President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have vowed to reform the asylum process and deal with the root causes of immigration, but their efforts have produced mixed results, according to experts who spoke with The Washington Examiner.
"Reforms to the asylum process have been rather superficial," Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, wrote in an email to the news outlet.
"They weren't able to get as far last year as they wanted mainly because they were dealing with people actually arriving," said Theresa Cardinal Brown, managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center think-tank in Washington, D.C.
Last year was marked with a historic level of unauthorized border crossing attempts, which hit a peak of 213,000 in the month of July, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, reported ABC News. More than a quarter of those encounters with immigration authorities involved repeat offenders.
Left-leaning advocacy groups criticize the continued use of the rapid deportation protocols known as "Title 42," a measure named for a public health law that allows U.S. officials to expel adults and families without an opportunity for asylum.
According to the American Immigration Council, though, under Title 42, "individuals who are expelled to Mexico within hours after apprehension can simply try again a second or third time in hopes of getting through. Some individuals have made dozens of failed attempts to cross the border and been turned back under Title 42 each time."
The Biden administration engaged in legal battles to preserve the policy and, as recently as this week, continued the argument originally from Trump officials that the protocols are strictly a public health measure necessary to curb the global pandemic, ABC reported.
While 1 million were returned south of the border, more than 600,000 people were released into the U.S. in fiscal year 2021, which ended in September, The Washington Examiner reported. Mexican states have refused to accept migrants from many countries in Central America.
Countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua significantly limit the number of repatriation flights from the U.S., and given the Biden administration’s opposition to immigrant detention and the lack of space amid the coronavirus pandemic, releases have been the only solution, The Washington Examiner reported.
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, said where the Biden administration failed over the past year was in not foreseeing these problems or planning a response.
"We’re going on year three of the pandemic, and the administration has doubled and tripled down on Title 42 rather than putting in place a process to process asylum-seekers safely and humanely," Reichlin-Melnick told The Washington Examiner.
The Biden administration tried to end the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), where migrants who sought asylum had to remain in Mexico for months until their day in court. Biden ended it in June but was forced to restart it in late 2021 after the U.S. Supreme Court last summer refused to block a lower court injunction.
Harris has visited Central America once to try assess the root causes of migration.
"While VP Harris has visited the region and will do so again this month, it is clear that the inter-agency task force she was tasked with standing up has gotten off to a slow start, and so far has produced few visible results," Doug Farah, senior visiting fellow who studies Central America for the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies, wrote in an email.
In May, the White House announced an agreement, dubbed a "Call To Action," that included commitments from major companies like Microsoft, Mastercard, Chobani, Duolingo, and Nespresso to invest in the region to spur economic opportunity, CNN reported. That was later followed by a 20-page root causes strategy that outlined the administration's approach to improving conditions and creating opportunity in the region.
U.S. corporations have pledged $1.2 billion worth of commitments in the region in an effort to provide jobs to people who leave because of the lack of work opportunities. Biden also pledged $4 billion in foreign aid to Central America.
"Politically, views of Biden's approach to immigration have dragged down his overall approval ratings over the past year," ABC News reported. "A Gallup poll released last November found just 31% of Americans approve of his handling of immigration issues."
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