“I can’t stand another meeting of them pretending,” said Ariana Saludares, a 40-year-old lawyer for Colores United, based in New Mexico, who was in attendance at the meeting. “They reward us on the outside, but on the inside we have to get the metaphorical knives out of our backs.”
The meeting and the walkout that followed were prompted by the administration’s plans to reinstate migrant protection protocols, also known as the “Stay in Mexico” policy. Court overturned Biden’s initial attempt to suppress Trump-era politics and administration announced Friday that from next month, they would reinstate the practice of forcing migrants at the southern border to wait in Mexico while awaiting their asylum hearings.
A White House official told POLITICO that “the Biden administration has been very clear that the MPP is not an immigration policy that we agree with or support. This is why the Department of Homeland Security immediately appealed the court injunction once it was ordered. In the meantime, the official said they had to comply with the law, and DHS announced plans to issue a new memo to get rid of the MPP. The official added: “We are incredibly grateful and appreciate the work immigration advocates and organizations are doing around the clock to improve our immigration system.”
But while the extension of the “Stay in Mexico” policy was the catalyst for the explosion on Saturday, it was not the only cause, defenders said. Tensions between the Biden administration and immigration advocates have been escalating for months and are only now coming to light. Activists, who have had regular calls with Biden officials throughout the year, are increasingly convinced that the administration’s decisions are largely politically motivated and that senior White House officials view the issue. border as a potentially toxic problem for Democrats.
“I think they are afraid of the backlash from anti-immigrant groups, and we will continue to remind them that this backlash will exist no matter what they do,” said Luis Guerra, 32-year-old strategic capacity manager at Catholic Legal. Immigration Network which left the meeting on Saturday. “We don’t think they are doing everything in their power to restore asylum at the border, as they say they are trying to do.”
Much of the anger also centers on the administration’s continued use and defense of Title 42, a public health order first used under Trump to deport migrants at the border over concerns over Covid -19. The Biden administration itself is divided over the continued use of this policy.
These differences came to light earlier this month after the administration used Title 42 to return dozens of Haitian migrants who had gathered at the Texas border. Harold Koh, senior advisor and sole political representative of the State Department’s legal team, recently left his post and sent an internal memo criticizing the administration’s treatment of Haitian migrants. In the memo, Koh called the continued use of Title 42 “illegal”, “inhumane” and “unworthy of this administration which I so strongly support.”
Activists’ anger at the administration is particularly acute as they now feel Democrats and Republicans are taking a nativist approach to immigration and have nowhere to turn.
“It’s almost like we’ve been made to believe this would be the best option, and it’s not. It’s actually worse, ”Saludares said. “It’s like you know your family is now turning on you and telling you it’s okay. It’s not.”