The Biden administration has requested $7.99 billion from Congress this week for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) for the 2022 fiscal year. This represents an increase in the mean average spent by Trump on ICE during his administration. The Biden presidential campaign received more money than the Trump campaign from companies in the border industry, with Biden promising these companies a ‘smart wall’ including surveillance towers with night vision and thermal energy cameras as opposed to the physical wall that Trump began constructing. This strategy of using surveillance follows the decades-long US border policy laid out in the 1994 border patrol manual of ‘prevention through deterrence’, forcing migrants into ‘more hostile terrain, less suited for crossing and more suited for enforcement’.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump enacted ‘Title 42’ last year, an executive order aimed at closing off the Southern border and making migration even more perilous. Biden has continued to use Title 42 to expel adult migrants and families as soon as they reach U.S. soil, even though people have the right to seek asylum under both federal and international law. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended Biden’s overcrowded detention centres for migrant children by saying “the border is closed. We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults.”
In a press conference with the Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei this week, Kamala Harris has also sparked controversy by telling would-be migrants “do not come, the US will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.” Harris also stated that the administration’s goal was to “help Guatemalan migrants find hope at home”. Given the US’ history of brutal neo-colonial domination of Guatemala, it is unlikely that these words will actualize. In reality, US policy seems to be to give Guatemalans a choice between an increasingly dangerous border crossing that sees over 100 people die each year, or remaining in a country beset by highly exploitative foreign investment and savage climate change.
Alec Smith, is a member of the YCL West Yorkshire branch