The governor of Texas slammed the Biden administration on Tuesday for what he called a growing “crisis” at the US-Mexico border caused by a surge in migrant arrivals.
In a news conference, Greg Abbott said that he was briefed by US Border Patrol officials as well as other Texas security teams and was given an aerial tour of the border, during which he witnessed people crossing the border “illegally”. He blamed US President Joe Biden for changing policies at the US-Mexico border.
“There is a crisis on the Texas border right now with the overwhelming number of people who are coming across the border,” Abbott said.
“This crisis is a result of President Biden’s open border policies,” he said. “It invites illegal immigration and is creating a humanitarian crisis in Texas right now that will grow increasingly worse by the day.”
Biden, who took office less than two months ago, has been reversing many of his predecessor’s hardline policies on immigration.
Former US President Donald Trump largely shut down the US-Mexico border to asylum seekers and created a programme called Remain in Mexico which forced migrants to wait for their US court dates in Mexico.
The policies drew widespread criticism from human rights defenders who argued that they contravened US asylum laws. But Abbott said Biden’s elimination of Trump’s policies led to the increase in the numbers of arrivals.
Citing people familiar with current immigration data, The New York Times (NYT) reported that US authorities are expected to announce that nearly 100,000 migrants were apprehended on the border in February, up from 36,687 in the same month last year.
Migrant children along the border are arriving in increasingly growing numbers – with the number in the past two weeks tripling to more than 3,250, according to immigration documents obtained by the NYT.
The White House has acknowledged the influx means many of the children are being held in Customs and Border Patrol facilities longer than the three days allowed by law. They are then to be transferred to shelters or other accommodations run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“There are more children coming across the border than we have facilities for at this point in time,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
“I know we’re being asked about our change in policy, but there are a couple of reasons why we think people are coming to the border,” Psaki said. “Individuals and families are fleeing prosecution, fleeing violence, fleeing economic hardships and other things, the region has also experienced two hurricanes in the fall,” she said.
“And all of this is taking place during a global pandemic that has impacted other countries economies placing undue hardships on its people just as it did in the United States.”
She reiterated the message to would-be migrants in the region, that now is “not the time to come” to the US.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas in an internal email Sunday had requested DHS staff to volunteer to deal with the growing “surge” citing reports “about the overwhelming numbers of migrants” at the border, according to reports by US broadcaster Fox News and the New York Post.
Last week, Mayorkas had pushed back against the notion that there is a growing crisis at the border, instead saying that there are confronted with a “challenge”, that they are prepared to meet.
“We are challenged at the border, the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, are meeting that challenge,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last week.
“It is a stressful challenge.”
Mayorkas blamed the Trump administration for stripping border facilities of infrastructure such as trained personnel and resources that would help to confront changes or stresses at the border.