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Understanding how Biden’s immigration blueprint will affect El Paso

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Photo by Justin Hamel

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — On Tuesday, the Biden Administration released a new blueprint for immigration that builds on the work done over the course of the last six months.

KTSM 9 News analyzed the plan and spoke with the Republican National Committee (RNC) and local border experts on what Biden’s plan means for the Borderland.

Ensuring a secure, humane and well-managed border is a top item listed in the blueprint, which directly affects El Paso.

“It’s clear that the Biden border crisis has continued to rage out of control. And I think for Texans — specifically living in El Paso — I think they need to believe it when they see it,” said Michael Joyce, RNC Regional Communications Director.

The plan includes making better use of existing border enforcement resources.

The  U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s budget grew by more than $5 billion in the last 10 years and Biden’s blueprint will redirect funding from the last administration’s border wall to invest in border technology and modernize ports of entry.

The Administration said the investments will function as a strengthening force to the more than 19,500 Border Patrol agents securing the border, as well as the more than 25,500 CBP agents working at land, air and sea ports.

“Typically, resources along the border between ports of entry really need three things: it’s border infrastructure, which could be border barriers, it could be roads, it could be lighting; personnel, having the right people; and the last piece — technology,” said Victor Manjarrez, director of UTEP’s Center for Law and Behavior, and a retired CBP chief.

Funds will also be used to facilitate increased security screenings to combat human smuggling and trafficking, as well as entry of undocumented immigrants.

Already, dozens of migrants have been literally and figuratively led through the desert by human traffickers who convince them to pay exorbitant fees only to leave them to die in the desert heat of West Texas.

“In the blueprint that talks about human smuggling — that’s a great thing. Being able to work with other governments and other agencies that truly make it a transborder crime,” said Manjarrez.

In April, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Operation Sentinel, a counter-network targeting operation focused on combating transnational criminal organizations involved in migrant smuggling.

“Smuggling operations continue to lie and exploit vulnerable populations to promote their criminal enterprise — the health and safety of migrants does not influence their lucrative ambition,” said Troy Miller, CBP Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner, in a statement. “This operation is designed to disrupt every facet of the logistical network of these criminal organizations. Our goal is to enhance the security of the U.S. border and help save the lives of those who are preyed upon by these unscrupulous criminals.”

Manjarrez describes human trafficking and smuggling rings of decades ago as “mom and pop shops,” whereas today’s enterprises are buttressed on sophisticated criminal networks across different countries.

The blueprint promises to work with regional governments to investigate and prosecute people responsible for migrant smuggling, human trafficking or other crimes against migrants.

“Human smuggling here is very organized, very complex and — no doubt — very ruthless,” said Manjarrez. “To be able to get other governments involved from origin country to destination point in the U.S., should really make a difference.”

Another aspect of the blueprint is to improve the expedited removal process for those arriving at the border.

The U.S. Department of Justice reversed two Trump-era rulings on June 16, 2021, that further restricted asylum protections for victims of domestic and gang violence, much to the chagrin of the RNC.

“I think for folks who live in El Paso and in the Rio Grande Valley, they continue to witness this crisis,” Joyce said.

The Administration said its working to optimize the removal of individuals arriving at the border without legitimate asylum claims or other forms of protection.

“Those not seeking protection or those who don’t qualify will be promptly removed,” reads the White House fact sheet on the plan.

Other measures will include facilitating secure management of borders in the region by providing training and technical assistance, supporting improvements of border infrastructure and technology, as well as promoting collaborative migration and other border management approaches. 

These improvements could prove lucrative for the Borderland.

“Increased technology and things of that nature does wonders for El Paso’s economy,” said Manjarrez. “It has the potential to make infrastructure improvements and to process and facilitate legitimate trade and travel.”

Biden can only accomplish so much through executive authority, and is now calling on members of Congress to pass reconciliation legislation.

For example, the U.S. Citizenship Act, which would reunite families, give families access to a workforce that includes full labor rights and create a path to citizenship for those already living and working in the country. Moreover, the Dream and Promise Act and Farm Workforce Modernization Act would create paths to citizenship for DREAMers, TPS recipients and more.

The RNC would like the executive branch of government to get a grasp on immigration along the U.S.-Southern border before calling on Congress.

“I don’t think that we can have a substantial talk about immigration reform or any other types of reform until we get the crisis under control at our southern border,” he said.

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