Supreme Court Rules Biden Can End Remain in Mexico, but Case Isn’t Over Yet
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the Biden administration can end the Remain in Mexico program, a Trump-era policy that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their U.S. immigration cases.
The Court ruled 5-4 against the state of Texas, which led the lawsuit attempting to block the government from ending Remain in Mexico, formally called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). The Court rejected the states’ argument that a 1996 law requires MPP, which was created by the Trump administration in 2019.
One of President Joe Biden’s campaign promises was to end MPP, and his administration tried to cancel the program early 2021. However, the states of Texas and Missouri sued to keep Remain in Mexico in place, and in August 2021 a federal judge in Texas ruled that immigration laws required the U.S. to return asylum-seekers to Mexico whenever the federal government lacked the resources to detain them – even if the asylum-seekers were not Mexican citizens.
It was that federal court decision the Supreme Court overturned last week, now sending the case back to the district court.
Privately-Run Migrant Detention Center Virtually Empty in California
A privately-run immigration detention center in Southern California, equipped to house nearly 2,000 detained immigrants awaiting deportation hearings, stands virtually empty nowadays.
Adelanto Detention Facility, along with a dozen other processing centers, is run by the GEO Group, the country’s largest for-profit prison company. According to the Associated Press, the federal government pays for more than 1,450 beds a day at Adelanto, but the facility currently houses a daily average of just 49 detainees.
It’s not only Adelanto lying nearly empty — the government pays for 300,000 immigration detention beds at 48 facilities around the country, but this fiscal year only around half have been occupied, according to government data. The average cost of one detention bed a day is $144. The Covid-19 pandemic forced detention facilities to space out detainees to curb the spread of the virus, leaving most of them underutilized.
Immigration advocates say the pandemic has proven the U.S. doesn’t need to lock up as many immigrants as it has claimed, especially since immigration agents are relying more on technology apps to keep track of immigrants ahead of their deportation hearings.
“The federal government, probably like all of us, didn’t think COVID would go on this long,” Michael Kaufman, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, told the AP. “This has been an accidental test case that shows they don’t need a detention capacity anywhere near what they’re saying.”
Facilities like Adelanto have long been the subject of lawsuits and complaints about unsafe and unsanitary conditions. A scathing 2018 report by the DHS Office of the Inspector General found detainees at Adelanto were sent to solitary confinement without hearings and nooses made from bedsheets were found hanging in cells. An investigation of another detention center run by the GEO Group in Folkston, Georgia concluded the facility was “unsanitary and dilapidated, with torn mattresses, water leaks and standing water, mold growth and water damage, rundown showers, mold and debris in the ventilation system, insect infestations, lack of access to hot showers, [and] inoperable toilets.”
Undocumented Immigrants Fear Crossing State Lines to Access Abortion Care
More than a dozen states have passed abortion bans following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end a constitutional right to abortion, forcing many women to cross state lines to access care. But for undocumented immigrants living in states with partial or full abortion bans, traveling to a neighboring state to get an abortion is fraught with peril.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection operates more than 110 interior immigration checkpoints along U.S. highways and roads. The fear of being stopped at a checkpoint makes it close to impossible for women without legal status to safely get an abortion.
The National Abortion Federation, the professional association for abortion providers, has in recent weeks seen a spike in calls to its Spanish-language hotline from women afraid to seek an abortion outside of Texas for fear of getting deported, said Penelope DiAlberto, a regional case manager for the federation in Texas.
A 27-year-old undocumented Honduran immigrant living in Texas told Reuters she got an abortion in 2015, but if she faced an unwanted pregnancy now, abortion wouldn’t be an option.
“In the position I am now, not having my papers, why would I risk myself?” she said.
Washington Supreme Court Overturns Case due to Racial Bias of Prosecutor
The Washington State Supreme Court found that a county criminal prosecutor’s racially biased questions during jury selection in a case unrelated to immigration amounted to misconduct, and reversed a lower court’s ruling and vacated the conviction of the man charged with the case.
Though the case against Zamora was only for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer, the prosecutor for the county in the case, Garth Dano, questioned the potential jury about illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and border security. He compared a possible border wall to locking the front door of one’s home, and made comments that “implicated” Zamora’s race, ethnicity, and immigration status in an effort to inflame jurors’ potential racial biases.
“The prosecutor in this case committed race-based misconduct,” Associate Chief Justice Charles Johnson wrote for the unanimous court in the case, State v. Zamora.
“This case was not remotely related to immigration — lawful or unlawful. This case had nothing to do with borders or border security. Any mention of border security, immigration, undocumented immigrants, and drug smuggling was wholly irrelevant,” Johnson wrote. “Courts must be vigilant of conduct that appears to appeal to racial or ethnic bias even when not expressly referencing race or ethnicity.”
Florida Supreme Court Approves Statewide Grand Jury for Immigration
The Florida Supreme Court approved Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request for a statewide grand jury to investigate immigration-related issues, specifically the smuggling of undocumented children into Florida. The grand jury will be impaneled for a year and have the jurisdiction in Florida to, “investigate crime, return indictments and make presentments.”
Impaneling statewide grand juries is relatively rare. The most well-known statewide grand jury in recent years was formed to investigate school safety and other issues after the 2018 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
But DeSantis and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody have focused heavily on immigration issues, frequently criticizing the Biden administration’s border policies.
Coinbase Is Selling Historical Geo-Tracking Data to ICE
Recent FOIA disclosures show that Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange tool in the U.S., is selling “historical geo tracking data” to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with no agreement limiting how ICE uses that data.
The data will come from tracking transactions made with nearly a dozen digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, Ether, and Tether. According to reporting by The Intercept, “[a]n email released through the FOIA request shows that Coinbase didn’t require ICE to agree to an End User License Agreement, standard legalese that imposes limits on what a customer can do with software.”
Coinbase claims that it “sources its information from public sources and does not make use of Coinbase user data,” but declined to provide information on how it is using that data.
Coinbase has been attempting to position itself with government agencies as an intelligence tool in recent years, selling its “Analytics” tracing software to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), as well as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Secret Service.