US announces restart of programme to reunite migrant families

Roberta Jacobson’s announcement comes with a clear warning to migrants that the US’s southern border is closed.

Special Assistant to the President and Coordinator for the Southern Border Roberta Jacobson announced a $4bn programme to address root causes of migration in Central America [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]
Special Assistant to the President and Coordinator for the Southern Border Roberta Jacobson announced a $4bn programme to address root causes of migration in Central America [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

The United States has announced the restarting of a programme to reunite migrant children with a parent, which was halted by the Trump administration.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Southern Border Ambassador Roberta Jacobson said the Biden administration would restart the Central American Minors (CAM) programme, which would reunite qualified children with a parent currently living legally in the US.

Between 2014 and 2017 the programme allowed children fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to apply for refugee status in the US before making the journey north. It was halted by the administration of former President Donald Trump, stranding some 3,000 children who were already approved for travel.

Southern Border Ambassador Roberta Jacobson who served as US Ambassador to Mexico from 2016-2018 repeated the message in Spanish: ‘The border is closed,’ she said [Tom Brenner/AP Photo]

According to a State Department document, contacts with some parents will start the week of March 15. Officials said before it was halted, nearly 5,000 children were united with their parents under the programme.

But the announcement also came with a warning to would-be migrants not to come to the US.

“I want to be clear, neither this neither this announcement nor any of the other measures suggest that anyone, especially children and families with young children should make the dangerous trip to try and enter the US in irregular fashion,” she said. “The border is not open.”

Jacobson who served as US ambassador to Mexico from 2016-2018 repeated the message in Spanish. “The border is closed.”

The announcement comes after reports that migrant detentions, as well as the arrival of unaccompanied minors, have been surging along the US’s southern border.

US President Joe Biden, who took office almost two months ago, has made restructuring the nation’s immigration system a main priority, after four years of anti-immigration policies imposed by Trump.

But Biden has also been carefully trying to avoid surges of migrants arriving at the US’s southern border, which may draw harsh criticism from Republican rivals.

A US Border Patrol agent removes a wristband worn by Santiago, a four-year-old boy from Honduras whose family is seeking asylum in the US after they crossed the Rio Grande river into the United States from Mexico [Adrees Latif/Reuters]

During the news conference, Jacobson announced the creation of a $4bn fund over four years to “address the root causes of migration”. The programmes according to the State Department document would fund initiatives that tackle corruption, and improve governance, security and economic opportunities in Central America.

“Only by addressing those root causes, can we break the cycle of desperation and provide hope for families who clearly would prefer to stay in their countries and provide a better future for their children,” she said.

All of these efforts however are going to require time, arguing the Trump administration did not just neglect the US immigration system, it also “intentionally made it worse”.

And the pandemic, she added, will only make the changes envisioned by the Biden administration more lengthy.

Source: Al Jazeera

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