UPDATE: The flight that was expected to depart on Wednesday morning with a planeload of families was halted minutes before takeoff, according to The Guardian. Immigrant advocacy groups brought to light mistreatment by ICE of some of the targeted individuals, particularly Cameroonians, and this was cited as a reason for the cancellation of proceedings. This story will continue to be updated as new information comes in.
On January 20, 2021, the day Joe Biden took office, David Pekoske, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a memorandum about immigration enforcement that included a clause suspending deportations while the administration reviewed policies. The suspension was to last 100 days. It has apparently lasted less than two weeks.
On February 1, Trump-appointed federal judge Drew Tipton ruled against that suspension, ordering a stay. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is now preparing for the deportation of a group of asylum-seeking parents and their children who have been held in detention in Dilley, Texas.
The detention center is approximately 70 miles south of San Antonio, Texas, where many asylum seekers who eventually make their way to Maine get on the bus. In 2019, approximately 500 asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution made their way to Maine after arduous journeys on land and sea from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The majority crossed into the U.S. through the southern border, many through San Antonio. They were housed in a makeshift shelter at the Portland Exposition Building. According to Jessica Grondin, Director of Communications for the City of Portland, since March 2020, approximately 300 more asylum seekers had arrived in Maine as of mid-January. These are families with young children in tow.
Word is that one of the first group of families facing deportation after Tipton’s ruling will be put on planes Wednesday morning from Louisiana. Some of the families have children who are barely out of diapers – just three years old. The families have been in detention for periods of up to 18 months. The apparent intent of ICE is to deport them to the countries they originally fled.
Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas brought the case against the 100-day suspension. He has gone on Twitter to denounce the moratorium as “a seditious left-wing insurrection, ” and to celebrate Tipton’s ruling.
Sources have told the Guardian that there are African asylum seekers among those facing deportation, including Angolans, Cameroonians, Congolese, and three others of unknown nationalities.
Links to a social media campaign calling for a halt to the deportations of the families will be shared when available.