Border crisis: US accused of not treating migrants equally amid dangers of sexual assault, theft and kidnapping

The Joe Biden administration has been accused of flying in some families to El Paso and even allowing them to enter the US while stopping others


                            Border crisis: US accused of not treating migrants equally amid dangers of sexual assault, theft and kidnapping
President Joe Biden is reportedly toughening his approach on the growing humanitarian crisis along the US-Mexican border (Getty Images)

The situation at the border is turning grave with each passing day and the Joe Biden administration is found to be wanting to find a quick solution. While the Democratic commander-in-chief has tried to show a toughening stance vis-a-vis the snowballing crisis despite pledging to handle the crisis with a humanitarian approach, his administration has come more under the scanner because of the growing mess.

Reuters reported on Saturday, March 20, that the US is expelling migrants to Mexico far from where they are being caught crossing the border, constituting a move that aims to bypass authorities in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas who stopped accepting the return of migrant families with kids. “The practice is a sign that President Joe Biden is toughening his approach on the growing humanitarian crisis on the US-Mexican border after his administration’s entreaties for Central American migrants to stay home have failed to stop thousands from heading north,” the report read. But the treatment of many of the migrants aiming to get into the US for a better future has been more than traumatizing for them.

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El Paso Times reported last week that there are people who were forced by the US Border Patrol to return to Mexico with their infants. Officials said the border is closed even as the Biden administration is accused of not applying its “closed door” policies evenly in the key border state of Texas. “The border is not open,” Troy Miller, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said, adding: “We are moving as fast as we can to rebuild, but this is going to take time.”

At the border between El Paso and Juarez, the Border Patrol has been expelling migrants to Mexico, including those from Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, Ecuador and other countries, under the Title 42 public health law invoked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a year ago to curb the spread of Covid-19 in border holding facilities. Under Title 42, the patrol is prohibited from holding people in “congregant settings”.

Asylum seekers cross an international bridge from Mexico into the United States on March 17, 2021 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The immigrants crossed officially into El Paso as part of the Joe Biden administration's unwinding of the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols, (MPP), also known as the 'Remain in Mexico' immigration policy. (Getty Images)

But as said above, the Joe Biden administration has been accused of flying in other families to El Paso and even allowing them to enter the US while stopping others. Since March 8, the El Paso Sector has been getting a varying number of family units daily from the South Texas region, Border Patrol Sector Chief Gloria Chavez told El Paso. She also said his agency’s “priority is to process them and expel them into Mexico under Title 42”.  

“We work very closely with the government of Mexico and they also have capacity issues that we have to consider; therefore, only a limited amount of families from the region and from South Texas can be expelled into Ciudad Juárez daily in coordination with Mexico immigration officials,” Chavez said in a statement that was emailed.

“This has prompted us to coordinate with local El Paso city and county officials and non-governmental organizations to coordinate the release of families from the South Texas region to our local NGO shelter network,” she added.

As per Border Patrol reports, the month of February saw nearly 19,000 apprehensions or “encounters” of family units -- children accompanying a parent or legal guardian -- and the number has gone way up from 7,064 un January. In February 2020, the number of people apprehended while traveling with a family is roughly 4,600. In January 2020, it was about 5,100.

An image of President Joe Biden is displayed on a sign before a news conference with House Republicans about U.S.-Mexico border policy outside the U.S. Capitol on March 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

 

What happens to migrants who find themselves less fortunate to cross the border? El Paso Times cited advocates who said they are especially vulnerable in the immediate hours after they are left to return to Mexico. Nonprofit organizations like Human Rights watch and Human Rights First have documented several abuses against migrants who returned to Juarez and other border cities in Mexico and among them are: sexual assault, theft and kidnapping.

The story on the Mexican side

What is the story on the Mexican side of the border? CAIM (Centro de Atención a Migrantes or Migrant Assistance Center), which is a state-run migrant aid center in Chihuahua state which coordinates with the Customs and Border Protection to receive expelled migrant families, received about 100 migrants expelled in family units last Monday, March 15, while took in dozens each of the previous three days, Enrique Valenzuela, who runs the center, told El Paso. 

“It’s been decided that we’re going to receive them at the Paso del Norte bridge,” Valenzuela said. “They send everyone around midday.” The agency asks those in need of a safe place to stay to “filter shelters” in Juarez’s network of religious and nonprofit refugees, where they need to quarantine for a couple of weeks. However, Valenzuela said of the shelter network that it has a “very, very limited capacity”.