Dhe Rio Grande Valley on the southern tip of Texas is at the center of the migration crisis. On the other bank of the border river, the migrants are waiting for their moment. Some of them have only just arrived in Mexico, but some have been there for months and now think the moment is a good time to get into the rubber dinghy. Some come on their own. Others are being led to the bank by tugs. Many of them are unaccompanied minors. The smugglers spread that the new president welcomed them.
Political correspondent for North America based in Washington.
Joe Biden struggles to find a line. His Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mayorkas refuses to speak of a migration crisis. As such, the Democrats had described the situation in 2019, when Donald Trump tried to use his methods to stop illegal migration. Mayorkas, the first Latino on the job, says the border situation is a “stressful challenge”. The number of minors sent on dangerous journeys by their parents in Central America because of hunger and violence has not yet reached a crisis level. The government is working to build capacity to cope with the situation.
Government mobilizes civil protection agency
On Saturday Mayorkas announced that the disaster control agency Fema would be mobilized. This will help in the next 90 days with the reception, accommodation and forwarding of unaccompanied children. The capacities for adequate accommodation for minors should be expanded. Border patrol facilities are not places where children should be. The Minister of Homeland Security referred to the regulation that unaccompanied minors must be handed over by the border guard to the refugee office of the Ministry of Health after 72 hours at the latest.
However, this deadline is not met due to capacity reasons. The border protection agency CBP announced last week that its officers had arrested 100,441 people trying to cross the southern border in February. That is 28 percent more than in the previous month and almost three times as many as in February of last year. 72,113 migrants were sent back. According to the CBP, the number of unaccompanied minors rose from 3,490 in February 2020 to 9,457 last month.
In Carrizo Springs, near Laredo, the Department of Health has opened an emergency shelter for unaccompanied minors. The refugee bureau is busy contacting relatives of the migrants in America. After the identity has been clarified, the children are temporarily taken into their care. If there are no relatives, foster parents are sought. But the influx is much higher than the placement rate. Also due to the pandemic-related distance regulations, there is not enough space.
The border protection agency CBP announced in February that it was opening another temporary shelter at the Donna border crossing near McAllen. Both minors and adults are accommodated there. Huge tents were set up behind a high barbed wire fence: waterproof, air-conditioned, with separate sleeping areas, washrooms and canteens, as the CBP authorities announced. But of course the facility, which looks like a military camp, is not suitable for children. At least there are teachers who offer daily teaching units in the facilities of the Ministry of Health.
Unaccompanied minors will not be turned away
The Biden government is now being attacked from two sides. The left wing of the Democrats accuses the government of acting like the Trump administration, although Biden sharply criticized his predecessor’s policies at the time. From the Republican side, however, it is said: You simply have to state that with the change of government, the number of migrants has risen sharply. Biden had polemicized against Trump’s border wall. In Central America, therefore, the message had arrived that the border was no longer closed. “If people think they can get in, put their children on the train,” says Republican Senator Bill Cassidy. His group colleague Lindsey Graham also blames Biden: This has revised Trump’s policy that asylum seekers have to stay in Mexico until their application has been processed.
Indeed, the Biden government does not reject unaccompanied minors at the border. Jen Psaki, White House spokeswoman, said the government had changed policy on humanitarian grounds. Refugees who apply for asylum can now wait for the procedure again on American soil. You are required to report to the authorities on a regular basis. The Republicans criticize this “catch and release” policy because many migrants simply disappeared into illegality. The White House, on the other hand, emphasizes that the vast majority of migrants will be turned away on the basis of health regulations in the coronavirus crisis. Because of the pandemic, the government is sending a message that this is not the time to go. The Biden government denies that it is providing incentives for illegal migration.