WASHINGTON – As thousands of Honduran immigrants cross the U.S. border, the incoming Biden administration, just days after taking office, has a message: Don’t come now.
President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to put an end to the Trump administration’s tough immigration policies that focus on building the border wall and restricting asylum eligibility.
But those promises may be put to the test in the first days of the new government. If immigrants from Central America realize that now is the time to travel to the United States, the southern border will soon sink before the systems to handle arrivals are implemented.
A Biden change committee official said the idea that the Biden executive board could allow all senior asylum seekers to enter the United States one day was wrong.
“The situation at the border is not going to change overnight,” the change official told NBC News in an exclusive interview.
But the official declined to say when asylum seekers could come to the United States and whether they would be detained pending a court hearing.
9,000 Honduran settlers are fleeing food-scarce areas devastated by two hurricanes, drought and economic hardship. On Friday night, the Associated Press reported that about 2,000 members of the caravan had pushed past Guatemalan officials and entered Guatemala without showing documents or negative COVID screenings. The caravan is likely to reach the US border in the coming weeks.
Some may be motivated by the promise of an easy path to the United States, an increase in immigration in the past that has occurred around U.S. elections and power shifts. Shortly before Trump took office, migration increased in late 2016 and early 2017, with merchants from Central America coming to Southern California in 2018, around the midterm elections.
The administration’s immigration hawk, Trump adviser Stephen Miller, told reporters shortly before the 2020 election that Biden’s immigration policies were “open borders” and that the United States was a “sovereign nation.”
Prior to the recent caravan, tens of thousands of immigrants had already been detained by the Trump administration at the U.S. border and told to wait in Mexico until the court came to present their asylum cases. Many have abandoned and returned to the south, but thousands are in dire straits in northern Mexico
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the senior Biden change officer said those waiting at the border, along with other vulnerable people, would prioritize processing and entry over those who have recently arrived.
Immigrants trying to enter the United States to seek asylum in the first few weeks of the new administration “should understand that they cannot come to the United States immediately,” the official said.
The official stressed that any immigration law proposed by the Biden administration would be for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States and not those who are considering coming now.
The Biden administration wants to end the Trump administration’s practice of waiting for asylum seekers in Mexico, known as the Immigration Protection Code (MBP), but will not allow all immigrants to enter the United States at once once Biden is taken over. Office, the official said.
“There is help along the way, but now is not the time to make the trip,” the official said.
The incoming administration has also promised to lift Trump’s restrictions on asylum, which has drastically reduced the number of people eligible for protection.
Over time, the Biden administration plans to pave the way for the safe processing of migrants at the border and for asylum seekers to present their claims.
The interim official declined to give details about what immigrants traveling in the Honduran caravan will encounter when they reach the U.S. border under Biden’s administration, because they expect to receive more information about U.S. immigration processing skills after Biden takes office on Wednesday.
But, from Tuesday to Wednesday, things changed overnight and the ports were all open so that those in the caravan would not find out when they arrived at the US border that they could come to the US, the official said.
At the same time, the rates of Govt-19 are rising in the United States and around the world. The time it takes for the Biden administration to restart the process of migrants and asylum seekers on the southern border, the epidemic, is now setting up a much harder time to travel, the official said.
“We have to deliver a message, help and hope are coming, but coming right now does not mean their own safety … we are putting in place processes that they can access in the future,” the official said.