President Joe Biden
faced mounting pressure Monday from Republicans over his handling of a surge
in migrants — including thousands of unaccompanied children — arriving at
the US-Mexican border.
While successive administrations have dealt with seasonal spikes in
migration, Biden’s critics claim he has driven the latest uptick by taking a
softer stance on the flashpoint issue than his predecessor Donald Trump.
On January 20, his first day in office, Biden scrapped several of Trump’s
contentious immigration policies, including halting new construction of a
border wall and proposing legislation to create a citizenship pathway for the
nearly 11 million people living illegally in the US.
At a bus terminal in the border town of Brownsville late Sunday, a
Guatemalan woman told AFP she had crossed the border illegally after her
husband, who already is in the US, told her things may be simpler under
“My husband told me to come at this time,” said Rubia Tabora, a 25-year-
old mother of one.
“At home there are no jobs, no money.”
In February, the US Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) arrested
about 100,000 people at the southern border — including nearly 9,500
unaccompanied children — a 28-percent jump over January.
Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California, who leads his party
in the House of Representatives, told reporters last week the “crisis at the
border is spiraling out of control.”
“It’s entirely caused by the actions of this administration,” said
McCarthy, who was planning a news conference later Monday in the Texas border
town of El Paso.
Biden took office promising a more humane immigration policy, but some
migrant advocacy groups say the new Democratic president’s decisions are
luring undocumented travelers.
In line with a pandemic-rooted policy adopted by Trump, who cracked down
on immigration both legal and illegal as part of his “America First”
doctrine, the Biden administration is deporting most of the undocumented
people who arrive at the southern border. But unlike Trump, Biden has opted
against expelling minors who show up unaccompanied and are filling shelters
set up to hold them, with limited capacity because of the coronavirus crisis.
– ‘Record’ levels –
The Biden administration over the weekend ordered the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) to support an effort to temporarily house thousands
of children who crossed the US-Mexico border alone.
While migrant adults and families continue to be sent back to Mexico when
they are caught, unaccompanied children are being processed and get help
resettling with US relatives.
“Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to HHS
(the Health and Human Services department) as quickly as possible, consistent
with legal requirements and in the best interest of the children,” Homeland
Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Saturday.
He said the numbers had reached “record” levels but dated the surge back
to April 2020 and blamed ongoing violence, natural disasters, food
insecurity, and poverty in parts of Central America.
HHS is currently holding about 8,800 migrant children.
A local activist told AFP about 200 migrants in family groups traveled on
from the Brownsville bus terminal on Saturday, after receiving Covid-19
Such scenes are being repeated at towns along the vast border that spans
four US states.
Most in Brownsville had turned themselves in after crossing the frontier
and had been given paperwork requiring them to report to immigration
authorities later on.
Chris Cabrera, a spokesman for a local Border Patrol union in Texas’s Rio
Grande Valley, told CNN that immigration numbers often surge around the time
of an election or new presidency.
“A part of it is every election cycle, regardless of the political party
that takes office. It gets interpreted in the southern countries a little
different,” he said.
The US Congress is this week considering two immigration bills.
One of them would grant several categories of migrant, including people
brought to the country as children — so-called “Dreamers” — an immediate
path to permanent residence.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)