She said it in English; she said it in Spanish: Now is not the time to come to the United States.
That was the message delivered at the White House press briefing on Wednesday by Roberta Jacobson, the Biden administration’s newly-appointed coordinator for the southern border.
“It’s really important that people not make the dangerous journey in the first place, that we provide them with alternatives to making that journey, because it’s not safe en route,” she said.
Jacobson, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico from 2016 to 2018, also announced the resumption of an Obama-era policy – killed by the Trump administration – that allows children in Central America to apply for asylum protection remotely.
On Monday, The New York Times uncovered that “the number of migrant children in custody at border detention facilities tripled in the past two weeks to more than 3,250.”
A recent surge in attempted border crossings – among bother children and adults – has officials alarmed, especially since the immigration system is already limited by COVID-19 restrictions.
Republicans blame the influx on a slate of new immigration policies from the Biden administration. The Associated Press explains:
The administration has made some moves to reform the asylum system, including a move by the Department of Homeland Security on Biden’s first day in office to suspend a Trump-era program requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims were under review. But Biden has yet to articulate a plan to manage asylum flows beyond proposing that billions of dollars be spent to address root causes in Central America.
Meanwhile, two new reports provide further evidence that Biden is struggling to handle what is simultaneously a humanitarian issue and a political tinderbox.
On Wednesday morning, Reuters reported that “Mexico’s government is worried the new U.S. administration’s asylum policies are stoking illegal immigration and creating business for organized crime.“
One Mexican official familiar with migration developments, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said organized crime began changing its modus operandi “from the day Biden took office” and now exhibited “unprecedented” levels of sophistication.
That includes briefing clients on the latest immigration rules, using technology to outfox authorities, and disguising smuggling operations as travel agencies, assessments showed.
“Migrants have become a commodity,” the official said, arguing they were now as valuable as drugs for the gangs. “But if a packet of drugs is lost in the sea, it’s gone. If migrants are lost, it’s human beings we’re talking about.”
Meanwhile, CNN revealed that unaccompanied minors are spending an average of four and a half days in Customs and Border Patrol facilities. Under U.S. law, children are supposed to be transferred out of CBP custody within 72 hours and handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services for relocation.
Last month, the United States detained nearly 100,000 migrants trying to cross the southern border, including thousands of children. That’s the highest February number since 2006.
To deal with the flux, The Washington Post reported last week that detention centers in Texas are being transformed into rapid-processing hubs.
And Axios reports that “The Centers for Disease Control is allowing shelters handling child migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border to expand to full capacity, abandoning a requirement that they stay near 50% to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus.”