The United States has been unable to return some migrant families to Mexico (a pandemic-era border policy) following a change in Mexican law on detaining children, according to three officials with the Department of Homeland Security.
The change presents an immediate challenge for the Biden administration as it grapples with increasing numbers of people along the US-Mexico border. The United States has an average of 3,000 arrests a day along the southern border, according to two sources, more than the previous month.
“It is a wave that will continue to be a challenge,” said a Department of Homeland Security official.
During the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration relied on a public health law to swiftly expel migrants, including children and asylum seekers, detained at the US-Mexico border, an unprecedented change in the way the United States had previously processed migrants.
The Biden administration has already said that its policy is not to return unaccompanied migrant children.
“The policy of this administration is not to expel unaccompanied children who come to our borders,” a White House spokesman told Citizen Free Press. «The Border Patrol will continue to transfer unaccompanied children to the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement [Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos] so that they can be adequately cared for in appropriate shelters, in accordance with their best interest.
The latest change, first reported by The Washington Post, applies to families with children under the age of 12, according to a Department of Homeland Security official. Some families detained at the border have been released in the United States.
The United States “has to find alternative paths” for families arriving in South Texas, where the largest number of families and children arrive at the border, meaning that families who do not return to Mexico are generally processed in the United States according to pre-covid-19 protocols, said another official from the Department of Homeland Security.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “takes the safety and well-being of its workforce and those they encounter very seriously, and we are taking even more precautions due to COVID-19 . As they always have, the number of people crossing the border continues to fluctuate and we continue to adapt accordingly, “the agency said in a statement, adding:” For those released, CBP can work with non-governmental organizations that will assist them through of the detention process ”.
The number of migrants detained at the US-Mexico border has been on the rise since last April, when arrests were around 16,000. In December, that number rose to around 70,000, according to Customs and Border Protection figures. The rebound has been driven in part by deteriorating conditions in Latin America and a possible perceived relaxation of law enforcement.
“There is concern about impending capacity problems,” said a Department of Homeland Security official.
The United States is in talks with Mexico on a resolution, the official said, adding that Mexico appears willing to work with the United States.
Customs and Border Protection is building soft-sided structures in Donna, Texas, to provide processing capacity in the Rio Grande Valley, one of the busiest regions for illegal border crossings, due to the closure of a processing center. close due to renovation.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which is tasked with caring for migrant children, is also reopening a facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, which can accommodate about 700 children and can be expanded if necessary.
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