Up Against Mass Deportations and Family Separation, Immigrants Face an Excruciating, Inhumane “Choice”

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From a reader

Last week’s revcom.us article on what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border gave a sharp picture of the needless suffering being inflicted on thousands of migrants, particularly children. The article ended with:

Whether it is the outright genocidal fascism of Trump, the “close the border” while letting some immigrants in approach of Biden, or even Bernie Sanders who said he was against opening borders to immigrants because “there’s a lot of poverty in the world”—it should be clear that the rulers of this system have NO answers to this crisis of mass migration. And the direction things are heading in now, with runaway climate change and the resulting mass migration, and the growth of a fascist movement in this country which has xenophobia as one of its key cohering elements, is one ripe with the potential for catastrophe. The only just solution, as Bob Avakian put it, “lies in the revolution to overthrow this system—a revolution aiming not just to abolish oppression, exploitation, poverty, and misery in one country but having as its fundamental goal the abolition of all this throughout the world, and the elimination of all borders and boundaries that erect walls between different parts of humanity.”

As a follow-up to that piece, I wanted to contribute with some further observations.


Javier Leyva, a 30-year-old immigrant from Honduras, paid smugglers $6,000—his life savings—to take him and his six-year-old daughter across Mexico to the U.S. He planned to apply for asylum in Brownsville, Texas, the easternmost city on the border. But on March 16, Javier was denied asylum. Authorities put Javier, his daughter and several dozen other asylum seekers on a plane and flew them to El Paso—the westernmost Texas city, 800 miles away. When they landed, all these people, including children and toddlers, were promptly put on a bus and driven across the Rio Grande to the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez. As he stared towards El Paso’s downtown, Leyva told a reporter he didn’t know where he was, and what he was going to do. “They didn’t tell us anything, they just dropped us off here.”

Deportation and Detention

For the past several months, countless numbers of people from many countries, especially the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, have been crossing Mexico and trying to apply for asylum in the U.S. The deadly perils of that journey were written in blood on March 20, when a nine-year-old Mexican girl died on an island in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas, as she, her mother, and her three-year-old brother tried to cross the river to the U.S. side.

More pain is inflicted on most of those who make it all the way to the border and try to enter the U.S. In February, the first full month of Biden’s presidency, Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) statistics documented that it had made 96,974 “apprehensions” along the U.S. border with Mexico. The Border Patrol detained more than 11,000 unaccompanied migrant children between February 28 and March 20, according to preliminary government data. For days, government officials prevented lawyers from entering a Border Patrol tent where thousands of children and teenagers are held, and federal agencies refused or ignored dozens of requests from the media for access to detention sites.

When reporters were finally allowed to view some of the detention centers, CNN described them as having “akin to jail-like conditions.” The children have been sleeping on the floors of large rooms, with foil “blankets” to cover them. Government regulations supposedly require all children and minors to be held in these facilities for no more than 72 hours. However, according to CNN, “The average time in custody for unaccompanied children continues to hover around 130 hours.”

An Impossible “Choice”

Immediately upon taking office, the Biden administration took several measures concerning immigrants. Some were a break with actions of the fascist Trump/Pence regime. Others continued Trump policies.

Biden ended the Remain in Mexico program, initiated in 2019, which was a cornerstone of Trump’s fascist measures to all but eliminate asylum and completely shut down the border. That program sent people seeking asylum immediately back into Mexico, where they had to wait for court hearings to take place in the U.S. More than 65,000 people, mainly Central Americans who wanted to apply for asylum, were sent to Mexican border towns and cities deep in the country’s interior.

The Biden administration has begun processing some of the 25,000 migrants waiting in Mexico, with active claims in the program. But these migrants are required to register online or by phone, be tested for the coronavirus in Mexico, and then arrive at a U.S. port of entry on a specific day. Even assuming U.S. officials are able to reach these people, meeting all these requirements will be difficult, if not impossible, for many. And even if they do, less than 1 percent of asylum applications are being approved, according to the Houston Chronicle.

To implement Remain in Mexico, Trump invoked Title 42 of the U.S. Health Code that enables immigration authorities to prevent the entry of immigrants under the pretext of protecting public health. Biden’s administration has continued to use Title 42 to justify massive deportations at the border. The Texas Tribune reported that on March 16, “the Department of Homeland Security insisted ... the border is ‘not open’ and the Title 42 returns will continue in most circumstances.” Under Title 42, the U.S. is refusing entry to adults traveling alone as well as entire families, including children. Unaccompanied minors—children making the border crossing alone—are being put in U.S. detention centers.

This situation presents an excruciating and impossible “choice” to many desperate people in the camps along the Mexican side of the border. One possibility: keep their family intact on the Mexican side of the border, hoping that some way, somehow, they can make it to the U.S. side. Or, allow their children to cross the border alone and be taken into custody by the USCBP, in the hopes that this can be the basis for reuniting the family within the U.S.

The website Politico reported, “The fact that minors won’t be expelled like everyone else has rapidly spread by word of mouth across the length of the border. And while many families choose to stick together, the pressure to separate weighs heaviest on the most vulnerable—families who fear death, whether from persecutors who have followed them to the border, or from extreme hunger.”

In light of this, I went back to a section of the New Year’s statement from Bob Avakian, A New Year, The Urgent Need For A Radically New World—For The Emancipation Of All Humanity, which I think is very relevant:

As a result of the intensifying climate crisis, war and repression—and, as a driving force in all this, major changes in the capitalist-imperialist dominated world economy, including the further growth and increased impact internationally of corporate agribusiness and labor-displacing technology, increasingly monopolized control of seeds and chemicals, greater monopolization of marketing, and vast land-grabbing investments—there is massive dislocation and upheaval, particularly affecting people in the global South (the countries of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia—the Third World). An important feature of all this is mass urbanization: more than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, with huge shantytown slums, involving more than a billion people, in the urban areas of the Third World, even as tens of millions of people from the Third World have been forced to migrate to the U.S. and countries in Europe. And the situation has developed where, in some of these countries—with the U.S. a prime example—the economy could not function without the exploitation of large numbers of immigrants, while many are subjected to the constant threat of deportation, which also makes them even more vulnerable to extreme exploitation.

The ruin of much of traditional small-scale farming in Third World countries and the dramatic increase of an urban population there (as well as in the U.S. and some other imperialist countries) which in large numbers is unable to find work within the “formal economy”—this has also fostered the growth of an illegal economy and of gangs (and, particularly in Third World countries, cartels) based on this illegal economy, in particular the drug trade, but also the trafficking of human beings, especially women and girls viciously victimized in prostitution, the “sex industry,” and literal sexual slavery.

The capitalist-imperialist system, and the decisions made by its political leadership, have inflicted and are continuing to inflict incalculable, intolerable, suffering upon people of Central America and around the world.




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Detainees in a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) temporary overflow facility in Donna, Texas, March 20.
Photo above: AP. Photo below: Courtesy Rep. Henry Cuellar

Bob Avakian, "Why do people come here from all over the world?"



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