WASHINGTON – The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it will restart a program that reunites children from several Central American countries with their parents who are in the United States legally.
But a senior White House official had a key message to individuals who might see this as a sign to come to the U.S.-Mexico border: “La frontera está cerrada” — or “the border is closed.”
“I want to be clear, neither this announcement nor any of the other measures suggest that anyone, especially children and families with young children, should make the dangerous trip to try and enter the U.S. in an irregular fashion,” Roberta Jacobson, special assistant to the president and coordinator for the southern border, said at a press briefing Wednesday. “The border is not open.”
The Central American Minors program, which was established in 2014, was terminated in 2017 under the Trump Administration. The program would allow parents from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who are in the United States legally to request refugee resettlement for their children.
The Biden administration will reopen pending and eligible cases that were closed after the program was ended, and officials will begin contacting parents as soon as the week of March 15.
Jacobson said that when the program ended abruptly in 2017, around 3,000 children already approved for travel were left stranded.
Since taking office, President Joe Biden has begun unraveling many of former President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies. Most recently, the Biden administration began reprocessing migrants who applied for asylum but were forced to remain in Mexico while awaiting the court date in a Trump-era policy called the “Migrant Protection Protocol,” or “Remain in Mexico.”
So far, the U.S. has admitted more than 1,400 asylum-seekers who were subject to that program, Jacobson said.
However, the Biden administration is also facing a surge of undocumented migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border. The influx has resulted in children staying in holding facilities longer than three days before being transferred to federal facilities.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Biden received a briefing from a group of officials that visited the U.S.-Mexico border.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to criticism from former President Donald Trump over the administration's immigration policies, insisting the White House doesn't take counsel from Trump, whose policies she called "inhumane." (March 5)
In regards to the surge, Jacobson said “the idea that a more humane policy would be in place may have driven people to make that decision.”
Jacobson said the Biden administration has made “multiple engagements” with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in regards to ongoing concerns with surge to border. She also urged Congress to quickly consider allocating $4 billion over four years to address “the root causes of migration, including corruption, violence and economic devastation exacerbated by climate change.”
One big issue the Biden administration is facing in trying to relay to migrants that the border is currently closed, is misinformation from smugglers. Jacobson noted that it’s important to work with “international organizations that have very credible voices and have very good networks among migrant-sending communities to dispel the myths and misinformation.”
“We are trying to convey to everybody in the region that we will have legal processes for people in the future, and we’re standing those up as soon as we can,” Jacobson said. “But at the same time, you cannot come through irregular means. It’s dangerous, and the majority of people will be suspended out of the United States.
“That is the truth of it. We want to be honest with people,” she said.
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas says immigration was "gutted" by the Trump administration. After 27 days in office, Mayorkas told reporters: "It takes time to build out of the depths of cruelty," (March 1)
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