WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is dispatching top officials to Mexico and Central America as the crisis on the southern U.S. border persists with a surge of asylum-seeking migrants who are fleeing their countries.
The crisis at the border has created a difficult situation for Biden, who is caught between his promises to progressives to establish a more humane immigration system and pressure from conservatives to send a tougher message to deter migrants from traveling to the U.S. to seek asylum. The influx has overwhelmed border facilities and driven the national conversation on immigration.
Roberta Jacobson, the National Security Council official overseeing border issues, was to travel to Mexico on Monday to jointly “develop an effective and humane plan of action to manage migration,” NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement Monday.
In addition, Juan Gonzalez, the White House’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere, plans to travel to Guatemala to discuss the “root causes of migration in the region and build a more hopeful future in the region,” Horne said.
She said Ricardo Zúñiga, the State Department’s envoy for the Northern Triangle region of Central America, will also be part of the efforts.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the State Department has run more than 17,000 radio ads across Latin American and more than 500 ads on social media telling migrants to stay in their home countries. Psaki declined again to characterize the situation as a crisis.
“Children presenting at our border who are fleeing violence or fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations, is not a crisis,” Psaki said Monday. “We feel that it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance and make sure they are treated and put into conditions that are safe.”
Meanwhile, a pair of senators who represent border states — John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. — wrote a letter Monday encouraging Biden to step up his efforts.
“Your administration should take immediate action in two areas: ensuring there are sufficient resources and facilities at the border to manage the crisis and taking concrete steps to improve the asylum process. Both of these are critical to improving how our nation manages this situation,” Cornyn and Sinema wrote.
They called on Biden to use his “full authorities” to mitigate the situation and develop “strategies to improve and streamline the asylum process” as facilities are overwhelmed by the influx.
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