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HIDALGO, TX - MARCH 14: Immigrants collect their belongings before being deported across an international bridge into Mexico on March 14, 2017 from Hidalgo, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
HIDALGO, TX - MARCH 14: Immigrants collect their belongings before being deported across an international bridge into Mexico on March 14, 2017, from Hidalgo, Texas. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A Pandemic or Smokescreen? Trump Administration Deports Thousands of Asylum Seekers

According to Border Patrol officials, the Trump administration has carried out nearly 10,000 “summary” deportations or "expulsions" since March 21.

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President Donald Trump has once again used the malleable concept of "emergency" to attack the immigrant community –both at home and abroad.

Just as he bypassed Congress a year ago to declare a supposed "national emergency" and obtain funds to build his long-awaited border wall, Trump has now taken advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic to get asylum seekers deported "en masse.”

According to the Washington Post, since March 21, the administration "has carried out nearly 10,000 summary deportations," better known as "expulsions," using measures made available during the public health emergency.

The measures have given the Customs and Border Protection Agency "broad authority to bypass immigration laws," officials said Thursday, and have allowed the agency to "quickly turn away most unauthorized migrants" by sending them directly to Mexico.

Arguing fears of the spread of the Coronavirus, Border Patrol officials said they had "fewer than 100 detainees" at their stations, compared to nearly 20,000 at this time last year.

According to interim commissioner Mark Morgan, migration levels "have fallen to near their lowest point in decades" since the implementation of rapid expulsions, and so-called "illegal border crossings" have been reduced by 56%.

Morgan said "the United States has all but closed its borders to asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution, including those who attempt to enter legally.

"Those who are undocumented or don’t have documents or authorization, are turned away," he said.

A "reverse" risk

Paradoxically, and since the United States became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, several Central American countries have taken steps to prevent massive contagion in their territories by suspending deportations and tightening security along the border, according to ABC News.

The call has been for the U.S. to suspend deportations for fear that the transferred immigrants might carry the virus, a call that Trump has turned a deaf ear to, even after a positive case of a man deported to Guatemala was reported.

"Deportees arrive every day, risking further spread of COVID-19 infection in Central America and straining the limited resources of Central American governments that are preparing health systems to attend to an already vulnerable population," said Meg Galas, Northern Central America director for the International Rescue Committee, an aid organization that supports deported migrants, particularly in El Salvador.

While the United States has more than 500,000 cases of Coronavirus, Mexico has reported about 4,661, Guatemala 155 and El Salvador 137, but the conditions to which asylum seekers are subjected on the other side of the border could be a serious source of infection.

Thanks to the "Remain in Mexico" policy instituted by the Department of Homeland Security, immigrants are forced to stay in "unhygienic" camps and shelters in Mexican border cities where they are "at greater risk" of contracting the COVID-19 virus, Human Rights Watch denounced.

According to the organization, the protocol should be to parole immigrants with quarantine measures. Deporting them is "a violation of international rights.”

“The US government is pushing people who are in the process of seeking asylum, including children, to live in unhygienic conditions that unnecessarily increase their risk of contracting the coronavirus,” said Ariana Sawyer, US border researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The US has an obligation under international law not to compel people to risk their right to life in order to pursue their right to seek asylum.”

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