President Biden’s term in office has coincided with a global increase in migration, and the pressure has been acutely felt along the southern border of the United States. Authorities caught migrants crossing the border without authorization more than half a million times from February 2021 to March this year, according to the most recent available data – the biggest number of arrests in decades.
Officials are bracing for a big surge after the Biden administration has used an emergency health rule, known as Title 42, to swiftly roll out millions.
Some 660,000 migrants waited in Mexico this month are expected to cross into the United States in the coming days and weeks. According to a recent Homeland Security Intelligence analysis obtained by The New York Times, more are making their way north through Central America. On Tuesday, border officials caught more than 11,000 migrants who crossed illegally, according to internal figures, an increase from 7,000 to 8,000 crossings a day last week.
The border and US immigration systems are not equipped to handle that many people. But entering the United States illegally has become the only option for many because fewer legal methods exist.
This is the reason why the border is bending due to increase in migration.
Immigration laws are out of date.
The most recent major US laws on refugees, asylum seekers and immigration enforcement date back to the 1980s and 90s. None have been significantly updated to adapt to modern challenges.
For example, the limits on visas allowing people to work in the United States were based on the size of its economy in the 1990s. These limits have remained largely the same even though the economy has grown more than twice as large.
In addition, the facilities built along the border were originally designed to house Mexican men crossing illegally in search of work. They resemble prison-like settings where people are crammed into one place. The government has acknowledged that these facilities are not safe to hold children and other vulnerable populations. Over the past decade, the United States has established additional temporary placements to meet the needs of families and children, but this is still not sufficient to address the large number of people entering the country.
The enforcement measures at the border were largely designed for migrants trying to avoid being caught by the authorities, not for the thousands of people fleeing a humanitarian crisis who, after reaching the border, turned themselves in to the authorities, many hoping to seek refuge.
Congress cannot agree on how to modify the laws.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers have failed to reach an agreement on how to update the outdated laws because of wide disagreement about who should be allowed to enter the United States and for how long. The issue has become so polarized that members of the same political party differ on how the law should be amended on many counts, such as providing relief to needy immigrants and allowing foreign workers into the American workforce.
Migration from conflict abroad is on the rise.
One of the biggest reasons for the increase in migration is the number of failed and authoritarian states in the Western Hemisphere. Economies battling the coronavirus pandemic, humanitarian crisis and political turmoil have forced people to flee their homes for safer and more stable lives in the United States.
For many migrants, including those from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, the situation is so dire that it is preferable to living in dire conditions than to risk making the perilous journey and potentially being turned away by US authorities.
Jason Houser, a former top immigration official in the Biden administration, said “failed states are a disease in the Western Hemisphere.” “The flow of migrants to the border, overwhelming our agencies, is symptomatic.”
There is no federal plan for released migrants.
Whenever there is an increase in migration, border officials can quickly become overwhelmed due to the limited capacity to detain people. So immigrants are often released with the expectation that they will check in with the authorities and have their day in immigration court. The federal government has long relied on border communities to provide relief stops and shelter for migrants. Yet, while federal funding has increased in the past year, it has not been enough to meet the needs of nonprofits and local governments.
Tension is already running high in the border towns. At least eight migrants were killed in Brownsville, Texas, on Sunday when the driver of an SUV plowed into a crowd parked near a homeless shelter helping migrants. There were also reports of migrants sleeping in the streets of El Paso as shelters were at capacity. In an unusual move, the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday ordered border and immigration officials in El Paso communities to apprehend people who crossed illegally without being detected. The operation caused hundreds of migrants to turn themselves in to authorities, prompting the evacuation of some of the more congested areas.
The federal government does not have a plan to safely transport released migrants to other US cities or provide adequate support to local governments to help migrants once they get there. In addition, expatriates are not able to apply for work authorization in the United States for months. Working legally can help them cover their housing costs and take some of the pressure off cities.
The system is cumbersome at every turn.
When migrants are released from border custody with instructions to appear in court on a specific date, the huge number of cases pending before the courts escalates. More recently, court dates have been scheduled for years. Many of the immigrants coming to the United States will join the more than 11 million already in the country with no way to stay permanently.
There are also backlogs at other federal agencies involved in processing legal asylum requests, such as visas and reunification efforts with family members who are already in the country.