On March 27, a fire at a migrant center in Juarez City, on the border with the United States, brought the world’s attention back to a problem that has worsened in recent years. Forty undocumented migrants from various countries in the region died in the fire. They are just a small fragment of the thousands who die and thousands more who endanger their lives while seeking asylum in the United States, where they are not welcome.
What are the causes of the increasing migratory flows in Latin America? What are the situations faced by those who decide to leave their country? What public policies are being implemented? These questions are repeated year after year, the answers are almost always the same, and the “solutions” usually exacerbate the problem.
Migration has been increasing since the second half of the 20th century due to the rising inequality, decreasing labor supply, violence, food insecurity, increasingly fierce weather events, and the absence of public policies to help the most vulnerable to escape poverty. In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated the increase of migrants along the shared U.S.-Mexico border.
According to a December 2022 New York Times publication, U.S. Border Patrol agents recorded nearly 2.4 million apprehensions along the entire southern border in one year. In March of this year, the number of migrants apprehended by U.S. immigration authorities increased by 25% as the Joe Biden administration prepares for a major policy shift this May.
The policy known as Title 42, which allowed for the expedited deportation of undocumented immigrants due to health reasons, will cease to be in effect. The Trump-era order is set to lapse once the national COVID-19 public health emergency expires on May 11. This week, the Homeland Security Department offered a statement to the press on what “solutions” the Biden administration will seek to contain the possible increase in border arrivals now that the nefarious Title 42 will no longer be in effect.”
After May 11th, our court-compelled use of Title 42 will end, and we will once again process all migrants under Title 8 of the United States code. The return to processing migrants under Title 8 authorities will be swift and immediate,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained.
But what does this Title 8 mean? First of all, it will not offer a substantial change from the xenophobic policy implemented by former President Donald Trump, so often criticized by Biden during his 2020 election campaign.
In the second place, the regulation would disqualify migrants from asylum if they enter the U.S. illegally after failing to ask for protection in a country other than the one they fled that they traversed to reach American soil. According to CBS News, the rule is likely to be challenged in court by migrant advocates, who have denounced it as a Trump-like effort to gut U.S. asylum laws.
Biden also plans to deploy more than 1,500 military troops to the border to “contain” the flow of undocumented immigrants into the country.
Biden’s desperate and erratic actions and the death of 40 people in the migrant detention center, just a few kilometers from the U.S. border, shows that the Biden Administration is clueless and the crisis is far from being solved. What happened also proves that the fate of undocumented migrants, once they are quickly removed from U.S. territory, cannot be the sole responsibility of the Mexican government.
“What happened also speaks to the internal political tensions, of Central America and other southern countries, of the caravans and the dissonance between good intentions and reality. The border is a vital and bureaucratic abyss for tens of thousands of people waiting to define their status after a long and dangerous journey through the Darien jungle,” journalist Francesco Manetto described.
There is an urgent need for more diagnostic work and research on the situation of migrants, the “criminalization” to which they are subjected, the closing of borders to vulnerable foreign populations. There is a need to make visible that migration policies based on “national security” can hardly guarantee respect for the rights and needs of migrants who are human beings in the first place.
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