Increase in migrant detentions at US border reveals Trump's policy failure

Increase in migrant detentions at US border reveals Trump's policy failureExperts say officials have failed to acknowledge violence and instability in Central America and say system of ‘metering’ is not working Central American migrants at the border. In smaller border towns, such as Laredo in west Texas, only up to two people are being let in each day. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images A staggering increase in the number of families apprehended at the US-Mexico border in February has highlighted the Trump administration’s failure to respond to the rise in Central Americans seeking protection in the US. In February, 66,450 people were apprehended at the US-Mexico border by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency announced on Tuesday – 17,800 more than were apprehended in January and double the number who were apprehended in February last year. Despite well-documented problems with violence and political instability in the countries people are fleeing, the administration has instead blamed “activist courts, congressional inaction, and criminals”. As the homeland security, secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, testified publicly on Capitol Hill on Wednesday about the latest border developments, Michelle Brané, the director of the migrant rights and justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, told the Guardian it was unrealistic to only acknowledge the “pull factors” luring people to the US. “People know that it is harder than ever to get to the United States. They know that they face detention, and possible [family] separation. They know all of that and yet they are still coming,” Brané said. The majority of those apprehended in February were from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – the northern triangle countries beset by violence, systemic corruption and gang activity. These countries are also vulnerable to climate change, which has forced agricultural workers off their land and caused food insecurity. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not acknowledge the factors driving migrants to leave in its announcement about the new data. “The truth is that the politics and policies of open borders have failed the American people,” Nielsen said in a statement. Brané said that for decades the US has been seen as a place where migrants can seek asylum and receive protections, so the increase cannot simply be attributed to the potential to get immigration relief or jobs. “We need to look at what is driving people to come,” Brané said. About 90% of those apprehended in February were from Guatemala, where farmers are being driven off their land and violence is widespread. There was also a dramatic increase in the number of Hondurans apprehended – from 10,047 in January to 17,523 in February. Members of a caravan that left Honduras’s violent industrial hub, San Pedro Sula, in January complained of poverty, violence and political instability. There has been a marked increase in people fleeing Central America since October, and the Trump administration has changed the way people are processed for asylum at designated ports of entry and placed new restrictions on how many people can be seen at one time. These restrictions, known as metering, have left asylum seekers stranded in Mexican border towns, waiting weeks or months, to become one of the few people processed each day for asylum, according to a February report by the Robert Strauss Center’s Mexico Security Initiative, UC San Diego’s Center for US-Mexican Studies and the Migration Policy Centre. In smaller border towns, such as Laredo in west Texas, only up to two people are being let in each day, according to the report. In Tijuana, 60 to 80 people are processed each day, out of about 2,300 waiting for an average of six weeks. In December, 5,000 people were waiting there, but thousands have since abandoned the line to attempt crossing outside the checkpoint, to stay in Mexico or to return home. “It would be much better, for the migrants and for the government and for our policies, to be able to process people in an orderly fashion through ports of entry,” Brané said. “The administration’s policies that are driving people away from that do nothing but create more chaos and danger.” The apprehension figures published Tuesday are still below the rates in the 1990s and 2000s, when those seeking entry to the US were mostly Mexican men traveling by themselves instead of the Central American families leading the increase today.



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