The US government on Saturday ordered the emergency agency FEMA to help with the growing number of migrant children who are crossing the border with Mexico due to the saturation of care facilities.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support efforts to temporarily house thousands of children who crossed the southern border alone, amid criticism that authorities held them back. for long periods in crowded facilities.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) currently cares for about 8,800 migrant children and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) another hundreds more. Meanwhile, there are new arrivals every day.
In February, some 100,000 people were arrested on the southern border – including 9,457 unaccompanied minors – an increase of 28% compared to January, according to authorities.
Its facilities are overcrowded and authorities are doubly challenged by restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
We are facing a mass exodus, a new migration crisis in the region
“Given the non-detention and immediate deportation (in Mexico), minors are being able to travel, I would say in a slightly freer way, or they are managing to move forward,” Ramón Marquéz, migration coordinator of the NGO Ayuda en Mexico action. “And there is also the effect of the change of government (in the US). There is a feeling of euphoria or a feeling that the borders are open. There is a lot of incorrect information on the route and also the groups that profit from traffic, send the message of ‘the border is open, try to move forward because now is the right time’. This is something very recent, from the last two, three weeks. We must be very attentive to what is going to happen because we are facing a massive exodus, a new migratory crisis in the region, not only of minors, but of the general population, families, women ”.
The administration of President Joe Biden faces mounting pressure from migrants, apparently encouraged to try to enter the United States by the new president’s rejection of his predecessor Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy toward undocumented immigrants.
While migrant adults and families continue to be sent back to Mexico when captured, unaccompanied children receive help relocating with U.S. relatives.
This was the first admission of asylum seekers to the United States
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that FEMA would be part of a 90-day effort to ensure that children are safely housed and released to caregivers, usually relatives already living in the United States.
“In recent months there have been changes in Mexican immigration law and now the National Migration Institute in Mexico in theory should not be detaining minors who are crossing the national territory,” says Marquéz. “As the Institute cannot have them in the immigration stations, they are handing them over to the municipal and state attorneys’ offices, which often do not have the capacity, infrastructure, or experience to care for minors accompanied by their families and the unaccompanied. So they ask for the support of the shelters. We have received some information from shelters with which we are collaborating in a current Help in Action project where they are telling us that the National Migration Institute itself and the Attorney General’s Office are channeling families and minors so that they are under protection. We also have information on the northern border, where the same thing is happening, they are seeking the support of civil society organizations, even in some spaces where international organizations are assisting people who are arriving ”.
In addition, Biden faces increasing pressure from Republicans due to the increase in the arrival of migrants to the border with Mexico, a situation that the opposition describes as the first migration crisis of his term.
The leader of the Republican minority of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, denounced the “crisis” in a visit with several congressmen to the border in Texas. “This crisis was created by the presidential policies of this new government,” he accused.
Republican Congressman Chuck Fleischmann said the Biden Administration has “created an environment” conducive to increased migration. Other members of the delegation stated that human traffickers are benefiting from government policies.
Immigration reform in sight
The increased influx of people to the border is a political challenge for Biden, who seeks to reverse many of the anti-immigration policies imposed by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
The Democratic president wants to process an ambitious immigration reform in Congress, which could provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
In Washington, Republicans denounce that there is a “crisis” on the border, but the White House refuses to accept this rhetoric.
For the Biden government, which decided to suspend agreements signed by Trump such as the Stay in Mexico program, which forced asylum seekers to wait on the other side of the border and reinstated the CAM initiative to host Central American minors with parents with legal residence in the United States, the message is that “the border is closed” to irregular immigration.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki admitted Monday that there is a “big problem.”
“The previous government left us with a dismantled system and with which it is impossible to work, as with other problems, we are going to do everything possible to solve it,” he added.
This article was originally published by RFI
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