Under a Trump-era public health order known as Title 42, the Biden administration had been rapidly expelling border-crossers to Mexico. The allows migrants, including families, to be “expelled” to Mexico or their home countries. But in late January, Mexican authorities stopped taking back some of the families — a step that further exacerbated the influx.
In a move to circumvent the refusal of authorities in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas who stopped accepting the return of families with younger children, families are now returned via El Paso to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico far from where they were apprehended.
Some families caught at the border in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley said in interviews they were flown to El Paso, Texas, after being held in custody just a few days. From there, they were escorted by U.S. officials to the international bridge to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, around 800-miles (1,300 km) away from where they were first picked up by U.S. border patrol agents.
The recently returned complained that they were given little notice, not told where they were going and had no opportunity to review or sign extradition paperwork. But warnings along the way have existed throughout various administrations.
“We have 25 plus years of messaging in Mexico and Central America, from placards on buses and bus shelters to radio spots and more, saying, ‘Don’t come, it’s dangerous,’ and for 25 years that message has been completely unheard.”
Shortly before Christmas last year, Susan Rice and Jake Sullivan, two top advisers to President-elect Joe Biden, sat for an interview with EFE, a Spanish wire service, to issue a stark warning to migrants considering journeying north to the nation’s southern border: Don’t come now — but help is on the way.
The administration also took several steps — including saying it would allow unaccompanied minors into the country, however, that increased the flow of migrants and encouraged more to try their luck.
“We made the choice that we don’t want to be an administration that — if we can help it — has to turn back kids,” Rice, Biden’s domestic policy adviser, said in an interview. “We’re basically having to build the plane as we’re flying.”