Is the incoming Biden administration up for the challenge of oncoming waves of migrants?
Apprehensions on the southern border have risen for six straight months, and smugglers are using more aggressive tactics to move migrants — including sharply increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors — into the U.S.
“There are going to be caravans, and in the coming weeks it will increase,” said Jose Luis Gonzalez, coordinator of the Guatemala Red Jesuita con Migrantes, a non-governmental organization. “People are no longer scared of the coronavirus.”
The number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border is surging as smugglers use riskier tactics to get them across. Border Patrol agents apprehended 4,764 unaccompanied minors in October, a 540 percent increase over April, according to a report by USA Today.
Unlike previous surges, in which migrants readily surrendered to border agents, smugglers now are sneaking minors farther into the U.S. through remote areas of South Texas, floating them across the Rio Grande in rickety rafts and hiding them in stash houses. Among a group of unaccompanied children rescued recently near Hidalgo, Texas, was a 13-year-old Honduran national caring for a 7-month-old infant.
Against this backdrop, Biden has declared, “There will not be another foot of [border]wall constructed during my administration.” He vows to end Migrant Protection Protocols that keep asylum seekers on the southern side of the border until their cases can be heard, while he remains non-committal on Centers for Disease Control guidance allowing rapid expulsion of illegal border crossers. (A federal judge last month issued a preliminary injunction limiting expedited removal of minors.) Biden also has pledged to halt all deportations for 100 days.
Acting Customs and Border Protection chief Mark Morgan says the new administration is inviting a “full-blown crisis.”
One of America’s chief allies in border protection has been Mexico’s military, which stepped up enforcement on that country’s own southern border over the past two years. Here, too, Biden’s agenda threatens U.S. security.
“Deployment of Mexican troops had its genesis entirely in a threat by President Trump to apply devastating economic trade tariffs on all Mexican products,” says Todd Bensman of the Center for Immigration Studies. Weak and vacillating policies on this side of the border will give cover to President Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador and his military to simply wave more migrants northward.
Bensman, who accompanied Mexican troops during interdictions of Central American migrants this year, reports, “[Caravan] organizers and participants have shown consistent resolve and determination over time. They remember well how cost-efficient and effective the system initially was in delivering migrants into the United States.”
From their vantage point, they see Joe Biden flashing a green light.