The political battle at the US-Mexico border

The political battle at the US-Mexico border
Source: Mike Blake, Reuters
Contrary to the claims made by Republicans, Biden and his administration have tried to discourage migrants from coming to the US, especially during the current pandemic.

Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign largely reignited the immigration debate and many across the political spectrum have contrasted the way the Trump administration handled the issue with the way the new Biden administration is currently dealing with it.

The Trump administration employed harsh penalties and threats of economic sanctions on countries south of the United States border in an effort to deter others from coming. The Trump administration’s actions, though, were characterized by many as inhumane.

Now, the Biden administration is set to lessen punishments for those who enter the country illegally while still discouraging the flow of illegal immigrants from South and Central America. President Joe Biden, however, is continuing the Trump administration’s policy of turning migrants away at the border over fears that not doing so may increase the spread of COVID-19.

Political rhetoric

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been critical of the Biden administration’s handling of the influx of migrants, labeling the administration’s policies on the issue a humanitarian crisis.

“The Biden Admin. has created a dangerous disaster on our border,” Abbott tweeted. “His policies are subjecting young children to the horrors of human trafficking. It must be stopped. The border must be secured.”

But surges like the one that began in January have happened before.

In May 2019, despite the seriousness of the Trump administration’s hard-line stance on immigration, 132,856 migrant apprehensions occurred. Back then, Republicans did not place blame at the feet of then-President Trump but now, however, many top Republicans are jumping to critique Biden’s policies at the border.

On March 15, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy led a delegation of 12 GOP members to the border in El Paso, Texas. There, they pointed the finger at Biden’s policies, including his ordered halting of the border wall.

“He can continue to deny it, but the only way to solve it is to first admit what he has done, and if he will not reverse action it’s going to take correct congressional action to do it,” McCarthy told reporters at a press conference. “Before we even came here, I sent a letter to the president to work together to solve this problem.”

In response to the drastic increase in the number of those trying to reach the US, Biden has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist border patrol agents in processing and housing children and teenagers. The use of FEMA, though, must be approved by Governor Abbott before the agency can use federal funds, something the governor has refused.

“Instead of doing their job, the Biden Administration suggested it did not have the sufficient resources and, remarkably, asked Texas to assist them in aiding their illegal immigration program,” Abbott said in a statement. “Texas refused.”

In lieu of the FEMA aid, Abbott ordered 1,000 Department of Public Safety officers and Texas National Guard troops to patrol the Texas-Mexico border in response to what he argued was a lack of federal response to the surge in immigrants.

Biden’s border policies

Contrary to what Texas’ governor and Republican members of the House of Representatives have said, Biden and his administration have tried to discourage migrants from coming, especially during the current pandemic.

In an interview with ABC News, the president sent a message to those considering crossing the southern border: “I can say quite clearly: Don’t come over."

Despite these requests, there has been an influx of migrants at the border for many reasons, with the number of unaccompanied teens and children taken into US custody nearly 30,000 in February. One of the reasons for this is the change in presidents – especially after the harsh treatment the Trump administration imposed on people who crossed the border.

Roberta Jackson, the former Mexican Ambassador and current coordinator of the southern border for the Biden administration, explained the rising migrant numbers.

“Surges tend to respond to hope, and there was a significant hope for a more humane policy after four years of, you know, pent-up demand,” she explained at a White House press briefing. “So I don’t know whether I would call that a coincidence, but I certainly think that the idea that a more humane policy would be in place may have driven people to make that decision.”

Jackson believes the main reason for the influx is lies spread by human traffickers. “But perhaps, more importantly, it definitely drove smugglers to express disinformation – to spread disinformation about what was now possible.”

Democratic speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has used similar language to describe the issues at the border, calling it a “humanitarian challenge to us all.” Pelosi, though, places the blame directly at the feet of former-President Trump.

“What the administration has inherited is a broken system at the border, and they are working to correct that in the children’s interest,” she told ABC’s “This Week.”

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