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More than seven months since President Biden took office, the U.S. government continues to turn awayand block people seeking protection at U.S. ports of entry along the southern border and to expel manyasylum seekers to growing danger in Mexico. For this report, Human Rights First researchers conducted in person and remote interviews with migrantsand asylum seekers, government officials in the United States and Mexico, attorneys, academicresearchers, humanitarian staff, and other legal monitors. Researchers spoke with 65 migrants andasylum seekers in person in the Mexican cities of Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, Piedras Negras, and CiudadAcuña in August 2021 and more than 50 additional interviews with migrants and asylum seekers inMexico were carried out by telephone between July and August 2021. Interviews were conductedprimarily in Spanish with a limited number in English. The report draws on data from an electronic surveyof asylum seekers in Mexico conducted by Al Otro Lado between June and August 2021, as well asinformation from U.S. and Mexican government data, media sources, and other human rights reports.
The COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) pandemic, and the related federal response, disrupted virtually every aspect of the U.S. immigration system. Visa processing overseas by the Department of State, as well as the processing of some immigration benefits within the country by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), have come to a near standstill. Entry into the United States along the Mexican and Canadian borders—including by asylum seekers and unaccompanied children—has been severely restricted. Immigration enforcement actions in the interior of the country have been curtailed, although they have not stopped entirely. Tens of thousands of people remain in immigration detention despite the high risk of COVID-19 transmission in crowded jails, prisons, and detention centers that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses to hold noncitizens. The pandemic led to the suspension of many immigration court hearings and limited the functioning of the few courts which remain open or were reopened. Meanwhile, Congress left millions of immigrants and their families out of legislative relief, leaving many people struggling to stay afloat in a time of economic uncertainty.This report seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of the impact of COVID-19 across the immigration system in the United States. Given that the landscape of immigration policy is changing rapidly in the face of the pandemic, this report will be updated as needed.
This analysis attempts to estimate the costs of resettling refugees from that region in the United States. Given the high costs of resettling refugees in the United States, providing for them in neighboring countries in the Middle East may be a more cost-effective way to help them.