We travel to San Antonio, where 53 migrants fleeing persecution in the U.S. were killed earlier this week while being held in a trailer-trailer. Human rights advocates blamed the tragedy upon restrictive immigration policies such as the Migrant Protection Protocols (also known as MPP or the “Remain in Mexico” program. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Biden has the power to end the Trump-era policy, which forced tens of thousands of asylum seekers to stay on the Mexican side of the border in unsafe conditions while their cases were resolved in the U.S. “Every single migration-related death is preventable by policy that actually focuses on welcome and care,” says Claudia Muñoz, co-executive director of Grassroots Leadership.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be final.
AMY GOODMAN:This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman.
The Supreme Court sided with the Biden administration on Thursday, saying the president has the power to end the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program, formally known as MPPMigrant Protection Protocols. The ruling was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh joining the court’s three liberal justices in the majority. Roberts stated in his majority opinion that the lower court was too far-reaching when it prevented Biden from repealing the program last January.
Since the policy’s implementation in 2019, almost 70,000 asylum seekers were forced to wait in Mexico while their cases were resolved in U.S. courts, a process that could take months or years. There were thousands of people enrolled in MPPReports of being kidnapped and raped while waiting in Mexico suggest that they were left without shelter or shelter.
This ruling comes days after 53 people who sought refuge in the United States died in a hot tractor-trailer in San Antonio. The tragedy led to the arrest of four people, including the truck driver.
We go now to San Antonio, where we’re joined by Claudia Muñoz, co-executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration, deportation, criminalization and prison profiteering. Recently, she wrote an opinion piece for Truthout headlined “US Immigration Policy Is to Blame for the Horrific Mass Death in San Antonio.”
We are glad you are here Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Claudia, could you start by talking about the Supreme Court decision, and then how it relates with the horrors that have been exposed in San Antonio?
CLAUDIA MUÑOZ: Yeah. Thank you so very much for having me.
I believe, in terms MPP decision, it’s certainly a welcome decision for us. We know it’s not done; it has to go back to the 5th Circuit, the lower court that initially made the decision. And then we still have other programs, such as Title 42, that have a similar impact on migration and in people’s lives, right?
We are seeing that all these policies force people to migrate violently and dangerously. Because as long as these policies are based on control, exclusion, people won’t cross the bridge knowing that they will be turned back. And so, with both Title 42 still existing — it’s great that MPP, you know, seemingly will be done away with soon, but Title 42 was just funded for another six months by Congress, including Democrats —
AMY GOODMAN:Title 42, which is Trump’s pandemic-related policy of citing the pandemic only as a reason to keep Americans out of the United States, is yet another example.
CLAUDIA MUÑOZ: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Yes, absolutely. As long as exclusionary policies continue to exist, people will find other means of migration that are much more violent or deadly, such as the one in San Antonio on Monday.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to a clip of an LGBTQ+ asylum seeker from Honduras who was placed in the “Remain in Mexico” program. They had to wait in Matamoros, the border city, for two-and-a half years. They said this.
GLORIA: [translated]I slept under tents by the river. I saw how narcos or murderers, people of that sort — they were just called ”la maña” — they would go and find women to rape them, children. I saw people die. When you don’t pay a kidnapper or you don’t pay a so-called rent, what happens is they pour acid on you. So, if I’m escaping from a country where I will be killed, and then they sent me to another country where I will also be killed for any reason, they are not helping us.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s video from Families Belong Together, Gloria from Honduras. Claudia Muñoz, OK, so, the court says you can end MPP. But how will it be done by the Biden administration?
CLAUDIA MUÑOZ: Well, we’re not sure. I think we’re still waiting to see the exact way, right? We know that the decision must be remanded to the lower court and then another one must be made.
So, we, as a society, are asking for bold action. We want to prevent more deaths. And I will tell you, every single migration-related fatality can be avoided by policies that focus on welcome and care. And so we’re hoping that whatever is decided by the administration is actually based on those values, and not on exclusion and control.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about how U.S. policy relates to the horror of human smuggling that we have seen unfold outside of San Antonio, with at this point 53 migrants dead in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer truck. We believe that at least four children are dead and 12 others are being treated in hospital. The horror we’ve heard reports of — it’s all just sort of leaking out right now — that steak seasoning was put over the people to disguise the smell. Karena Caballero, the mother to Alejandro Andino (23 years old) and Fernando Redondo Caballero (18 years old), are two Honduran asylum seekers who were among those killed in the San Antonio tragedy.
KARENA CABALLERO: [translated] If it was as in other countries, where we could ask for a law or an organization to fight for the youth’s future, is that possible? No, it isn’t. We’re not in a country that is open to these kinds of things. But if I had to demand something, please, Honduras government, fight for this country’s youth.
AMY GOODMAN: Karena Caballero’s daughter-in-law, Margie Tamara, was also among the victims. Claudia, please talk about what you know and how it relates to U.S. policies.
CLAUDIA MUÑOZ: Absolutely. We know this is not a tragic accident. These human beings were harmed by the borders and those in power that uphold them and provide funding every year. We have seen it all. We know it’s preventable. We know that as long people are turned away from crossing the bridge, they will find alternative routes. Particularly in Texas the migration has been very violent. This has been made possible by state policy and, more precisely, by the complicity, enabling of the Biden government in stopping all the states that are taking immigrants into their own hands. We know that’s not going to happen, particularly as conditions, as this mother is mentioning, global conditions are worsening for people.
As long as all these policies are in place at the federal, state, and local levels, people will continue to die. This is what we call preventable death. This should not happen. What’s happening again in Texas and other places is absolutely devastating. All of these people should be here. Some groups ask that trafficking visas be granted to victims of crime’s families, and that relief and protection for the families of those whose lives have been taken are provided.
AMY GOODMAN:Can you talk about Texas’ anti-immigrant policies like Operation Lone Star which are also contributing to the deaths of asylum seekers? I mean, it’s amazing, Operation Lone Star, the full militarization of the southern U.S. border. They were part of the group in Uvalde — right? — who did not move in to save the 19 children, fourth graders, and their two [teachers]Even as they stood in a hallway, Operation Lone Star is a massive militarization. It is important to explain what this means for migrants.
CLAUDIA MUÑOZ: Absolutely. In March last year, Governor Abbott joined 25 other governors from across the country to organize what they called an effort for the security of the southern border. And this operation, it’s a $4 billion operation, which effectively deploys even more law enforcement than National Guard members, not just from Texas but from other states, as well.
They are using an urgent order to create an enhanced crime of trespassing. They have arrested over 3,000 people so far. Some of them were in a state prison that was opened to detain migrants for up to one year. I mean, there are so much constitutional violations in terms conditions, access counsel, bail. I can’t even begin to fully cover it. But what’s happening is that the federal government has completely let Texas get away with this, which has emboldened —
AMY GOODMAN:Claudia, before we leave, I want you to briefly answer a few questions about the current efforts of immigrant rights activists to protect survivors from this human smuggling tragedy. Do you know how they will be protected, if they will be granted — allowed to be in this country?
CLAUDIA MUÑOZ: Yes. Yes. DHSThe investigation was taken over by the Department of Homeland Security. This raises concerns about what will happen to survivors and the families of those who lost their lives. I know that San Antonio Stands is asking the federal government and the local governments to issue new visas and trafficking visas. They also need to promise and ensure that no one is deported who are both cooperating with the investigation and the families of those who lost their lives. As such, all efforts are being made both to protect these lives and to prevent it happening again.
AMY GOODMAN:Claudia, I would like to thank you for being here, co-executive Director of Grassroots Leadership. We’ll link to your piece in Truthout, “US Immigration Policy Is to Blame for the Horrific Mass Death in San Antonio.”
Coming up, we speak to a Dutch doctor who’s been providing medication abortions around the world, and increasingly right here in the United States. In 20 seconds, we’ll be back.