US President Biden is busy reversing his predecessors immigration policy. He claims to restore the USs reputation as a “beacon of hope” for migrants and refugees. Asylum seekers are admitted, who had to wait for their asylum application under Trump in Mexico.
Monica is one of those migrants who notices that that policy has been adapted. She sits with her tired son waiting for one of the plastic folding chairs at Brownsville, Texas bus station. Around her, bowls of soup and clothes are distributed to several dozen migrants who have just crossed the border. “After everything weve been through to get here, were very happy that Joe Biden won. We are grateful to him for making our dream come true.”
Monica spent a year in camp Matamoros in Mexico, just a stones throw from the border with America. Together with her child, she was trapped there by Trumps Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which sent tens of thousands of immigrants back to Mexico at the US border pending their asylum procedure. Provisory encampments were created along the border where criminals made the place unsafe.
President Biden is reverting this policy, allowing immigrants who had to stay in Mexico to cross the border. Immigration lawyer Jodi Goodwin is relieved that the government is moving in a new direction, but she is also skeptical. “Bids promises a lot. We are still waiting for him to live up to his words with the policy coming out of the White House. This is about a limited number of immigrants who were stuck at the border. For people who arrive now and seek asylum, the borders remain tight. Theres no way to get in.”
Yet also on the Mexican side of the border migrants are happy with Biden. With the help of a local cameraman, Latin American correspondent Marc Bessems spoke to Margot from Nicaragua, who hopes she will soon be able to enter the US:
Conservative America now fears that the new policy will open the door to a large increase in immigrants. ICE, the National Immigration Service, is also bracing itself. “We need to prepare for a flood of people at the border,” wrote ICE Chief of Staff Timothy Perry, in an email that came into the hands of The Washington Post.
For many refugee organisations, Biden does not go far enough. “Not only do we have to reverse what Trump did, and back to 2016, but we need to reinvent the entire immigration system,” says Evrén Olivares of the Immigrant Justice Project, who came into the country from Mexico as a teenager.
In 2018, President Trump introduced a zero-tolerance policy that separates children from their parents at the border. A few months later, the policy was reversed, but agencies are still looking for divorced family members and assisting reunited families who have been severely traumatized.
President Biden, unlike his predecessor, does allow children aged 13 to 17 who cross the border alone. In January, twice as many young asylum seekers entered the country as the previous year, while reception capacity has decreased due to corona measures. As an emergency solution, Biden recently reopened a controversial shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas. This camp was closed under Trump due to fuss over poor living conditions. The emergency facility will accommodate 700 children.
“ Why is it necessary to put them in child prisons like this when we landed a robot on Mars last week?! ,” says Olivares indignant. “It is absolutely ridiculous to say that we cannot process the asylum applications of a few thousand children, and that is why we lock them up.”
The immigrants at the bus station in the border town of Brownsville are relieved. But the question remains how many others can cross the border and how far Biden will go in the reorganization of the immigration system. “There is still a long way to go”, sighs migration lawyer Goodwin.