About 20 Nicaraguan Asylum Seekers Were Deported on Jan 3, in a move that should SHOCK NO ONE.

La Prensa ran a front page article titled “The Deported are Missing”.  The piece, by Martha Vasquez draws on the reporting by Sonia Osorio, a journalist and editor for El Nuevo Herald. Osorio’s story covers a press conference, given by Central American human rights activists in Miami on January 3. Vasquez pretty much regurgitates the same information, with one addition. She includes a quote from a family member of one of the people who may have been deported. He is only identified as a 32-year-old man from Matagalpa who had to flee after being threatened by paramilitaries, who painted the word “plomo” (bullet) on his home. According to the family member, “It took us four days to find him through ICE, and now, they won’t give us any information. We don’t know if he is still here or has been deported already to Nicaragua.”

Deportation proceedings involve the receiving country, which must agree to accept the deported individuals back. The receiving country must also issue the appropriate travel documents. Because of this procedure, the fear of reprisal against these deported asylum seekers is quite real. These people could end up in one of the Ortega dictatorship’s jails upon arrival in Managua.

Now, no one really knows what happened to these individuals.

The deportations should surprise NO ONE who has been paying attention to Mr. Trump’s nativist rhetoric or is familiar with his long and complicated history of racism and xenophobia.  However, Roger Castaño, who represents the Permanent Commission for Human Rights in Miami, is shocked, or at least, he declared himself to be shocked. Mr. Castano told El Nuevo Herald that the deportations are “unbelievable because President Donald Trump himself has said that Nicaragua is a danger to the internal security of the United States because there is a criminal dictatorship installed there.” Mr. Castaño also said that “Deporting these Nicaraguans means sending them back to death and to repression. We believe it is immoral, and therefore we ask our representatives, our senators, that they stop the deportations.”

People… wake up! Mr. Trump is the guy that characterized asylum requests as a “BIG CON”. It’s the same guy that said that said that anyone crossing the border illegally would be detained and turned back immediately WITHOUT A HEARING. He also compared the migrant caravan to an invading force, that had to be turned back “with no Judges or Court Cases”. In other words, turn them back before they can even apply for asylum and be heard on the matter. Mr. Trump has been very clear about his stance. Are we that naive to think that he meant “let’s turn away everyone, except for Nicaraguans”?

Mr. Trump’s Twitter declarations completely disregard United States immigration law. Undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers have rights. They are entitled to due process. In addition, asylum seekers are exempted from expedited removal while their case is pending, and they can apply for asylum even if they entered the United States illegally, or overstayed their visa. If the asylum seeker passes the “credible fear interview”, he or she will get a hearing before a judge. If the asylum seeker doesn’t pass the interview, he or she can be deported almost immediately, that is unless they win their appeal in front of an immigration judge, who has the last word on the matter.

Here’s the bottom line, folks. The Trump Administration doesn’t have a unified strategy to deal with Nicaragua. The administration has a foreign policy strategy and an immigration policy, and those two are separate. The foreign policy strategy includes the Nica Act and other sanctions, proposed funding for democratization work in Nicaragua, and multilateral pressure through the OAS and other entities. The immigration policy, on the other hand, does not make any distinctions between Nicaraguan asylum seekers and any other groups, who are all lumped under the broad umbrella of “illegals”.

Mr. Castaño is right to call the deportations immoral, of course. It is immoral, but it is also not surprising at all. If you didn’t expect this, you haven’t been paying attention. The Trump Administration has moved ahead with nativist policies since Trump took office. The Trump Administration had ordered non-renewal of Temporary Protected Status for Nicaraguans, and the only reason thousands of TPS beneficiaries weren’t deported was that a Federal Court in California put a stop to the plan, pending the resolution of the Ramos v. Nielsen lawsuit.

In the midst of a government shutdown over the border wall funding, deportations like this one can go unnoticed. In fact, El Nuevo Herald couldn’t even get comment for its story because the ICE spokesman in Miami was furloughed. Due to the shutdown, immigration courts are nearly at a standstill, as the Trump Administration also furloughed immigration judges. However, deportations continue because judges working within detention centers are hearing cases, albeit may not be getting paid for their work, and may not have enough time to carefully consider each case. According to Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, “We don’t have time to adequately consider the cases that we do have, much less have to spend extra time to think about what we’re going to do with all the cases that have to be rescheduled.” 

For the Trump Administration, deportations are the priority, not asylum.

If you are in the United States and are concerned about the rights of Nicaraguan asylum seekers in particular, please support Immigrants’ Rights Organizations. Use this database, by Informed Immigrant to find out more.