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President-elect Joe Biden will take office amid a surge in detentions at the Mexican border, reportedly prompting his advisers to consider keeping some Trump administration immigration policies to avoid inspiring an even bigger rush.
The uptick threatens Biden’s promises to propose amnesty legislation and to adopt policies that defer deportation and allow applicants to await amnesty decisions in the US.
The Wall Street Journal reports the transition team “has grown concerned” and is “trying to decide which policies to change and when” to avoid “creating the appearance of leniency.”
The number of unaccompanied minors and families detained at the border is rising and experts say they expect numbers to grow further.
“I don’t see any recipe that doesn’t have them as overwhelmed as we were in ’14 and ’18,” former Border Patrol acting director Ron Vitiello told the Journal.
The Journal reports 4,630 minors were detained in October, up from 712 in April. The rate grew in November, with 1,000 minors in just six days.
There’s a similar increase in family units, up to 4,501 in October from 716 in April.
Biden spokesmen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Immigration was a major campaign issue, with Biden and President Trump swapping allegations of treating illegal immigrants and asylum seekers inhumanely.
“Who built the cages, Joe?” Trump repeatedly inquired at the final presidential debate.
Biden said last month he will propose a bill in his first 100 days in office that offers a pathway to citizenship “for over 11 million undocumented people,” or the approximate total number of illegal immigrants in the US, creating a possible scramble to the border.
He also has vowed to end Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy, forcing Central American migrants to stay in Mexico while the US reviews their asylum claims.
Under former President Barack Obama, border officials struggled in 2014 with a surge in unaccompanied minors. Some were drawn by hoped-for future expansion to the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers work permits and protection from deportation to people brought illegally to the US as children.
Some photos of the children detained in 2014 were used by media outlets to criticize Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” policy for illegal crossings.
While Biden was vice president, Obama was derisively called the “deporter in chief” by left-wing immigration activists. Trump, who campaigned against illegal immigration and built a large new border wall, lagged behind Obama in annual deportation figures.