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Biden Is Expediting Deportations of Migrant Families

The Biden administration added another repressive measure against migrants on top of Donald Trump’s already draconian Title 42. Now border patrol agents have the right to decide asylum cases.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

July 29, 2021
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Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

On the campaign trail, Biden promised humane immigration policies, seeking to win votes from all those people horrified by the concentration camps at the border and the draconian immigration policies of Donald Trump.

But as president, Biden is a continuation of, not a break with, Trump.

On Monday the Biden administration gave one more example of this. The administration announced that it will remove migrant families without due process; if border officials deem a family unqualified for asylum, they will be deported immediately.

“Expedited removal provides a lawful, more accelerated procedure to remove those family units who do not have a basis under U.S. law to be in the United States,” the Department of Homeland Security said.

What this really means is that terrified migrants fleeing persecution, violence, and sexual assault, who are making a long, violent, and terrifying trek to the U.S., will be interrogated by border agents. These migrants are fleeing their home countries because of the imperialist policies that have created violence, instability, and abject poverty. They have survived political persecution, violence, sexual assault and a long, dangerous trajector to the border. 

And when they arrive to the border, asylum cases can and will be decided by the mood, the xenophobia, and the extortion of border patrol agents who are both prosecutor and judge. It means border agents will be in charge of deciding if immigrants have a “credible fear of persecution” on the spot.

Camille Mackler, founder and executive director of Immigrant ARC, said, “The expedited removal procedure involves sitting across a desk from a government agent signing a deportation order. There is no ability to see a judge, consult with a legal advocate (much less an attorney), or otherwise understand the process.”

This is on top of the rule enacted in the Trump era known as Title 42, which allows the United States to immediately send migrants back across the border even if they wish to make an asylum claim.

But Title 42 removals aren’t enough for Biden. The Department of Homeland Security announced that “ certain family units who are not able to be expelled under Title 42 will be placed in expedited removal proceedings. ”

Raices Texas tweeted, “This new policy is Title 42 on steroids” — the expansion of the ability to deport just about anyone who arrives at the southern border, including children.

Immigrants rights activists argue that “expedited removal and Title 42 result in longer stays in Customs and Border Protection facilities, where migrants experience inhumane and violent conditions.”

Robyn Barnard, senior advocacy counsel at Human Rights First, tweeted, “The whole point of expedited removal is to summarily deport ppl w/out seeing a judge to make their claim for asylum. DHS locks them up in prisons while they effect these summary deportations & it all happens in quick succession to make it cheaper for govt.”

Like every Democrat who came before him, Biden uses more “humane” language to cover up brutal policies against migrants. While there are open borders for capital with free trade agreements that facilitate the exploitation of workers, people are barred entry. This isn’t just about one law. We must struggle to close all the camps and open the borders not only to asylum seekers, but to all migrants. 

Title 42

Title 42 is based on a 1944 public health statute to close the border to “non-essential” travel. Trump revived this policy in March 2020. It has been maintained and now expanded under the Biden administration despite protests and lawsuits.

As a result, explains the LA Times, “U.S. border officials have claimed unchecked, unilateral authority to summarily expel from the country hundreds of thousands of immigrant adults, families and unaccompanied minors who didn’t have prior permission to enter, without due process or access to asylum — let alone testing for the coronavirus.” In the year of Title 42, less than 1 percent have been able to seek protection in the U.S., and Title 42 was applied to over 80 percent of migrants. This included 16,000 unaccompanied minors and 34,ooo children expelled alongside their parents.

Human Rights lawyers and the United Nations say that Title 42 is illegal because it’s almost impossible to get asylum through this process. Lawyers claim that Biden, like Trump, is breaking international law.

“The Biden administration’s use of Title 42 is flatly illegal,” said Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the Trump administration over the policy. The Biden administration is now defending the policy in court. “There is zero daylight between the Biden administration and Trump administration’s position,” Gelernt said.

Title 42 on Steroids

Susan Rice, head of Biden’s Domestic Policy Council, tweeted, “Ignore the noise on TV: The U.S. CAN have an orderly, secure, and well-managed border — and still treat people fairly and humanely.

Today, we’re releasing a blueprint showing how we’re cleaning up the cruel and reckless policies of the past four years and fixing a broken system.”

But the truth is that Biden’s policies aren’t fair or humane, and Biden has no solutions for migrants. The “expedited removal” is actually more draconian than Trump’s already brutal policies. It means that even more people will be deported, and it gives the Border Patrol an absurd amount of power. It means an expansion of already brutal laws. 

Rachel Sheridan, litigation counsel at Tahirih Justice Center, said, “Because of this policy, women seeking protection from domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking, and other forms of gender-based harm could be deported without having the chance to prove their case for asylum.”

There is no “fixing the broken system” based on militarization and borders. After all, immigration is the result of imperialist policies and with climate change, people won’t stop being displaced. And the criminalization of immigrants is convenient for employers in the U.S.; it allows the super-exploitation of migrants who are treated as second class citizens. 

Close the Camps, Open Borders

The Biden administration’s immigration policies have continued those of Trump, with kinder and more polite language, like the explanation by Susan Rice above.

But the brutality continues. 

The concentration camps on the border are overcrowded and lack basic health supplies. Kids are still in cages, and sexual assaults of children have been reported at facilities that remain open.

Migrants are merely fleeing the results of U.S. imperialism: the coups that destabilized countries, the debt that forces austerity of semicolonial countries, the U.S. corporations and their low wages, the climate change created by the wealthiest people in the world and U.S. corporations.

We cannot be pacified by Biden’s “kind imperialism” rhetoric. He’s maintaining and escalating the brutal policies of Trump and his Democratic and Republican predecessors. Humane rhetoric should not shake us from the fight we must continue to open the borders and to close all the concentration camps holding migrants.

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Tatiana Cozzarelli

Tatiana is a former middle school teacher and current Urban Education PhD student at CUNY.

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