Some nationalities escape Biden’s sweeping asylum ban because deportation flights are rare

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Border Patrol arrested Gerardo Henao 14 hours after President Joe Biden asylum treatment suspended at the US border with Mexico this week. But instead of being summarily deported, he was dropped off by agents the next day at a San Diego bus stop, where he boarded a train to the airport for a flight to Newark, New Jersey.

Henao, who said he left his jewelry business in Medellin, Colombia, because of constant extortion attempts, had one thing working in his favor: the rarity of deportation flights to that country. Lack of resources, diplomatic limits and logistical obstacles make it difficult for the Biden administration to impose its sweeping measures on a large scale.

Politicswhich took effect Wednesday, provides an exception for “operational considerations,” official language acknowledging that the government does not have the money and authority to expel everyone subject to the measure, especially people from countries in South America, Asia, Africa and Europe that have not done so. started showing up at the border until recently.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a detailed document describing the ban that “the demographics and nationalities encountered at the border have a significant impact” on its ability to expel people.

Thousands of migrants have been expelled so far under the ban, according to two senior Department of Homeland Security officials who briefed reporters Friday on condition of anonymity. There were 17 deportation flights, including one to Uzbekistan. Those expelled include people from Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru and Mexico.

Henao, 59, said a Border Patrol agent told him about the ban after he was stopped Wednesday on a dirt road near a high-voltage power line in the boulder-strewn mountains at the East San Diego. The agent processed release paperwork ordering him to appear in immigration court in October. 23 in New Jersey. He casually asked Henao why he fled Colombia, but did not pursue that direction.

“It was nothing,” Henao said at a San Diego transit center, where the Border Patrol dropped off four busloads of migrants in four hours Thursday afternoon. “They took my photo, my fingerprints and that’s it.”

Many of the migrants released that day came from China, India, Colombia and Ecuador. One group included men from Mauritania, Sudan and Ethiopia.

“Hello, if you arrive now, you have been released from immigration control and you can go to the airport,” a volunteer with a bullhorn told the migrants, directing them to a platform. form of tram on the other side of the parking lot. “You can go there for free if you don’t have money for a taxi or Uber.”

Under the measure, asylum is suspended when arrests for illegal crossings reach 2,500 per day. It ends when their average is below 1,500 for a consecutive week.

Border authorities have been asked to give highest priority to detaining migrants who can be easily expelled, followed by “difficult to expel” nationalities requiring at least five days to issue travel documents, then “very difficult to expel” which governments do not accept. American flights.

The instructions are presented in a memo to agents reported by the New York Post. The Associated Press confirmed its contents with a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because it has not been made public.

Homeland Security has been clear about the obstacles, said Theresa Cardinal Brown, senior adviser for immigration and border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank.

“There is a limit to the resources the government has for detaining and deporting people, and particularly in countries to which we have difficulty deporting people because (the other) government is not cooperative,” Brown said. “We cannot detain them indefinitely.”

U.S. Immigration, Customs and Law Enforcement conducted 679 deportation flights from January to May, nearly 60% of them to Guatemala and Honduras, according to Witness at the Border, an advocacy group which analyzes flight data. There were 46 flights to Colombia, 42 to Ecuador and 12 to Peru, a relatively small number considering that tens of thousands of people enter illegally from these countries every month.

There were only 10 deportation flights during this period to Africa, which has become a major source of migration to the United States. There was just one in Chinadespite the arrest of nearly 13,000 Chinese migrants.

Mexico is the easiest country for expulsions because you just have to drive to the nearest border crossing, but Mexicans were arrested at the border in fewer than three out of ten cases during the last fiscal year. government, up from nine in ten in 2010. Mexico also takes in 30,000 people a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, countries that have limited capacity or willingness to take people back .

Some countries are refusing to accept flights to avoid becoming overwhelmed, Corey Price, then director of ICE enforcement and removal operations, said in an interview last year.

“We’re not the ones driving the bus,” said Price, who retired last month. “We don’t unilaterally decide, ‘OK, we’re sending your citizen back.’ No, this country still has to agree to take them back.”


Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana in Washington contributed.

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