El Paso, Texas – Illegal crossings along the US southern border remained at a two-year low for the second month in a row in February, illustrating the pitfalls of tougher policies. Enacted by President Biden This year he has built on unprecedented immigration flows since he took office.
The U.S. Border Patrol recorded apprehensions of nearly 130,000 immigrants who crossed the southern border illegally in February, virtually the same level as in January, when it found that illegal entry had dropped by 40%. near record In December, according to internal federal data obtained by CBS News.
For the first time since Mr. Biden took office, Border Patrol agents did not record a spike in migrant apprehensions in February, when immigration flowed along the US southern border. usually increases Before peaking in the spring.
While apprehensions of migrants are at a historic high and are projected to rise sharply in May, the two-year low is a dramatic change from the situation at the US-Mexico border just two months ago, when a huge spike in illegal immigration was under pressure. Federal and local resources.
“When new policies are announced, there’s usually some pause while people try to figure out what the policies might mean for them,” said Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute who oversaw the now-defunct Immigration. and the Naturalization Service in the 1990s. “But this is more than a temporary hiatus.”
As part of his latest immigration crackdown, Mr. Biden expanded the scope of an epidemic-related border restriction known as Title 42, making immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela eligible for deportation to Mexico if they entered the United States illegally. His administration plans to replace Title 42, which is set to expire on May 11, with a Sweep shelter limitations It would also allow the government to more quickly deport immigrants who fail to seek asylum in another country en route to the United States
The tougher rules are coupled with an expansion of a program that allows 30,000 immigrants with American sponsors to enter the U.S. legally each month, as well as a mobile app that allows hundreds of asylum seekers to request entry with an official. Border ports of entry on a daily basis.
In December, the Border Patrol recorded 222,000 immigrant arrivals, nearly a record high. An influx of illegal crossings by migrants from Nicaragua and Cuba has created an unprecedented test for the Texas border city of El Paso, leaving hundreds of migrants sleeping on the city’s streets and forcing local officials to convert hotels, a convention center and a middle school into a state of emergency. refuge
But since Mr. Biden unveiled his new immigration strategy in January, El Paso has closed temporary shelters and migrants are no longer stranded outside local churches and the city’s Greyhound bus station. Incidents of migrants crossing El Paso’s busy highways have also largely stopped, city officials said.
El Paso Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino told CBS News, “It will encourage legal immigration. So as long as they follow the process, they can come and that’s the right way to do it.” New federal strategy. “That’s what we’re seeing now. That’s why we’re seeing low numbers.”
El Paso’s private shelters, run by faith groups and nonprofits, are also no longer severely overcrowded. A shelter for up to 85 parents and children near downtown El Paso housed only three families this week, down from more than 140 migrants in December. After being turned down in December for lack of space, a neighborhood gym repurposed as a shelter is now accepting single adults in addition to families.
A stretch of land between El Paso’s border barrier and steep concrete canal walls along the Rio Grande is no longer a site where hundreds of migrants line up for asylum each day. Instead, the area is secured by fences, razor wire rims and Humvees by the Texas National Guard.
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In Yuma, Arizona, a small border city that has seen the fourth-highest immigrant traffic nationwide over the past year, local officials also reported a sharp drop in immigrant arrivals. Yuma Mayor Douglas Nichols said daily arrivals dropped to about 400 in December, or about a third of illegal crossings.
“The numbers are more manageable now,” Nichols, a Republican, told CBS News, adding that high levels of migrant crossings to Yuma over the past year have strained local resources and negatively affected the city’s business and tourism industries.
But Nichols expressed concern that immigration could rise again if Title 42 is lifted, saying the federal government should send more resources and personnel to help border communities. He noted that Yuma has only one bus line and no formal system for feeding and housing migrants. Federal officials have warned that daily immigrant arrivals could rise to 13,000 if Title 42 ends absent a major policy change.
While Mr. Biden’s new strategy has so far appeared to reduce the number of illegal crossings, advocates for asylum seekers say the effort has come at an unacceptable humanitarian cost.
Ruben Garcia, who leads Annunciation House, a network of shelters in El Paso, said migrants deported by the United States are at risk of falling prey to criminal gangs in Ciudad Juárez, one of Mexico’s most violent cities.
“How do you justify what’s happening to the refugees in Mexico? How do you justify it?” Garcia asked. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”
Garcia said recent federal policy changes run counter to Mr. Biden’s campaign pledge to dismantle former President Donald Trump’s immigration legacy and handle immigration humanely. Instead, Garcia said, Mr. Biden is accepting asylum restrictions like Title 42 and “being deported-in-chief.”
The legal immigration path Mr. Biden has laid out has also drawn criticism from Republicans, who say it lacks the capacity to admit large groups of immigrants outside the visa system, and from progressives, who say the programs are too limited.
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The sponsorship program is open only to immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, while the mobile app process for requesting U.S. entry, known as CBP One, has been criticized by advocates who say it is complicated and fails to allocate enough space to meet. High demand among immigrants in Mexico.
Biden administration officials have rejected accusations that their new efforts to manage immigration resemble Trump administration policies.
The strategy, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in an appearance last week, “is designed to free (immigrants) from the clutches of the smuggling organizations that have caused so many deaths and tragedies” by providing them with a legal way to reach the United States.
Mayorkas noted that approximately 740 asylum seekers are being processed along the southern border each day under the CBP One process. Additionally, the sponsorship program allowed 22,000 Venezuelans, 7,800 Cubans, 5,100 Haitians and 1,600 Nicaraguans to enter the United States as of mid-February, DHS statistics show.
In Ciudad Juárez, migrants can be seen across the city trying to secure a coveted CBP One appointment. At a shelter in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, Mexican families who fled violence in the state of Michoacán said they had been trying to get appointments for weeks, even months, to no avail. A group of Venezuelan immigrants being fed by faith-based volunteers at the city’s cathedral said they had an appointment, but it was scheduled hundreds of miles away across the border in Texas.
Meanwhile, near the port of entry where dozens of immigrants are processed each morning under the CBP One program, three Venezuelan cousins said they traveled there hoping to improve their chances of getting an appointment.
A cousin, Daniela Moreno, a 19-year-old mother who crossed seven countries and Panama’s treacherous Darien jungle to reach Mexico, said she had been trying to get an appointment for two months. She said the app often crashed and left her and her 2-year-old daughter stranded in Ciudad Juarez on indefinite waits.
“Mexico is very unsafe, especially for women,” she said. “I’d rather cross the jungle back and forth than go to Mexico.”
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