Joe Biden aide tells 8,000 Honduran immigrants to go back, says 'border situation won't change overnight'
Scenes turned chaotic at borders between Honduras and Guatemala as the migrants headed north to enter the US territory
In December 2020, President-elect Joe Biden said he is in favor of reversing his predecessor Donald Trump’s restrictive immigration policies but things could not be changed overnight since an effort to find a quick solution could complicate the issue more. His thought found backing from two of his top administrative officials waiting to take charge: domestic policy advisor Susan Rice and national security advisor Jake Sullivan.
The incoming Biden administration’s stance on the immigration issues became clear once again on Sunday, January 17, when one of its officials told a Honduran migrant caravan heading towards the US to halt its journey because “things at the border won’t change overnight”.
Scenes at the borders between Honduras and Guatemala turned chaotic during the day when Guatemalan security forces used sticks and tear gas against the caravan just days before Biden was sworn in as the 46th president. The incoming administration at the White House asked the travelers to stop as 7,000-8,000 people, including families with young children, entered Guatemala since Friday, January 15, to reach the US, sources in Guatemala’s official immigration agency said.
Thousands of people were trying to reach the US from Honduras, a distance of over 1,600 miles, to flee poverty, violence and the ill-effects of devastating hurricanes that hit the central American nations recently. The economic effect of Covid-19 pandemic has made lives even more difficult. CNN reported that the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday, January 16, requested Honduras to “contain the massive departure of its inhabitants”. The National Institute of Migration in Honduras announced on social media that it has reinforced three border points between the two neighbors with immigration inspectors.
#MigraciónInforma El Instituto Nacional de Migración informa a los ciudadanos de la ciudad de San Pedro Sula,...Posted by Instituto Nacional de Migración Honduras on Sunday, January 17, 2021
The developments at the Honduras-Guatemala border have left the new administration worried. The first migrant caravan of 2021 comes just before the inauguration of Biden who has promised to take a more humane approach towards migration than Trump, who took a more aggressive stance to crack down on illegal immigration. According to the Biden administration, initiatives will be taken towards addressing root causes of migration, adopting lawful pathways and extending them and reassessing asylum processing.
'Situation at border not going to be transformed overnight'
But, as said above, it is not going to happen overnight. A senior official of the Biden transition team told NBC in an exclusive interview on Sunday that the perception that the new administration will be in a position to allow all arriving asylum seekers to enter the US to make their claim on the very first day is far from the truth.
“The situation at the border isn’t going to be transformed overnight,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.
The official did not say when the asylum-seekers could enter the US and whether they will be detained while awaiting the court’s hearing. The official, however, said that those who have been waiting at the border, along with other vulnerable people, will be treated on a priority basis for processing and entry rather than those who have arrived recently. It was also added that migrants who are trying to enter the American territory to claim asylum in the opening days of the new administration “need to understand that they’re not going to be able to come into the United States immediately”.
The transition official also said that though the Biden administration aims to put an end to the Trump administration’s practice that wanted the asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico (Migrant Protection Protocol) but it will take some time and not as soon as Biden comes to office.
“There’s help on the way, but now is not the time to make the journey,” the official said.