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Biden’s border actions are not making an impression, either in Texas or Mexico

By Eduardo García, Alfredo Corchado and Dudley Althaus

SANDERSON — President Biden’s executive order to crack down on asylum seekers at the southern border not only put a damper on Mexico’s post-election celebrations — the first female president was just elected — but residents along this part of the border with Texas were also unimpressed.

After all, many of the undocumented migrants passing through this area are Mexican men, traveling alone or in small groups, bound for jobs in oil fields, factories and agricultural fields in the interior of the United States.

“Biden’s move is certainly a political stunt,” said Sheriff Thad Cleveland, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol before becoming sheriff. “We are five months away from the elections and this is pure politics. I also don’t think this is fair to our vecinos (neighbors) in Mexico.”

Thad Cleveland, Sheriff (courtesy of Dudley Althaus)

Terrell County, which runs along 54 miles of the Rio Grande in the Trans-Pecos region of central Texas, highlights a hidden irony: Many employers want to hire healthy Mexicans but are less welcoming to non-Mexican migrants.

Cleveland, 50, a Republican, even has a message for Mexico’s newly elected president, Claudia Sheinbaum: “Let’s work together to provide more work permits for Mexican men and bring in guest workers. Our economy survives and thrives thanks to illegal alien labor. That’s just a fact, and our neighbors to the south are the ones migrating back and forth.”

TRYING TO RESTRICT THE ASYLUM

Biden’s policy announcement last week was his latest attempt to bring some order to an overrun and chaotic border, mainly in Texas and California. It seeks to stop families, most of whom come from Central America, Venezuela, Haiti, Africa and elsewhere. They further burden an asylum system that is already thin. Many thousands are currently huddled at the U.S.-Mexico border, trying to cross the border and begin their asylum claims.

The move shocked Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his newly elected successor, Claudia Sheinbaum, who won landslide victories in elections last Sunday.

Biden’s order significantly reduces migrants’ ability to seek asylum on U.S. soil. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) quickly announced that it plans to legally challenge Biden’s executive action.

“On the migration front, we had worked well,” an irritated Lopez Obrado said early Tuesday during his regular meeting with the media. Adding that Mexico and the US “need a relationship of respect for our own sovereignty. We must seek good neighborly policies and protect our economic and trade integration.”

Summary of Biden’s executive actions on immigration:

  • If the number of migrants seeking U.S. asylum reaches a weekly average of 2,500 per day, the U.S. could close the border to those seeking such protection.
  • The number of asylum seekers currently already exceeds that figure. According to the CBP, the restriction could come into effect immediately.
  • Currently, those who cross the border illegally and seek asylum are released into the US, where they wait months or even years for immigration court appearances that could come many months later.
  • If migrants cannot apply for asylum, those migrants will be stranded in Mexico. Many Mexican border towns and cities, as well as many deep inland, are already struggling with the influx of migrants.
  • Biden’s ban will be suspended when arrests fall below the average of 1,500 per day for three weeks. The last time crossings fell to that level was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-2020, when global travel came to a near standstill.
  • There are exceptions to these rules for unaccompanied children, for people dealing with serious medical conditions, for security threats, and for victims of human trafficking.

A NEW CHANCE?

The El Paso-based Hope Border Institute also sees Sheinbaum’s election as an opportunity to reset migration policy priorities between the two countries. It wants Mexico’s next president to reject US policies such as the criminalization of migrants and the deportation of those entering the country from countries such as Venezuela, Haiti and Mexico.

The scale of the migration flow through Mexico is clearly visible in Mexico’s capital. Migrants now have a visible presence there, engaging in various activities: from sweeping the streets, collecting government election materials at polling stations, begging for money on street corners, and even rowing ‘trajineras’, the famous human ships that sail the Xochimilco canals in the southern part of the country. part of the city.

Some migrants are already putting pressure on some local services in Mexico. On Wednesday, Mexican National Guard and immigration agents evicted migrants from a plaza in downtown Mexico City. Dozens of people from Haiti, Venezuela and other countries have been camping there for months. Authorities said the migrants were taken to refugee centers in nearby states.

Mexican attitudes toward migrants vary depending on the traveler’s country of origin, according to a poll by Puente News Collaborative, an El Paso-based nonprofit.

A sign in Terrell County (courtesy of Dudley Althaus)

Polls showed that 57% of Mexicans gave a good or very good rating to Chinese migrants living in the country. Approval fell to 39 percent for Guatemalans, about the same rate for Venezuelans.

But the poll shows that most Mexicans overwhelmingly favor issuing temporary work permits to migrants. take action – instead of holding them in or building walls to stop them. Nearly two-thirds opposed detaining migrants, while four in five opposed erecting barriers to human flows.

However, some Mexicans are still looking for a better life in the US, and many of them are fleeing violence. More Mexican nationals returned home than left as the years ended in 2016. But the balance has since turned and more people have left, largely due to both violence and economic reasons.

About 180,000 Mexicans migrated to the US last year, increasing to more than 200,000 in 2019, according to the US Census Bureau and the Department of Homeland Security.

Puente’s poll found that more than a third of Mexico’s 128 million residents would like to move and live in the U.S., although few said they would do so without legal documents.

Sheinbaum will take office on October 1. She has not commented on Biden’s immigration ruling. Analysts believe that she will support any measures that López Obrador takes regarding migration flows and his negotiations with the US government.

But once in power, Sheinbaum could push for more inclusive policies for those who leave their home countries to reach the US.

“With Claudia Sheinbaum, it is likely that migration policy will not change drastically,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC.

“But she might focus more on intentionally integrating migrants and refugees into Mexico, as she did as mayor of Mexico City,” Selee said, “and on positioning Mexico as a leader on migration issues at the hemisphere.”

Before such a proposal is considered, Cleveland says, many Texans living along the border want the chaos to be quelled.

A sign in Terrell County (courtesy of Dudley Althaus)

“There are some things we can fix on that front,” Cleveland said. “But first we have to secure our border again. And we don’t have to rely on Mexico to secure a border.”

About this story

This article was published in partnership with the Puente News Collaborative, a bilingual nonprofit newsroom, organizer and funder whose mission is to provide high-quality news and information about the U.S.-Mexico border.

Alfredo Corchado is editor-in-chief and correspondent for the partnership. Eduardo Garcia, who has 30 years of experience as a financial journalist in Mexico, is a contributor to Puente News. Journalist Dudley Althaus reported from Sanderson, Texas.

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