The solution to the migration crisis is the weakest point in Biden’s policy. During the election campaign, he promised that the United States would become more hospitable, and also criticized Donald Trump’s tough course. However, it seems that Biden will end his first year in the White House without significant migration reforms, largely following in the footsteps of his predecessor.
Over the last fiscal year (ended in September), the US authorities detained 1.7 million migrants trying to illegally enter the country from Mexico. These are record numbers that do not include those who did manage to leak. So many people seeking refuge are indicative of a serious humanitarian crisis unfolding along the US border.
Tens of thousands of migrants from Central and South America are trying to escape political instability, poverty and violence in their countries. Colombia, Panama, Mexico and other states are reporting an increasing number of people heading north.
Mass migration is a major challenge for every American president. The previous leader of the United States, Donald Trump, resolved the issue radically – he built a wall, arranged mass deportations and separated families at the borders of the family. These actions were fiercely criticized even in other Western countries, where the ex-president was called a racist and a criminal.
Democrat Joe Biden, who took his place, promised change and immediately canceled many of Trump’s anti-immigration measures. He halted construction of the wall, scrapped the “Stay in Mexico” policy, and announced a 100-day hiatus for most deportations.
After that, about 12 thousand asylum seekers entered the United States. Perceiving Biden’s victory as a thaw, the settlers rushed to the borders with even greater zeal. Process exacerbated occurred after the crises in Haiti and Cuba, as well as pandemic coronavirus. The president’s Republican rivals accused him of “chaos at the borders.” Allegedly, the overly “hospitable tone” was to blame for everything.
Biden instructed his deputy, Kamala Harris, to deal with the problem. She went on a tour of Latin America, trying to find a way to contain the flow of displaced people on the ground. In fact, the visit had a nominal significance, since Washington is already well aware of all the problems of the region. The press then wrote that Harris was sent on a “firing squad” mission, since it was impossible to resolve this crisis in any quick way. Soon, Harris herself gradually moved away from this issue.
Back to Haiti
The September story tells a lot about the scale of the problem. In the middle of last month, about 15,000 refugees, mostly Haitians, crossed the Rio Grande border river and camped under the Del Rio Bridge, which connects Mexico and Texas. Entire families, including those with small children, ended up in the tent city. All in all, about 30 thousand people have accumulated near the US-Mexican border, which has created a huge burden on immigration services. The intruders were driven back by American mounted patrols using whip reins. The photographs of “lasso cowboys” chasing migrants aroused the outrage of the American public and Biden’s personal censure.
By the first week of October, about 8,000 refugees had been expelled from the camp. The fate of others is decided by the immigration authorities. People have few further options – either deportation to Haiti, or arrest in the United States, or exile back to Mexico, where deportations are also taking place.
“This is not a deterrent or even a temporary solution,” said Gerlin Joseph, co-founder and CEO of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, an organization that helps Haitian migrants defend their rights in America.
According to her, due to the impossible conditions in Haiti, all those who were deported from the camp will soon return. Thus, there is no talk of any Bayden thaw in the issue of migrants in general. The President, on the other hand, is increasingly criticized for the fact that his policies differ little from those of Trump.
The expulsion of people to Haiti, to a country that is not only extremely poor, but also dangerous, is especially indignant. President Jovenel Moise was assassinated there in mid-summer, and recently a local gang kidnapped 17 American missionaries and is now demanding a ransom of $ 1 million each.
The deportation of most of the Haitians who broke through to the United States was carried out by the authorities on the basis of “Section 42”, which prohibits entry into the country for sanitary reasons. This is one of the Trump administration decrees, passed in March 2020 and formally aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19. The law empowers the US authorities to quickly and legally expel most of the asylum seekers. According to US border guards, 61% of the 1.7 million migrants detained last year were expelled under Section 42.
In this case, we are talking specifically about expulsion. Unlike deportation, migrants who fall under the section are not blacklisted. Therefore, they can return again and again seek asylum. This, by the way, explains the high statistics of detentions.
In the final days of the Trump administration, following a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, a federal court ruled to exempt minors from Section 42. The Biden administration complied with the decision and began accepting parentless underage refugees, leaving the rest of the situation unchanged. “The document will be valid as long as our medical experts think so,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
Human rights groups, however, believe that “Section 42” has no scientific basis and is aimed only at preventing people from giving asylum, contrary to international law. The decree is also criticized by representatives of the Democratic Party in Congress. As a result, Biden’s border policy suits neither Republicans, nor party members, nor himself.
In mid-September, a federal judge in the Metropolitan District of Columbia ordered the government to stop applying Title 42 to families on the grounds that it unfairly denies them the right to seek asylum. The US Department of Homeland Security was given two weeks to stop this practice. However, on September 30, the day the deadline expired, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals overturned the previous ruling, keeping the section in effect. The White House hopes to amend this law. In particular, to allow not only the courts, but also the officers of the migration service to consider requests for asylum. This would reduce the workload on judges and save time for petitioners. The only question is the time frame required to carry out the initiative at the legislative level.
In August, a Texas federal judge ordered the Biden administration to reinstate another canceled Trump-era decree, the Stay in Mexico program. It requires migrants to wait for a decision on their cases in US courts, while being outside the country.
The practice was criticized for the fact that migrants lived for months, and sometimes for years, in dangerous Mexican areas. Because of this, they became victims of attacks, rape and other crimes. The Texas judge decided that the administration was in a hurry to cancel the initiative, as it had not prepared any alternatives.
The White House says it plans to restart the Stay in Mexico program in November, awaiting Mexico City’s approval. The US Department of Homeland Security is simultaneously working on its own version of a project that would modify this practice.
Also in Washington, they point to attempts to eliminate the fundamental causes of migration. Work in this direction is going on, but, apart from new sanctions on local “corrupt regimes”, there are no results. How exactly political pressure on elites will help curb the flow of migrants is unclear.
The US authorities believe that at least 11 million people are already illegally in the country. The specialized services do not have the necessary resources to deport them, which means that decisions must be made selectively. Those who threaten public safety will be the first to fall under deportation.
“The migration challenges are truly global,” the Washington Post quotes Chris Ramon, an independent immigration consultant based in Washington. a more difficult problem for the administration. “All of Biden’s proposals for a fundamental overhaul of the immigration system have stalled in Congress, and Republicans are likely to pull with their support to use Biden’s flaws as a weapon against Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections.