Biden earmarks $46m for ‘unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs’

Humanitarian aid groups call for more assistance to Central American countries as US continues to expel majority of migrants arriving at border

Alex Woodward
New York
Saturday 12 June 2021 00:52
Kamala Harris calls GOP ‘shortsighted’ for criticism over migration comments

Joe Biden has assigned $46m to meet “unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs” for vulnerable migrants in Central America, the White House announced.

The allocation from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund will aid international relief organisations, which have urged the administration to address growing humanitarian crises in the region, stemming from devastated economies, food insecurity, the climate crisis and impacts of two recent hurricanes, and the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.

A recent report from the International Rescue Committee has recommended the administration provide direct cash support, shelter assistance, case management and better access to information for hard-to-reach populations, among other recommendations, for the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Law enforcement continues to expel the majority of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border under a public health order invoked by Donald Trump. More than 112,000 people were expelled under Title 42 provisions in May, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

The Biden administration has formally ended a Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy that forced thousands of migrants to remain on the other side of the southern border in potentially dangerous shelters while their asylum claims were processed in the US. Administration officials said more than 11,000 asylum applications have been processed, but the Title 42 policy remains in effect.

The migration assistance authorisation on 11 June follows vice-president Kamala Harris’s trip to Central America, where she met with officials to discuss the “root causes” of migration to the US-Mexico border, including violence and corruption abroad and poor labour protections.

She also announced compacts with Central American governments around addressing human trafficking and combating the flow of drugs to the border.

In remarks from Mexico on 8 June, she argued that “if it is a priority to us to be concerned with what is happening at our border, then it must be a priority for us to understand why people leave”.

The Department of Homeland Security also released its anticipated progress report on the state of family reunification efforts for the families still separated – or missing – after Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that sought to criminally prosecute asylum seekers and separated more than 5,000 families at the border.

A DHS task force discovered that 1,786 children were reunified with their families in the US and in their home countries, most of them prior to the creation of the task force within the first days of the Biden administration.

But there are an estimated 2,127 children “who may remain separated from their parents”, the report found.

Of the more than 1,600 parents and 400 children deported by the administration, they were together in only 2 per cent of those cases, according to the report.

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