How inconsistent policies and enforcement have created false hope for migrants at the border

The Biden administration and the Mexican government have made the situation at the border so confusing that even seasoned experts can’t always determine who is allowed in and who isn’t. That may be contributing to the high number of border crossings.

By Lomi Kriel, The Texas Tribune and Propublica

Southwest border crossings remain above 170,000 in April as people cross repeatedly

Around 178,000 crossings were reported in April. Of those, 37% were minors and families. Under an order that went into effect during the coronavirus pandemic and was retained by President Joe Biden, most migrants are immediately turned back with the exception of children and some families. Almost a third of those turned back in April had previously crossed, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Someone who is caught twice is counted twice.

Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Note: Figures do not include people who crossed but were not caught. Both presidencies began on Jan. 20 of their respective years.
Credit: Mandi Cai / Texas Tribune


Some families with children under 7 are allowed to enter

Biden is accepting 25,000 migrants with pending cases


A Central American asylum seeker carries her child at a bus station in Brownsville, Texas. Credit: Verónica G. Cárdenas for the Texas Tribune


Unaccompanied migrant children are no longer expelled

“The idea that I’m going to say, which I would never do, if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, we’re just going to let them starve to death and stay on the other side — no previous administration did that either, except Trump,” Biden said at his first presidential press conference in March. “I’m not going to do it.”


Children from Central America at a migrant camp in Mexico, where they lived after being expelled from the United States under the Trump administration. Credit: Verónica G. Cárdenas for the Texas Tribune


Most single adults are turned away under the pandemic health order

“It is impossible to explain how overjoyed I am,” Garcia said shortly before boarding a flight to Florida, where he has relatives.

Thousands are still waiting to enter, hoping for asylum

Thousands of migrants whose asylum claims were denied under the Trump administration have been waiting in Mexico and other countries for an opportunity to try again under Biden.

In typical asylum proceedings, migrants with rejected cases would be deported to their home countries. They would then face a higher legal standard if they sought protection a second time.

But attorneys and migrants said the Biden administration should recognize that many asylum cases were dismissed through an MPP process that was plagued with problems, including hearings in tent courts where migrants often lacked attorneys and proper translation.

Most migrants with denied MPP cases did not appear in court for their final hearings, according to federal statistics. Ariana Sawyer, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said some were kidnapped, while authorities bused hundreds more to cities in the interior of Mexico, making it harder for them to attend proceedings in the U.S. More than 1,500 migrants waiting in Mexico under MPP were killed or assaulted, according to Human Rights First and other advocates.

The majority of migrants in the MPP program lacked legal representation. Only about 8% had attorneys, according to federal data analyzed by Syracuse University.

Biden has not said whether migrants with denied asylum cases will get another shot. But, in March, his administration allowed some migrants whose MPP cases had been dismissed into the U.S. after it shuttered a tent camp in Matamoros, Mexico, that had become notorious for poor conditions. DHS officials said admissions from that camp were based on “urgent humanitarian concerns” and that they also sought to keep families together.


The migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico, closed by the Biden administration in March. Credit: Verónica G. Cárdenas for the Texas Tribune


Marbin Arnuby is one of thousands of migrants denied asylum under MPP who are waiting for additional opportunities to make their cases under Biden.

A need to fix legal pathways and overburdened courts


Marlen D. Cruz, an asylum seeker from Honduras, and her children in Matamoros in February. They arrived in July 2019 to await their asylum cases being heard in the U.S. Credit: Verónica G. Cárdenas for the Texas Tribune


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