Migration to the US reaches record levels and complicates the Biden government
WASHINGTON.- In the United States, governments and promises change, but the crisis on the border with Mexico remains the same, or worse. Only the people who arrive change. A wave of migrants never seen generated a all-time high in arrestsand led the White House to tighten its fist. Joe Biden He came to the presidency with the promise to eliminate the draconian policies of Donald Trump and build a “humane and fair” immigration system to receive foreigners who come to the country, restoring the values and history that made the United States “a nation of immigrants”.
But two years later Biden has been left on the same side as Trump, covered in criticism for having broken promises and having expanded the same policies that he previously ousted as a candidate in an attempt to stop the new “Great Migration”. of Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans or Haitians who risk everything in search of a better life.
In 2022, the United States authorities detained more than 2.5 million people on the border with MexicoAccording to official figures from the federal government, the highest peak since the turn of the century, when records began to be kept. In December alone, border agents prevented the entry of more than 250,000 people in the south of the country, a historical record for a month.
Insecurity, lack of economic opportunities, the coronavirus pandemic and the disasters caused by climate change unleashed an unprecedented displacement of people from Latin America to the United States, the first global economy and the richest country in the region. Now, In addition to migrants from Mexico or the “Northern Triangle” in Central America, tens of thousands of people arrive from other countries, mainly Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia and Haiti.
“We’re seeing numbers we haven’t seen in 20 yearsand the countries of origin where people come from are different from what we have seen in previous decades, ”describes Mark Lopez, director of the Pew Research Center, which monitors migratory movements.
“In the early 2000s, Mexico was the main source of people detained at the border, then from 2013, 2014 to 2019 it was Central America, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Recently it is Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, people from Colombia or Peru, and the numbers grew from the bottom of the pandemic, when the borders were closed”, he described.
The images in Ciudad Juárez, in Mexico, the “twin” city of El Paso, in Texas, bear witness to a reality that is repeated along the border. Thousands of migrants sleeping outdoors, between wire fences, wrapped in blankets or in tents. The shelters are overflowing. The authorities are not enough. For many migrants, it is the end of a journey that includes the extremely dangerous crossing of the Darien Gapbetween Colombia and Panama. And the beginning of a legal ordeal, which can end in a long stay in Mexico or in an immediate expulsion to their country of origin.
The Biden administration initially designed a long-term strategy with the idea of attacking the “roots of migration”, with institutional development and strengthening programs focused on Central America. That approach didn’t pay off, at least not immediately. In fact, the harsh reality experienced by several Latin American countries led more people to migrate in search of a new life. To the historical list of reasons for undertaking the trip – dictatorships, crime and insecurity, drug violence, lack of opportunities – now adds the impact of disasters linked to climate change.
For Biden, the border crisis is a huge and highly sensitive political issue. His nemesis, Donald Trump, built his movement around the singular promise of building a wall on the border with Mexico. And the Republicans constantly accuse Biden and the Democrats of being permissive and encouraging the arrival of more foreigners with an “open borders” approach, a label with high media impact, even if it is very far from reality.
Biden tried to eliminate the policies that Trump implemented to stop people coming to the United States seeking asylum. But Justice prevented him from doing so, and in the end he ended up expanding them. Republicans blocked an immigration reform bill he sent to Congress at the start of his administration, and also denied him a $3.5 billion request to add staff, judges, and border facilities to prevent spillovers. Limited, Biden is now trying to prevent more migrants from arriving, a turn strongly criticized by allies of his administration.
To that end, the White House implemented a “carrot and stick” approach earlier this year: it expanded expulsions and tightened the border, and launched a plan so that thousands of Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans can request a legal residence, under certain conditions, and as long as they do so far from the border.
“The Biden government maintained or expanded the policies of the Trump administration”, says Ari Sawyer, a border researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW). “There was a lot of talk about the Biden transition team and creating a humane border. And sadly those people have left and the Biden administration has bought into this deterrence policy, this anti-immigrant mentality of many of the politicians that came before him instead of taking a principled stand. Any policy like this endangers people who cross the border and border communities,” she remarked.
Based in Mexico, Sawyer conducted investigations in various border cities, including Ciudad Juárez, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Tijuana or Nogales. Documented cases of rape, extortion, kidnapping and physical attacks, both at the hands of cartels and criminal organizations as well as security forces. Migrants, she says, are particularly vulnerable to kidnapping by criminals who then demand ransom from relatives in the United States. For Sawyer, deterrence policies are futile because people will never stop migrating, and the United States should “honor asylum laws.”
But immigration, like abortion or the right to bear arms, has been one of the most contentious discussions in North American politics in recent decades. The lukewarm attempts of the Democrats to expand the rights of immigrants have collided with the iron desire of the Republicans to restrict the arrival of foreigners. Vanessa Cárdenas, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant rights organization, said on a call with reporters this week that Democrats “are missing in action” and that Republicans have been taken for extremists “with a dangerous anti-immigrant and white nationalist rhetoric.”
Biden’s actions, he said, are nothing more than “Band-Aids,” and what is needed is modernize the country’s immigration system. Nothing suggests that it will happen.
Dyan Corbett, director of the Hope Border Institute in El Paso, Texas, also demanded in the same call that the United States respect the commitments on asylum imposed by international law and human rights. from the border, Corbett admitted how little changed everything from the Trump administration to the Biden administration.
“Today, Ciudad Juárez looks a lot like it did under the previous administration,” Corbett said. Biden was at the border recently, before traveling to Mexico. “When the president came a couple of weeks ago, he was met by community leaders, religious leaders, civic leaders who asked him, ‘can you help us with this population? Can we get normal immigration status? Can we simplify the process with the border patrol?‘. And the answer was ‘no’. The response of the President of the United States. There are solutions, there are some pragmatic solutions,” Corbett said. “But yeah, it looks like it has for the past few years”hill.