The Biden Administration on Illegal Migration

(Pic: CCL)

By Stella Kindred – Contributor

Earlier this month it was announced that the Biden administration is considering reviving the practice of detaining migrant families who cross the US border illegally. Despite no formal decision being made, this still raises alarm for human rights activists and is a stark reminder of the ‘Trump-era’ of immigration which occurred less than three years ago. Although Biden’s 2020 Presidential campaign ran on the promises of ‘undoing’ Trump’s damage to the US immigration system, many critics on both sides argue that the Biden administration hasn’t done enough and is failing when it comes to handling illegal migration.
Biden’s newest ‘crackdown’ comes at a time when migrants at the US-Mexico border remain near historic highs. Changes announced in January of this year, promised stricter enforcement action against Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans trying to cross the border illegally. This follows changes made to the immigration process in October of 2022 which led to a dramatic drop in the number of Venezuelans crossing the border. With the policy now being expanded to cover migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti. Under this new immigration process, up to 30,000 individuals per month from these four countries can enter the US for two years and receive work authorization, provided they have an eligible sponsor and can pass vetting and background checks. The Biden administration also introduced a new mobile app in the hopes of ‘streamlining’ the application process for asylum. However, officials report that the app glitches and has very limited appointments available for those seeking asylum. Amidst these changes, it was announced that Homeland Security officials will now begin denying asylum to those who avoid the legal process and do not first seek asylum in the country they travelled through. Migrants who are caught crossing the border illegally, will then be returned to Mexico, and deemed ineligible to request asylum in the US for five years.
Amongst rising tensions at the US-Mexico border due to Biden’s threat of ‘crackdowns’ and his administration’s countless failures in ‘revamping’ the immigration process. It’s to no surprise that a riot erupted at the US-Mexico border last week, as hundreds of people attempted to storm the border. This comes after heightened frustrations with delays and difficulties in applying for asylum within the US. The riot erupted after an alleged rumour spread promising migrants safe entrance into the country. The crowd, including both women and children, were met with barbed wire, barricades, and tear gas, as border patrol agents dressed in riot gear, watched the chaos unfold.

This isn’t the first time the Biden administration has found itself stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to illegal migration. Critics have been quick to draw on the example of spring 2021, when the arrival of unaccompanied children to the border reached an all-time high. The Office of Refugee Resettlement simply did not have enough beds to accompany these children. Which forced the US to put up the Fort Bliss emergency intake shelter, in El Paso, Texas, as well as using convention centres in various places to temporarily hold children. However, until they were able to build up this capacity, these children were being locked in Border Patrol cells for days at a time, under horrendous conditions. Unfortunately, to some extent, this is how the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which deals with unaccompanied children, has been handling this issue for years.
While Biden may have entered office vowing to give refuge to asylum seekers and end harsh detention policies for illegal border crossers, since taking office in January 2021, his administration has largely kept the Trump administration’s biggest border policy Title 42, in place. Title 42 dates back to a US law known as the 1944 Public Service Act, which granted US health authorities emergency powers to prevent the spread of diseases. In March 2020, the Trump administration invoked the statute with the alleged intent of preventing the spread of Covid-19 within the US. Invoking Title 42 allowed the administration to quickly expel migrants and asylum seekers who were caught trying to illegally cross into the US. Upon entering office, many urged Biden to immediately end Title 42, however, that didn’t happen. Instead, the Biden administration has continued to defend the policy, and in some cases has expanded it, with two million people being expelled from the US under Title 42 between 2021 and 2022. There is hope that Title 42 may come to an end this May, along with the US government’s public health emergency. But, as of now, no formal decision has been made and the Biden administration has proven to be unpredictable when it comes to migration legislation.
The future of migration and asylum in the US appears bleak to those arriving from South American countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Venezuela. Due to political unrest in many of these countries, migration to the US has skyrocketed in the last few years, with experts predicting it won’t slow down anytime soon. It appears these historically high levels of migration are the new ‘normal’ for the US. The effects of this increase is likely to influence US politics for decades to come, as almost all of the states have felt the ‘squeeze’ of migration. With many northern states and cities such as New York and Washington,

struggling to provide basic services to the growing numbers of migrants who continue to arrive.

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