As the calamity escalates, the greater the crisis of legitimacy for the Biden government.
Written by Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
The migration crisis in the US seems far from over. Recently, Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, confirmed what everyone already suspected: the number of migrants on the southern border reached an “unprecedented” mark in the country’s history. With this, the challenges appear to get worse for the Biden government, as it becomes impracticable to maintain a humanitarian policy of “automatic acceptance” of migrants.
US border authorities reported more than 212,000 incidents with migrants in the month of July alone. About 19,000 of these migrants were children – most of them were unaccompanied by their parents or any other relatives. The data is truly impressive and reveals historic records. Never before has such a high number of migrants been reported in the southern region of the country. The pandemic – with all the economic and social effects that emanate from it – is believed to be the main reason for the increase.
The pandemic factor is also extremely worrying for the cities that are receiving migrants, since, with the high rates of infection, any sudden increase in the arrival of migrants becomes a real health threat. The overload of available resources in the Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas is a topic of concern for local populations, as, with the advance of migration, places in hospitals are becoming more and more scarce. This scenario threatens to reverse all the gains the US government has achieved by advancing the vaccination process.
For these reasons, local authorities have taken some tougher measures. The U.S. Border Patrol has been detaining some migrants in specific locations, outside their regular facilities, to achieve greater sanitary control and prevent infected foreigners from moving freely through the city’s streets. Anzalduas International Bridge has become one of the biggest migrant occupation points with these new measures. Also, in McAllen, a large tent camp was opened in early August, which has been the destination of migrants who tested positive for COVID-19.
Indeed, despite the constant migration crisis on the southern border, it is quite unusual for there to be an exponential increase in illegal crossings during this time of year. The months of June to August tend to be calmer in the region, mainly due to climatic and geographic factors. There is a desert on the border, which makes temperatures virtually unbearable during the summer, putting at risk the lives of anyone trying to cross the desert to enter the US. The fact that there has been a high rate of migration in recent months indicates only one thing: real despair and need on the part of migrants, who have risked their lives to escape the terrible conditions in their places of origin. In addition, it is necessary to remember that the migratory peak usually occurs at other times of the year, when the temperature is milder. Therefore, having already reached very high indices in the summer, the forecast for the coming months, when the weather conditions will be more favorable, becomes even more worrying.
This situation puts the Biden government in a very unfavorable and complicated position. The Democrat came to power with the promise of reforming migration policies as the main point of his electoral campaign. His humanitarian stance in favor of the automatic legalization of migrants does not seem to have changed on an ideological and personal level, however, reality has forced him to make decisions that contradict his initial promises. For example, the current government renewed the Title 42, a public order issued during the Trump Administration, which allows authorities to summarily expel migrants, preventing them from seeking legal asylum. Undoubtedly, this measure is completely contrary to Biden’s humanitarian principles, but it has become the only way possible to prevent a health disaster on the southern border.
Biden’s broken promises are hurting him more and more. The 2020 election campaign was already operated in the midst of a pandemic situation, so the increase in “sanitary migration” – with people leaving their countries due to the crisis generated by the pandemic – was something to be expected. This should have been calculated by Biden and his team so that campaign promises were made more realistically – but this did not happen and now the challenge of accepting all migrants, distributing them geographically across the country and at the same time controlling the spread of the pandemic is the biggest task for the government.
As the government becomes incompetent to deal with this situation, the result is a massive loss of popular support. Many of the migrants now trying to enter the US are relatives of other migrants, already accepted and legalized on American soil, who are one of Biden’s main electoral bases. Without the support of this base, the government will be severely weakened – even more in a general context of loss of support, after the events in Afghanistan, which were interpreted as a “shameful defeat” for Washington.
Once again, Biden seems to have failed in his goals. Washington is not close to regaining its global hegemony or becoming a “humanitarian haven” for migrants. With less and less popular support, the Democrat is close to entering a real crisis of legitimacy, opening the way for Trump and the Republicans to resume their attempts to prevent him from fulfilling his mandate.
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