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How Migrants Are Being 'Expelled' From The U.S. Border

A line of migrant women, some holding young children and infants and all wearing masks.
PBS NewsHour
/
YouTube

The Biden administration has been struggling to deal with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. The current increase is straining resources and sowing confusion for migrants on both sides of the border. Mallory Falk covers the U.S.-Mexico border for Texas KERA and the Texas Newsroom, a statewide public radio collaboration. She joins Hari Sreenivasan to explain what families at the border are going through and what policies are currently in place.

Watch the video from PBS NewsHour below.

How Migrants Are Being ‘Expelled’ From The U.S. Border

Read a transcript of the interview below.

Hari Sreenivasan: The Biden administration has been struggling to deal with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Yesterday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reportedly announced that he would be restructuring the Homeland Security Advisory Council, and ended the current term for its 32 members. Mayorkas said a new model for the committee would take a few weeks to put into place.

The current influx is straining resources and sowing confusion for migrants on both sides of the border. Mallory Falk covers the U.S.-Mexico border for Texas KERA and the Texas Newsroom, a statewide public radio collaboration. Mallory, why don't we start with just an update on what you're seeing at the border right now.

Mallory Falk: So over the past year, the federal government has been expelling most migrants and asylum seekers at the border under a public health order. Now, there's a stretch of the border in south Texas where Mexico is not accepting expelled families with very young children. And so they are being flown to places like El Paso, escorted to the middle of an international bridge that connects El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, and then expelled back into Mexico into a part of Mexico that will take them.

Sreenivasan: Now, you're saying the word expel that is different than deportation.

Falk: Yes, exactly. So deportation, there's really a formal process with expulsion. You're just kind of you're fingerprinted, some of your information is taken, and then you're just sent back across the border.

Sreenivasan: What's happening? Do they have the infrastructure to take this influx of individuals, families, children? Do they have a shelter kind of system?

Falk:There is a network of shelters that have been set up, some of them a couple of years ago when the Trump administration started to send asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their cases played out in U.S. immigration court. And so right now, some of those shelters are taking folks in. But there are also shelters that were set up specifically to quarantine migrants and asylum seekers who have been expelled for a couple of weeks before they move on to this larger shelter network. And those are pretty much full at this point. And so some of these other shelters are trying to create sort of makeshift quarantine spaces. But I visited a couple of shelters over the weekend. Directors there said they're really reaching capacity, if not at capacity already.

Sreenivasan: Do the people that are being led to this bridge, are they aware of what's happening to them?

Falk: The people I've spoken to describe a lot of confusion and disorientation and are kind of uncertain what really has happened to them. So people are voicing this confusion about if the U.S. is going to expel us, why are they moving us, in this case, some 800 miles away from where we first crossed the border?

Sreenivasan: What's the climate in the countries that they're coming from? Did they get the message that the United States border is open now that Joe Biden is president? I mean, what's incentivizing them to think that it's possible to come in?

Falk: I think some people are hearing this message. Some people are being deceived by smugglers and also are hearing, because some families are being released into the Rio Grande Valley, and so they're seeing some families are able to cross, and that's creating confusion. I spoke to a mother; her family fled the country, fled from El Salvador, the same day that a gang who she says killed one of their relatives had come in, damaged their home and taken over their home. So it's a real mix. And there are people who say, regardless of what the messaging is, we had to flee.

Mallory Falk is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Got a tip? Email Mallory at Mfalk@kera.org. You can follow Mallory on Twitter @MalloryFalk.

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