U.S. border authorities plan to reopen four crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday following a drop in reported cases of illegal immigration. The passages were closed late last year when migrant crossings reached a record high of nearly 11,000 per day, straining U.S. border resources.
This comes as Congress remains in negotiations over a deal that would increase funding for U.S. border security, something both Republicans and Democrats have called for, albeit for different purposes. But the border funding is also tied to increased military aid for Ukraine, which some Republicans have balked at. “We gotta do something. They ought to give me the money I need to protect the border,” U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
The reopened crossings, which Mexican officials cheered on Tuesday, are just one piece in the two nations’ plans to tackle migration at the border. Last week, top U.S. officials and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledged to work more closely to address migration flows. Mexican officials have recently expanded immigration enforcement, in part by restarting repatriation flights for migrants from Venezuela.
Democrats might blink in battle over asylum restrictions to get Ukraine and Israel aid
Republicans in Congress, who want to further restrict asylum in the U.S. and make it easier for authorities to deport migrants who cross the southern border, are holding up Biden’s multi-billion-dollar national security package over the issue. The White House has signaled it is willing to accept severe limits on asylum and a vast expansion of detention and deportation efforts, CBS News reported. Without those concessions, additional military funding for Ukraine and Israel will continue to hang in the balance.
Mexico cheers on reopenings as economically beneficial to both countries
Mexico’s ministry of foreign affairs celebrated the reopenings of the four crossing points, saying the move would benefit the economies of both nations. In December, a leading Mexican business group called the U.S. decision to close two railway border crossings into Texas “a failure of migration policy” that was costing $100 million per day in delayed shipments. And the economic fallout was felt in both nations: the Arizona Republic reported that local businesses on both sides of the border were hit hard by the closures, with some cutting back on hours or temporarily closing their doors.
The drop in migrant crossings could be short-lived
Over the past week, U.S. border authorities arrested an average of 6,400 migrants per day. That’s a sharp drop from immigration levels before Christmas, but a U.S. official cautioned that migrant crossings have historically dropped between Christmas and New Years Day. Border Patrol also processed the highest-ever number of migrants who entered the U.S. illegally in December, taking more than 225,000 into custody. So while illegal crossings dipped over the holidays, overall levels still remain at a historic high.
Biden has expanded legal immigration pathways
Since entering office, the Biden administration has blamed the “broken immigration system” on outdated laws and increased global migration. In an effort to address this, Biden has expanded legal options for immigration, including humanitarian parole programs and easing some of the logistical burdens of immigration by launching a smartphone app that lets asylum seekers schedule appointments at official ports of entry. Officials said that fewer people have shown up at the border since these policies were enacted, though the numbers do appear to fluctuate.