The border crisis between the United States and Mexico is a story as old as time. Dating back to 1904, border patrol or Mounted Guards were placed along the Texas/Mexico border to prevent illegal crossings. Although the patrol was always there, it wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s when cartels, corrupt governments, drugs, unstable living, and more started a wave of migration into America. The United States responded to this wave with technological updates, immigration facilities, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Bill Clinton’s “Operation Gatekeeper,” and more. Ultimately, making the trip across the border nearly impossible.
During the Trump administration, the border crisis was heavily covered by the media; videos of children being torn away from their parents and being put in cages is still engraved in the minds of many. Trump instituted a “Zero-tolerance” policy, which is what separated these families to begin with. Additionally, it has been fact-checked that during the administration prior to his, Obama was not able to handle the situation delicately either. And created the facilities that were being criticized by the media as being cages and similar to concentration camps. It seems that the border crisis, the “cages” where children are locked up, the separation of families, and more is an inheritance from previous administrations and now it appears to be Joe Biden’s turn.
It is well known that the Trump administration implemented many policies that were considered unfriendly and hostile to illegal immigrants, which explains how during Trump’s final months in office, there was an “unusually low” number of migrants. The number of migrants trying to cross the border stood at 17,106 in April and 74,108 in December (2020). This could be explained by many factors starting with the fact that Trump instituted a pandemic-related policy that expelled anyone trying to enter the United States—not necessarily specific to Mexico. It could also be argued that migrants were waiting for the election results in the hope that Biden would be less strict than his predecessor. In fact, migrants told BBC that they believed the Biden administration would grant them amnesty. Regardless of the rationalization, the number of border crossings has skyrocketed during the first few months of Biden’s administration. As of March 2021, there were more than 172,000 migrants illegally crossing the border, which surpassed the previous record count at 100,000 from March 2001. From this new spike, 40% of migrants are families with children, whereas three months prior, only 13% of migrants were a family dynamic. By the end of the fiscal year, it is estimated that there will be more than two million immigrants—which would indicate a new record high.
The most concerning numbers are those of the children. Authorities have reportedly encountered 18,890 unaccompanied children in March, whereas the last two previous spikes were in May of 2019 with 11,475 and June 2015 with 10,620. This incredible increase has led to overcrowding in the facilities that line the border. For example, a CBP tent complex in Donna, Texas, is meant for 250 people but is now overrun with 4,000 parents and children. Similarly, a room meant for 32 children is packed with roughly 600. The US Customers and Border Protection are housing 4,200 children between the ages of seven and thirteen in detention facilities and have been admitting an average of 565 children every day. This surge has now led the White House’s border coordinator Roberta Jacobson to step down.
Despite the alarming numbers, the Biden administration refuses to acknowledge this as a “crisis” but instead refers to it as “overwhelming” or a “tough” situation. It has been noted that the same facilities that received backlash during the Trump era are being used again during Biden’s administration as Kamala Harris oversees the crisis. This somewhat indicates the level of desperation Biden’s cabinet faces considering the president declared that the detention centers were inhumane back when Trump was president.
The undocumented children crossing the border are now relying on third parties or ‘sponsors’ for solace from the detention centers. These sponsors can be family, close relatives, or friends, but it is also possible that they will be placed in temporary homes through the Department of Health and Human Services.
Many third parties in the US have stepped up to help the families and children at the border during Biden’s 100-Day no deportation. This new rule that Biden placed is countlessly being pushed back by many states. Biden originally set a plan that in his first 100 days in office, he would freeze all deportations, which many conservatives see as encouraging migrants. Illegal immigrants already in the United States have expressed their gratitude to Joe Biden because many have been in hiding or are constantly afraid of being deported. Biden’s 100 Day Freeze lets them live in peace, even if it is simply for a short period.
There has been retaliation from states such as Texas, Arizona, Montana, Louisiana, and Florida. Texas has always been a critical point in the border crisis as El Paso is seen as the hub of immigration. After Biden instituted his 100 Day Freeze, a judge in Texas originally restrained the president’s order with a temporary block. Texas is currently suing Biden’s administration under the parameters this his actions are “unconstitutional.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a lawsuit alongside the state of Louisiana against Biden because his new guidelines “do not require or prohibit the arrest, detention or removal of any noncitizen.” The focus of this lawsuit, however, is to detain and deport individuals who have engaged in terrorism or unlawful acts before entering the United States, which is not possible under Biden’s Freeze.
Similarly, Montana joined Arizona’s lawsuit against Biden to halt the new immigration policies and allow deportation. This lawsuit argues that the new policy does not align with federal law, which requires anyone who is being deported to be removed from the United States within 90 days. Florida has joined in a separate lawsuit claiming that under Biden’s freeze, immigration officials cannot take custody of illegal immigrants who have served sentences of burglary, drug trafficking, and other crimes. The argumentation for the lawsuits follows a similar trend and narrative that convicted criminals should be deported as they have during the Trump and Obama administrations.
These lawsuits and statistics, however, focus on a small minority of the total population of immigrants crossing into the United States. The majority of those trying to cross legally are unaccompanied children who are told to seek asylum. In the US, any individual has the right to request asylum without the threat of being criminalized or turned back. There is also the implication that this spike is caused by the hurricane that passed through Mexico, the pandemic, and other reasons.
What is truly concerning is the lack of media coverage that is being portrayed in the US right now as thousands of women and children try to seek refuge. The conditions in which these kids are being placed are beyond overcrowded, and with COVID-19 still being a threat, it can be assumed that sanitation is not kept up to regulations when overflowed. The US border agency and social services has always been understaffed and struggled with aiding these children—stats show that there is a massive backlog of unaccompanied cases going back to 2014 where nearly 300,000 children still have cases pending for ‘sponsors.’
The media should also cover what is happening at the border to stimulate more action, sponsorship, and pressure on the government to act. The border crisis is not a new dilemma that arises for certain presidents. Biden was previously critical to both Trump and Obama for their border policies. Trump had been inhumane with his policies that allowed zero tolerance, but Obama remains the president with the most recorded deportations in history at over three million. Including some immigrants who were deported without having criminal records.
The question at hand is how Biden is going to react to this new surge. He has now appointed Kamala Harris to oversee the border crisis, but if they do not act quickly, the situation could turn even more dire. For starters, scaling up partnerships with humanitarian organizations would help to increase sponsors for these children. It will be difficult to institute policies considering the issue of illegal immigration is an incredibly partisan topic for debate. Sending humanitarian aid to Central America, thus addressing the problem at its root, could prove to be beneficial.
Without the public’s knowledge of the matter, it will not be possible to advocate for these individuals or relieving the situation at the border. Biden seems to have placed himself in a similar situation as his predecessor Obama by heavily encouraging migration into the United States through the deportation freeze. But if Biden handles it the way Obama did, then he might break the record of most deportations in United States history.