Officials Wednesday said that the Biden administration began exiling Nicaraguans and Cubans to Mexico as part of its pandemic-related powers to deny migrants asylum. This was despite publicly claiming it had been trying to undo it.
According to an American official who was directly aware of the matter, the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement to expel as many as 100 Cubans and 20 Nicaraguans per day from three locations in San Diego, El Paso, Texas, and Rio Grande Valley.
The official said that the expulsions started on April 27th and would end on May 22nd. The agreement was not made public. They are being carried out under Title 42 authority. This authority was named after a public law that expelled migrants to stop the spread of COVID-19. Title 42 will expire on May 23.
According to a Mexican high-ranking official, the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement April 26 on very limited expulsions for Nicaraguans and Cubans. The officials spoke under condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to speak publicly. The increased numbers of migrants from these two countries crossing the border to the U.S. prompted it.
Unauthorized to comment publicly, another Mexican official confirmed that at least 100 Cubans as well as 20 Nicaraguans were being expelled San Diego under Title 42, a deal that runs through May 22.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security didn't immediately respond to our request for comment.
Mexico had not yet agreed to accept Guatemalans, Hondurans, and El Salvadorans under Title 42 authority. Title 42 also applies to other nationalities, but cost and diplomatic ties issues as well as other considerations can make it difficult for them to return to their homelands.
Because of their poor relations with these governments, it is almost impossible for the U.S.to expel migrants from Cuba and Nicaragua. This has been a major problem for the Biden administration, as more people are seeking asylum in the United States from these countries.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Cubans were stopped more than 32,000 times at the Mexican border by U.S. officials in March. This is double the February figure and five times the October count. Nicaragua relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba in November. This made it easier for Cubans who want to travel by land to the U.S. frontier. Most people enter the U.S. near Yuma in Arizona and Del Rio in Texas.
The United States and Cuba made a tentative move to thaw relations and resume joint efforts to address irregular migration last month during four-year-old high-level talks.
Although there were no breakthroughs, the mere fact that substantive talks were held by the U.S. indicated that relations may be improving under President Joe Biden, after being in deep freeze under his predecessor.
"They seem committed. Fernandez de Cossio stated that they ratified the agreement in place. "So, we don't have any reason to doubt what they are saying. But time will tell.
In March, Nicaraguans were stopped over 16,000 times. This is more than twice the September level. Most enter South Texas.
As midterm elections approach, Title 42's removal has been controversial, even for Biden’s Democratic Party. This is despite concerns that the U.S. might not be prepared for an expected increase in asylum-seeking migrants. In March, authorities stopped more than 221,000 migrants. This is the highest number of such stops in 22 years.
The White House and Homeland Security Department publicly supported the decision of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stop the measure, as it was no longer justified by public health.
However, the practice of exiling Nicaraguans and Cubans is contrary to what the administration has said publicly. It was planning to phase out the use of pandemic powers in preparation for May 23. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the United States and Mexico had reached an agreement to expel Nicaraguans and Cubans.
Since March 2020, the U.S. has expelled more than 1.8 millions migrants under Title 42 authority. This effectively overrides rights to asylum under U.S. law as well as international treaty. Migrants are exempted from the immigration laws, which also include rights to protection against persecution at home.
In court filings, the administration stated that it started processing more Central American immigrants under immigration laws shortly after April 1's announcement by the CDC. A federal judge in Louisiana decided last week that Title 42 could not be unwound while it was in force.
Robert Summerhays, U.S. District Judge, strongly criticized CDC's decision and suggested he would work to keep Title 42 in force after May 23. Oral arguments will be heard at a hearing scheduled for May 13.
Marisa Limon is the Hope Border Institute's senior director of advocacy planning. She said that advocates first learned about the expulsion of Nicaraguans and Cubans from El Paso Monday, and then confirmed the practice with U.S. officials.
Limon stated that the administration was "trying to extract every bit of Title 42" before it expires. It was "sobering", she said, but it is consistent with the administration’s efforts to make other countries in Western hemisphere more responsible for housing people fleeing their homelands.