Tag Archives: migrants

12 killed, 20 injured as bus carrying migrants crashes in Turkey

At least 12 people were killed and 20 others were injured after a minibus carrying illegal migrants crashed in eastern Turkey’s Van province on Sunday, Trend reports citing Daily Sabah.

According to the authorities, the crash occurred in Van’s Muradiye district, where the vehicle caught fire after tumbling into a ditch.

Medical teams, firefighters, security forces as well as emergency personnel from Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) were dispatched to the scene.

Turkey has been a key transit point for illegal migrants aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution. However, journeys often turn lethal, be it a short journey to Greece by sea aboard unsafe boats or in overcrowded minibuses and trucks.

Migrants – mostly from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan – regularly cross the Iranian border into Turkey on foot before being ferried west to cities such as Istanbul and Ankara.

Biden Offers Work Permission to Migrants Who Were U.S. Crime Victims

The Biden administration announced Monday that it will speed the process of issuing temporary work permits to some undocumented immigrants who are victims of crime in the United States and who agree to cooperate with law enforcement, giving thousands of people faster access to temporary protections while they wait for a final visa determination.

The change will benefit immigrants who have applied for the U visa, a program that currently has a backlog of 270,000 applications, a number that grew significantly during the Trump administration. The average wait just to get placed on an official waiting list for temporary work authorization is now at least five years, up from about 11 months during the 2015 spending year.

The U visa provides a path to citizenship for victims of certain crimes, including domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. Congress only allows the government to issue 10,000 such visas a year, leaving many other applicants on a waiting list for future years and vulnerable to deportation.

Under the new policy, the government will make faster decisions about whether to grant four-year work permits to immigrants waiting for U visa determinations. This will give applicants the ability to “work and remain safely in the United States while they provide valuable support to law enforcement to detect, investigate or prosecute the serious crimes they have survived or witnessed,” the acting director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Tracy Renaud, said in a statement on Monday.

The work permits will not be granted to everyone who applies, and will require registering fingerprints and other biometrics with the government. It was not immediately clear how quickly applicants would receive temporary permission to work once the government believes they are applying in good faith.

The change is part of President Biden’s efforts to roll back the restrictive measures of the last administration and make it easier to immigrate to the United States, with shorter and simpler forms.

State and local law enforcement officials have cheered the U visa program, which started in 2000, but have raised concerns in recent years about the delay in granting protections to undocumented immigrants whom they rely on for help in investigations.

The Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes limits on immigration, has said the U visa program is already vulnerable to fraud and abuse, and fast-tracking work permits will only make that worse.

“That’s going to be a huge incentive for people to apply, knowing that they’re only getting a cursory review and a four-year work permit,” Jessica M. Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the center said.

Author: Eileen Sullivan
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Migrants Separated From Their Children Will Be Allowed Into U.S.

Four parents from Mexico and Central America who were among thousands of migrants deported without their children under the Trump administration’s controversial family separation policy will be allowed to join their children in the United States this week, U.S. officials announced on Monday.

The parents, who are from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, will be the first families to reunite in the United States since the Biden administration began taking steps to unravel the 2018 policy that attempted to deter families from trying to enter the country by separating children and parents.

They are among a group of about 35 parents the government has agreed to admit while working on a long-term solution for the remaining separated children, most of whom have been living with relatives in the United States.

An attempt to show quick results, even if they are incremental, reflects the high political stakes for President Biden, who is under pressure to fulfill his campaign promise to make reuniting migrant families a top priority. Reunifying all the remaining families could take months or longer, administration officials say, as parents must be located, often in remote areas, and then paperwork and logistics organized before they can be brought to the United States.

“Today is just the beginning,” Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said in a statement. “We are reuniting the first group of families, many more will follow, and we recognize the importance of providing these families with the stability and resources they need to heal.”

The four women scheduled to cross the border in Texas and California this week are among parents of some 5,500 children known to have been separated under the zero-tolerance policy officially introduced by former President Donald J. Trump in spring 2018. While most families have been reunited in recent years, more than 1,000 remain apart, mainly because a parent was removed from the United States.

“They are children who were 3 years old at the time of separation,” Mr. Mayorkas said on a call with reporters on Sunday. “They are teenagers who have had to live without their parent during their most formative years.”

U.S. officials said they could not provide details about the families because of privacy considerations, saying only that two of the mothers had been separated from their sons in late 2017, before the Trump administration had extended the policy across the entire southwestern border.

Immigrant advocates and lawyers welcomed the decision to bring a handful of parents to the United States but said that more must be done to address the harm inflicted by the policy.

“We are pleased the Biden administration has now taken its first steps to address the harm caused by the Trump administration’s barbaric family separation practice and thrilled for the four families who will be reunited this week,” said Lee Gelernt, lead counsel in an ongoing class-action lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union brought against the policy in 2018.

“But we certainly do not intend to take a victory lap at this point,” he said. “It is not enough for these families to be reunited.”

Mr. Gelernt’s team, which is negotiating with the Biden administration to settle the lawsuit, has demanded financial compensation, mental health services and legal permanent residency for all separated families, among other things.

The family separation policy was a key component of the Trump administration’s crackdown on unauthorized immigration. The goal was to deliver a powerful deterrent to those hoping to come to the United States, a formidable roadblock that affected even families who may have been legally entitled to asylum from persecution in their home countries.

The policy was first made public with a memo in April 2018. Later it surfaced that families had been separated as early as 2017 as part of a pilot program conducted near El Paso. All told, about 5,500 children were separated from their parents.

Under the measure, Border Patrol agents criminally charged parents with illegally entering the United States, imprisoned them and placed their children in government-licensed shelters around the country. Images and audio of children weeping after being forcibly removed from their parents drew widespread condemnation.

In June 2018, a federal judge in California ordered the government to rescind the policy and promptly reunify families, saying that the practice “shocks the conscience” and violates the Constitution.

Most families were reunited within months. However about 1,000 families remained separated because a parent had been deported, and an estimated 645 parents — in the United States or abroad — still had not been contacted by the time Mr. Trump left office.

Mr. Biden deemed the policy “criminal” on the campaign trail, and vowed to swiftly reunite migrant families if he won the election.

Within weeks of taking office, he signed a series of executive orders intended to roll back Mr. Trump’s most stringent anti- immigration policies. A central piece of his early agenda was an interagency task force, led by Mr. Mayorkas, to identify and reunite all migrant families separated at the border by the previous administration.

It has been a mammoth undertaking. Contact information for many parents is outdated or unavailable, and some parents have disappeared or prefer not to be found out of fear. The task force has managed to find about 200 out of the 645 remaining parents, and it recently reported that it is reviewing 5,600 additional files from early 2017 that could contain evidence of more separations.

“One of the things is, we don’t know yet where those kids are,” Mr. Biden said last week in an interview with NBC News. “We’re trying like hell to figure out what happened.”

“It’s almost like being a sleuth, and we’re still continuing to try like hell to find out where they are,” he said.

Last year, nine deported parents were allowed to enter the United States to rejoin their children after the federal judge in the class-action lawsuit, Dana Sabraw of the Federal District Court in San Diego, ordered their return. About a dozen others managed to return with the help of private lawyers.

But these efforts faced strong resistance from the Trump administration.

“Even with a court order, bringing back parents was vigorously resisted at every stage,” said Linda Dakin-Grimm, a Los Angeles lawyer who represented a Guatemalan father who returned last year. The man had been separated from his 12-year-old daughter.

She said the Biden administration’s decision to allow deported parents into the country signaled “the beginning of a new way that’s important, but there remains a huge lift to be accomplished.” Crucial to the effort are reassurances that parents who return to the United States will not be detained or deported, allaying fears that have inhibited some parents from coming forward.

“It’s huge that they are hearing at the front end that they can remain here for a period of time without fearing deportation,” said Conchita Cruz, co-executive director of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, which represented a mother who was reunited with her son in February 2020 under the court order.

The admission of the initial four parents, who were expected to begin arriving from Mexico on Tuesday, provides an opportunity to test the reunification process and fix glitches ahead of larger numbers of entries.

Among those coming this week is a Honduran woman who was separated from her two children in the fall of 2017. The mother spent nearly two years in immigration detention in El Paso before being expelled from the country without her children.

She has communicated with them over WhatsApp video and voice calls since then.

“She has been trying to be the mother she wants to be,” her lawyer, Linda Corchado, said. “All the trauma in between has made it impossible.”

She will be allowed to remain in the country for three years on humanitarian parole, with hopes of eventually winning permanent residence.

Mr. Mayorkas did not reveal when additional parents would be allowed into the United States to join their children but said that the arrivals this week would be the first of many.

“We are accomplishing reunifications without delay,” he said.

Michelle Brané, a veteran immigrant rights advocate serving as executive director of the Biden administration task force, said her team had been combing through records, often incomplete, to piece together and review cases.

In addition to demands for legal residency and monetary compensation, some advocacy groups are calling on the Biden administration to consider filing civil lawsuits or even criminal charges against officials in the Trump White House who were behind either the design or enforcement of the family separation policy.

When asked about this on Sunday, Mr. Mayorkas said that the Justice Department was part of the reunification task force, but he did not commit to pursue investigations. “We have not excluded accountability,” he said, “but our focus right now is on the reunification of the families.”

Author: Miriam Jordan
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

AP FACT CHECK: Biden skews record on migrants; GOP on virus

WASHINGTON — Taking a swipe at his predecessor, President Joe Biden gave a distorted account of the historical forces driving migrants to the U.S. border, glossing over the multitudes who were desperate to escape poverty in their homelands when he was vice president.

In his speech to Congress on Wednesday night, Biden also made his spending plans sound more broadly supported in Washington than they are.

The Republican response to Biden’s speech departed from reality particularly on the subject of the pandemic. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina tried to give the Trump administration credit for turning the tide on the coronavirus in what was actually the deadliest phase.

A look at some of the claims:

IMMIGRATION

BIDEN: “If you believe in a pathway to citizenship, pass (immigration legislation) so over 11 million undocumented folks, the vast majority who are here overstaying visas, pass it.”

THE FACTS: He’s making an unsubstantiated claim.

There is no official count of how many people entered the country legally and overstayed visas. The government estimates that 11.4 million were living in the country illegally as of January 2018 but doesn’t distinguish between how many entered legally and stayed after their visas expired and how many arrived illegally.

Robert Warren of the Center for Migration Studies of New York, a former director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s statistics division who has studied visa overstays for decades, has done the most recent work on the issue. He estimated that, as of 2018, 46% of people in the country illegally overstayed visas – not a majority, let alone a “vast majority.”

___

BIDEN: “When I was vice president, the president asked me to focus on providing help needed to address the root causes of migration. And it helped keep people in their own countries instead of being forced to leave. The plan was working, but the last administration decided it was not worth it. I’m restoring the program and I asked Vice President Harris to lead our diplomatic effort to take care of this.”

THE FACTS: That’s wrong.

Biden led Obama’s efforts to address a spike in migration from Central America, but poverty and violence have been endemic for decades. Hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. aid have gone to Central America annually, even during Donald Trump’s presidency, but migration from Mexico and Central America has continued unabated with periodic spikes.

In March, the number of unaccompanied children encountered by U.S. border authorities reached nearly 19,000, the highest number on record in the third major surge of families and children from Central America since 2014 under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Biden championed aid during what Obama called “a humanitarian crisis” of Central American children at the border in 2014. But while assistance fell under Trump, hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed in every year. Biden has proposed $ 861 million in Central American aid next year as a first installment on a $ 4 billion plan, compared with annual outlays of between $ 506 million and $ 750 million over the previous six years.

___

SPENDING

BIDEN, on his economic proposals: “There’s a broad consensus of economists – left, right, center – and they agree that what I’m proposing will help create millions of jobs and generate historic economic growth.”

THE FACTS: He’s glossing over the naysayers. Some economists, also bridging the ideological spectrum, say he’s spending too much or in the wrong way. Biden’s pandemic relief plan did enjoy some bipartisan support, even getting a general seal of approval from Kevin Hassett, who was Trump’s chief economist. But his policies have also drawn bipartisan criticism.

For one, Larry Summers, who was Barack Obama’s top economist and Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary, warned that Biden’s relief package risks rates of inflation not seen in a generation.

Biden’s latest proposals on infrastructure and families would require substantial tax increases on corporations and wealthy investors – leading to criticism by many CEOs and more conservative economists that growth could be compromised. Biden’s economics team says the resulting programs and infrastructure would boost growth.

The plan to increase capital gains taxes drew the scorn of Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and Republican adviser. He said the White House is wrong to focus on the sliver of people being taxed and what matters is how much of the economy would be taxed.

“The wealth taxes are a draconian tax on the annual return to that capital,” he said. “What matters is the amount of economic activity that is taxed, not the number of people.”

___

BIDEN: “We kept our commitment, Democrats and Republicans, sending $ 1,400 rescue checks to 85% of all American households.”

THE FACTS: Republicans made no such commitment.

Republicans in both the U.S. Senate and House opposed the bill containing the $ 1,400 stimulus checks, known as the American Rescue Plan, portraying it as too big and too bloated.

All but one Democrat supported the legislation.

While no Republicans voted for this year’s coronavirus bill, they supported sending checks to Americans in previous rounds of relief legislation. A relief law passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in December, when Trump was still president, provided $ 600 checks to many Americans.

Some Republicans have boasted to their constituents about programs created by the coronavirus bill despite voting against it.

___

DRUG PRICES

BIDEN, arguing that Congress should authorize Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. “And by the way, that won’t just help people on Medicare – it will lower prescription drug costs for everyone.”

THE FACTS: That may be a bit of wishful thinking.

Under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill, private insurers that cover working-age Americans and their families would indeed be able to get the same discounts as Medicare. But while Pelosi should be able to drive her legislation through the House, the situation in the Senate is different.

If just a few Democratic senators have qualms about her expansive approach, Biden may have to settle for less. So there’s no guarantee that a final bill would lower prescription drug costs for everyone.

___

REPUBLICAN RESPONSE

SOUTH CAROLINA SEN. TIM SCOTT: “This administration inherited a tide that had already turned. The coronavirus is on the run! Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines.”

THE FACTS: That’s a real stretch.

Biden took over in the midst of the winter wave of COVID-19, the worst to hit the nation. It’s true that cases and deaths had begun to decline from their peak in the second week of January, but the tide had far from turned. Daily cases were averaging more than three times higher than they are now.

And while the Trump administration shepherded the delivery of two highly effective vaccines, the supply of doses was short of meeting demand and several state governors were complaining about jumbled signals from Trump’s team.

Trump was focused on his campaign to overturn the election results and did not devote much public attention to the pandemic as his term came to an end.

___

SCOTT: “Just before COVID, we had the most inclusive economy in my lifetime. The lowest unemployment rates ever recorded for African Americans, Hispanics and Asians. And a 70-year low nearly for women. Wages were growing faster at the bottom than at the top – the bottom 25% saw their wages go up faster than the top 25%. That happened because Republicans focused on expanding opportunity for all Americans.”

THE FACTS: His statistics are selectively misleading.

Nothing is false on its face in terms of numbers. Yet the gains reflected the longest expansion in U.S. history – something that started during Obama’s administration and simply continued under Trump without much change in growth patterns.

The labor force participation for women was below its 2001 peak, so the unemployment rate claims by Scott tell an incomplete story. The Black and Hispanic unemployment rates were lower because the total unemployment rate was lower. Yet both still lagged those of white workers by a large degree.

Scott also neglects to credit the Federal Reserve, which kept interest rates near historic lows to support growth and keep the recovery from the Great Recession going.

___

Spagat reported from San Diego. Associated Press writers David Klepper in Providence, Rhode Island, and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Hope Yen and Calvin Woodward in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Author: AP

This post originally appeared on ABC13 RSS Feed

Covid on the Border: Migrants Aren’t Tested on Arrival in U.S.

Author: Frances Robles and Miriam Jordan
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Dora Eglis Ramírez and Pavel Brigido Rivero set out from Cuba to seek asylum in the United States last year, as the coronavirus rampaged across Latin America.

Starting their trek in Guyana, they managed to cross eight countries, sleeping in buses and doing odd jobs, without ever contracting the virus.

Then they crossed the border into the United States.

U.S. Border Patrol agents intercepted them late last month in Southern California and transported the couple to a heavily crowded border station. They spent 10 days and nights in cells crammed with Brazilians, Cubans, Ecuadoreans and Indians.

Mr. Rivero, 45, came down with the coronavirus and spent the next two weeks isolated, along with his still-healthy wife, at a hotel with about 200 other migrants who had tested positive for the virus or had been exposed to someone who did.

“I was healthy until I got locked up,” he said.

As the United States vaccinates larger numbers of people and several states begin to reopen after seeing lower infection rates, the failure of U.S. authorities to test adult migrants for the coronavirus in jam-packed border processing centers is creating a potential for new transmissions, public health officials and shelter operators warn, even among migrants who may have arrived healthy at America’s door.

More than 170,000 migrants crossed the border in March — many coming from countries still grappling with high infection rates — but the Border Patrol is conducting no testing for the coronavirus during the several days that the newly arrived migrants are in U.S. custody except in cases where migrants show obvious symptoms.

The government says it has insufficient time and space to test migrants upon their arrival. So while migrants get a basic health screening, testing is being postponed until their release to local community groups, cities and counties, usually after the new arrivals have spent days confined in tight spaces with scores of strangers, often sleeping shoulder to shoulder on mats on the floor.

Unaccompanied children are being tested, but only after they have spent around three days in custody, just before being loaded onto buses or planes for transport to government-run shelters.

U.S. officials say the challenges to testing all the new arrivals when they are first apprehended are insurmountable. There have been no instances of mass spread at U.S. border facilities, and overall numbers of cases are relatively low, according to the Department of Homeland Security. About 5 percent of all single adults and families tested after their release since March showed a positive result, according to the agency, while among the thousands of unaccompanied minors now in custody, the rate has been about 12 percent.

But local officials and shelter operators said they feared that the actual number of infections could be much higher.

In California’s Imperial Valley, where the Cuban couple was apprehended, 15 percent of the migrants released by the Border Patrol into the community between April 7 and April 13 tested positive for the virus — three times higher than the official average, according to the California Department of Social Services.

And the operator of several large shelters where migrant children go after their release from border processing said one out of five children at those facilities was showing a positive test result on arrival.

“In theory, those who test positive could have infected other people before arriving here,” said Diego Piña Lopez, the program manager at Casa Alitas, a respite center for migrant families in Tucson, Ariz. Staff members there have been performing rapid coronavirus tests on dozens of migrant families each day after their release by the Border Patrol.

Migrants who have a positive result are transferred to a shelter operated by the city. Others spend a night or two at the respite center and then board planes or buses to their destinations around the United States. Some of them could well have infections contracted in Border Patrol facilities that did not register on tests during the brief time they spent at the respite center, immigrant advocates warned, and could unknowingly expose others as they travel to join friends and family elsewhere in the country.

“People who were on the bus or in the cell with people who tested positive are going to test positive,” said Mark Lane, who runs a small humanitarian organization in San Diego, the Minority Humanitarian Foundation. “Uber drivers, taxi drivers and people like us, people who are not fully vaccinated, are getting exposed. Today I took two guys who were released and put them in a T.S.A. line with 500 people on it.”

John Modlin, the interim Border Patrol chief for the Tucson sector, said it took 90 minutes to three hours to process each migrant, including fingerprinting, gathering personal information and running a background check. Testing for the coronavirus and waiting for results would add another 20 minutes, he said.

“That’s 20 minutes times a thousand people,” Mr. Modlin said. “The Border Patrol does not want to get in the business of testing or inoculating people.”

Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, the chief medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security, said that “operational limitations” have precluded doing virus testing “on the front end,” but that medical teams are working intensely with nonprofit groups and local officials to make sure migrants are screened immediately and tested later, a strategy that he said was starting to show results with fewer people getting sick.

“At the earliest possible moment we can do something about it, we test,” he said in an interview. “And so there are limitations. The question that any public health operator has to ask is, ‘What is the earliest point you can effect change?’”

Some cities and counties have balked at having to conduct the bulk of all coronavirus testing for adult migrants. In El Paso, the county judge, the local Catholic bishop and other community leaders sent a letter to the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, arguing that testing migrants was “beyond the capacity of the combined efforts of our local governments and N.G.O. community.”

The mayor in Yuma, Ariz., Douglas J. Nicholls, said that before the local medical center took over testing, migrants were being dropped off by the immigration agents at the side of a road or in parking lots — with no testing for the coronavirus.

“It’s completely crazy,” Mr. Nicholls said. “It’s not the way we should be handling things during a pandemic.”

Last week, the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, filed a lawsuit alleging that the federal government was “encouraging the spread of Covid-19 at the border” by keeping potentially infected migrants housed closely together in government custody.

Mr. Paxton said in a statement that President Biden was demonstrating “outright disregard of the public health crisis” by “welcoming and encouraging mass gatherings” of migrants in border facilities.

In a few cities, a contractor hired by Immigration and Customs Enforcement has begun to conduct coronavirus testing of migrants after their release from the Border Patrol and is arranging isolation space in hotels for those who test positive.

The Biden administration has continued to expel many who have entered the country without authorization, using a public health emergency law initially invoked by former President Donald J. Trump.

But the government of Mexico has refused to take back families traveling with children under the age of 7 along large stretches of the border with Texas. It has also rejected returns of migrants from outside Central America, who represent a growing number of crossers — many of them from Ecuador and Brazil, countries still hit hard by the coronavirus.

Migrants themselves are expressing worry about spending so much time in close quarters after being apprehended by U.S. authorities.

Jemerson Kener, a Brazilian who crossed the California border last month, tested positive for the coronavirus after spending four days at a crowded Border Patrol station.

“In a pavilion meant for about 20, there must have been 100 men,” he said.

Once he was told he had the virus, he was sent to a hotel in Holtville, Calif., where he said about 100 Brazilians were isolated, along with infected Cubans, Ecuadoreans and migrants from several Asian countries.

“I got really sick. Jesus, my throat was killing me,” said Mr. Kener, 33, who received medicine from a nonprofit group that is running the isolation operation at the hotel.

On April 12, after testing negative, he was allowed to head to Maryland, where he said a job in construction awaited him.

Cindy Mendez, a Honduran girl who crossed the border in February to join her mother in the United States, said she tested positive for the coronavirus after being housed for two weeks in a processing center in Donna, Texas, that in March was operating at more than 700 percent of the capacity it was designed for.

“We were sleeping on the ground on top of each other,” she said.

Department of Homeland Security officials stressed that there were no facilities for testing efforts at Border Patrol processing stations, particularly for children, who have to be separated by gender and age. Children are now traveling to shelters in separate buses depending on their Covid-19 status, an improvement from past months.

The agency’s focus has been on moving migrants out of custody faster, which is key to lowering their exposure, and the strategy has been successful: Data released on Tuesday showed that the number of unaccompanied minors in custody had dropped 80 percent in the past month.

But even tracking those migrants who have the coronavirus can be tough.

Andrea Rudnik, whose nonprofit organization, Team Brownsville, provides aid to a hotel for coronavirus isolation in Brownsville, Texas, said many migrants who tested positive had disappeared before their mandatory separation period was up.

“They want to leave,” she said, “and if they realize, ‘Hey, I can just take a taxi from this hotel back to the bus station and get out of there,’ then they’ll do it.”

As Republicans hammer Biden on border policy, Democrats question the authenticity of their concern for migrants

As the Biden administration continues to struggle to address an increase of migrant apprehensions on the U.S.-Mexico border, the White House has become a constant target for Texas Republicans, who have hammered the president over the conditions in federal detention facilities for families and minors.

Beyond that criticism, the administration is drawing heat after denying reporters access to detention centers that have swelled well beyond their capacities, an issue given additional attention during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Among those centers are facilities in Carrizo Springs, the Dallas convention center and Fort Bliss, an Army base in El Paso.

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz[1] and John Cornyn[2] and Gov. Greg Abbott[3] have visited the state’s southern border recently, including Abbott’s press conference in front of a wall of Texas Department of Public Safety vehicles parked near the banks of the Rio Grande in Mission last month and Cruz’s hosting of a delegation of U.S. senators to ride on a DPS gunboat a couple weeks later.

“This humanitarian, public health, and [national security] crisis is a result of Biden stopping construction of the wall, bringing back catch and release, & ending the Remain in Mexico policy,” Cruz said in a tweet after The Washington Post reported[4] that federal border agents apprehended 171,000 migrants last month — a figure that included 18,800 unaccompanied minors, a 99% jump from February.

But Democrats are also loudly questioning where the conservative compassion was less than two years ago under President Trump’s watch, when apprehensions hit near-record figures despite his crackdown on the border. Abbott riled up the state’s Democrats with what they call his newfound concern for the way migrants in federal custody have been treated.

“The Biden Administration’s reckless open border policies have created a humanitarian crisis for unaccompanied minors coming across the border,” Abbott said in a March 15 statement. “With no plan in place, the administration has created heartbreaking and inhumane conditions for children who are being held in Texas.”

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who hasn’t ruled out a run for Abbott’s seat in 2022, shot back days later with a tweet referencing an immigration-themed mailer Abbott’s campaign sent supporters the day before a gunman killed nearly two dozen people at an El Paso Walmart in August 2019.

“You care about immigrants? The day before a white supremacist killed 23 people in El Paso (claiming there was a “Hispanic invasion of Texas”) you mailed a letter urging Republicans to “DEFEND TEXAS NOW” from immigrants & “take matters into our own hands,” O’Rourke tweeted.

Abbott subsequently said “mistakes were made[5]” when news of the mailer surfaced. His office did not respond to a request for comment about O’Rourke’s comments.

Abbott’s critics on immigration also point out that last year, Abbot withdrew Texas’ participation[6] from the federal refugee resettlement program, in which nonprofit and religious organizations partner with the federal government to aid people fleeing violence in their countries. That came after he sued the Obama administration in 2016 to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in Texas.

As Democrats and immigrant rights advocates question Abbott’s apparent about-face on the treatment of migrants, the governor last month launched Operation Lone Star, a state-based enforcement strategy by the Texas Department of Public Safety to crack down on human trafficking — a continuation of a yearslong border enforcement effort by Texas elected officials, who have approved roughly $ 800 million during every two-year budget cycle since 2015 to send state resources to the border.

“The safety of children in Texas has also remained a constant priority for the Governor, leading him to create the Child Sex Trafficking Team in 2016 to combat this terrible crime and protect all young victims in our state,” Abbott’s press secretary, Renae Eze, said in a statement. “In the recent expansion of Operation Lone Star to include efforts to crack down on human trafficking related to illegal border crossings, he tapped this team of experts to assist these efforts to take care of these unaccompanied minors and prosecute any traffickers.”

During a visit last week to the Rio Grande Valley city of Weslaco, Abbott said that since Operation Lone Star began, Texas DPS officers have encountered about 16,000 undocumented migrants, who he said were referred to U.S. Border Patrol. DPS troopers have also arrested nearly 600 people suspected of being involved in human, drug or weapon smuggling, Abbott said.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar[7], D-El Paso, said the situation on the border is concerning but is not new

“We have now had three different presidents facing the same challenge at the border with regard to Central American migrants,” she said. “For the first time I believe we have an administration that wants to tackle this in a very holistic, forward-facing way,” she said during a Texas Tribune event last week. “It’s been frustrating for me and for some members of my community to see some members of the media act as though this is a brand new phenomena that happened on Jan. 20”

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling shared a similar message: The city has seen this before.

“[It’s] nothing that we can’t handle and that’s kind of what our message is,” he said, adding that the crisis is in Washington D.C., where politicians can’t come up with viable solution. “Our city is still safe, we are handling it. And hopefully they’ll resolve it pretty soon.”

References

  1. ^ Ted Cruz (www.texastribune.org)
  2. ^ John Cornyn (www.texastribune.org)
  3. ^ Greg Abbott (www.texastribune.org)
  4. ^ The Washington Post reported (www.washingtonpost.com)
  5. ^ mistakes were made (www.texastribune.org)
  6. ^ participation (www.texastribune.org)
  7. ^ Veronica Escobar (www.texastribune.org)

Julián Aguilar