There continues to be a lot of confusion about the situation at the southern border. This summary of some of the issues was compiled by community members who have worked for years with local churches and other non-profit organizations to support legal and humane immigration.
First, it should be noted that the U.S. southern border continues to be open for certain groups including:
1. Over 10,000 trucks (with vegetables and goods) that drive into the U.S. from Mexico each day.
2. Thousands of people who commute to and from Mexico each day for work, education, and health care.
3. Unaccompanied minors.
4. A few asylum-seekers, approved for hearings in the U.S. but forced to wait in Mexico, now being allowed entry.
Currently, most asylum-seekers are prevented from entering the U.S. due to Title 42 (CDC COVID-related restrictions causing rapid deportation of the newly arrived). This has caused Customs and Border Protection to expel people into northern Mexico - sometimes in the middle of the night or into small communities without adequate services or transportation. To prevent this practice, the Biden administration will need to remove Title 42 at the southern border for all asylum-seekers.
With this administration, unaccompanied minors are an exception to Title 42 - so they are no longer being expelled into unsafe conditions in Mexico. However, this has caused more families to be separated as desperate parents send their children to the U.S. alone. The Biden administration is prioritizing the processing of unaccompanied minors within DHS and HHS to ensure safe transportation to their sponsors in the U.S. They must move as quickly as possible to reduce the backlog of unaccompanied minors being held in CBP facilities – as these facilities are not adequate, humane, nor operating within the confines of the U.S. legal system.
There are still over 25,000 Central Americans and Mexicans who qualify for asylum hearings in the U.S. but who were sent by the Trump administration to live in northern Mexico under the “Remain in Mexico” program. The Biden administration has started to process these people back into the U.S. Volunteers are helping these asylum-seekers as they pass through shelters and relocate to communities around the country to live with their sponsors while they await their immigration hearings, per U.S. immigration law.
In order to handle the current demand, it is necessary to increase the capacity of CPB to process incoming visitors at the ports of entry and discourage people from entering the U.S. between the ports of entry to seek lawful asylum. This change would discourage human trafficking and prevent migrant deaths.
Local organizations need to partner seamlessly with the federal government to prepare for an influx of visitors and provide humane as well as lawful treatment of our visitors. In addition, more financial support is needed for our local nonprofits and communities.
Finally, the Biden administration must provide transparency to the media and the general public as well as improved oversight at each step of the immigration process.
Alliance4action Immigration Action Team: Alyson Ball, Amy Stone, Barbara Lemmon, Claudette Haney, Ellen Curtis, Gail Frank, Guy Nelson, Jean Saballus, Kristin Baldwin, Pam Irvin, Susie Sanders and Sara Busey. Alliance4action is a local activist organization.