who cross the southern border unlawfully or without authorization from being eligible for asylum "absent exceptionally compelling circ*mstances."

Compelling circ*mstances include an acute medical emergency, an imminent threat to life or safety, and a victim of human trafficking.

The new rule also requires migrants who want to claim asylum to apply for entry through one of 1,500 daily appointments border wide made available at the CBP One mobile app.

However, people scheduling appointments with immigration officers through the app often have to wait months for an appointment if they are lucky enough to get one, with the average person waiting four months or more for an appointment, De Velasco said.

Following the president’s executive action, that wait could get longer. De Velasco said before the executive order came out, some walk-in appointments were processed, but now everyone must apply through the app. Border officials have not increased the number of appointments available.

Hundreds of Mexicans deported daily to Nogales after Biden's executive action (2)

Nogales is seeing a surge in Mexicans returning to Mexico

The executive action has resulted in a surge in the number of Mexicans arriving daily at the repatriation office in Nogales, Sonora. The high number of arrivals means some people are forced to wait outside in 95-degree heat until they can be seen. De Velasco said at any given time there are about 50 people in the repatriation office and 20 people waiting outside in the blistering heat.

The recent numbers of people returned to Mexico are significantly higher than they were before Biden’s executive action. The most recent data from the Mexican government shows the number of migrants returned to Mexico through the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales reached 2,607 in January; 2,914 in February; 3,234 in March; and 3,517 in April.

Another change following the new rule is the lack of offering a voluntary return rather than deportation, De Velasco said. The option of voluntary departure allows people to leave without formal removal proceedings or deportation charges. Deportation bars migrants from returning to the U.S. for at least five years and could result in criminal prosecution.

“We are talking about Mexican nationals who are stuck in the same country they are trying to flee from,” he said. "They are being returned to the same country, returned to that same danger."

Hundreds of Mexicans deported daily to Nogales after Biden's executive action (3)

Immigrant rights groups sue Biden administration over executive action

On Wednesday, immigrants' rights groups announced their intention to sue the Biden administration over the new rule, saying it puts thousands of lives at risk.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigrant Justice Center, and several other groups filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

The groups argue the rule effectively shuts off access to asylum protections for the majority of people arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, "no matter how strong their claims," the groups wrote in a press release. They compared the new rule to the asylum entry ban erected under former president Donald Trump's Administration.

The groups also contend the rule is inconsistent with the asylum statute enacted by Congress, which permits migrants to apply for asylum whether or not they enter at a port of entry.

"Around the world, people are fleeing persecution and torture at higher rates than ever before," said Keren Zwick, the litigation director for the National Immigrant Justice Center. "It’s shameful that the U.S. government has chosen to respond by shutting out access to asylum to those who come to our border in need."

Many border town officials say they support the executive action

Biden invited numerous border town officials to attend his announcement on June 4 in Washington D.C. One of the attendees was Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors member Manny Ruiz.

After the announcement, he and the Board of Supervisors thanked Biden.

"These actions will provide relief to our border community by limiting the overflow of migrants and supporting our agents of the Border Patrol,” Ruiz said in a written statement.

Ruiz’s statement on the new rule reflects similar sentiments that other border town officials have expressed but is in contrast to the reactions of progressive legislators and advocates.

Ruiz told The Arizona Republic that Biden's action was precipitated by actions taken by former President Donald Trump to kill a "good" bill that garnered bipartisan support and provided more assistance to border communities. He called on Congress to work on and fix the country's "broken immigration system."

As more people are deported to Nogales, De Velasco reiterated that the Kino Border Initiative is prepared and ready to help welcome migrants back to Mexico, offer them support and help those who want to stay in Nogales integrate into the community.

“We're up for this. We're ready for this. We simply ask for people’s support and for the government to do their part,” De Velasco said.

Reach the reporter atsarah.lapidus@gannett.com. The Republic’s coverage of southern Arizona is funded, in part, with a grant from Report for America. Support Arizona news coverage with a tax-deductible donation atsupportjournalism.azcentral.com.

Hundreds of Mexicans deported daily to Nogales after Biden's executive action (2024)

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