US border officials, the Biden transition team, and migrant shelter directors along the Mexican border are concerned about a major migration surge in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly if the Biden administration moves too fast to change immigration rules, reports Reuters.
US Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan told the outlet that immediately reversing Trump’s policies on the border would lead to a “full-blown crisis in a couple of weeks.”
Biden transition officials told Reuters that the team recognises the importance of implementing an orderly process to dismantle Trump’s border policies.
Meanwhile, shelter organisations such as Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, which took in around 150,000 people from US immigration authorities in 2019, says they don’t have enough volunteers and bed space.
The movement of migrants to the US border is reportedly driven by the worsening economy in Central America and the chaos wrought by Hurricanes Eta and Iota.
But it also appears to be driven by expectations of a more lenient US border policy under a Biden administration. Reuters reports that thousands of prospective migrants in Central America have joined social media groups to organise caravans to travel to the US.
Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar said he had been briefed by the Department for Homeland Security that cartels in Central America are telling people the border "will be open" after the Democrat's election victory last month.
He said the groups were "promoting and staging" migration to the US by claiming Biden's administration would be more lenient over asylum claims than the Trump administration.
Working with the Biden administration, I will fight to restore effective border security policies, which does not include any wasteful border wall. https://t.co/jypfRm3D7n— Rep. Henry Cuellar (@RepCuellar) December 15, 2020
CBS News has reported that the incoming Biden administration plans to end the Migrant Protections Protocol programme, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” and raise the nation’s cap on refugees to 125,000.
Biden will also reportedly restore the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme and seek to implement a 100-day freeze on deportations while his administration issues guidance limiting who can be arrested by immigration agents. He has also said he will halt construction of the border wall, one of the Trump administration's signature policies.
Biden has not yet said whether he intends to repeal Title 42, the public-health emergency law that Trump’s administration invoked to justify the expulsion of unauthorised migrants to their last country of transit. Since its implementation in March, some 300,000 migrants have been expelled under the law.
Some social media users said that the migrant caravans would seek to test the resolve of the imminent Biden presidency.
“When there is a change in government in the U.S. or Mexico, caravans start to move because they are testing the waters to see how authorities respond,” https://t.co/ItMnkGtdGg— DocRock1007 🇺🇸 (@DocRock1007) December 14, 2020
Others wondered how Biden would react to the caravans.