Three senior U.S. immigration officials headed to Mexico and Guatemala on Monday for talks with their governments to try to figure out a way to stem the tide of migrants headed north to enter the United States.
Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, President Joe Biden’s coordinator for the Southwest border, is traveling to Mexico to meet with officials there “to develop an effective and humane plan of action to manage migration,” the U.S. National Security Council said.
She is being joined by Juan Gonzalez, Biden’s senior director for the Western hemisphere, who then is headed to Guatemala to meet with officials there. Gonzalez, a security spokeswoman said, is also talking with representatives from civil society and nongovernment organizations in Guatemala “to address root causes of migration in the region and build a more hopeful future in the region.”
In addition, Richard Zuniga, the State Department’s special envoy to the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, is joining Jacobson and Gonzalez in the talks.
Two months into his presidency, Biden is faced with streams of mostly Central American migrants walking toward the U.S., overwhelming border officials who are refusing entry to single adults and families, but caring for thousands of unaccompanied children, as mandated by U.S. law.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told interviewers on Sunday talk shows that the country’s southwestern border with Mexico is “secure” and “closed,” yet the U.S. is seeing Central American migrants arrive at the border at a pace that would be the highest in 20 years.
When he took office, Biden blocked further construction of a border wall championed by former President Donald Trump and embraced what he said would be more humane treatment of migrants. Now, Republican opponents of the Democratic president are blaming him for the thousands of migrants arriving at the border.
Trump, who never conceded his loss to Biden in last November’s election, told Fox News on Monday, that his successor is “enforcing nothing” at the southwestern border.
“People are just walking into our country and they will destroy our country,” Trump said.
The former president added, “We want people to come in, but they have to be able to help our country. They have to come in through merit and they have to come in legally.”
Biden has urged migrants to not make the treacherous journey to the U.S. His spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, told reporters that since Biden took office, the U.S. has broadcast more than 17,000 radio ads in Central American countries and more social media statements saying that “our borders are closed. This is not the time to travel.”
The U.S. currently is holding 15,000 unaccompanied migrant children, nearly a third of them at the border, but Mayorkas said the U.S. was obligated to care for them, rather than expel them to their home countries as was the policy under Trump.
Mayorkas said it was “just false” to say that the children were “dealt with humanely” under the Trump administration.
“The prior administration dismantled the asylum process,” he told the Fox News Sunday show. “We are encouraging families not to send their children” to the border. But if the children cross into the United States, he said they will be cared for over several days, sent to relatives already living in the United States or placed with vetted people willing to take care of them.
“This is about vulnerable children,” he said. “We can (process them) in a safe and orderly manner. We will succeed.”