Several young people are show from their neck down and wearing sweatshirts and jeans and many with pink tennis shoes.

Migrant teens line up for a class at a "tender-age" facility for babies, children and teens, in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, in San Benito, Texas 2019. With its long-term facilities for immigrant children nearly full, the Biden administration is working to expedite the release of children to their relatives in the US.

Credit:

Eric Gay/AP/File photo

Along the US-Mexico border, the number of migrants trying to enter the United States is increasing dramatically. Most are being turned away by the US in the name of COVID-19 health precautions.

At the same time, the Biden administration is allowing unaccompanied children to enter the United States. Host Marco Werman speaks with Enrique Valenzuela, who works for the state of Chihuahua in Mexico, near the Texas border.

TRANSCRIPT:

Marco Werman:
Along the US Mexico border, the number of migrants trying to enter the United States is increasing dramatically. Most are being turned away by the US in the name of COVID-19 health precautions. At the same time, the Biden administration is allowing unaccompanied children to enter the US. Enrique Valenzuela has a unique view of the situation. He works for the state of Chihuahua in Mexico, which borders Texas. Valenzuela joins us from Ciudad Juárez, just across the border from El Paso. Enrique, you've worked on the ground, have seen these swings for years. What are you seeing now? What's different today?

Enrique Valenzuela:
We're receiving a lot of people that are being sent back to this border because of this Title 42. It's not a migration policy, but it is a health policy, we understand. Because of, well, of course, the pandemic of COVID-19. And at this point, we are receiving a large number of people that are arriving here and that need well, humanitarian assistance, of course.

Marco Werman:
Title 42 invoked by Trump is still being used by Biden, correct?

Enrique Valenzuela:
Yes, yes, yes. Actually, it's still operating at this point. People that cross the border — and even if that they are seeking some kind of international protection as asylum, they are being sent back. Either if they're from Central America or elsewhere or Mexican, even. They are all being sent back.

Marco Werman:
You've been encountering, Enrique, these people in Juárez after they've been sent back from the US border. What have those meetings been like?

Enrique Valenzuela:
Well, when we receive these large numbers of people, of course, they are very disappointed. We see sad faces. We see people that did not expect to be returned to Mexico at some point. Because they arrived here for some reason hopeful that they would be received in the US. And well, after they see that this wasn't the case and that this didn't didn't happen, well, the first thing we tell them is that this is not the time to come to this border and to try to get to the US. Because ultimately a pandemic is going on. And there are some measures that have been taken by the US government.

Marco Werman:
Enrique, you say it's not the time, but a lot of those people have heard from sources not terribly reliable, in many cases human smugglers, that the border is open — that President Biden is different from President Trump. So are you surprised by this? Did you think things would change with Biden in the White House?

Enrique Valenzuela:
I think many people were hopeful since they knew that the election was won by President Biden. At some point, of course, people were tricked into thinking that the US opened its doors all the way to people seeking international protection. But (the) thing is, it's important for people to know that this is not the time. And if anybody is taking advantage of the situation, such as smugglers telling them that, 'OK, this is now the time.' Well, they're making a business out of this. It's important for people to know, no, this is not accurate.

Marco Werman:
Migrants are being told to wait in Mexico. They're being told to not come now. But can people wait?

Enrique Valenzuela:
Oh, I'm not sure many people can wait. For example, a large number of people that we have received just lately, a lot of them said, 'well, we'll stay here just to wait.' And they ask us constantly, 'when will the border, when will they open?' And we have to say, as it is, we have no idea. We do not know. This does not depend on a decision that is to be taken on this side of the border. And also, of course, it depends on the situation with the pandemic.

Marco Werman:
Enrique Valenzuela is a coordinator in Chihuahua state for the Mexican government's migration efforts. He's been speaking with us from Ciudad Juárez.

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