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The Department of Homeland Security reports hat there has been a sharp drop in the numbers of encounters between border agents and migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border since May 11, when border policies implemented by the administration of former President Donald Trump expired.
However, Republican lawmakers continue to describe the situation at the border as a "crisis."
“We have seen, as I think everybody knows, a significant decrease in encounters at the border, more than 70 percent reduction since the lifting of Title 42 on May 11,” Assistant Secretary for Border and Immigration Policy Blas Nuñez-Neto told reporters at a press conference at the Port of Brownsville, Texas last Wednesday.
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Trump administration invoked Title 42, a section of the Public Health Service Act of 1944 that governs public health measures. The policy allowed the government to deny migrants the ability to seek asylum, which aligned with Trump’s calls to restrict immigration at the southern border.
The public health emergency ended on May 11, and the government reverted to Title 8, the section of the U.S. Code that governs what its name calls “Aliens and Nationality.” The Biden administration put in place policies that prohibit asylum applications from migrants who have traveled through Canada and Mexico after leaving their home nations.
Nuñez-Neto said that through several of the post-Title 42 procedures the administration has set up, such as enhancements to the Customs and Border Protection agency’s app, CBP One, migrants seeking travel to the United States made more than a thousand appointments.
At the Brownsville border crossing, he said, he had observed migrants choosing to make voluntary withdrawals, exercising the option to return to Mexico to avoid detention and deportation after an unauthorized border crossing. Nuñez-Neto attributed this to policies put in place under Biden that allow for expedited removal from the United States of those who have crossed the border unlawfully, including a five-year ban on reentry for those who have been removed.
“Our approach, to build lawful, safe, and orderly pathways for people to come to the United States, and to impose tougher consequences on those who choose not to use those pathways, works,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said during a May 11 White House briefing.
As the administration announced the reduction in border encounters and drug seizures, congressional Republicans continued to characterize the situation at the border as a crisis, a claim they have been making since early in Biden’s presidency.
“It is time for this administration to face the toll its refusal to enforce our nation’s laws takes on the men and women who are charged with defending it,” Rep. Mark Green, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a press release posted on the committee’s website marking the retirement of U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz. “Amid a devastating and historic border crisis created by his boss and President Biden, Chief Ortiz had an impossible job, but one he did with honesty and dedication.”
Rep. Clay Higgins, chair of the committee’s Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement, announced that he would hold a hearing on June 6 “to examine the Biden administration’s failure to prepare for the end of Title 42 on May 11.”
“I look forward to this opportunity to shed light on this devastating border crisis and demand the Biden administration enforce our nation’s laws in the wake of Title 42,” Higgins said in a statement announcing the event, falsely claiming, “President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas have failed this country with their open border policies.”
Republican lawmakers and officials at the state level expressed similar concerns. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced that he would be sending National Guard units to the southern border, as did South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.
The language Republicans use to describe the situation is the same as that used by the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform, which in a January 21, 2021, press release accused Biden of “inducing an immigration and border crisis.”
The federation has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which noted:”FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content.”
As part of their ongoing attacks on Biden over immigration policy, many Republicans in Congress recently promoted a hoax, heavily featured on Fox News, that homeless veterans had been displaced from housing in hotels in New York state to make room for asylum seekers.
In a tweet responding to the false story, Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that it had occurred due to Biden’s “open-border policies.” McCarthy has not mentioned the hoax since the original story was disproven, and his inaccurate tweet was not deleted.
Reprinted with permission from The American Independent
Yellowhammer Files: Inside Alabama's Crumbling, Inhumane Prison System
Lice so severe that even kerosene couldn’t kill them. Shoeless feet padding aimlessly. Gross malnourishment.
That’s how people described the Yellow Hammers, a semi-isolated colony of the ostracized and downtrodden in Illinois that developed during the Reconstruction Era.
The history of the Yellow Hammers is murky. As the legend goes, a Colonel Brodie of the Civil War — it doesn’t include a first name — came home to Alabama, the Yellowhammer State, and relocated to Wilmington, Illinois where he purchased several acres of wooded land and invited anyone from his home state to come live on it, creating essentially an encampment people called “Brodie’s Woods.” Those people who relocated to Wilmington from Alabama were impoverished, almost permanently, and made pariahs in the community as they huddled on Brodie’s land.
The pariahs’ poverty prevented those among them who were employed from purchasing their own equipment so they used company tools — when they were able to work — whose handles were painted yellow.
These stories, reported by a high school student, can’t be confirmed. First, the only nineteenth century colonel named Brodie was about 12 years old when the Civil War started. One William Brodie from Alabama fought in the Civil War but there’s no record of his being a colonel. A now defunct local Chicago newspaper, the Surburbanite Economist, reported in 1970 that an area of Wilmington, Illinois was known as Brodie’s Woods, but that’s one of very few verifiable mentions of the area.
The more likely story of the root of Yellowhammer is that a cavalry of soldiers from Huntsville went to Kentucky during the Civil War to aid Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s — history will call him both a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and an innovative warrior — Company A of the Confederate Army. They wore new sharp gray uniforms adorned with brilliant yellow trim. A Confederate soldier in tatters said they looked like the bird the yellowhammer, a type of woodpecker, which was made Alabama’s state bird in 1927. The Yellowhammers ended up becoming valuable team members; they supported several of Gen. Forrest’s victories, one of which frustrated Gen. Ulysses Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign.
That the history of the Yellow Hammers is so hard to pin down says quite a bit about the state today; tracing what really happens proves difficult. Even though Alabama media tries to cover events inside the prisons, the state of news in 2023 dictates that coverage isn’t as complete as anyone would like.
Just as the history of the Yellowhammers is unclear, the view into Alabama’s prisons is muddied by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) and its commitment to opacity. The officials who run that system do not like looksies. Early this year, ADOC stopped releasing the number of in-custody deaths on a monthly basis, ostensibly because there were so many that they either couldn’t keep up or didn’t want to be embarrassed by their inability to protect the state's wards.
Nevertheless, the reports of carnage that keep dripping out — two men were murdered on May 15, 2023, an additional pair added to a list of over 60 since January 1, 2023 — have contributed to a narrative that men and women in Alabama prison are incorrigible, even feral, when all they’re doing is adapting to the environment that the state has established for them.
The truth is that a good number of them are quite high-minded. When they staged a strike last fall, they didn’t even protest the squalid conditions they live in, which happen to be deplorable. Instead they sought policy reform on sentencing and parole which will ultimately benefit people beyond them.
Their strike demands were imminently reasonable, despite Gov. Kay Ivey’s disagreement. But the demands were really only part of the story of the strike. My sources tell me that — under the guidance of some dedicated leaders who I won’t name now — rival gangs and sworn enemies convened in good faith to hammer out what they needed to ask for. In that respect, they’re behaving better than many of us on the outside if they can display that type of comity. They came together despite the fact that they worry every day — along with family and friends — that they’ll be killed or starved. They’re fighting back non-violently. Bravely.
And even effectively. Because of the strike demands, lawmakers introduced two bills poised to pass the Alabama legislature. First is a bill that would mandate the right to attend one’s own parole hearings by video (they can’t attend these crucial proceedings now) and second is a bill that would allow people serving life sentences to petition to have their punishment reduced. Most prison work stoppages achieve nothing. This group of men and women convinced people to listen and act. Do not count these people out.
That doesn’t mean the wind is under their yellowhammer wings. Gov. Ivey just signed a bill into law that reforms the so-called “good time” statute by making it harder to earn time off one’s sentence because ADOC failed to take the good time of someone who attempted escape. Their resilience doesn’t mean they’re safe now or being treated justly. It’s just the opposite.
Alabama’s prison population reflects a lot of their yellowhammer history. Like woodpeckers, they’re tenacious fighters. Much like the Yellowhammer Cavalry in 1862, they're nimble, capable of putting up a few wins, but then ultimately forgotten.
And they aren't living much differently than Brodie’s Yellow Hammers. Some aren’t supplied shoes and therefore aren’t allowed in the chow hall. As I have reported before, the ADOC intentionally starves them when they assert their rights. They wander, often squatting in dorms where they’re not assigned because they want to avoid being raped. The violence doesn’t cease; I hear reports of outright beatings that all too often result in lost “good time” but no medical treatment. And they huddle, displaced and ostracized, in one of Alabama’s 15 state-sanctioned colonies of fear and panic.
But unlike the legend of Brodie’s Woods, these tales are true and verifiable. There’s no fiction here. It’s traceable. It tracks, all too well.
That’s why today The National Memo announces an unflinching series that goes inside Alabama’s criminal legal crisis: the Yellowhammer Files. We’re going to trace and track data and stories until something changes. Check these files as they are published and you will be stunned by what you read.
Chandra Bozelko served more than six years in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent. Her work has earned several professional awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Los Angeles Press Club, The National Federation of Press Women and more.Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.
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