From his first day in office, President Joe Biden has moved to dismantle his predecessor Donald Trump's hard-line immigration policy.
On Jan 20, the day Biden was inaugurated, he rescinded Trump's order to build a wall along the southwest border. The wall was Trump's signature campaign issue in 2016. Biden also changed a program that required migrants to apply for asylum in Mexico as opposed to the United States.
Biden restored the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation.
The result has been a surge in migration this year at the border with Mexico.
US authorities arrested and encountered more than 100,000 migrants over the four weeks ending on March 3, according to CNN, the highest level in that time frame in five years.
"We've seen surges before. Surges tend to respond to hope, and there was a significant hope for a more humane policy after four years of pent-up demand," said Roberta Jacobson, Biden's National Security Council coordinator for the southern border and a former ambassador to Mexico from 2016 to 2018.
"We are trying to convey to everybody in the region that we will have legal processes for people in the future, and we're standing those up as soon as we can," she said.
"But at the same time, you cannot come through irregular means," Jacobson said. "It's dangerous, and the majority of people will be sent out of the United States, because that is the truth of it. We want to be honest with people. And so we are trying to send both messages."
Biden has changed Trump's Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as "Remain in Mexico", which kept asylum seekers waiting for court dates outside the US.
Another policy, known as "catch and release", was used under former President Barack Obama and reinstated by Biden. It allows people to be released in the US as they await court proceedings instead of remaining in detention. If they fail to show up at the hearings, as many do, they are then on their own in the country.
The number of migrant children in custody has tripled in the past two weeks to more than 3,250, according to federal immigration agency documents obtained by The New York Times, and many of them are being held in jail-like facilities for longer than the three days permitted by law.
More than 1,360 of the children detained in border facilities were held longer than 72 hours despite being referred for placement in shelters by Homeland Security, according to one of the documents, the Times reported.
A total of 9,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border in February, according to NBC.
Many are held in Customs and Border Protection holding cells known as iceboxes or hieleras in Spanish, according to NBC. They have concrete rooms and metal benches but no beds.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said that any unaccompanied minors who make it to the border would not be turned away, although about 70 percent of people, mostly single adults, will be.
"One of the issues we've had is that the COVID-19 pandemic initially severely limited the number of children that could be taken into HHS facilities," she said. "We're looking at additional facilities where we can safely house children and ensure they have access to all of these resources."
The Biden administration on Friday reopened an emergency influx center for children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, a shelter whose use during the Trump administration was derided as "kids in cages". It will hold 700 children between 13 and 17 years old.
"We are not saying don't come," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at the White House last week, in reference to the migrants. "We are saying don't come now, because we will be able to deliver a safe and orderly process for them as quickly as possible."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked on the Senate floor: "Now is not the time to come? Well when is the right time to break federal law? There is going to be a good time, and people need to just be patient and wait for their signal? What on earth are they talking about?"
"You have likely seen the news about the overwhelming numbers of migrants seeking access to this country along the Southwest Border," Mayorkas said in a staff email. "President Biden and I are committed to ensuring our Nation has a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system while continuing to balance all of the other critical DHS missions."
On Sunday, Mayorkas and officials including domestic policy adviser Susan Rice visited a border patrol facility and a refugee resettlement facility, the White House said.
"They spent the majority of their time discussing what steps can be taken to expedite processes … to meet the administration's goal of getting these children placed with vetted and confirmed families," Psaki said Wednesday.
The images from the border have filtered into the political arena and are being used by Republicans and conservative media against Democrats.
Trump said last week that "illegal immigrants from every corner of the earth will descend upon our border and never be returned".
On Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that the Texas National Guard will deploy 500 troops to the border to address the surge.
"We will work to step up and try to fill the gap that the federal government is leaving open … Texas is going to fight for the safety and security of our state," he said.
Jose Parra, once an adviser to former Democratic senator Harry Reid, told Newsweek, "You need to take care of the current situation before there's a surge in the coming months in order to keep the politics, especially in the Senate, out of the way in order to pass policy."
The issue is a concern for politicians whose districts are closest to the border.
"The way we're doing it right now is catastrophic and is a recipe for disaster in the middle of a pandemic," US Representative Vicente Gonzalez, one of three Texas Democrats who represents part of the border most affected by spikes in migrant arrests and arrivals, told politico.com.
"Our party should be concerned. If we go off the rails, it's going to be bad for us," Gonzalez said. "Biden is going to be dealing with a minority in Congress if he continues down some of these paths."
Democratic Representatitve Henry Cuellar said, "Hey, we don't want the wall, but when it comes to the other issues, we got to be careful that we don't give the impression that we have open borders because otherwise the numbers are going to start going up. And surely enough, we're starting to see numbers go up."
Last year, Border Patrol apprehended about 90,000 people in the Rio Grande Valley. There have been 108,000 apprehensions, Abbott said.
"The Biden Administration has created a crisis at our southern border through open border policies that give the green light to dangerous cartels and other criminal activity," Abbott said in a release.
The Republican governor said that more than 800 criminal aliens have been apprehended in Texas this year, including sex offenders and gang members, and many of them had been deported before.
Along the banks of the Rio Grande in Penitas, Texas, hundreds of plastic wristbands discarded by migrants can be seen on the ground, signs of what US officials say is a trend among drug cartels and smugglers, called coyotes, to track people paying to cross illegally.
The plastic bands — red, blue, green, white — some labeled "arrivals" or "entries" in Spanish, are discarded after migrants cross the river on makeshift rafts, a witness told Reuters.
The system illustrates the sophistication of organized criminal groups ferrying people across, said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
"This is a moneymaking operation and they have to pay close attention to who has paid," she said. "This may be a new way to keep track."
Reuters contributed to this story.
2021年2月26日，美国边境巡逻队在德克萨斯州布朗斯维尔的一个汽车站释放了寻求庇护者。[图片/机构]美国总统乔·拜登(Joe Biden)上任第一天就开始着手废除其前任唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump)的强硬移民政策。1月20日，拜登宣誓就职的那天，他撤销了特朗普关于在西南边境修建隔离墙的命令。隔离墙是特朗普在2016年的标志性竞选议题。拜登还改变了一项要求移民在墨西哥申请庇护的计划，而不是在美国。拜登恢复了儿童移民延期行动(DACA)计划，该计划保护儿童时期来到美国的无证移民免于被驱逐出境。其结果是今年墨西哥边境的移民激增。据CNN报道，在截至3月3日的四周内，美国当局逮捕并遇到了10多万名移民，这是五年来的最高水平。“我们以前见过浪涌。拜登的国家安全委员会(National Security Council)南部边境协调员、2016年至2018年前驻墨西哥大使罗伯塔·雅各布森(Roberta Jacobson)表示:“需求激增往往是对希望的回应，在四年被压抑的需求之后，人们对更人道的政策抱有很大希望。”“我们正试图向该地区的每个人传达，我们将在未来为人们建立法律程序，我们将尽快维护这些程序，”她说。雅各布森说:“但与此同时，你不能通过不正当的手段来。“这很危险，大多数人将被驱逐出美国，因为这是事实。我们想对人诚实。因此，我们正试图传递这两种信息。”拜登改变了特朗普的移民保护协议，也称为“留在墨西哥”，该协议让寻求庇护者在美国境外等待法庭日期。
另一项被称为“抓了就放”的政策，曾在前总统巴拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)执政期间使用，后来被拜登恢复。它允许人们在美国等待法院诉讼时被释放，而不是继续被拘留。如果他们没有像许多人那样出席听证会，那么他们将独自留在国内。根据《纽约时报》获得的联邦移民局文件，在过去两周内，被拘留的移民儿童人数增加了两倍，达到3250多人，其中许多人被关押在类似监狱的设施中的时间超过了法律允许的三天。据《泰晤士报》报道，根据其中一份文件，超过1360名被拘留在边境设施的儿童被拘留超过72小时，尽管他们被国土安全部转介到庇护所。据全国广播公司报道，2月份共有9000名无人陪伴的儿童越过边境。据美国全国广播公司报道，许多人被关押在海关和边境保护局的牢房里，在西班牙被称为冰柜。他们有混凝土房间和金属长凳，但没有床。白宫新闻秘书Jen Psaki表示，任何无人陪伴的未成年人都不会被拒绝入境，尽管约70%的人，主要是单身成年人，会被拒绝入境。“我们遇到的一个问题是，新冠肺炎大流行最初严重限制了可以被送往HHS设施的儿童数量，”她说。“我们正在寻找额外的设施，在那里我们可以安全地安置儿童，并确保他们能够获得所有这些资源。”拜登政府周五重新开放了德克萨斯州卡里佐斯普林斯的一个儿童紧急流入中心，这个庇护所在特朗普政府期间被嘲笑为“笼子里的孩子”。它将容纳700名13至17岁的儿童。“我们不是说不要来，”国土安全部部长亚历杭德罗·马约尔卡斯上周在白宫谈到移民时说。“我们说现在不要来，因为我们将能够尽快为他们提供一个安全有序的流程。”参议院少数党领袖米奇·麦康奈尔在参议院问道:“现在不是时候吗？什么时候是违反联邦法律的合适时机？会有一段美好的时光，人们需要耐心等待他们的信号？他们到底在说什么？”“你可能已经看到了关于大量移民沿着西南边境寻求进入这个国家的消息，”梅尔卡斯在一封员工电子邮件中说。“拜登总统和我致力于确保我们的国家有一个安全、有序和人道的移民系统，同时继续平衡所有其他重要的DHS使命。”白宫表示，周日，马约尔卡斯和包括国内政策顾问苏珊·赖斯在内的官员参观了边境巡逻设施和难民安置设施。“他们花了大部分时间讨论可以采取什么措施来加快程序……以实现政府的目标，将这些孩子安置在经过审查和确认的家庭中，”Psaki周三说。