By Josue Monroy
Last week, The Guardian reported that since March 2020 at least 11 women who had recently given birth in the U.S. were dropped off in Mexican border towns without their children being given birth certificates.
This was part of a Trump-era border policy that also sent asylum seekers who arrived at the border back to Mexico, regardless of their asylum claims or their country of origin. Now, the Biden administration is dealing with the aftermath of Trump’s controversial immigration policies, as well as a new wave of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking respite.
The bombshell allegations reported by The Guardian are a culmination of months of investigation in conjunction with the Fuller Project, a nonprofit journalism collective focusing on women’s issues. During the course of the investigation, they spoke with lawyers that worked with asylum seekers at the border, while also poring through hospital records and legal documents that corroborate the forced removals of at least 11 undocumented mothers and their babies to Mexico.
There are fears that the number could be much higher due to the Trump administration’s use of legally-dubious rapid expulsions to deport migrants in a fast-paced manner out of the public eye.
In an interview with The Intercept, Nicole Ramos, the director of the Border Rights Project at Al Otro Lado, an organization providing legal and social services to immigrants, echoed those concerns
“The law does not allow for the rapid expulsion of U.S. citizens,” stated Ramos.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has invoked a March 2020 mandate that the Center for Disease Control crafted in response to the coronavirus pandemic which gives “the power to prohibit, in whole or in part, the introduction of persons and property from such countries or places as he shall designate” to the CDC director.
This was a measure to prevent the influx of persons into the country during a global health crisis. Specifically, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were included at the behest of former White House adviser Stephen Miller.
However, the CBP has implemented it at its discretion, even sending a recent mother originally from Haiti to Tijuana without any documents proving her newborn daughter’s U.S. citizenship. These tough policies had been a centerpiece of the previous administration’s “zero tolerance” approach to all illegal immigration, including asylum seekers.
In 2020, the CBP reported more than 200,000 rapid expulsions, many of them unaccompanied minors. So far in the 2021 fiscal year there have been 190,000 reported expulsions.
A 2019 report indicated that more than 5,400 children were separated from their families at the border since the Trump administration had come to power. Recently, the Biden administration signed a series of executive orders aimed at reversing many of Trump’s policies, including a plan to reunify families separated at the border.
The results of these policy reversals have already changed the situation at the border. Some migrants who are detained at the border with their families have been released into the U.S. by border patrol in states like Texas. As many as 1,000 individuals have been permitted to stay there and hundreds more in California.
This may serve as an encouraging sign to migrants who have seen the new Biden administration with optimism and decide to journey north. Biden, however, has strongly discouraged potential caravans from embarking on the perilous journey. The administration has also not formally revoked the expulsion policy, and there will continue to be deportations as usual.
The recent hurricanes that devastated Central America in 2020 are another factor that may lead to a larger presence of migrants at the border, as migrants flee desperate economic and social conditions that will be exacerbated by the natural disasters’ aftermath.
All of these fluid situations will prove to be a daunting juggling act for the emergent Biden administration, as they are poised to hit critical mass in the near future.
Josué Monroy is a 4th year International Relations major at UC Davis. He is from Santa Cruz, CA.