Biden Admin Flying Migrants Deported by Trump Back Into the US

Biden admin alarms immigration officials by reversing deportations of some Cameroonians

Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (Getty Images)
July 1, 2024

The Biden administration is flying previously deported Cameroonians whose asylum claims were determined to be invalid back into the United States, according to interviews with Immigration and Customs Enforcement staff and internal agency memos reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

The program, which has not been announced to the public, appears to be a response to a February 2022 Human Rights Watch report about dozens of Cameroonians deported between 2019 and 2021 and then allegedly mistreated by their government. An estimated 80 to 90 Cameroonians were deported during that period of time.

But now some are arriving back in the United States under a program with little precedent, both current and former ICE officials say. All of the individuals deported under the previous administration were found not to have valid asylum claims in the United States.

The decision to fly back the previously deported Cameroonians is the latest instance of the Biden administration reversing its predecessor’s immigration initiatives. On his first day in office, President Joe Biden rolled back a number of former president Donald Trump’s border policies and paused southern border wall construction. Biden later ended a policy that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico before their court hearing, which critics blame for the sharp uptick in illegal border crossings.

"Gutting deportations isn't enough for the Biden administration, so now they're apparently bringing back previously deported illegal aliens," said former ICE official and director of investigations at the Center for Immigration Studies Jon Feere. "These are people who have already had their cases closed, one way or another, and they've been returned home."

Internal memos reviewed by the Free Beacon show an ICE official working with outside nonprofits to help relocate the Cameroonians. One email from earlier this year reviewed by the Free Beacon shows the director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Texas A&M University, Fatma Marouf, informing an ICE official where one migrant will arrive.

In that incident, the migrant arrived at Washington-Dulles airport in Virginia. ICE officials familiar with the program say airports around the country are being used as ports of entry for the Cameroonians in an attempt to keep the public in the dark about the program and avoid concentrating the migrants in a single location.

Marouf did not respond to a request for comment.

The official rationale for the program, according to internal memos reviewed by the Free Beacon, is to avoid a "potential lawsuit." There is pending litigation in New York over documents related to alleged abuse of Cameroonian migrants, but no court has ordered their return.

"These individuals were deported by the order of a court after they were afforded all due process rights," said former ICE chief of staff Tom Blank. "For DHS to arbitrarily reverse court orders to satisfy complaints from an activist group makes a joke out of the entire legal immigration process. It looks like outside activist groups now run the DHS immigration process instead of the courts."

Both current and former ICE officials expressed alarm about whether this program will be a model for others in the future. Should any outside activist group threaten a lawsuit about migrant mistreatment, they said, the Biden administration may choose the path of least resistance and simply return the asylum seekers.

More than eight million migrants have illegally crossed the northern and southern border since Biden took office. Millions of those migrants have been released into the nation’s interior, often causing tremendous strain on the resources of state and local governments.

Left-wing activist groups have been a thorn in the side of DHS for decades, regardless of which party controls the White House. But in recent years some of those activist groups have received federal taxpayer dollars to fund their operations.

Al Otro Lado filed a lawsuit last month against Customs and Border Patrol over an asylum program and received more than $3 million taxpayer dollars between 2018 and 2022. That lawsuit, if successful, would halt a federal program that turns migrants away at the border if they are not granted an asylum claim interview.

At least four migrants, one senior ICE official told the Free Beacon, have been flown back to the mid-Atlantic region since March. Up to 28 Cameroonians in total, an internal agency memo states, will eventually be brought back to the United States, although it is not clear how many have arrived since the program began.

ICE did not respond to a request for comment.

The Department of Homeland Security does ship previously deported migrants back to the United States in rare circumstances. Those returns, according to ICE officials, are typically handed on a case-by-case basis and typically require an order from a judge after the court found an error by the prosecution.

Those returns are also usually conducted between Homeland Security Investigations and the agency’s Parole Law Enforcement Programs Unit. In the case of the Cameroonians, ICE officials appear to be working with at least one outside nonprofit, the Immigrant Rights Clinic.

ICE staff have expressed frustration with the Biden administration’s policies since 2021. Deportations have plummeted under Biden, with fewer than 5 percent of the 3.2 million migrants encountered at the border removed by the agency in 2023.

Such a drop in deportations is a deliberate policy choice from Biden, whose DHS director Alejandro Mayorkas changed the agency’s guidelines on deportations in 2021 to focus on individuals who "are a threat to our national security, public safety, and border security."

"The guidelines will help us exercise our prosecutorial discretion to achieve justice," Mayorkas said at the time.

There is mounting evidence that Biden’s border security policies are a liability for his reelection campaign. Polls increasingly show immigration as a top concern for voters, with a recent CBS News/YouGov survey finding that more than 60 percent of registered voters favor creating "a new national program to deport all undocumented immigrants."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.