Negotiations with the Trump administration led Brazil to accept charter flights and cut down on bureaucracy, but it was the Biden administration that deported Brazilians the most.
President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government, which took office on January 1, may repeal the diplomatic measures taken in recent years by the Jair Bolsonaro administration that facilitated the deportation of Brazilians crossing the US-Mexico border. illegal..
This is what BBC Brasil’s foreign policy-specialized sources said was the government’s involvement in the transition and who should assume key positions in the new administration.
Between October 2019 and November 2022, 7,549 Brazilians who entered the US visa-free were deported on 80 American chartered flights, with the final destination at Confins Airport in Minas Gerais.
The unprecedented survey, available to BBC News Brasil, was made from data on the arrival of these passengers at the international terminal in Minas Gerais, compiled by sociologist Gustavo Dias, a professor at Montes Claros State University.
Charter flights authorized by Brazil in 2019 have been the subject of numerous reports of ill-treatment and harassment against deportees, often with their feet and hands cuffed throughout the journey. Even a Brazilian minor was stranded in handcuffs on one of these flights, sparking verbal protests from Itamaraty to the US State Department.
“I have not scrutinized these measures, but it is clear that President Lula’s government will, as it has done in the past, review and, if necessary, amend or repeal, revoke, cancel measures that are contrary to the interests of Brazilian citizens. Former Chancellor Celso Amorim, who has advised on the matter, told BBC Brasil, “After doing that, it’s a detail I can’t answer at the moment.”
Lula’s aides assure that this will be one of the issues the incoming president should bring to the table when he has his first working meeting with his American counterpart, Joe Biden.
However, could a review of these rules create one of the first thorns in the ever positive relationship with the Democratic government? because immigration is one of the most sensitive issues in US domestic politics and one of the weak points of the Biden administration.
Trump clenched his fists
The number of Brazilians risking land crossings between Mexico and the United States has increased in recent years amid the crisis of millions of immigrants swelled across the South American border during the same period.
According to the US Customs and Border Protection service (CBP), a total of more than 53,400 Brazilians were resettled at the southern US border by the immigration service in fiscal year 2022 (ending September last), and more than 56,900 Brazilians in 2021.
These are the highest figures in the historical series since 2007. According to Gustavo Dias, a sociologist who studies communities in Minas Gerais, where most teenagers and adults decide to enter the United States without a visa and on a land leave, the main motivation is one of these immigrants seeking opportunities for economic growth in Brazil that they were disappointed to achieve.
“The Bolsonaro government is perhaps a unique example in the world of an administration acting to curb the mobility of a population it helped expel,” Dias says, referring to export facilitation measures.
Since October 2019, when Republican Donald Trump is still president of the United States, Brazil has agreed to send two monthly flights chartered by Americans to repatriate Brazilians.
Exceptionally, the US sent up to three flights in the same month. In practice, this has resulted in an average of 204 Brazilians returning every 30 days since then.
The acceptance of sending American flights with Brazilians to Brazil came after the Trump administration “clenched their fists”, according to BBC News Brasil, three Brazilian diplomats with knowledge of the negotiations.
Considered Bolsonaro’s biggest international ally, Trump has spearheaded one of the toughest immigration policies in US history, including building a wall along the Mexican border.
The Trump administration told Itamaraty, commanded by then-Chancellor Ernesto Araújo, that Brazil’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is part of the list of “non-cooperating” countries because it does not facilitate the deportation of citizens arriving in Brazil. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
And he made it clear that this would affect the strengthening of ties that the Bolsonaro government sought as a priority. Negotiation was essential for Brazil to re-authorize charter flights from the United States, which had not operated under these terms since 2006.
Between 2006 and 2019, repatriations were based on whether there was a place on career flights between the two countries – except where specifically negotiated.
With so few vacancies on commercial airline planes, it was relatively common for Americans to see the deadline for legally detaining the Brazilian immigrant in one of the detention centers.
So the Brazilians were released on American soil with a notice to appear in an immigration court on a specific date. Some of these immigrants never presented themselves to the authorities again. Among US immigration agencies, the measure has earned the ironic nickname “disappearance notification.”
But charter flights weren’t the only changes the Bolsonaro government made to ease the deportation of Brazilians. Undocumented immigrants often use the strategy of getting rid of their identity documents to prevent or delay the process of returning to their countries and seek ways to avoid deportation.
Under Bolsonaro, Brazilian consulates also began issuing citizenship documents at the request of the American authorities, and even against the will of Brazilian citizens, to prove they were Brazilians. And that deportees are only allowed to enter Brazil with such documents.
Some of the Brazilian exiles also claim that they did not receive help from the Americans when seeking consular assistance before deportation, which is a right of immigrants. As BBC News Brasil showed, last year the US deported dozens of Brazilian children born to Haitians to Haiti without the knowledge of Brazilian authorities.
“It’s Brazil’s problem, it’s a disgrace to us,” federal lawmaker and President Eduardo Bolsonaro said during a visit to Washington in March 2019, justifying the decisions the government had already begun to make. to handle the subject
In the same period, Bolsonaro’s administration abolished the visa requirement for Americans to enter Brazil, contrary to the reciprocity principle adopted by Brazilian diplomacy until then.
“How many Americans will come and live illegally in Brazil, taking advantage of this loophole to enter as tourists and start living illegally? Now let’s ask the opposite question: what if the US allows Brazilians to enter there visa-free? Eduardo Bolsonaro, on the same occasion, many Brazilians Will he go to the United States pretending to be a tourist and live there illegally?
Expiration of visas for Brazilians is an old request from Brazil, but there is currently no prediction that it will happen.
Bolsonaro also liquidated the policy that Lula established in a decree for Brazilian immigrants in 2010, based on the principles of non-discrimination and the guarantee of human rights enshrined in the Vienna Convention, of which Brazil is a signatory. And it dissolved the Council of Representatives of Brazilians Abroad (CRBE), which acts as an interface between communities and government.
“Look, what I have to say here is going to be very controversial, isn’t it? I think that laws should be followed in every country, right? In every country in the world where people are secret, that’s the right of that head. The state, using the law, extradite these citizens. I regret that Brazilians go abroad to seek new opportunities and are deported here. I’m sorry but we must respect the sovereignty of other countries,” President Jair Bolsonaro said in January 2020 to justify the measures.
Biden deported more Brazilians than Trump
Under Bolsonaro, Itamaraty has repeatedly complained about the US government’s treatment of returning Brazilians, particularly the use of hand and foot cuffs that force people to hold them in a hunched position for hours.
The Americans claim they are working on a Brazil-specific solution because they don’t want to set a precedent for other countries in the region to also object to their citizens being handcuffed.
“We’re still trying to diagnose, but we realized that this government only looked at the immigrant when the rally was going to be held. But he didn’t and just let the Brazilian be handcuffed and put on the plane.” A member of the transition team who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, provided his name is not disclosed,” said. The statement refers to the motorcycle that Bolsonaro built in Orlando in June. The majority of Brazilian society in the United States voted for Bolsonaro.
Theoretically, a unilateral decision by Brasilia would be enough to ban American flights from entering Brazilian airspace and for consulates to stop issuing citizenship certificates.
But the decision is politically sensitive and divides even Brazilian diplomats, who recognize the right of Americans to choose whom to accept on their soil.
And while the measures have been negotiated by Bolsonaro with the Trump administration, Biden has benefited most from them. According to Dias’s research, only 985 Brazilians were deported in 22 flights during the republican era. 6,564 were returned on 58 flights with Biden at the White House.
“It’s one thing to talk about rejecting these rules in 2010, when almost no Brazilians entered the United States and today there is no pressure from Americans to disclose and return documents. It has changed,” said BBC News Brazil, an ambassador monitoring the consular issue between Brazil and the United States. ‘to.
Under pressure from the Americans, Mexicans recently requested visas for Brazilians to enter the country. It is an attempt to prevent Brazilian citizens from crossing the US border.
Lula’s team argues they will try to convince Americans that repression of those who come to the border is not the way forward, but to act on the reasons that drove these Latinos away from their country. A speech that Biden himself defended in the campaign but proved ineffective in his government when he used similar remedies to Trump’s to try to control the immigration wave.
In negotiations for Americans to contribute money to protect the Amazon, support Brazil’s candidacy in eventual UN Security Council reform, and try to re-establish a relationship with the United States that has been strained by tensions between Biden and Bolsonaro, Lula will have to decide. Whether the changes that would make the deportation of Brazilians more difficult would incur the political costs.
– This text was published at https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-63684694.