A large increase in migrants pouring over the US southern border has sparked yet another political fight in Washington between Republicans and Democrats.
In February, over 100,000 migrants entered the country from the Mexican border, an increase of 28 percent from January, according to U.S. government figures.
Republicans are seizing the chance to pounce on U.S. President Joe Biden, labeling him soft on illegal immigration and naive about what the GOP says is a crisis of Biden’s own creation.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz, a former candidate for president, has blasted the administration in recent days, and on Wednesday told “Fox and Friends” that he and other GOP lawmakers witnessed a “humanitarian disaster” on a recent trip to the border.
“Its capacity with COVID constraints is 250 people. There are over 4,000 people crammed into Donna. They are not six feet apart or three feet apart, they’re not even six inches apart,” Cruz said, describing a facility housing migrants in Donna, in the state of Texas.
“You had children side-by-side lying on the floor, no beds, cots, lying on the floor … Ten percent of the population there is testing positive for COVID. Joe Biden caused this with political decisions made in the opening weeks of this administration,” Cruz said, reflecting the criticisms of other GOP lawmakers.
Vice President Kamala Harris recently told CBS This Morning that the issue at the border is a “big problem” but fell short of calling it a full-on crisis, amid criticisms that she has not yet held a press conference on the problem.
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua that Republicans are “slamming Biden for opening the borders … The GOP wants to make hay in terms of how the administration is handling border issues,” but added that the United States is running ads in Central America asking people not to come.
“The border is a challenge for Biden because immigration is controversial within the United States. Republicans are taking pot shots at the president and liberal Democrats worry about young, unaccompanied children who are coming across the border. It likely will take awhile before the issue gets resolved,” West said.
Immigration over the U.S. southern border has long been a point of contention between Democrats and Republicans, as well as liberals and conservatives in the United States.
Conservatives take a law and order approach, and argue, among other things, that migrants illegally crossing into the United States push wages down in certain industries. Democrats also espouse a number of arguments, such as that migrants are needed to keep certain industries humming.
A press pool was allowed into the temporary facility center in Donna, after U.S. media have complained for weeks of a news blackout.
CNN’s Pamela Brown recently blasted the Biden administration, saying “as the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border gets worse, the media is being kept from it.”
Republican strategist and TV news personality Ford O’Connell told Xinhua that the media blackout is “appalling.”
“There hasn’t been a president since Clinton that didn’t allow media in,” he said, referring to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who left office in 2001.
Jessica Bolter, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, told Xinhua the rise in border crossings is caused by multiple factors, including the perception of the new administration’s policies, violence, and natural disasters, among other factors.
Biden has made some changes to policies at the U.S.-Mexico border, such as permitting unaccompanied children and some families to ask for asylum, that smugglers are eager to promote and exaggerate to try to convince people to migrate, Bolter said.
But this is not the only reason that people are deciding to migrate. Conditions on the ground in the main countries of origin of these migrants have deteriorated over the past year, Bolter said.
Two hurricanes ruined people’s crops and displaced them from their homes in Guatemala and Honduras in November 2020. And the economic effects of COVID-19 have included spiking unemployment and economic contraction in the region, Bolter said.
Additionally, there are long-standing push and pull factors that have not gone away. The push factors include violence and insecurity. The pull factors include the inefficiencies in the U.S. asylum system, Bolter said.
By: Matthew Rusting, Xinhua