Articles written by Elliot Spagat


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  • How Biden's new order to halt asylum at the US border is supposed to work

    ELLIOT SPAGAT|Jun 5, 2024

    SAN DIEGO (AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled a halt to asylum processing at the U.S. border with Mexico when illegal entries reach a threshold that he deems excessive. The measure takes effect immediately because the new policy is triggered when arrests for illegal entry reach 2,500. About 4,000 people already are entering the U.S. each day. It was a major policy shift on a critical election-year issue that's exposed Biden to Republican criticism over an unprecedented surge in new arrivals in an election year. THE MEASURE A...

  • Illegal crossings surge in remote areas as Congress, White House weigh major asylum limits

    ELLIOT SPAGAT|Dec 20, 2023

    LUKEVILLE, Ariz. (AP) — Hundreds of dates are written on concrete-filled steel columns erected along the U.S. border with Mexico to memorialize when the Border Patrol has repaired illicit openings in the would-be barriers. Yet no sooner are fixes made than another column is sawed, torched and chiseled for large groups of migrants to enter, usually with no agents in sight. The breaches stretch about 30 miles (48 kilometers) on a washboard gravel road west of Lukeville, an Arizona desert town that consists of an official border crossing, r...

  • As economy falters, more Chinese migrants take a perilous journey to the US border to seek asylum

    ELLIOT SPAGAT and DIDI TANG|Nov 1, 2023

    SAN DIEGO (AP) — The young Chinese man looked lost and exhausted when Border Patrol agents left him at a transit station. Deng Guangsen, 28, had spent the last two months traveling to San Diego from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, through seven countries on plane, bus and foot, including traversing Panama's dangerous Darién Gap jungle. "I feel nothing," Deng said in the San Diego parking lot, insisting on using the broken English he learned from "Harry Potter" movies. "I have no brother, no sister. I have nobody." Deng is part of...

  • Under pressure over border, Biden admin grants protection to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans

    REBECCA SANTANA and ELLIOT SPAGAT|Sep 20, 2023

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Under intense political pressure from fellow Democrats, the Biden administration announced late Wednesday that it was granting protection to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are already in the country. The move to give Venezuelans who arrived in the country as of July 31, 2023 temporary protected status essentially makes it much easier and faster for them to get authorization to work in the U.S., which has been a key demand of Democratic mayors and governors who are struggling to care for an increased number of m...

  • Illegal crossings on the US-Mexico border rose in July but were still down from last year

    ELLIOT SPAGAT|Aug 20, 2023

    Arrests for illegally crossing the U.S. border from Mexico soared 33% from June to July, according to U.S. government figures released Friday, reversing course after a plunge that followed the introduction of new asylum restrictions in May. President Joe Biden's administration insisted that its carrot-and-stick approach of expanding legal routes while imposing more punitive measures on those who enter illegally is working. It noted that illegal crossings were still down 27% from July 2022 and were well below the days that preceded the new...

  • As illegal crossings drop, the legal challenges over Biden's US-Mexico border policies grow

    ELLIOT SPAGAT|Jul 28, 2023

    SAN DIEGO (AP) — Immigration advocates said Thursday that an online appointment system to seek asylum at the U.S. border with Mexico is out of reach for many migrants, in the latest legal challenge to the Biden administration's immigration agenda. The lawsuit says the administration, often working with Mexican authorities, has physically blocked migrants from claiming asylum at land crossings with Mexico unless they have an appointment through the CBP One app. It says the app is "impossible" for those with inferior internet access, language d...

  • DeSantis recruiters eyed Catholic church for migrant flights that bishop calls 'reprehensible'

    OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ and ELLIOT SPAGAT|Jun 9, 2023

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' recruiters set their sights on Sacred Heart Catholic Church in the Texas border city of El Paso in search of asylum-seekers they could take from its bustling migrant shelter to California's capital on taxpayer-funded private jets. Intentionally or not, envoys for Florida's Catholic governor and Republican presidential candidate infused an element of his own religion into his latest move on immigration, which has drawn sharp criticism from El Paso's Catholic bishop. "Without going into the details...

  • Border appears calm after lifting of pandemic asylum restrictions

    VALERIE GONZALEZ and ELLIOT SPAGAT|May 12, 2023

    EL PASO, Texas (AP) — The border between the U.S. and Mexico was relatively calm Friday, offering few signs of the chaos that had been feared following a rush by worried migrants to enter the U.S. before the end of pandemic-related immigration restrictions. Less than 24 hours after the rules known as Title 42 were lifted, migrants and government officials were still assessing the effect of the change and the new regulations adopted by President Joe Biden's administration to stabilize the region. "We did not see any substantial increase in i...

  • In reversal, Biden weighs detaining migrant families

    COLLEEN LONG and ELLIOT SPAGAT|Mar 8, 2023

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is considering detaining migrant families who cross into the U.S. illegally as it prepares to end COVID-19 restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to U.S. officials familiar with the plans. That would be a major reversal after officials in late 2021 stopped holding families in detention facilities. Homeland Security officials are working through how to manage an expected increase of migrants at the border once the COVID-19 restrictions that have been in place since 2020 are lifted in May. D...

  • US Supreme Court keeps asylum limits in place for now

    REBECCA SANTANA and ELLIOT SPAGAT|Dec 28, 2022

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is keeping pandemic-era limits on asylum in place for now, dashing hopes of migrants who have been fleeing violence and inequality in Latin America and elsewhere to reach the United States. Tuesday's ruling preserves a major Trump-era policy that was scheduled to expire under a judge's order on Dec. 21. The case will be argued in February and a stay imposed last week by Chief Justice John Roberts will remain in place until the justices make a decision. The limits, often known as Title 42 in reference to a 1...

  • A dad's anguish outside Texas school while shooting unfolded

    JAKE BLEIBERG and ELLIOT SPAGAT|May 29, 2022

    UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Javier Cazares raced to his daughter's school when he heard there was a shooting, leaving his truck running with the door open as he ran into the school yard. In his rush, he didn't bring his gun. He spent the next 35 to 45 agonizing minutes scanning the children fleeing Robb Elementary School for his 9-year-old "firecracker," Jacklyn. All the while, he yearned to run in himself — and grew increasingly agitated, along with other parents, that the police weren't doing more to stop the gunman who holed up in a classroom, kil...

  • Daughter and her best friends 'are all gone now,' dad says

    ELLIOT SPAGAT and STEPHEN GROVES|May 27, 2022

    UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Jacklyn Cazares hadn't yet reached her 10th birthday, but her father described her as a tough-minded "firecracker" always looking to help people in need. Jacklyn and her second cousin, Annabelle Rodriguez, were especially tight with three other classmates at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Now, Javier Cazares says, "they are all gone." The girls were among 19 students killed Tuesday when an 18-year-old gunman barricaded himself in a fourth-grade classroom at the school in the southwestern Texas town and began to k...

  • Official: Girl told 911 'send the police now' as cops waited

    JIM VERTUNO and ELLIOT SPAGAT|May 27, 2022

    UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Students trapped inside a classroom with a gunman repeatedly called 911 during this week's attack on a Texas elementary school, including one who pleaded, "Please send the police now," as officers waited more than an hour to breach the classroom after following the gunman into the building, authorities said Friday. The commander at the scene in Uvalde — the school district's police chief — believed that 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos was barricaded inside adjoining classrooms at Robb Elementary School and that child...

  • 'Precious individuals' taken in Texas school shooting

    ELLIOT SPAGAT and ACACIA CORONADO|May 25, 2022

    UVALDE, Texas (AP) — One student was an avid runner, so fast she swept the races at field day. Another was learning football plays from his grandfather. One girl sensed something was wrong and wanted to skip school. On Wednesday, stories began to emerge about the lives of the 19 children — "precious individuals" according to the school district superintendent — and their two teachers who were gunned down behind a barricaded door at Robb Elementary School in the southwestern Texas town of Uvalde. Vincent Salazar said his 10-year-old daugh...

  • Court ruling extends uneven treatment for asylum-seekers

    ELLIOT SPAGAT|May 22, 2022

    EAGLE PASS, Texas (AP) — As the sun set over the Rio Grande, about 120 Cubans, Colombians and Venezuelans who waded through waist-deep water stepped into Border Patrol vehicles, soon to be released in the United States to pursue their immigration cases. Across the border in the Mexican town of Piedras Negras, Honduran families banded together in a section of downtown with cracked sidewalks, narrow streets and few people, unsure where to spend the night because the city's only shelter was full. The opposite fortunes illustrate the dual nature o...

  • US speeds entry for Ukrainians as more reach Mexico border

    ELLIOT SPAGAT|Apr 8, 2022

    TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — The United States has sharply increased the number of Ukrainians admitted to the country at the Mexican border as even more refugees fleeing the Russian invasion follow the same circuitous route. A government recreation center in the Mexican border city of Tijuana grew to about 1,000 refugees Thursday, according to city officials. A canopy under which children played soccer only two days earlier was packed with people in rows of chairs and lined with bunk beds. Tijuana has suddenly become a final stop for Ukrainians s...

  • US reopens to international travel, allows happy reunions

    ELLIOT SPAGAT and CAROLYN THOMPSON|Nov 7, 2021

    SAN DIEGO (AP) — Parents held children born while they were stuck abroad. Long-separated couples kissed, and grandparents embraced grandchildren who had doubled in age. The U.S. fully reopened to many vaccinated international travelers Monday, allowing families and friends to reunite for the first time since the coronavirus emerged and offering a boost to the travel industry decimated by the pandemic. The restrictions closed the U.S. to millions of people for 20 months. Octavio Alvarez and his 14-year-old daughter zipped through a pedestrian c...

  • Inside Biden's border plans: How optimism turned to chaos

    ELLIOT SPAGAT and VALERIE GONZALEZ|Nov 4, 2021

    McALLEN, Texas (AP) — For about four months before President Joe Biden took office, advisers engaged in intense internal debate about how quickly they should undo his predecessor's hardline border policies. The answer, almost always, was that Donald Trump's mark couldn't be erased soon enough. Immigration advocates on the transition team defiantly shot down a detailed memo circulated among top aides that called for turning back some migrants who cross illegally by making them seek protection in other countries. They pushed back against e...

  • Officials: Many migrants from border camp staying in US

    ELLIOT SPAGAT and MARIA VERZA|Sep 23, 2021

    DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — Many Haitian migrants camped in a small Texas border town are being released in the United States, two U.S. officials said, undercutting the Biden administration's public statements that the thousands in the camp faced immediate expulsion. Haitians have been freed on a "very, very large scale" in recent days, according to one U.S. official who put the figure in the thousands. The official, who has direct knowledge of operations, was not authorized to discuss the matter Tuesday and spoke on condition of anonymity. Many h...

  • US ramps up plan to expel Haitian migrants gathered in Texas

    ERIC GAY and ELLIOT SPAGAT|Sep 19, 2021

    DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — U.S. officials said Saturday that within the next three days, they plan to ramp up expulsion flights for some of the thousands of Haitian migrants who have gathered in a Texas city from across the border in Mexico. The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it moved about 2,000 migrants out of Del Rio to other locations on Friday for processing and possible removal from the United States. The announcement marks a swift response to the sudden arrival of thousands of Haitians in a relatively remote s...

  • Thousands of Haitian migrants converge on Texas border town

    ERIC GAY and ELLIOT SPAGAT|Sep 17, 2021

    DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — Thousands of Haitian migrants have assembled under and around a bridge in a small Texas border town as chaos unfolded Friday and presented the Biden administration with a new challenge as it tries to manage large numbers of asylum-seekers who have been reaching U.S. soil. Haitians crossed the Rio Grande freely and in a steady stream, going back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico through knee-deep water with some parents carrying small children on their shoulders. Unable to buy supplies in the U.S., they returned b...

  • US to expedite immigration cases of families on border

    AMY TAXIN and ELLIOT SPAGAT|May 28, 2021

    SAN DIEGO (AP) — Families arriving at the U.S. border with Mexico will have their cases fast-tracked in immigration court, the Biden administration said Friday, less than two weeks after it said it was easing pandemic-related restrictions on seeking asylum. Under the plan, families stopped on the border starting Friday could be placed in expedited proceedings aimed at determining whether they can remain in the United States. Immigration judges would generally decide these cases within 300 days of an initial hearing in 10 cities including New Yo...

  • US calls reports of migrant children in buses 'unacceptable'

    ELLIOT SPAGAT|May 14, 2021

    Reports of unaccompanied migrant children being forced to stay overnight in parked buses at the Dallas convention center are "completely unacceptable" if true, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Friday. Dr. Amy Cohen, a psychiatrist and executive director of the advocacy group Every Last One, said a 15-year-old Honduran boy she is working with was held on a bus from Saturday to Wednesday, using the bus bathroom during that time and unable to move about freely or communicate with family. The boy encountered at least...

  • Policy changes help drive US migrant crossings to new highs

    ELLIOT SPAGAT|Apr 7, 2021

    BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Paying a smuggler, Edgar Mejia could afford to take only one child with him to the United States. He chose his 3-year-old "warrior" son, leaving his 7- and 12-year-olds with their mother in Honduras. "Pitifully, I had use him like a passport to get here," Mejia said last week after picking up milk from volunteers at a Brownsville, Texas, bus station for the last leg of their journey to join relatives in Atlanta. "I am here because of him." Mejia, 32, and his son, who paid a smuggler $6,000 for a "new dream" that H...

  • Amid border surge, confusion reigns over Biden policies

    ELLIOT SPAGAT|Mar 19, 2021

    TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — It took less than a month for 200 tents to fill every spot in a Mexican plaza at the busiest border crossing with the United States. At the camp in Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, some 1,500 migrants line up for hot meals under a canopy-covered kitchen, children play soccer and volunteers in orange jackets rotate on security patrol. People pay to use the bathroom at a pharmacy or travel agency across the street and to shower at a hotel on the corner. Badly misinformed, the migrants harbor false hope that P...

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