Roberta Jacobson occupies a new and sensitive position in the United States government: special assistant to President Joe Biden and coordinator for the border with Mexico. In the orbit of this diplomat with long experience in Latin America, there is everything from national security issues to immigration emergencies. His challenge is to build a new border policy after four years in which the Donald Trump government prioritized erecting a wall and closing the way to Latin American migrants.
As part of the change, Jacobson says in an interview with that the US will process as quickly as possible some 25,000 asylum requests from people who have been waiting in a precarious situation for months in Mexico. These are cases included in the Protocol for the Protection of Migrants (PPM), also known as “Stay in Mexico,” launched by Trump so that asylum seekers could remain in that country while the US slowly processed their requests.
Some of those migrants will gradually begin to enter the United States from Friday, February 19, after receiving an appointment and passing a covid-19 test. But Jacobson admits there are other challenges at the border, such as an unexpected increase in the number of migrant families since Biden took office on January 20, lured by his new policies.
And it warns that the vast majority of people who try to cross the border irregularly are not going to enter the United States. The following is a summary edited for clarity of the telephone dialogue with this former US ambassador to Mexico, who resigned in 2018 due to disagreements with Trump The Biden administration announced that it will begin processing applications to the US for migrants who were forced to remain in Mexico under PPM. According to official figures, about 25 000 active cases are pending. How long do you estimate it will take to process all of them?
We don’t really know how long it will take. That depends a lot on how many people are still near the border, ready to cross. And perhaps others will take longer. The truth is that we are going to process people as quickly as possible under a pandemic situation. We have to take care of public health. That is why I want to emphasize that it is very important that people who do not have an appointment scheduled please stay where they are and do not try to cross the border until they receive the call.
L is asking n those people to stay where they are. But many have been living in Mexico for months in very precarious conditions, in camps, in the midst of a pandemic, some under the freezing temperatures of recent days. How will they make sure these migrants stay that way instead of trying to cross the border in another way? We are going to ensure that we are prioritizing the most vulnerable people, knowing full well that many are suffering a very difficult situation. But we want to attend to people for example who have health problems, who are elderly or have children, or perhaps people who are in Matamoros, as quickly as possible.
And Then Maybe The People Who Have Been There For Months Or Years.
Knowing that the situation is very serious, especially with this cold that has started in Mexico and Texas, we want to work very hard. But the truth is that at least there is a process that we are beginning and that is why people should not endanger their health and the health of their family, crossing irregularly. I understand that you cannot give an exact date of how long it will take to process all such cases. But are we talking about weeks, months, or years? No, certainly not years. We may be talking in months, but hopefully, we can process people in weeks. That is the context in which we are working.
There are reports that at least a part of those asylum seekers covered by the PPM feel disappointed or even betrayed by a growing flow of people crossing the border without authorization instead of following the rules as they do. Do you see the risk? of a border crisis if this situation continues? I imagine a situation like that and I totally understand that waiting for people think is not fair. The truth is that the vast majority of people who try to cross the border irregularly are not going to enter the US a few crosses successfully. That is why I say that it is really worth waiting for that asylum process because if not, there is much more risk. Do you have concrete information about the increase in the number of immigrants without papers in the last days and weeks?
We’ve seen in recent weeks, especially after President Biden’s inauguration, that the numbers are increasing numbers of families, numbers of children, and numbers of adults. The truth is that this was not exactly foreseen, but it is a bit logical because we have a lawsuit after four years of the Trump administration. Above we have seen two hurricanes in Central America. So there are very difficult situations for people and the deprivations are quite serious. We want to recognize this with many programs, this is the commitment of the Biden administration so that they can work in the US temporarily, to get to the US.
The truth is that most are not going to qualify for asylum in the US and that is why we want to create another way to get to the US legally if we are talking about farm work or other temporary work, Those are programs that we have to restore. If this increase in the number of irregular migrants continues at the border, what would a crisis at the border mean for those migrants and for the Biden administration in these attempts to establish a more humane treatment for them? I cannot say that it is a crisis because we are attending and we are going to accelerate the care and the asylum process in the coming weeks.
But what we can say is that people in Mexico have already waited too long for the opportunity to present their asylum application. It is a reflection of the desperation of the people that the numbers have increased so much. Although it is very difficult, we want to emphasize that now is not the time to reach the border because the situation has not changed. And if you are a person in that PPM we will attend to your case as soon as possible. It’s a commitment from President Biden. But is it possible that this measure they are taking to start allowing long-awaited asylum seekers into the US has a “knock-on effect for other migrants to try the same? I understand that at times the humane policies of this administration can serve as a factor in attracting people to the border.
What I can also say is that it is not the time to get to the border now, because we are going to implement other ways to get to the US legally, from your country. We have a message of hope but we are a country of laws and we are still implementing our law at the border. I imagine that if the situation at the border worsens, politically at the domestic level there may be repercussions that hamper the general migration plans of the Biden government. We are still very confident that we can implement immigration reform, President Biden’s plan that is going to advance in Congress this week. It’s another way of trying to solve the problem, not exactly like the last few times.
That is why it was so important to introduce it on the first day of your term. Frankly, those who oppose reform are going to use any situation to oppose it. Is the US receiving the cooperation it expects from Mexico, whose authorities have stopped accepting families sent by the US in some areas of the border? We are receiving excellent cooperation from the Mexican government. Sometimes temporarily there are capacity problems on both sides of the border, but we are working very well with Mexico. And we are very excited to continue attacking this problem and the root causes (of emigration) in the countries, which are the lack of economic opportunities and security. That is the way to change the situation forever.