Biden Admin Dumping Migrants in Unfamiliar Parts of Mexico

The Biden administration is restarting the “lateral flights,” wherein migrants caught crossing the border from Mexico are transported into another area and often sent back into Mexico from there.

According to advocacy groups, migrants aboard the flights often think they are already allowed to stay in the country, only to be expelled to an unfamiliar place in Mexico. Migrants, for instance, are flown from Rio Grande Valley into El Paso. Then, they are sent back across the border from El Paso.

Gelernt: The Biden administration should not be increasing the “cruelty and trauma.”

Deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigration Rights Project, Lee Gelernt, stated that the administration should not summarily expel migrants without hearing; certainly, they should not be increasing the “cruelty and trauma” of the migrants by putting them on flights without understanding what will happen to them.

Gelernt added that immigrants are led to believe that they will be flown to a different location in the United States where they will be finally allowed to stay. However, there are reports of migrants being walked back to Mexico after the “lateral flight.” They would often find themselves in unfamiliar places in Mexico and cannot reenter the U.S.

However, Gelernt mentioned that at present, Biden officials already issued guidance to stop lateral flights. They also issued guidelines that border agents should abide by when and where border removals can occur.

The guidance typically dictates that migrants should be handed from U.S. officials directly to their Mexican counterparts. The measures should be done during daylight and at designated points of entry.

Additional Details

The lateral flight under the Biden administration started in March. It began when the number of migrants crossing the border started to spike.

In May, the Department of Homeland Security suspended lateral flights. When the lateral flights were suspended, a spokesperson for the DHS stated government reserves the right to bring back the lateral flights if the circumstances so warrant.

The suspension of the lateral flights is a part of the negotiations and ongoing lawsuit about Title 42; this is the COVID-19-related restriction that expelled most migrants caught crossing the border. Under Title 42, they were sent back to Mexico, even before they had the opportunity to seek asylum.

A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson defended the lateral flights, saying that several Border Patrol agents have seen a major increase in migrant encounters in the past months.

The spokesperson added that in order to process migrants as expeditiously and as safely as possible, unprocessed migrants are sometimes transported via air (or on the ground) to other sectors located at the Southwest border.

In the meantime, the Biden administration will only place single adult migrants on these lateral flights. This contrasts with how the government previously transporting whole families to unfamiliar locations.