This week, we read about Haitian asylum-seekers being mistreated by ICE, how the Omicron variant is affecting travel restrictions, and how Afghan refugees are spending their time at military bases.
Haitian asylum-seekers have been taking shelter in an encampment in Del Rio, Texas for over two months. In September, images of Border Patrol agents pursuing migrants on horseback inspired outrage. Since then, the Biden Administration has deported an estimated 9,200 migrants. Others were forced back across the border into Mexico. A small number of migrants were allowed into the US to pursue their asylum claims. Others were taken to the Torrance County Detention Facility in New Mexico after the encampment was dismantled by ICE. In November, several immigrant justice organizations filed suit with the Department of Homeland Security. This was due to severe human rights and due process violations.
Asylum-seekers say that they endured medical neglect, were denied medication, and served inedible food at the facility. They also were subjected to unsafe conditions that caused them mental and physical harm. Asylum-seekers were only recently granted access to legal services after external pressure. Asylees are not being given information about the process, translation services, or options for parole.
The poor conditions of the Torrence facility are an outgrowth of the “prevention through deterrence” campaign. This has been the strategy of the last several administrations, including the Biden administration.
Despite claims that this administration would be more humane than the Trump administration, Joe Biden has continued to allow several inhumane immigration policies, including the Remain in Mexico policy.
The CDC announced it will tighten COVID testing requirements for travelers due to the Omicron variant. The CDC is considering requiring a negative COVID test within a day before departure instead of three days before. This would be an additional requirement for travelers.
The new requirements have not officially been put in place. Though many travelers preparing for holiday trips have started to panic, scheduling more tests and checking airline reservation policies.
Other travelers worry that the new variant may affect the travel ban that was recently lifted. In general, the plans outlined by the CDC show increased concern about the new variant.
“It’s a shame, because travel just opened up again,” said Giritharan Sripathy, a traveler with plans to fly to New York from London.
CDC spokesman Jason McDonald reported that requiring a test within 24 hours of departure versus three days could improve U.S. travel safety protocols. The Biden administration plans to announce a travel update in regards to the variant this week.
Afghan refugees are spending time at a New Jersey military base and seven other U.S. military bases. The federal government is still processing over 35,000 evacuees from the U.S. withdrawal in Afghanistan. This resettlement effort is among the largest the U.S. has undertaken in fifty years.
Each base operates like a small city with English classes, recreation activities, and legal advice. Money for the temporary housing comes from the short-term spending bill passed by the Biden administration last week. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas hopes the resettlement process will be complete in the next three months.
One member of the New Jersey base, Sana Khairi, is a young Afghan poet who has been translating some of her poetry into English with the help of a linguist.
An excerpt of her poem, “I Am a Refugee,” reads:
“O motherland, your season changed. Your treasures, unseen. Your children, buried. Your flag, lowered. You have been abandoned. O motherland, you are forgotten. I packed for a journey. I don’t know its destination. My dreams like torn pages fall from your sky, and you fell in the hands of unkind.”