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Biden’s border actions do not impress, either in Texas or Mexico

A sign in Terrell County
Dudley Althaus
A sign in Terrell County

By Eduardo García, Alfredo Corchado and Dudley Althaus

SANDERSON – President Biden’s executive order to crack down on asylum seekers at the southern border not only put a damper on Mexico’s post-election celebration — the first woman president was just voted into office - it left residents along this stretch of the Texas border unimpressed.

Afterall, many of the undocumented migrants crossing through this area are Mexican men, traveling alone or in small groups, heading for jobs in oil fields, manufacturing plants and farm fields in the interior of the United States.

“Biden’s move is certainly a political stunt,” said Sheriff Thad Cleveland, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol before becoming sheriff. “We’re five months away from the election and this is pure politics. I also don’t think this is fair to our vecinos (neighbors) back in Mexico.”

Thad Cleveland, Sheriff (Courtesy: Dudley Althaus)

Terrell County, which runs along 54 miles of the Rio Grande in the Trans-Pecos region of central Texas, highlights a hidden irony: Many employers want to employ able-bodied Mexicans to work but are less welcoming to non-Mexican migrants.

In fact, Cleveland, 50, a Republican, has a message for Mexico’s newly-elected President Claudia Sheinbaum: “Let’s work together to provide more work permits for Mexican men, bring in guest workers. Our economy survives and thrives on illegal alien labor. That’s just a fact, and our neighbors to the south are the ones who migrate back and forth.”


Biden’s policy announcement last week was his latest attempt to bring some order to an overrun and chaotic border, mainly in Texas and California. It seeks to stop families, most coming from Central America, Venezuela, Haiti, Africa and elsewhere. They are further taxing an asylum system already stretched thin. Many thousands are currently huddled at the US-Mexico border seeking to cross and start their asylum bids.

The move jolted Mexico 's president Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his newly elected successor, Claudia Sheinbaum, who won overwhelming victories in last Sunday's vote.

Biden’s order sharply reduces the ability of migrants applying for asylum on US soil. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) quickly announced that it plans to legally challenge Biden’s executive action.

“On the migration front, we had been working well,” an irritated Lopez Obrado said early Tuesday at his regular meeting with the media. Adding that Mexico and the US need “a relationship of respect for our own sovereignties. We need to look for a policy of good neighbors and we need to protect our economic-trade integration.”

Summary of Biden’s executive actions on immigration:

  • If the number of migrants seeking U.S. asylum reaches a weekly average of 2,500 a day, the US can close the border to those seeking such protection.
  • Currently, the number of people requesting asylum already exceeds that figure. The restriction could be activated immediately, according to CBP.
  • Presently, those who cross illegally and claim asylum are released into the US, where they wait for months or even years for immigration court appearances that could come many months later.
  • If migrants can’t apply for asylum, those migrants will be stranded in Mexico. Many Mexican border towns and cities, as well as many deep in the heartland, already struggle with the inflow of migrants.
  • Biden’s ban will pause when arrests drop below an average of 1,500 per day for three weeks. The last time crossings fell to that level was at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-2020 when global travel nearly halted to a grind.
  • There are exceptions to these rules for unaccompanied children, for people who face a serious medical condition, for safety threats and for victims of trafficking.


The El Paso-based Hope Border Institute also sees Sheinbaum’s election as an opportunity to “reset migration policy priorities” between the two countries. It wants Mexico’s next president to reject such US policies as the criminalization of migrants and the deportation of those entering from such countries as Venezuela, Haiti and Mexico.

The extent of the migration flow through Mexico is evident in Mexico's capital. Migrants are now a visible presence there, engaging in various activities from sweeping the streets, collecting government electoral materials from polling stations, begging for money at street corners, to even rowing "trajineras", the famous human barges steering the Xochimilco canals in the southern part of the city.

Some migrants already straining some local services in Mexico. On Wednesday, Mexico’s National Guard, and immigration agents evicted migrants from a plaza in downtown Mexico City. Dozens of people from Haiti, Venezuela, and other countries had been camping there for months. Authorities said the migrants were taken to refugee centers in nearby states.

Mexican attitudes towards migrants vary depending on the travelers’ country of origin, according to a poll Puente News Collaborative, an El Paso-based non-profit organization.

A sign in Terrell County (Courtesy: Dudley Althaus)

The polls found 57% of Mexicans gave a good or very good approval rating to Chinese migrants living in the country. The approval declined to 39 percent for Guatemalans about the same percent for Venezuelans.

But the poll suggests most Mexican overwhelmingly favor issuing migrants temporary work permits. measure— rather than detaining them or building walls to stop them. Nearly two thirds opposed detaining migrants, while four in five are against building barriers to human flows.

Some Mexicans, however, still seeking a better life in the US, many of them running away from violence. More Mexican nationals returned home than left om the with years ending in 2016. But the balance has since turned, with more leaving, largely because of violence as well as economic reasons.

Last year, about 180,000 Mexicans migrated to the US, recently surpassed by 2019 200,000, according to the US Census Bureau and Department of Homeland Security.

Puente’s poll showed that more than a third of Mexico’s 128 million population would like to move and live in the US, though far few said they would do som without legal documents.

Sheinbaum takes office on October 1. She hasn’t commented on the Biden immigration ruling. Analysts believe she will support whatever measures López Obrador takes regarding migration flows and his negotiations with the US government.

However, once in power, Sheinbaum might aim to implement a more inclusive policy for those leaving their homelands to reach the US.

“With Claudia Sheinbaum, it’s likely that migration policy won’t change drastically”, said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington D.C.

“But she might focus more on intentionally integrating migrants and refugees in Mexico, as she did as mayor of Mexico City,” Selee said, “and on positioning Mexico as a leader on migration issues in the hemisphere.”

Before such a proposal is contemplated, Cleveland said, many Texans living along the border, want the chaos to be corralled.

A sign in Terrell County (Courtesy: Dudley Althaus)

“There’s some things we can fix on that part,” Cleveland said. “But first, again, we have to get back to securing our border. And we don't need to rely on Mexico to secure a border.”

About this story

This article is published in partnership with the Puente News Collaborative, a bilingual nonprofit newsroom, convener and funder whose mission is to provide high-quality news and information about the U.S.-Mexico border.

Alfredo Corchado is executive editor and correspondent for the collaborative. Eduardo Garcia, who has 30 years' experience as a financial journalist in Mexico, is a Puente News contributor. Journalist Dudley Althaus reported from Sanderson, Texas.

Article Topic Follows: Puente News Collaborative

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