WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is signaling it is worried that migrants believe it's now easier to cross the border, as a rising number of migrants are attempting to cross into the United States from Mexico.
The Biden administration expects the influx to hit a 20-year high this year.
So why are so many migrants trying to travel to the United States? Republicans and Democrats have different versions of what’s happening.
But both Texas Democrats and Republicans say they’ve seen this surge of migrants at the southern border play out before, once in 2014 under President Barack Obama, and then in 2019 under President Donald Trump. Different presidents and a different set of policies.
“Well, I think it’s a substantial problem. I think what we’ve learned from 2019 and since then is that cruelty is not an effective deterrent,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, referring to policies put in place by Trump. “Whether these young people and others come to our country has much more to do with conditions in their country than what we’re doing in ours.”
But now the situation is more difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic that has drained government resources, according to Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas.
“So it’s monumentally worse for our country and the migrants seeking to come here. They’re getting packed into these facilities where you now have to deal with virus spreading,” Roy said.
Republicans are accusing President Biden of causing a migration crisis by scrapping Donald Trump’s strict immigration policies. They also say Biden is promising new arrivals they could one day become citizens.
“And so now it’s just a massive flood of migrants coming up and the Biden administration doing nothing about it,” Roy said.
Some Republican lawmakers say human traffickers are telling migrants that Biden’s policies make it easier to cross the border.
Biden has pushed back against Republians' criticism of his handling of the border. He says migration is cyclical and places blame on the conditions of the migrants’ home countries, such El Salvador and Guatemala.
Also causing problems, two hurricanes hit Central America in November, making living conditions worse. Latin America already was plagued by poverty and violence.
One of the major elements of this migrant wave is the number of children crossing. While the Biden White House is turning most adult migrants back, officials are taking in unaccompanied children. According to reports, more than 18,000 children were in federal custody as of Thursday. Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas, saw the Donna facility first-hand Monday.
“What we saw at the Donna facility today is completely unacceptable,” said Van Duyne. “You know, I think having children separated from their families, and driven or flown thousands of miles into a foreign country is not the way to go.”
Van Duyne says they reported having space for a few hundred people, but were sheltering thousands at the Customs and Border Protection facility.
She said, there are about “4,600 to 4,700 kids that are there right now when they’re only supposed to have 250.”