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Biden's new border enforcement plan is receiving criticism from all sides


President Biden's new border enforcement plan is receiving criticism from all sides. Republicans view it as too little, too late. Some Democrats think it doesn't address the humanitarian situation on the border. So let's ask an immigrant advocate who is actually there. Fernando Garcia is executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights. He joins us now from El Paso, Texas. Fernando, welcome to the show. What did you make of the president's visit there yesterday?

FERNANDO GARCIA: Hi, good morning. Well, I believe that there's a sense of some disappointment. And I don't believe that the president got to know the extent of the humanitarian crisis here in El Paso. We have a lot of families in the streets right now under freezing condition, many of them refugees asking for asylum. And they are being left in limbo because of the new policy.

BROWN: Now, your organization works with people on the ground. We heard that the president didn't run into any migrants yesterday on his visit. How will this change in plan affect your organization specifically?

GARCIA: Well, I mean, we are - been on the ground for the last - I mean, for many years. But in the last few weeks, we've been helping these refugee families that actually don't have anything in downtown El Paso and then be exposed to immigration raids. So we have been able to provide some kind of relief. But, I think, at the end of the day, I think we are very concerned that most of those families will be expelled under the new guidelines and the new policy of the president. And I think that is a horrible idea. I mean, we're having families that are literally looking for protection. And they don't have a solution right now.

BROWN: And more and more families seem to be coming. How is El Paso dealing with this crisis?

GARCIA: Well, you know, El Paso is very welcoming city. I mean, everybody's putting some effort together, I mean, NGOs, churches, local governments. But I do believe that this is not sustainable. I mean, this is - this needs a long-term solution. I mean, we had explained it in the past. We need welcoming centers in the long run where, in any crisis, the federal government will be able to actually run these welcoming centers and provide shelter, legal support and other services to these migrants because as much as we can do in El Paso, it's not enough.

BROWN: Yeah, the surges at the border are not new, Fernando. The - of course, the Biden administration says these new policies, though, will help relieve pressure on the overstretched immigration system. They also say it'll make the process of coming to the U.S. safe and humane. What do you think about these policies and how they'll play out starting now?

GARCIA: Listen, I've been doing this for 25 years. I don't believe that these new guidelines and these new policies at the border are going to make any difference. I mean, it doesn't resolve the root causes of migration. It doesn't resolve the asylum - broken system. I mean, we cannot think that just one online application is going to resolve the need for people coming, looking for protections. But I think what is very sad is that the president once criticized Title 42, which is a health provision used by the Trump administration as an enforcement - anti-immigrant agenda. And now he's expanding it to these other communities. So what we're going to see in the short run is thousands of Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans being expelled massively to Mexico.

BROWN: So, Mr. Garcia, if you had a chance to make a change and could get the administration to go along with it, what would that be?

GARCIA: Three things. The first one would be to provide some kind of way - some kind of parole for those refugees, migrants that are already in the United States, those ones that are in the streets right now under freezing conditions. They need that human approach, a humanitarian solution. Secondly, I think the president should have more heavily investment on welcoming centers along the border. And finally, I think there's this idea that we need to accomplish immigration reform. And I think, even though it's going to be complicated due to the congressional composition right now, I think it's urgent to start serious conversations about it.

BROWN: Thank you so much. Fernando Garcia is executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights. He spoke with us from El Paso. Thank you.

GARCIA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.