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Separate But Equal and Vigilante Justice
Republicans are moving fast to pass oppressive legislation and remove individuals' constitutional rights.
HB7 and HB20 in the Texas Legislature are a travesty of justice and an insult to our societal values. These bills represent a concerted effort to undermine the rights and dignity of marginalized communities, and they should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
On Wednesday, HB7 and HB20 were heard in the Texas House State Committee. During the debates and testimony of each bill, it became increasingly clear that the intent of each of these bills was to harm communities of color.
It’s hard to understand why Republicans are pushing legislation that would take away the rights of others. 90% of the Republican Party is white, yet 62% of Texans are people of color. While white people are a minority in Texas, they make up the majority of Republicans.
A new “Separate But Equal” Court System.
Creating a “separate but equal” court system through HB7 is a throwback to a dark period in our history, where discrimination was institutionalized, and justice was not blind. This bill proposes establishing a border protection court program to handle issues arising under Chapter 51, Penal Code, and related border issues.
A program that only deals with border-related issues will lead to a “separate but equal” court system, where the courts in the border region are treated differently than those in the rest of the state. This will lead to unequal access to justice and discriminatory treatment of individuals in the border region.
Here is the entire bill hearing, but there are shorter clips below:
The awful reality of Operation Lone Star.
Countless witnesses from border regions showed up to testify against HB7 and HB20. While we all knew how bad the situation was down south, the picture they painted was much worse.
American teenagers are arrested for human smuggling just for having their friends in the car. Border Patrol is harassing citizens in border communities. And accounts of DPS walking migrants onto private property just to arrest them for trespassing.
There were also reports of why there have been so-called illegal crossings, primarily due to refugees being turned away from ports of entry. Much of it stems from Title 42.
What is Title 42?
This is a term that most of us have become familiar with over the last few years, but we must know what it’s for, why it’s there, and how it’s contributing to the current state of the border.
Title 42 of the U.S. Government Code was established on July 1, 1944, and grants federal authorities the power to deny entry of people and products into the country to limit the spread of an infectious disease. The Trump Administration began using Title 42 in 2020 and argued that if they allowed these migrants to enter the U.S., it would increase the spread of COVID-19.
The misuse of Title 42 has led to the expulsion of would-be asylum seekers, with no opportunity to ask for refuge and no due process. Under Title 42, asylum seekers turned away are considered an “expulsion” rather than a “deportation” and are never allowed to make a case before an immigration judge.
People subject to Title 42 are not allowed to contest their expulsion because they would face persecution in the country to which they will be expelled. There is a minimal exception to Title 42 for people who “spontaneously” inform Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers that they fear being tortured in the country to which they will be expelled. However, to receive an official screening by an asylum officer for exemption under that provision, the CBP officer must first determine that the claim is “reasonably believable.”
From March 2020 through September 2021, just 3,217 people were screened for torture before being expelled, and only 272 people were granted an exemption and permitted to seek asylum.
Title 42 applies to individuals crossing the border between ports of entry and equally to individuals seeking asylum at ports of entry.
It’s important to understand that just because a person is processed under “normal immigration law” and not expelled does not mean they are released into the United States. Instead, thousands are subject to “expedited removal” or have a prior order of deportation reinstated. Instead, many are not expelled but are sent to ICE detention, where they may seek asylum through the credible fear process (CFI). Similarly, roughly 1 in 10 people encountered after crossing the border are unaccompanied children sent to federal shelters.
Title 42 has created a humanitarian crisis.
The impact of Title 42 on access to asylum protections and conditions on the ground at the U.S.-Mexico border has been catastrophic. This policy has placed millions in harm’s way and sent people away, returning them to persecution and torture. Asylum seekers, including families and children, experience kidnapping, torture, rape, and other violent attacks following expulsions to Mexico. Thousands of such cases have been widely documented.
A Honduran man blocked from seeking asylum because of Title 42 reported in January 2022 that Mexican migration officials in Reynosa sold him and his wife to a cartel for $500 each and that cartel members raped his wife.
A Black transgender asylum seeker reported in late January 2022 that Mexican police officers beat, robbed, and raped him and jailed him for three days without food.
A Nicaraguan family of six with two young daughters kidnapped in Reynosa in March 2022 remains in captivity pending payment of a $30,000 ransom demanded by the abductors.
Mexican government authorities, including police, national guard, and immigration officials, regularly fail to investigate or prevent attacks and are often complicit in this violence. In addition, Mexican migration officials collude with cartels that target asylum seekers for kidnapping and extortion.
Beyond expulsions into Mexican border towns where large refugee camps have been set up, and migrants are targeted for violence and extortion, the administration has used Title 42 to return potential refugees to the countries they fled, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and Mexico.
“Title 42 helps prevent illegal immigration.” - Greg Abbott
This is a complete lie. Title 42 prevents asylum seekers from legally asking for refuge out of fear of persecution or torture. Seeking asylum is not illegal. Title 42 is a xenophobic, Trump-era relic that denies Black and brown migrants their fundamental right to seek asylum. The opposite of what Abbott claimed is true.
Because refugees are being denied their legal right to request asylum, the number of successful illegal entries recorded by the Border Patrol has increased significantly under Title 42. Ending Title 42 would reduce unlawful crossings.
Why is Greg Abbott lying?
Abbott has declared a fictionalized “invasion” of Brown and Black migrants, dehumanizing vulnerable people and echoing the “Great Replacement Theory” to create chaos, division, and fear in Texas and all of America.
Using the “Great Replacement Theory,” a conspiracy theory purported by white nationalist groups who believe immigrants are attempting to replace white European populations, Abbott has captured the hearts, minds, and votes of Republican Texans.
This has kept Abbott and other Republicans in power.
It continues the GOP’s imaginary culture war.
Recidivism is a word that most Republicans have never even heard. But, unfortunately, Fox, OAN, and Breitbart won’t tell them the truth.
Since 2020, there have been more than 2 million expulsions of migrants by CBP at the southern border under Title 42. This is due to recidivism, which is people trying to cross the border illegally, getting caught, and then being sent back before trying again.
Because of Title 42, recidivism rates are higher than ever.
The current rate of recidivism is 27%. So, for every 100 people sent back, 27 try to re-enter. Many try again a second time, a third, and more. But that’s only part of the story.
When families, mothers with children, or single women are sent away from the border under Title 42, they set up shelters in migrant camps across the border.
The expulsion process under Title 42 does not include any penalties, and the individual is removed from the country without any official record. Unfortunately, this lack of repercussions is causing many migrants to repeatedly attempt to cross the border in the hopes of evading the Border Patrol. And because Title 42 has lower consequences for single adults than they would have faced in previous years, we’ve seen a surge of single adults, especially single men.
Republicans are using the recidivism rate to paint a dishonest narrative.
Greg Abbott and other Republicans are telling the media and their base, “Look at the mess at the border. There have been 5,000,000 encounters since Biden took office.”
What the GOP almost always fails to mention is the rate of recidivism. Maybe it’s 1,000,000 people who have come to the border and been turned away repeatedly. The CBP doesn’t track it. That’s intentional.
On top of that, Fox and OAN have reporters camped out at the border, and every time they see a group of 20 single adults, it flies all over right-wing media, and then the narrative becomes cartel and gang members are coming to America in droves.
Republican politicians know this, especially those who have visited the border. Yet, this is how they control the narrative and stay in power in Texas.
We have only been letting in a fraction of the annual resettlement ceiling.
The annual resettlement ceiling is a measurement tool first implemented in 1980. It sets the limit for how many refugees America will accept each year. While under Ronald Regan, we were accepting more than 200,000 refugees a year, but that number has fluctuated over time. The lowest was 18,000 under the Trump administration. So Biden raised the ceiling to 125,000.
However, even though the resettlement ceiling has been 125,000, only a tiny fraction have been admitted into the program.
In 2022, only 25,425 refugees were permitted in the resettlement program. Why? Because they were turned away at the border due to the Remain in Mexico policy and Title 42.
This contradicts the Republican narrative about how millions of people are crossing the border.
“Show me your papers.”
The Show Me Your Papers Bill, HB20, is a shameful attempt to deputize vigilantes and promote racial profiling, inevitably leading to harassment and abuse of undocumented immigrants at the border.
To understand this bill in a better context, watch this exchange between the bill’s author, Mike Schafer, and Rep. Chris Turner:
HB20 will cost Texas billions of dollars on top of the $18 billion we’ve already spent on Operation Lone Star. In addition, it criminalizes asylum seekers, even though seeking asylum is a right in the United States of America.
Schaefer’s bill is about racially profiling brown people at the border, and he mislead the committee by using the fentanyl tragedy in America to criminalize asylum seekers falsely. While Schaefer claimed HB20 was about fentanyl, here are the facts:
CBP data shows drugs are overwhelmingly smuggled through U.S. ports of entry, accounting for more than 96% of fentanyl seizures along the border. Moreso, 85% of people caught smuggling fentanyl into America from the Southern border are American citizens. Yet, HB20 targets migrants between the ports of entry.
Republicans use racially inflamed language to target asylum seekers when the facts have shown that we are not in danger from people seeking refuge.
HB20 is unconstitutional, but Republicans will push it through anyway and attempt to fight it out in court later. Representative Rafael Anchía (D) even confronted Representative Schaefer about his intent of the bill, implying it was an underhanded scheme to overturn Arizona v. United States. Schaefer refused to deny that allegation and wouldn’t state his true intent. You can watch that exchange here:
HB7 and HB20 will destroy trust between border communities and the Texas government, or what little trust they have left. These bills were written with hate and malice and will cause harm to people who are already seeking refuge from harm.
It should be noted that while countless people from border communities showed up to testify against these bills, the few who testified in favor of the bills were older, white, and not from a border community.
These bills do not reflect who Texas is. We’re better than this, and asylum seekers deserve better.
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