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The US-Mexico border

While attempting a humanitarian approach to the immigration crisis at the border with Mexico, President Joe Biden faces challenges as the number of unaccompanied children rises. On March 24, Biden assigned Vice President Kamala Harris to manage the crisis. 

In Biden’s first week in office, the president issued executive actions to reevaluate former President Trump’s immigration policies. However, Biden found there were complications since more than 100,000 migrants were detained in February alone, according to the Washington Post. 

The situation became more complex as the number of unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border increased. According to the Washington Post, “The Biden administration is continuing a Trump-era policy of expelling most unauthorized adult migrants. But officials have decided to accept unaccompanied children. More than 9,000 were in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday, according to Reuters — the most in two years.” 

According to CBS, the Biden administration will open six new facilities to house unaccompanied children at the border. However, “more than 16,000 migrant children are currently in U.S. custody, with 5,000 of those in the hands of Border Patrol, which is encountering about 530 unaccompanied minors every day.” 

Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, a migrant advocate, told the Washington Post the boost in immigration numbers at the border has to do with the change in the American Administration. While Trump had a protective approach, Biden tried the humanitarian route.  

“Migration is like the stock market — it reacts to any sign, positive or negative,” Solalinde said. “Since Biden was a candidate, he gave hope to migrants, although he never said the United States was going to open its doors to all migrants.”

Biden told reporters the migrants reaching the U.S. border are being deported for the most part. 

“We are sending back the vast majority of the families that are coming,” Biden said. “We are trying to work out now with Mexico their willingness to take more of those families back. They are not getting across the border.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs, a reporter for The New York Times working at the border, said Trump’s approach squeezed the system from both sides. 

“The Trump administration’s approach to the border was centered on deterrence — discouraging families from coming to the border,” Kanno-Youngs said. 

Biden said the Obama administration made mistakes in handling some facets of immigration. 

“I have a program that is significantly different and builds upon where we left off and tries to undo the damage that Trump has done,” Biden said during his campaign.

Kanno-Youngs said Biden criticized the Trump administration’s approach to the border. 

“He described it as cruel,” Kanno-Youngs said. “He said that he would restore asylum for those families. But you also have the country still facing a pandemic.” 

Biden appealed to migrants not to rush to the border. 

“Don’t come over,” Biden said in an interview with ABC News. “Don’t leave your town or city or community.”

The Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, said it is a hard process and it will take time. 

“We need individuals to wait. And I will say that they will wait with a goal in mind,” Mayorkas said. “That is our ability to rebuild as quickly as possible a system so that they don’t have to take the dangerous journey, and we can enable them to access humanitarian relief from their countries of origin.”

Former President Trump criticized Biden’s approach to the situation at the border, calling it “totally out of control,” which led to a response from White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki. 

“We don’t take our advice or counsel from former President Trump on immigration policy, which was not only inhumane but ineffective over the last four years,” Psaki said. “We’re going to chart our path forward. And that includes treating children with humanity and respect and ensuring they are safe when they cross our borders.” 

Youngs said it is natural President Biden and former President Trump disagree on such an important agenda. 

“If you’re President Biden, it is not very hard to criticize the Trump administration’s approach to the border. It is very hard to actually approach this challenge yourself and create a system where you can actually process these migrants at a fast enough rate.”

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