When Joe Biden makes his first trip to the border as president on Sunday, he will witness a human rights crisis both in his own backyard and in Mexico.
In El Paso, Texas, immigrant families have flooded into the city in recent months from countries ravaged by catastrophic weather, widespread violence and repressive governments. Recent increases have strained the border city's resources, prompting Mayor Oscar Lizer to declare a state of emergency last month.
And on the other side of the Rio Grande, street temperatures in Ciudad Juarez dropped to 40 degrees overnight — with subzero winds — as hundreds of migrant families in need of shelter froze, waiting to cross into America. Hundreds of thousands of people who have appeared at the border in recent months have been returned to Mexico without seeking asylum under Article 42 of the Public Health Pandemic Ordinance. Many are still waiting, waiting to enter the United States.
Biden's visit comes at a politically charged time for the country's immigration policy as well as his own political future. He has not yet announced whether he will run for re-election, but many are hoping. Republicans have often criticized the lack of border controls during Biden's presidency, using the fact that he is not interested in taking the border situation seriously.
"The border is President Biden's biggest weakness after inflation," said Republican political consultant Whit Ayres, adding: "If you watch Fox News, it seems like half the stuff they put out is about the border chaos."
As president, Biden has largely sidestepped the issue of immigration personally without making much of an effort to address it after Congress sent an immigration bill to Capitol Hill on his first day in office and mandated a surge in immigration. Vice President Kamala Harris of Central America. A Harvard-Harris poll in mid-December found that only 40% of voters approved of Biden's words on immigration.
But on Sunday, Biden will meet face-to-face on immigration. He will stop in El Paso on his way to Mexico City, where he will meet with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The three leaders will discuss how their countries can work together to fight climate change, drug trafficking and the millions of migrants who cross Mexico into the United States each year.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday that "the president is interested in seeing firsthand how things are going with border security, particularly in El Paso." "He hopes to speak with Customs and Border Protection officials who are on this mission to get first-hand information."
The administration's immigration policy is embroiled in a legal battle that began under the Trump administration, when Biden administration officials tried to block Section 42. The court insisted that Biden implement the order. Biden administration officials say two years of backlogs and denials of asylum applications have only led to more attempts to cross the border and increased pressure on border agents.
Read more : Hundreds of immigrants arrive in El Paso under Section 42, court order remains in place
To deal with the influx of immigrants, Biden hopes to convince lawmakers to fund more asylum officers and immigration judges to determine who can enter the United States and clear a large backlog. "Instead of a secure and orderly process at the border, we have a patchwork system that's not working properly," Biden said Thursday in one of his first wide-ranging discussions on the border. "We don't have enough asylum officers or staff to determine whether people are eligible for asylum. There is a standard you have to meet."
"We don't have enough immigration judges to hear immigrant lawsuits," Biden added.
Most immigrants trying to enter the US in recent months have come from four countries: Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, according to the Biden administration. In October, the Biden administration announced a program called Parole that would allow Venezuelans to apply for legal entry into the United States. Along with this, there was a risk that Venezuelan migrants who showed up at the border without first applying for legal entry would be returned to Mexico without permission to seek asylum. The program has reduced the number of Venezuelans trying to cross the border from 1,100 in October to an average of less than 250 a day, according to Customs and Border Protection.
On Thursday, the Biden administration officially expanded the program to include parole offers for immigrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua. Under a new initiative in which the U.S. plans to welcome 30,000 people a month from four countries over two years, immigrants can download a U.S. government app on their phone while in their home country, show they have an American sponsor and wait for you. . They agreed to buy plane tickets for a trip to the United States. Also Thursday, the Biden administration unveiled a proposed decision that would revoke the right to asylum for immigrants unless they first seek protection from a transit country like Mexico before reaching the U.S. border. .
The new program has quickly drawn criticism from immigrant rights activists, who say it fails to understand what it means for asylum seekers to return to their home countries, use the phone and buy plane tickets to get around and travel. 'saved from bad conditions. Critics on the right accused Biden of creating a new legal route to enter the US.
Congress has tried unsuccessfully for decades to overhaul the nation's immigration system. Their last immediate success came a decade ago when Senate Republicans and Democrats passed an immigration reform package that included $30 trillion in border security and a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally, but that proposal died in the House of Representatives. controlled by Republicans.
Immigration experts say the factors driving people to the U.S. border are more important than any administration policy and include an increase in the frequency of devastating storms caused by climate change, crackdowns by authoritarian regimes, the Covid-19 pandemic and rampant criminal activity. "It's been under construction since 2020," said Josiah Heyman, director of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. Linking immigration flows to each administration's policies "puts it in a lot of context for Americans," Heyman said. In 2020, people were unable to move freely due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19. "This has a lot to do with the ability to move around Latin America after COVID-19," Heyman said. "It also reflects the traumatic impact of Covid on many countries in Latin America."
Throughout its history, the American economy has grown thanks to the influx of immigrants into the workforce. Separately, the asylum system was created after the reluctance of the United States to accept refugees from Adolf Hitler's systematic murder of Jews in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. "We have to have a moral debate and a practical debate about what we we need immigrants in the labor market," Heyman said.
Karina Breseda, head of New Wave Feminists, a nonprofit that helps immigrant women in Juarez and El Paso, has seen people fill shelters along the U.S. border in recent months. Breseda noted that more people are traveling to the border with young children, which he says is a sign of the desperate conditions they live in at home.
One evening last week, when temperatures were below freezing, Bresed's team tried to find a warm place to sleep for a Nicaraguan woman and her 3-month-old daughter on the streets of El Paso. The women had already filled out paperwork with the US government and were released to El Paso, but the shelters were full. Breceda said more people could be helped if U.S. Border Patrol notified local groups about the migrant release. "No one deserves to sleep in the cold," says Bresda. "It's not about politics, it's about people."