More than 1.7 million migrants have been detained by U.S. authorities along the United States-Mexico border this year—becoming the highest number of border arrests ever recorded, according to data by the U.S Customs and Border Protection.
Despite President Joe Biden’s campaign promise to modernize the U.S. immigration system and tackle the root causes of irregular migration, the numbers of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. have soared since he was elected.
During his campaign, Biden called out Donald Trump for using family separation at the borders as a weapon against families fleeing their countries in search of a better life.
“Trump has waged an unrelenting assault on our values and our history as a nation of immigrants,” according to Joe Biden’s website. “It’s wrong and it stops when Joe Biden is elected president.”
But recent events have led Biden’s supporters to wonder whether he really has immigrants’ best interest in mind. Over the course of two weeks in September, U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended or expelled about 30,000 migrants seeking asylum in the U.S.
The agents were seen on horseback, armed with whips as they tried to prevent the migrants, who were primarily Haitian, camping near the Rio Grande from crossing the river. Biden denounced the treatment of the migrants by U.S. authorities, taking full responsibility for the incident during a speech on Sept. 24.
“It was horrible,” Biden said. “To see people treated like they did: horses nearly running them over and people strapped. It’s outrageous.”
Elizabeth Ricci, a Florida lawyer who has been practicing immigration law for over 20 years, said the increase in migrants at the border is the result of people fleeing violence and corruption in their countries.
“One of the big problems is America has a huge appetite for drugs,” Ricci said. “Because of that, the drug trade is ruining countries from where the drugs stem, places like Honduras and Guatemala.”
Ricci said drug traffickers decimate towns fighting over drug delivery routes. Due to this, crime increases in these places, and people flee to the U.S.
“Unfortunately, fleeing those conditions does not make them eligible for asylum,” she said. “[But] it’s better to be here undocumented than living where they were before risking crime and starvation.”
Biden has been touting a new “humane” immigration system, sending Congress legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship and fix problems at the border, according to a White House press release in January.
But Ricci said the president can only do so much and historically, Congress has been divided on the issue, making it difficult for legislation, such as a new immigration bill, to pass.
Still, Hikaru Karina Tamashiro, a fourth-year marketing major at Long Beach State, doesn’t think the Biden administration has done enough to push for new policies.
“[The way Biden] is dealing with immigration issues right now just proves that he just kind of broke his word when it came to immigration policies,” Tamashiro said. “It sucks that when you’re an undocumented person, you don’t really have a lot of control when it comes to immigration policy. You just have to wait.”
Born in Japan to Peruvian parents, Tamashiro understands the plight of immigration well, having moved to the U.S. when she was four years old.
“I feel like a lot of people just don’t realize how hard it is, the immigration process, and how expensive it is,” she said. “[My parents] had friends here to help them transition into American life. But I think for them it was still a struggle because they still had to deal with immigration policies.”
Cecilia Flores immigrated with her family from Zacatecas, Mexico to California when she was three years old. Now, she is a third-year student at Long Beach State, majoring in adaptive physical education.
Flores considers herself an advocate for immigrant rights, attending rallies with her mother and older sister. She said Biden has created a safer environment for immigrants as opposed to Trump but remains uncertain on whether he will create a path for citizenship.
“[Biden] proposes things to make himself looks like he cares,” Flores said. “But I feel like it’s never going to go through.”
While she said it feels “selfish” to prioritize any one group for the path to citizenship, Flores would like people such as her mother, who never got to see her parents alive again after immigrating, to be empathized when politicians discuss immigration policies.
“Hopefully it gets better, I do have faith,” Flores said. “My only option [for citizenship] would either be to marry [a U.S. citizen]. The other option would be to gain citizenship through something that the president brings in.”