Ghalia al-Asseh had just begun studying chemistry and biotechnology at the Technical University of Denmark when the country’s immigration services summoned her for an interview.
For five hours, immigration officers asked about her proficiency in Danish, which she speaks fluently. They inquired how well integrated she was in Denmark, where she has lived with her family since fleeing Syria in 2015.
During the interview, in February, officers also told Ms. al-Asseh that the security situation in her hometown, Damascus, had improved, and that it was safe for her to return to Syria, she recalled in a telephone interview last week.
Ms. al-Asseh, 27, was losing her right to live in Denmark — even as her four brothers and parents could stay, and she had nowhere else to go.
not stable enough to be considered safe for returnees.
Those being asked to leave include high school and university students, truck drivers, factory employees, store owners and volunteers in nongovernmental organizations. All risk being uprooted from a country where they have built new lives.
“It is as if the Danish immigration services has bombed my dream, just as Bashar al-Assad bombed our homes,” said Asmaa al-Natour, 50, referring to Syria’s president. “Only this time the bombing is psychological.”
“ghettos,” and doubled punishments for certain crimes in these areas.
They have also overhauled the country’s legal apparatus on immigration, shifting it from integration to the accelerated return of refugees to their native countries. Hundreds of Somali refugees have also lost their residence permits after Denmark deemed Somalia safe to return to.
Per Mouritsen, an associate professor of political science at Aarhus University, said the government had toughened its stance on immigration in recent years to avoid losing votes to the right wing, a dilemma that several center-left parties across Europe have faced.
“The only way to beat the right-wing in Denmark is to sell your soul to the devil and be as tough on immigration in order to have support for social welfare policies in return,” Mr. Mouritsen said.
Last year, the number of refugees leaving Denmark exceeded the number of arrivals. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has vowed to go further, saying that Denmark will aim to have “zero asylum seekers.”
said in February.
For those willing to return to Syria, Mr. Tesfaye said that Denmark would offer “a huge bag of travel money.” The authorities say that hundreds decided to return voluntarily.
Michala Bendixen, Denmark’s country coordinator at Refugees Welcome, a nonprofit, said the policy threatened to tear Syrian families apart. “The only purpose is to make Denmark the last place to choose as an asylum seeker,” she said in an interview.
Because the Danish government does not maintain diplomatic relationships with Mr. al-Assad’s government, the authorities cannot forcibly deport refugees. Since most of them are unwilling to return voluntarily, those who lost their appeals after their residency was revoked are likely to be sent to departure centers.
The Danish authorities did not respond to questions about why the policy was implemented for Syrians and how many had been sent to departure centers.
collapsed economy and half of its prewar population displaced.Mr. al-Assad has reclaimed control of two-thirds of its territory, including the Damascus area. He has also called on Syrians to come back, but many say they won’t for one reason: Mr. al-Assad himself.
Syrian Network for Human Rights, and the European Union’s asylum body has warned that voluntary returnees are at risk of detention, torture and death.
“The absence of fighting in some areas does not mean that people can go back safely,” said Ms. Slente of the Danish Refugee Council.
Ms. al-Asseh, the chemistry and biotechnology student, said she had tried to focus on her studies since learning that her residency permit would be revoked. Yet she said the thought of starting over again terrified her.
“I’m not a danger. I’m not a criminal,” she said. “I just want to live here.”
The Nazi leaders building that force needed experienced police officers, said Michael Holzmann, the son of an Austrian Nazi who has for many years been researching the activities of the Gestapo in that country. “Huber seized this opportunity and turned from a little investigator into a most successful leader of the Gestapo terror regime in former Austria,” he said.
In March 1938, after Germany annexed Austria, Huber was made the Gestapo chief of the most important part of the country, including Vienna, the capital. Shortly after, the Gestapo began an extensive hunt for dissidents in Austria, and Huber gave orders “to arrest immediately undesirable, particularly criminally motivated Jews and transfer them to the concentration camp Dachau.” A few days later, the first two transports of Jews left Vienna for the camp, with many more to follow.
Huber remained in his post until the end of the war, being given more and more personnel and authority. During that time, 70,000 Austrian Jews who were not able to leave the country were murdered, close to 40 percent of the original community, while their property was looted by the Nazis.
Eichmann confirmed at his trial that he was involved in the deportation of Jews but refused to plead guilty to genocide, saying, “I did not have any other option than to follow the orders I got.”
Huber took a different approach. Speaking to an official of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal in 1948 — who interviewed him as a witness, not a suspect — he said he had known nothing about the extermination until the end of 1944, when his deputy told him something vague.
“But the historical evidence paints a completely different picture,” says Prof. Moshe Zimmerman, a historian and Holocaust scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Eichmann may have been a face more familiar to the Jewish community, but the one who shared responsibility for carrying out the terror against the Jews, their collection, their forced boarding on the trains and their deportation to the camps, was the police and the Gestapo under Huber.”
Thousands of children, most from Central America, are making their way to the border, many hoping to meet parents in the United States. But for those caught in Mexico, there is only near-certain deportation.
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — The children tumbled out of a white van, dazed and tired, rubbing sleep from their eyes.
They had been on their way north, traveling without their parents, hoping to cross the border into the United States.
They never made it.
Detained by Mexican immigration officers, they were brought to a shelter for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juárez, marched in single file and lined up against a wall for processing. For them, this facility about one mile from the border is the closest they will get to the United States.
“‘Mommy, I have bad news for you,’” one of the girls at the shelter, Elizabeth, 13, from Honduras, recalled telling her mother on the phone. “‘Don’t cry, but Mexican immigration caught me.’”
a growing wave of migrants hoping to find a way into the United States. If they make it across the border, they can try to present their case to the American authorities, go to school and one day find work and help relatives back home. Some can reunite with parents waiting there.
But for those caught before crossing the border, the long road north ends in Mexico.
If they are from elsewhere in the country, as a growing number are because of the economic toll of the pandemic, they can be picked up by a relative and taken home.
But most of them are from Central America, propelled north by a life made unsustainable by poverty, violence, natural disasters and the pandemic, and encouraged by the Biden administration’s promise to take a more generous approach to immigration.
They will wait in shelters in Mexico, often for months, for arrangements to be made. Then, they will be deported.
by the thousands.
“There is a big flow, for economic reasons, and it will not stop until people’s lives in these countries improve,” said José Alfredo Villa, the director of the Nohemí Álvarez Quillay shelter for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juárez.
In 2018, 1,318 children were admitted into shelters for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juárez, the local authorities said. By 2019, the number of admissions had grown to 1,510 children, though it dipped to 928 last year because of the pandemic.
But in the first two and a half months of this year, the number has soared to 572 — a rate that, if kept up for the rest of the year, would far surpass 2019, the highest year on record.
When children enter the shelter, their schooling stops, the staff unable to provide classes for so many children coming from different countries and different educational backgrounds. Instead, the children fill their days with art classes, where they often draw or paint photos of their home countries. They watch television, play in the courtyard or complete chores to help the shelter run, like laundry.
71 percent of all cases involving unaccompanied minors resulted in deportation orders. But many never turn up for their hearings; they dodge the authorities and slip into the population, to live lives of evasion.
Ecuadorean girl who died by suicide at another shelter in Juárez in 2014 after being detained. She was 12, and on her way to reunite with parents who had lived in the Bronx since she was a toddler.
In mid-March, two weeks after her arrival, Elizabeth celebrated her 13th birthday at the shelter.
As shelter staff cut the cake for Elizabeth — the children are prohibited from handling sharp objects — three more children were dropped off by the immigration authorities, just hours after the eight who had arrived that morning. They watched cartoons as they waited for shelter officials to register them.
Elizabeth’s best friend since she arrived, Yuliana, 15, was by her side, apprehended by the Mexican authorities in December when she tried to cross the border carrying her 2-year-old cousin and tugging on the hand of her 4-year-old cousin. Yuliana is from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the most violence-wracked cities in the world.
Both girls said they had seen a parent struggle to put food on the table before making the tough decision to migrate to the United States. And both felt that their failure to cross had upturned the tremendous expectations that had been placed on them: to reunite with a lonely parent, to work and to send money to family members left behind.
For the girls, home is not a place — Honduras or the United States. Home is where their families are. That is where they want to be.
“My dream is to get ahead and raise my family,” Yuliana said. “It is the first thing, to help my mother and my brothers. My family.”
The day she left San Pedro Sula to join her father in Florida, she said, her mother made her promise one thing.
“She asked me never to forget her,” Yuliana said. “And I answered that I could never, because I was leaving for her.”
LONDON — In early February, the government of Britain announced that every person living in the country would be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine, free of charge, regardless of their immigration status. Public health experts praised the decision, necessary to ensure the safety of everyone, while others raised alarms at the prospect of noncitizens jumping ahead of eligible Britons.
“No one will get their vaccination out of turn,” Edward Argar, a British health minister, said in an interview. The disease, he added, is “looking for victims, it’s not worried about immigration status.”
As in much of the world, the virus has ravaged immigrant communities in Britain, many of which supply the bulk of frontline workers in grocery stores and domestic care. Many immigrants also live in crowded, multigenerational housing that exposed older family members throughout the pandemic. The government’s so-called vaccine amnesty was designed to encourage even those without legal status to come forward and get vaccinated.
But more than a month after the announcement, many undocumented immigrants said they remained fearful that asking for a vaccine would risk arrest or deportation. Others said they had been denied registration at local doctors’ offices, which often ask for identification or proof of address — although neither is required to access primary care.
hostile environment” policy that aimed to force those without legal status to leave the country by blocking their access to jobs, bank accounts and free medical care.
“It’s all very well to say, ‘Anyone can get a vaccine,’” said Phil Murwill, the head of services at Doctors of the World U.K. “But for years there was a deliberate policy of creating a hostile environment for undocumented immigrants that has put people off from accessing any kind of care. And we’re seeing that play out now.”
Outside estimates put the number of undocumented immigrants in Britain somewhere between 800,000 and 1.2 million, or just under 2 percent of the population. (The British government has not estimated the size of this population since 2005, when it was said to be 430,000.) It is a significant group that includes many at-risk workers, and one that epidemiologists say the vaccination campaign — which has so far given nearly half the population at least one dose — must reach if Britain hopes to safely exit the pandemic.
This month, Ghie Ghie and Weng, two undocumented domestic workers from the Philippines, walked arm in arm to the Science Museum in London, one of more than the 1,500 vaccination sites across the country. (Like other undocumented people interviewed for this article, the women asked to be identified only by their first names for fear of arrest.) Ghie Ghie had gotten her first shot of the vaccine the previous weekend and was hoping Weng could get hers.
booked an appointment online under the category of health and social care workers, which the government defined as “doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff.” (As of last week, those age 50 and older are now eligible in England.)
prioritize vaccinating those in jobs done primarily by undocumented immigrants, like farm work. But Britain did not extend the social care worker category to include domestic workers, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson confirmed in an email.
“We are caring for children and elderly and the disabled,” said Marissa Begonia, founder of the Voice of Domestic Workers. “It’s not a lie. By our definition, we are social care workers.”
Weng works part time for two families, traveling between the households each week. “I want to get my vaccine in case the government asks, so that I can show I am not putting anyone at risk,” she said as she waited in line at the vaccine center. She re-emerged about 30 minutes later, proudly clutching the card showing she’d received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In 2018, the Home Office, the government ministry in charge of immigration, officially withdrew a data-sharing agreement that used patient information from the National Health Service to track down people thought to be violating immigration rules. (Data sharing still exists for deportation cases involving serious crimes.) The Department of Health and Social Care has said that anyone undergoing vaccination, testing or treatment for the coronavirus would not be subject to immigration status checks.
two agencies share patient information, most commonly in cases of undocumented immigrants with an unpaid medical debt of 500 pounds (around $690) for more than two months. Primary care, including treatment by a family doctor, is free whereas secondary care — hospital visits, surgeries, maternal care — is not.
Those working on behalf of undocumented immigrants say that this hybrid health care system only adds to the confusion about what benefits undocumented immigrants are entitled to. “The government needs to suspend all charging and data sharing operations if they want to prioritize the widest possible access to public health,” said Zoe Gardner, a policy adviser for the Joint Council for The Welfare of Immigrants.
When Huseyin, a 30-year-old undocumented chef, found out that he could see a family doctor for free — and eventually be called for a vaccine — he said he immediately tried to register. That was three months ago.
He said a family clinic in London had asked for a valid passport or ID before turning him away. A few weeks later, he moved to Brighton, England, for a full-time job at a restaurant. He tried again with a local doctor there but was told — incorrectly — that he needed an N.H.S. number to register with them.
“N.H.S. guidance says nothing about documentation, but nobody teaches you when you’re in medical school about a patient’s right to access a G.P.,” said Dr. Elizabeth Bates, an associate general practitioner in the West Midlands. “That the N.H.S. is for everybody is something many British people are very intrinsically proud of, but even some doctors don’t understand that their practice may have these policies that prevent people from registering.”
Huseyin is now getting registration help from Doctors of the World U.K., a nonprofit that works to ensure access to health care for those with unclear immigration status. He’s young, though, and is unlikely to be called for a vaccine for months.
“I want the vaccine to protect myself and my community,” he said. “We are everywhere — the corner shops, restaurants, factories, hotels. Undocumented people are everywhere.”
For most of the past few decades, the Democratic Party had a pretty clear stance on immigration. It favored a mix of enforcement (like border security and the deportation of undocumented immigrants who committed serious crimes) and new pro-immigrant laws (like an increase in legal immigration and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people).
In recent years, however, a growing number of immigration advocates and progressive Democrats have become dissatisfied with this combination. They have pointed out that Democrats’ support for tighter border security has not led to the bipartisan compromise that it was supposed to: Republicans continue to block bills that offer a pathway to citizenship.
In response, these progressives and activists have pushed the party to change. Bill Clinton ran for re-election on a platform that said, “We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it.” Barack Obama once said, “We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked.” President Biden has instead emphasized the humane treatment of immigrants, regardless of their legal status.
After taking office, Biden began putting this idea into action. He announced a 100-day halt on deportations (which a judge has blocked). He allowed more migrants — especially children — to enter the country, rather than being detained. And Central American migrants, sensing that the U.S. has become more welcoming, are streaming north in the largest numbers in two decades.
Doris Meissner of the Migration Policy Institute, who ran the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the 1990s, told me. Republicans have pounced, accusing Democrats of favoring an “open border.”
Some Democrats are unhappy, too. Biden’s policy “incentivizes droves of people to come, and the only way to slow it down is by changing policy at our doorstep,” Representative Vicente Gonzalez of Texas told The Washington Post. Henry Cuellar, another House Democrat from Texas, said the administration was sending “a terrible message.”
It all stems from the fact that the Democratic Party no longer has a clear policy on immigration.
Trump obscured the debate
While Donald Trump was president, he smoothed over the Democrats’ internal tensions because they could unite in opposition to him. Trump used racist language; Democrats abhorred it. Trump separated families and locked children in cages; Democrats promised to end those policies. Trump said he would build a border wall, paid for by Mexico; Democrats mocked his failure.
With Trump out of office, however, the party faces some hard, unresolved questions, including:
Do Democrats still favor the deportation of anyone? Some activists criticized Obama as the “deporter in chief.” But he focused deportations on only two groups: recent arrivals and immigrants who committed serious crimes.
If Democrats prefer a more lenient policy than Obama’s, it isn’t clear whether they support the deportation of anybody — or whether they instead believe that the humane solution is to allow everybody who manages to enter the U.S., legally or illegally, to remain. The party’s 2020 platform doesn’t mention any conditions in which deportation is acceptable. Biden’s attempt to halt deportations for 100 days highlights the party’s new attitude.
detaining children is fraught, and many Democrats consider the jailing of any immigrants akin to Trumpism.
A third option is to admit migrants and order them to appear at a future legal hearing (as is happening with many children and families). The adults must often wear ankle bracelets. Still, the process can take years and raises other thorny issues. Many migrants are not good asylum candidates; they are coming to find work or to be near relatives, neither of which necessarily qualifies them for legal entry.
Often, the administration will still be left to decide whom it is willing to deport.
increase legal immigration. It could build more detention facilities with humane conditions. It could do more to improve conditions in Latin America and to push Mexico to control its own southern border. The Biden administration is pursuing many of these policies.
But if Biden and his aides appear to be less steady on immigration than many other policy areas, there is a reason for that: They are less steady.
Congress appears unlikely to increase legal immigration levels by much. And polls show that while public opinion favors a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants, it also favors rigorous border security and the enforcement of existing immigration laws.
I’m not even sure that these views should be described as conservative. Historically, many progressives supported immigration restrictions as a way to keep U.S. wages high. Today, working-class Americans — including many Asian-American, Black and Latino voters — tend to favor more restrictions than progressive Democrats, who are often high-earning professionals, do. This contrast may play a role in Republicans’ recent gains among minority voters.
Cecilia Muñoz, a longtime immigrant advocate and former Obama adviser, told me. “And that’s the thing that makes Americans anxious.”
One of the advantages to the Democrats’ old approach to immigration was that it was easy to describe: Be firm at the border, be generous to people who have lived in the U.S. for years. The new approach also has an abiding idea: Be more welcoming to people who want to enter the country. But Democrats still have not figured out the limits to that idea, which has created an early problem for the Biden presidency.
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Fewer: “The progressive case for reducing immigration” revolves around higher wages, according to Philip Cafaro. AndThe Atlantic’s David Frum has suggested that less immigration will reduce the political appeal of nativism.
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Lives Lived: Dr. Nawal el Saadawi was an Egyptian author, physician and advocate for women’s rights in the Arab world who told her own story of female genital mutilation in her memoirs. She died at 89.
Take a virtual tour of the factory here.)
“Outside, there is total chaos,” one enthusiast said. “But inside, around my little train set, it is quiet, it is picturesque.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Heart throb (five letters).
The trek from Central America to U.S. soil has always been perilous, but a massacre with many victims from one corner of Guatemala has shaken that country.
They leave behind homes, families, everything they have known, taking their chances on a dangerous trek north toward an uncertain future, driven by poverty, lack of opportunity and the hope of something better.
For most migrants who leave Central America, like those from the municipality of Comitancillo, in the mountains of western Guatemala, the goal is to reach the United States, find work, save some money and send some back home, put down roots, maybe even find love and start a family. Usually, the biggest obstacle is crossing the increasingly fortified American border without being caught.
A group of 13 migrants who left Comitancillo in January didn’t even get the chance. Their bodies were found, along with those of six other victims, shot and burned; the corpses were piled in the back of a pickup truck that had been set on fire and abandoned in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, just shy of the U.S. border. A dozen state police officers have been arrested in connection with the massacre.
The migrants’ remains made the return trip on Friday, March 12, each in a coffin draped with the Guatemalan flag, flown to a military airport in Guatemala City. A somber repatriation ceremony there, with an address by President Alejandro Giammattei, was shown live on national television. Relatives, friends and neighbors in Comitancillo watched the broadcast in their homes as they made final preparations for the arrival of the bodies and for the wakes and burials to follow.
a raid on the factory where he worked. He was held in detention for most of a year, trying to fight deportation.
He stayed in touch with Reverend Medina. “He was always trying to organize groups to pray and have faith and keep strong,” the priest recalled.
Mr. López finally lost his legal battle, however, and was deported to Guatemala in 2020, Reverend Medina said. Desperately missing his family, he decided in January to try his luck again and migrate north for a third time, the reverend said.
Last Saturday, relatives attended a wake for Mr. López in his parents’ home. The funeral service was held in a church in the village of Chicajalaj, the construction of which he had helped fund by raising money among the Guatemalan diaspora in Mississippi.
Above, relatives held wake for Mr. López. During a procession, below, carrying Mr. López’s remains to the church and then to a cemetery, his cousin, Sebastián López, 75, clutched a framed portrait of his dead relative.
Mr. López’s daughter, Evelin López, left a can of Coca-Cola, a favorite drink of his, as a tribute inside his tomb. It was her first trip to Guatemala.
In the home of Santa Cristina García Pérez, 20, another massacre victim, family members had adorned an altar with framed photos, flowers and a bottle of water — so that Ms. García’s spirit did not suffer from thirst on its journey to the next life, her father, Ricardo García Pérez, explained.
Before she migrated, Mr. García said, his daughter had been living for three years in the city of Zacapa, on the other side of the country, holding a series of low-paying jobs, including as a house cleaner and as a saleswoman in stores.
One of 11 siblings, Ms. García hoped to make enough money in the United States to cover the cost of an operation for her one-year-old sister, Angela Idalia, who was born with a cleft lip, her father said.
She wanted to save Ángela Idalia from what she thought would be a life of ridicule, relatives said.
Ms. García had hoped to make it to Miami, where a friend was living, “but unfortunately her life was cut short on the way,” her father said.
“The saddest thing in life,” he continued. “There’s no explanation.”
Relatives gathered at the mass for Ms. García and two other victims, Iván Gudiel Pablo Tomás and Rivaldo Danilo Jiménez, all of them from the village of Tuilelén.
Below, Ricardo García Pérez and Olga Pérez Guzmán de García, Ms. García’s parents, during her wake.
The killings have stunned the community, spurred a wave of international media attention on Comitancillo and an outpouring of financial support for the victim’s families. Among other acts of largess, donations from nearby communities in the region and from the Guatemalan diaspora have paid for Ángela Idalia’s first surgery to repair her cleft lip and have enabled the García family to build a new house.
Yet local residents predict that despite the massacre, migration from Comitancillo to the United States will not ebb.
Residents said that President Biden’s election and his promise of a more humane approach to migration policy had inspired many young Comitecos to set off for the United States in the past few months. Many others are thinking about leaving soon, residents said.
The options for employment in Guatemala are too scarce, Ms. Aguilón said, and the lure of possibility in the United States too great.
“For us, it was a very big blow,” she said of the massacre. “But this won’t prevent the people from migrating.”
Relatives and neighbors attending the funeral of Ms. García, Mr. Pablo and Mr. Jiménez.
Mr. Jiménez’s coffin being carried to Tuilelén cemetery, above, and friends and relatives carrying the coffin of Mr. Pablo.
When 149 migrants were escorted onto a bridge by U.S. Border Patrol agents, they had no idea where they were being taken. Many collapsed, crying, when they learned they were back in Mexico.
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — They came in groups of 30, children dangling from adults’ arms, escorted on Thursday afternoon by United States Border Patrol agents across the Paso del Norte bridge until they reached the halfway point. Then, they were handed off to Mexican authorities.
“Where are we?” one father asked a journalist with The New York Times.
“Ciudad Juárez,” came the reply.
The father, who hadn’t been told by U.S. officials where he and the rest of the group of migrants were being taken, looked bewildered.
“Mexico,” the journalist clarified.
Faces contorted from confusion to anguish. Many of the parents started sobbing, tears of frustration falling on the children they cradled.
two powerful hurricanes slammed into Honduras within as many weeks, leaving him jobless and homeless in November.
“They deceived us because in the United States they never told us that they were going to deport us,” Mr. Bautista said.
Ms. Peraza, below, with her children.
Mexican officials ushered the migrants off the bridge and into their offices, where they were registered and told they’d be placed in shelters until deported back home.
But the shelters were for those whose limits of despair had been reached. Among the crowd of migrants, there were still the hopeful, those who had not run out of money or the determination to try to cross again. Instead of filling out the government forms, they slipped out of the chaotic offices onto the streets of Juárez.
A yellow sports car appeared out of nowhere, and a familywas ushered into the back seat. They had called their coyote, or human smuggler, to pick them up right at the government offices. Once everyone packed into the car — as flashy as the coyotes are brazen — the family sped off, to attempt the perilous crossing once again.