WASHINGTON, March 26 (Xinhua) — As the number of U.S.-Mexico border crossing attempts by migrants is rising, Democrats and Republicans in U.S. Congress are wrangling over who is to blame for the problem, with both sides turning a blind eye to the human rights issues exposed in the crisis.
On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden held his first presidential press briefing, where the border issue came into the limelight. The hour-long session kicked off with the question of whether Biden could keep his promise on such issues as immigration reform.
In response, Biden admitted that he could not guarantee solving the border problem completely, and pledged that the situation will “get a whole hell of a lot better real quick.”
“Truth of the matter is nothing has changed,” Biden said. “It happens every single solitary year.”
As the United States is undergoing the biggest surge of migrants on its southwestern border in the past two decades, Republicans and other critics have blamed the surging number of new arrivals on the Biden administration being more lax on immigration than the Donald Trump administration.
Biden rejected the notion that his “nice guy” approach to immigration has led to the surge, arguing instead that Central American migrants are coming to the United States mainly to escape economic and social hardships in their home countries, and that the migrants’ desire to arrive before summer heat is also a contributing factor.
Biden also blamed the Trump administration for dismantling the migration processing system, thus leaving him in a disadvantageous position.
DETENTION OF CHILD MIGRANTS
Biden’s remarks came as U.S. media, citing official data that have not been publicly released, reported that the average daily number of unaccompanied migrant children detained by border officials has now topped 600, twice as many as in 2019, when the number peaked at around 370 on average a day.
According to the latest data available, as of Tuesday, there were nearly 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children detained in the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities, where Biden called the conditions “unacceptable.”
Hundreds of the children have been in custody longer than what is legally allowed, with the average time being around 130 hours.
The president said the “vast majority” of migrant families coming to the U.S. border are being sent back by his administration, which in the meantime is also “moving rapidly to try to put in place” a migration processing system dismantled by the Trump administration, to better accommodate the unaccompanied migrant children.
However, the Biden administration has come under attack for not allowing journalists to independently visit the CBP facilities, including the one in Donna, Texas, where photos provided by Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar this week showed unaccompanied children packed together without social distancing, sleeping on mats under foil blankets, and divided into sections only by plastic sheathing. Cuellar said more than 400 male minors were being held in a section meant for 250.
Washington has earned itself a notorious reputation for its ill treatment of migrants, while the detention of children is only a tip of the iceberg. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the forced deportation of migrant children continued.
Data tallied by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement showed that as of Jan. 14, 8,848 detainees had been confirmed as COVID-19 cases.
According to a report published by the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 18, 2020, the U.S. government had expelled at least 8,800 unaccompanied migrant children despite serious protection risks amid the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Children’s Fund has warned that migrant children who returned from the United States to Mexico and Central America were facing danger and discrimination. Enditem