/ Modified jan 29, 2021 1:45 p.m.

Shifting immigration polices under Biden and their impacts in Arizona

A look at early steps taken by the new president to address border security and immigration issues.

During his first week in office, President Biden signaled his immigration strategy will be a sharp departure from his predecessor’s with a series of executive orders that reversed the Trump Administration’s policies. Arizona 360 looked at some of the impacts of his early directives and checked in with those closely following what comes out of the White House. That includes the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Sonora. The nonprofit provides humanitarian aid to migrants and deportees. Director of Education and Advocacy Tracey Horan described the challenges migrants continue to face as a result of the Migrant Protection Protocols program, also known as “remain in Mexico,” enacted by the Trump Administration that prevented asylum seekers from entering the United States.

“We feel the urgency and the migrants that are here feel the urgency, because every day that they’re reading and they don’t have answers is another day their kids don’t have access to education. It’s another day that they’re in a cold room where they don’t have heat,” Horan said. “What we would hope for is to have more consensus from both sides of the aisle.”

The Biden Administration suspended new enrollments into the MPP program. But the Department of Homeland Security said in a press release that all of the program’s current participants should remain where they are pending more information from the federal government.

Policies from the Trump Administration meant to restrict entry into the U.S. have not deterred some from trying. According to data from Customs and Border Protection, the number of adults apprehended at the southwestern border in December rose nearly 180% compared to the previous year. Agents also encountered more unaccompanied minors. But the number of family units apprehended dropped by more than 50%. Factors driving emigration from Central America include the economic hardships brought on by the pandemic, according to Javier Osorio, an expert on criminal violence in Latin America and associate professor at the University of Arizona.

“Let’s keep an eye on the more important push factors that have to do with really bad economic conditions in Central America and Mexico caused by the COVID pandemic,” Osorio said. “So when we put things in comparison maybe yes, it could be a little bit of an effect of relaxing immigration policies in the U.S. as a pull factor. But when we consider the push conditions of economic hardship and insecurity in these countries, that really has a lot more weight in informing the decisions of these huge numbers of people moving across the border.”

Early steps on immigration taken by President Biden indicate a willingness to provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. Some of his early actions involved introducing the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, an immigration bill that would give so-called dreamers and other immigrants who qualify the ability to obtain green cards and apply for citizenship after a certain number of years. Biden also issued a memorandum to preserve and fortify DACA. As for how advocacy groups are responding to some of these early actions, we got analysis from Arizona Republic reporter Rafael Carranza.

President Biden’s order to stop construction on new border wall construction implemented by the Trump Administration concludes projects that offered some border communities an economic boost. In Douglas, some welcomed the influx of temporary workers, despite their own personal opinions about the project itself. Tony Paniagua spoke to city leaders and business owners about the wall’s financial impacts.

Cross-border travel restrictions between the U.S., Mexico and Canada are set to expire on Feb. 21, 2021, nearly a year after they took effect to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Suspensions on non-essential travel resulted in 43% fewer border crossings at Arizona’s international ports of entry, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Arizona 360 discussed how the drop in travel affected the economies of border communities with international trade adviser Luis Ramirez.

“Anywhere between 50% to as much as 70% of the sales tax revenue in those communities is directly attributable to the Mexican visitors,” Ramirez said.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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