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Border & Immigration Update: Immigration Courts Reopen; Rainfall Threatens Asylum Seekers

People lined up under tarps for food at the Reynosa asylum-seeker encampment during heavy rainfall.
Mayra Garza For Texas Public Radio
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The tent encampment at a park next to the U.S.-Mexico port of entry between McAllen and Reynosa serves only as a temporary residence for people awaiting admittance to Sendo de Vida, the migrant shelter in Reynosa. Once admitted into the shelter they’ll continue to wait for the United States government to consider their case for asylum.

Here’s a rundown of border and immigration news from Texas and beyond. Look out for a weekly recap featuring reporting from NPR and Texas’ public radio stations.

Houston Immigration Courts Reopen For Hearings, As Many Families Face Years-Long Delays

Immigration judges in Houston, San Antonio, El Paso and Dallas are hearing cases again after they were on pause for more than a year due to the pandemic.

Houston Public Media reports that as courts reopen, judges face a national immigration court backlog that has ballooned to 1.3 million cases, which has led to wait times that can span a decade.

The court backlog has left thousands of family’s futures on pause as they wait for their day in court. Claudia and Francisco Méndez of Houston have been waiting to plead their immigration case for nearly 10 years. The outcome could separate them from their 12-year-old daughter, a United States citizen born with a birth defect called spina bifida.

Read the full story from Houston Public Media.

Heavy Rainfall In The RGV Threatens Asylum-Seeking Refugees In Reynosa

In McAllen, roads have been overflowing from heavy rainfall in poorly drained and low-lying areas. For asylum seekers across the Rio Grande in Reynosa, the rain threatens their belongings, including legal documents, and heightens disease risk in the refugee camp.

As reported by Texas Public Radio, for the past several months, hundreds of tents and strung-up tarps have huddled all together at the Plaza de la República — a park next to the U.S.-Mexico port of entry between McAllen and Reynosa. The space turned into a tent city after Title 42 policy was enacted under former President Donald Trump.

The volume of tents has covered almost every drainable surface in the plaza, mostly dirt, with waterproof material and the rain has flooded the roads and water is starting to overflow into the camp.

Read the full story from Texas Public Radio.

Biden Says U.S. War In Afghanistan Will End On Aug. 31

Thursday, President Biden addressed the public regarding plans to withdraw from Afghanistan and said that thousands of Afghan interpreters, and other allies who worked alongside U.S. troops, may be evacuated to a safe third country.

As reported by the Associated Press, the White House says it has identified places in U.S. territory outside the continental U.S. and safe third countries where these Afghans can stay while their visas are processed.

Years-long delays in processing of special immigrant visas for Afghan and Iraqi allies have caused many to be killed by enemy forces. Recently, the family of the slain interpreter Mohammad resettled to Houston. Mohammad, referred to by his middle name, had a pending visa to the U.S. for a decade before he was hunted down and killed by the Taliban.

Thursday U.S. Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, representing Houston, sat down with one of Mohammad’s sons, veterans, refugee advocates and Afghan interpreters to discuss the severe delays in visa processing and the urgent need to evacuate Afghans who assisted the U.S. military.

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez’s Senate Confirmation Hearing To Lead ICE Slated For Next Week

A Senate confirmation date was set for Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez who’s been nominated by President Biden to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

As reported by Houston Public Media, the hearing will be held by the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee on July 15, according to the committee’s website.

While he’s been tight-lipped regarding the nomination as he waited for a date to be set for the hearing, he told Houston Matters that he was "grateful to be going through the process."

"Whether I'm here or doing a different job, I'll always try to make sure that I'm bringing some common sense and some compassion to the job," he said, "it's an important role."

Read the full story from Houston Public Media.