Migrant families were continuing to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday, as one of Joe Biden‘s senior officials admitted that his more tolerant approach was likely encouraging many to try and enter, and border patrol officials spoke of their concerns about the large numbers slipping through the net.
New data published on Wednesday showed that the number of migrants detained along the southern border rose in February to levels not seen since 2019, when a dramatic surge in migrant family arrivals overwhelmed border facilities.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said their agents and officers detained or processed 100,441 migrants in February.
A group of migrants from Guatemala are seen in Texas on Wednesday, having crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico
Roberta Jacobsen, a special advisor to Joe Biden on migration, addressed the issue on Wednesday
Jacobsen told the White House reporters she knew it was not a ‘coincidence’ that more migrants were arriving under Biden
They turned away 72,113 migrants, forcing them back across the border under public health restrictions known as Title 42 to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The CBP said 25,000 of the migrants they encountered in February had already attempted to cross the border previously.
Roberta Jacobsen, ambassador to Mexico from 2016-18 who now serves as a special advisor to Biden, admitted in a White House briefing on Wednesday that the timing of the surge was ‘no coincidence’.
She said: ‘We’ve seen surges before. Surges tend to respond to hope, and there was significant hope for a more humane policy after four years of pent-up demand.
‘So I don’t know if I would call that a coincidence.’
Under Biden, the Remain in Mexico policy, which kept migrants south of the border while waiting for their hearings, as well as asylum agreements with Northern Triangle countries have ended.
Biden has also narrowed ICE’s criteria for arrests and deportations.
The ending of the Remain in Mexico policy has opened the door to migrants, who have applied for asylum, being allowed to cross and begin their legal proceedings.
Migrants who had been in Mexico under the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program pass a group that were just deported on Wednesday
Ingrid Ramos, a Guatemalan who spent a year waiting in Mexico, hugs a friend as she readies to leave a shelter
Jacobsen said that the ‘more humane policy’ likely gave rise to rumors among people traffickers of leniency.
The ‘coyotes’, as the smugglers are known, then encouraged more migrants to pay to make the journey.
‘The idea that a more humane policy would be in place may have driven people to make that decision, but perhaps, more importantly, it definitely drove smugglers to express disinformation, spread disinformation about what was now possible,’ she said.
Jacobsen said that with a $4 billion plan, Biden hoped to tackle immigration at its root causes, working to make Latin American countries safer and more prosperous, and reduce the incentive to leave.
The sharpest uptick in migrant numbers was at Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, which went from 17,000 migrant apprehensions in January to nearly 28,000 in February.
The area has long been the busiest crossing route on the border. Arizona also saw large increases.
The two Border Patrol sectors that cover the Arizona-Mexico border, Tucson and Yuma, went from 12,372 apprehensions in January to 19,740 last month, according to AZ Central.
Border Patrol facilities, operating at reduced capacity due to COVID, were unable to cope and so migrants were released into southern Texas and Arizona.
Mexico’s government is worried the new U.S. administration’s asylum policies are stoking illegal immigration and creating business for organized crime, according to officials and internal assessments seen by Reuters.
‘They see him as the migrant president, and so many feel they’re going to reach the United States,’ Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said of Biden the morning after a virtual meeting with his U.S. counterpart on March 1.
‘We need to work together to regulate the flow, because this business can’t be tackled from one day to the next.’
Previously unreported details in the internal assessments, based on testimonies and intelligence gathering, state that gangs are diversifying methods of smuggling and winning clients as they eye U.S. measures that will ‘incentivize migration.’
A shoe is surrounded by colored wristbands placed on migrants from Central America who are smuggled from Mexico into the United States by drug cartels and human traffickers, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Some of the plastic wristbands were inscribed ‘arrivals’ or ‘entries’ in Spanish
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the first set of wristbands were located by CBP agents as early as February. Some of the bracelets also contained a logo, such as a devil face or turtle, the latter being the logo of choice of a human trafficking group linked to the Gulf Cartel.
One Mexican official familiar with migration developments, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters organized crime began changing its modus operandi ‘from the day Biden took office’ and now exhibited ‘unprecedented’ levels of sophistication.
That includes briefing clients on the latest immigration rules, using technology to outfox authorities, and disguising smuggling operations as travel agencies, assessments showed.
‘Migrants have become a commodity,’ the official said, arguing they were now as valuable as drugs for the gangs.
‘But if a packet of drugs is lost in the sea, it’s gone. If migrants are lost, it’s human beings we’re talking about.’
Mexican drug cartels and human smugglers are using a system of colored wristbands to track migrants who pay to cross illegally into the United States, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Hundreds of colored plastic wristbands left behind by migrants have been spotted lying along the banks of the Rio Grande in the scrubby grassland near Penitas, Texas.
A witness told Reuters that migrants crossing the river on makeshift rafts would rip off and dump the red, blue, green and white wristbands. Some were marked ‘arrivals’ or ‘entries’ in Spanish.
Art del Cueto, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, told Sean Hannity’s Fox News show that his colleagues were detaining people from around the world, saying they stopped Cubans, Pakistanis and Romanians.
Art Del Cueto, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, said they were worried about who they failed to stop
Del Cueto pointed out smuggling routes through the mountains in an area controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel
He showed Fox News an infamous smuggling route, and said that they were deeply troubled by the smugglers’ activities.
‘Those drugs are not just affecting the border,’ he said.
‘They are going into middle America and across the country affecting kids.
‘This is a true epidemic affecting high school kids and heroin. And it’s coming through this border.’
Del Cueto said that they estimated they had failed to apprehend 39,000 people so far this year, who had slipped through unchecked.
‘You don’t know who they are. The big issue is: who are you not apprehending?’ he said.
‘My biggest fear is not who we are apprehending but who we are not apprehending and Americans don’t understand that.’
Senator Tom Cotton leads backlash against confirmation of Merrick Garland after the new Attorney General REFUSED to say whether he believed entering the United States illegally should be a crime
Arkansas senator Tom Cotton has led condemnation of the confirmation of Joe Biden‘s attorney general, insisting that Merrick Garland is soft on migration and backs an ‘extreme open-border amnesty agenda’.
He is expected to be sworn in at the Justice Department on Thursday.
Tom Cotton, the senator for Arkansas, spoke on Wednesday (pictured) about his concerns
Garland was confirmed on Wednesday and is expected to be sworn in on Thursday
Mitch McConnell, the most senior Republican in the Senate, who in 2016 audaciously blocked Garland’s appointment by Barack Obama to the Supreme Court, was among the Republicans who voted in Garland’s favor.
‘I’m voting to confirm Judge Garland because of his long reputation as a straight shooter and legal expert,’ he said on the Senate floor before he cast his vote.
Several Republicans objected, however, including Ted Cruz, senator for Texas, and Josh Hawley of Missouri.
Cruz said that despite Garland’s reputation for integrity, he had ‘refused to make clear that he would stand against the politicization of the department, which we saw during the Obama-Biden years.’
Hawley spoke out at Garland’s confirmation hearing to express concern that the veteran prosecutor, whose career-defining moment was perhaps investigating the Oklahoma City domestic terror attack, would not take what he thought was a hard enough line on violent demonstrators.
Ted Cruz, senator for Texas, was concerned Garland would ‘politicize’ the Justice Department
Cotton said that he was deeply troubled by Garland’s immigration stance
Cotton, known for his hardline views on immigration, spoke out against Garland on the Senate floor, ridiculing his response that he ‘hadn’t thought about’ whether entering the country illegally should be a crime.
‘It stretches the bounds of belief that a federal judge who had been on the bench for almost a quarter century hadn’t thought about that question,’ said Cotton.
‘Judge Garland also refused to say whether illegal alien gang members or illegal aliens who have assaulted U.S. citizens should be deported, if a judge orders it.
‘Judge Garland’s silence shows he will, at best, meekly abide by the administration’s irrational immigration agenda.’
Cotton warned that Garland would ‘help transform zero tolerance into total tolerance of crime’.
The number of child migrants is proving particularly problematic at the moment, and the Biden administration continues to urge people not to send unaccompanied children across the border.
More than 3,250 unaccompanied minors are currently being held at the border. Lacking sufficient facilities and amid coronavirus burdens, more than 1,360 have been detained beyond the three days allowed by law, according to New York Times data.
Nearly 170 of those being detained are younger than 13, NBC News reported.
A total of 9,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border in February, according to data reviewed by the network.
A wave of immigrants appears to be drawn by Biden’s pledge to relax restrictions and provide a path to citizenship for people who are already living here.
Cotton tweeted on Wednesday: ‘The Biden administration claims they will stop illegal immigration by sending money to corrupt officials in Central America. Here’s an idea: Stop illegal immigration by enforcing our immigration laws.’
Child arrivals have tripled in the last two weeks, but on Tuesday the White House said they would not term the situation a ‘crisis’.
Republicans are demanding that Biden take action, and on Monday Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, will lead a contingent of Republicans to visit the border.
Cotton concluded on Wednesday: ‘As our border facilities and personnel are overwhelmed by the Biden border surge, our security will falter and even more drugs will pour into our country.
‘Hardened criminals will accompany the flood of drugs.
‘Thousands of confirmed and suspected gang members cross the southern border into our country, and even more will exploit the open border policies that Judge Garland will have a hand in creating.
‘This will fuel skyrocketing violence in our nation.’