~ by Soli Salgado, Global Sisters Report
For advocates for migrants and refugees, the response to incoming migrants at the border between the United States and Mexico is a source of emotional tension.
There is a sense of victory for the migrants and refugees who made it into the United States after months or years of uncertainty. However, there are also rising frustrations from potential asylees and activists spurred by the new U.S. presidential administration’s lack of preparation and clarity regarding the ongoing expulsion of asylum seekers.
Joe Biden fulfilled a campaign promise once lauded among immigration activists when he ended the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. The 2019 policy under former President Donald Trump forced more than 70,000 asylum seekers to wait for their U.S. court dates in Mexican border cities.
But no concrete plan for asylum-seekers emerged in its place, so while thousands of migrants were able to enter the United States in triumph since Biden rescinded the MPPs, others who have arrived at the border seeking asylum but who were not affected by the program are being expelled to Mexico.
“We do celebrate the progress that has been made,” said Sr. Tracey Horan, a Sister of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods and Assistant Director of Education and Advocacy for the Kino Border Initiative in Nogoles, Arizona. “At the same time, it doesn’t feel like the response that we’re seeing is equal to the urgency that the people living it are feeling.”
The driving factors that make migrants flee their homes are only adding up, she said: the usual violence and corruption are now met with destruction from hurricanes and extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic.
Ambiguity over action
Immigration advocates bemoan the Biden’s administration’s lack of transparency and clear plans for those who continue their months-or years-long wait to present their cases for asylum, as well as the continuation of the Title 42 policy, a public health order from March 2020 that allows the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to expel migrants to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in holding facilities.
Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of the Hope Border Institute said the government is capable of handling the number of migrants currently crossing the border. But any instability along the border is largely due to the government’s “ambiguous response,” said Corbett, who lives in El Paso, Texas.
Missionary of Jesus Sr. Norma Pimentel agreed, noting that a “crisis” indicates a shortage of options. “But, I think the options are there – they’re just not being put forward,” said Pimentel, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.
Biden’s Department of Homeland Security, unlike Trump’s, is not turning away unaccompanied minors at the border. Though the policy is intended to keep vulnerable children safe in the United States, it also tempts parents with the tough choice to send their children north without them.
“When I say ‘children,’ I’m not talking about 15 or 14 years old; I’m talking about 3, 5, 7 years old, completely by themselves,” said Chris Cabrera of the National Border Council, adding he would not have believed it if he had not talked to the children himself.
Joanne Williams, the Executive Director of the Kino Border Initiative remarks that the Biden administration underestimates the desperation of individuals who choose to embark on the dangerous journey north, she added. “People are making rational choices to try to protect their kids as best as they can.”
The best ways to respond
Advocates agree that the United States should work to stabilize the Northern Triangle – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – so families don’t need to become migrants or refugees at all. They are also clear about how the government can respond to the border’s immediate needs.
As Sr. Horan put it: more health and human resources, fewer troops.
“What we don’t need are more Border Patrol agents,” she said. What we need are social workers and asylum officers and judges, people to accompany these families through the legal process they have a right to.” To read the complete article please click here