The White House seems to be in denial regarding the emerging havoc on the US southern border. When asked how the situation is not a crisis when Border Patrol custody currently accommodates over 3,000 unaccompanied minors, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: "What I’ve conveyed is it doesn’t matter what you call it, it is an enormous challenge, it is something front and centre for the president."
Are Biden's Policies Fuelling Illegal Immigration?
Republicans argue that the president's revocation of Donald Trump's border restrictions, as well as a proposed amnesty for roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants, that has prompted the influx of asylum seekers.
On 10 March, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that it had encountered 100,441 persons attempting entry along the southwest border which represented a 28% increase over January 2021. According to the agency, it completed "72,113 expulsions from the border pursuant to CDC guidance under Title 42 authority".
In February, CBP encountered 100,441 persons attempting entry along the SW border. This is a 28% increase over January.— CBP (@CBP) March 10, 2021
Press release: https://t.co/v2xGgrNOFd
Enforcement stats: https://t.co/AcdShCXjDS
SW Land Border Encounters: https://t.co/i3vbVkLjpB pic.twitter.com/ZKN7iEEGNR
Meanwhile, the number of migrant children in Border Patrol custody has tripled in two weeks. As of 9 March, over 3,250 migrant children had been detained along the southern border, according to internal reports obtained by the US press. In general, in Fiscal Year 2021 through February 2021, 29,792 unaccompanied children and single minors have been encountered along the southwest border, according to CBP.
In addition to this, the agency has registered a spike in cross-border narco-trafficking. According to CBP, drug seizures increased 50% in February from January 2021 nationwide: thus, seizures of methamphetamine and heroin increased 40% and 48%, respectively.
When it comes to fentanyl, the synthetic opioid largely attributed to the rising overdose death rate in the US, CBP is "seeing a dramatic increase in fentanyl seizures this fiscal year, more than 360 percent higher than this time last year," The Epoch Times reported on 12 March, citing acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller.
Meanwhile, Mexico's authorities are expressing concerns over Joe Biden's asylum strategy, warning that it is fuelling illegal immigration and opening the door to organised crime, Reuters noted on Wednesday, citing the country's officials and internal assessments.
Earlier, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador suggested that asylum seekers see Biden "as the migrant president, and so many feel they’re going to reach the United States," after talking with his American counterpart on 1 March. "We need to work together to regulate the flow, because this business can’t be tackled from one day to the next," Obrador stressed.
Texas, Arizona & Montana Taking Action to Address the Problem
US state authorities are trying to tackle the problem emerging at the border. Thus, on 5 March, Texan Governor Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star which brought together the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to prevent Mexican cartels and other smugglers from moving drugs and people into the state.
"There is a crisis on the Texas border right now, with the overwhelming number of people who are coming across the border," Abbott stated on 9 March.
Earlier, the Texan governor and attorney general launched a legal challenge against Biden's executive order, which stipulated a 100-day pause in the deportation of illegal immigrants. On 24 February, a federal judge put an indefinite halt to the president's 100-day ban on deportations.
On 8 March, Arizona and Montana took legal action to block Biden's new immigration regulations, limiting the capability of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain and deport some illegal aliens unless they'd committed crimes related to terrorism and espionage.
"Arizona’s law enforcement community is particularly concerned that releasing individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic will further stress hospitals, jails, and other social services at the local and county level," the lawsuit says.
For its part, Montana "is particularly concerned that DHS’s 100-day moratorium will exacerbate the serious drug trafficking problems associated with illegal immigration that have afflicted communities across the state".
Speaking to independent journalist Sharyl Attkisson earlier this week, John Modlin, a US Border Patrol official in Arizona warned that if the flow of migrants "continues at the rate it is here, by the end of this fiscal year, we will have surpassed 2018, 2019, and 2020, all combined."
Influx of Migrants Started to Rise Ahead of 2020 Election
The clouds started gathering on the horizon in October 2020, shortly before the US presidential elections: on 1 October, Los Angeles Times reported that about 2,000 Honduran migrants hoping to reach the US had entered Guatemala on foot.
Still, on 6 October, Associated Press signalled that the Guatemalan government dissolved the movement, following in the footsteps of Mexico’s, that deployed the National Guard during the summer of 2019 and broke up caravans heading to the US border in October 2019 and in January 2020. Mexico hardened its stance following Donald Trump's threats to slap tariffs on all Mexican goods unless action is taken at the border, according to the media outlet.
Pew Research's 4 November 2020 study indicated that after surging in 2019, migrant apprehensions at the US-Mexico border fell by about half between October 2019 and September 2020, explaining the phenomenon by COVID-related travel restrictions.
Meanwhile, according to CBP assessment, the number of encounters at the border started rising in April 2020 being caused by "ongoing violence, natural disasters, food insecurity, and poverty in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America".
In October 2020, AP raised the question about the timing of the 2020 and 2018 migrant caravans, "both shortly before important elections in the US". The media quoted some scholars who argued that these movements are "not purely organic mobilisations," and that external forces were apparently using caravans for political gains.