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AOC demands Biden ‘reverses’ border wall construction

  • AOC demanded Biden ‘reverse course’ after DHS announced plans for new wall
  • Separately, administration announced deportation of Venezuelans will resume
  • Venezuelans fleeing failing socialist state are now the largest group of migrants

The Biden administration will resume deporting Venezuelans in another stark reversal on migration policy – as staunch Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed the president for his ‘cruel’ move to resume border wall construction. 

Ocasio-Cortez shamed President Joe Biden and urged him to ‘reverse course’ after he launched new stretches of border barriers, a signature policy of Donald Trump that Biden previously decried.

Following a large surge in the number of migrants illegally crossing into the US from Mexico, the Biden administration said this week it would waive 26 federal laws to build additional sections of border wall in Starr County, Texas

In a statement on Thursday night, the New York congresswoman slammed the move, saying: ‘The Biden administration was not obligated to expand border wall construction — and it was certainly not obligated to waive several environmental laws to expedite construction.’

‘A wall does nothing to stop people fleeing poverty and violence from coming to the United States…Walls only serve to push migrants into more remote areas, increasing their chances of death. It is a cruel policy,’ she added.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shamed Biden and urged him to ‘reverse course’ and after he waived 26 federal laws to start constructing a new ‘physical barrier’ that was started under Donald Trump
A U.S. Border Patrol agent supervises as immigrants walk into the United States after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico on September 30, 2023 in Eagle Pass, Texas. The agent had cut coils of razor wire to let them pass through for processing

Ocasio-Cortez went on to blame US sanctions on Venezuela for the current surge in migration, saying the country must ‘re-examine policy towards Latin America.’

Meanwhile, the US will resume deporting Venezuelan migrants, the largest single group encountered at the southern border last month, back to their economically troubled socialist country.

AOC’s full statement on Biden’s new border wall

‘The Biden administration was not required to waive several environmental laws to expedite the building of the border wall. The President needs to take responsibility for this decision and reverse course.

‘A wall does nothing to deter people who are fleeing poverty and violence from coming to the United States. You do not risk your life or your children’s’ lives going through the Darién Gap or traversing hundreds of miles of desert if you have any other options. Walls only serve to push migrants into more remote areas, increasing their chances of death. It is a cruel policy.

‘Instead, the US must take examining the root of migration more seriously, re-examine policy towards Latin America, and stop contributing to the destabilization that drives migration – as Senator Marco Rubio’s Venezuela sanctions have done. We also have to finally invest in meaningful immigration reform.’

Speaking in Mexico City Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, said the new measure is one of the ‘strict consequences’ the Biden administration will use in tandem with the expansion of legal pathways for asylum seekers.

‘Our two countries are being challenged by an unprecedented level of migration throughout our hemisphere,’ Mayorkas said, referring to Mexico, where he joined a high-level delegation of US Cabinet officials to hold security talks.

The repatriation flights are expected to begin shortly, two US officials told the AP, though they did not provide specific details on when the flights would begin taking off. 

The resumption of deportation flights comes not long after the administration increased temporary protected status for thousands of Venezuelans who had previously arrived to the US. 

They must have entered the country before July 31 of this year to be eligible for the protected status, meaning thousands that continue to cross the border will not receive the same reprieve from deportation.

In making the recent expansion of protections official, Biden’s administration said just this week that it had determined that ‘extraordinary and temporary conditions continue to prevent Venezuelan nationals from returning in safety.’

Venezuela has plunged into economic and political crisis over the past decade under socialist rulers Hugo Chavez and Nicholas Maduro, marked by hyperinflation, widespread starvation, and soaring crime and political violence.

Mayorkas on Thursday addressed the contrast with the announcement just days later of more deportations, saying ‘we have made a determination it is safe to return Venezuelan nationals who arrived in the United States subsequent to July 31 and do not have a legal basis to remain here.’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who led the US delegation to Mexico, added that ‘we have an ironclad commitment to provide protection for those who qualify. That remains paramount in everything we’re doing.’

The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service criticized the move to resume deportations noting the apparent contradiction with the expansion of temporary protected status.

Cabinet officials (left to right) Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas are seen on a visit to Mexico on Thursday for ‘high level security talks’ on migration and the border
US and Mexican officials are seen at the meeting. The government of Mexico committed to the United States to continue with “forceful” actions on migration and “assisted returns,” said Alicia Barcena, Mexican Foreign Minister

‘Returning thousands of Venezuelans to the same unimaginably dangerous conditions they just fled is a profoundly problematic policy for the world’s humanitarian leader to adopt,’ the organization’s CEO Krish O’Mara Vignarajah said in a statement.

Administration officials would not discuss details about how frequently deportation flights would be going to Venezuela or describe how Venezuela agreed to accept back their citizens except to say that, like other countries around the world, the US has long encouraged Venezuela to accept back its nationals. 

Cuba, another US adversary, announced earlier this year that it would begin accepting Cuban deportees but there has only been one flight a month.

The US had been returning some Venezuelans via commercial flights, but in relatively small numbers and through third countries.

In Venezuela, the government said it had reached an agreement with US officials for a safe and orderly repatriation.

‘Venezuelan migration in recent years is a direct result of the application of unilateral coercive measures and a blockade of our economy,’ Venezuela’s foreign ministry said via X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. It said the government would support repatriated Venezuelans.

The US move is the latest effort to deal with swelling numbers of migrants as the administration comes under increasing pressure from Republicans and mayors from the president´s own party to do more to slow arrivals.

The announcement came as Blinken and other top Biden administration officials met with their counterparts in Mexico City on security issues.

Blinken discussed migration flows with Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Alicia Bárcena, as well as foreign ministers from Panama and Colombia, Wednesday. 

Talks continued Thursday, including meetings by Blinken and US Attorney General Merrick Garland with López Obrador.

Bárcena said that some 10,000 migrant encounters were registered at the US-Mexico border on Wednesday.

‘We are going to continue taking forceful actions, including continuing some efforts we already have in relation to assisted returns, coordinating the dismantling of trafficking networks and human trafficking,’ Bárcena said.

Blinken said the US government is working to support those efforts.

‘We’re taking steps to aid the most vulnerable, those most vulnerable to organized crime, training nearly 200 Mexican immigration officials to better screen, identify and assist potential human trafficking victims,’ Blinken said.

‘The scale of this challenge demands that we redouble our efforts, that we do more to increase legal migration … more to address root causes and more to deter irregular migration humanely,’ Blinken said.

Migrants, most from Venezuela, walk past the Puente Negro Ferrocarril train bridge while surrendering to authorities after wading across the Rio Grande river into the US on Thursday
US Border Patrol agents escort migrants, who crossed the border between the United States and Mexico, through a gate in the border wall to be processed in El Paso on Thursday

López Obrador said Thursday during his daily news briefing that Mexico has reiterated in talks its position that there should be investment to spur development in the countries that migrants leave.

‘The people don’t abandon their towns because they want to, but rather out of necessity,’ the president said. 

He also criticized the Biden administration’s announcement Wednesday that it waived 26 federal laws in South Texas to allow border wall construction. López Obrador had previously praised Biden for not building more border wall during his presidency.

In August, the US Border Patrol made 181,509 arrests at the Mexican border, up 37% from July but little changed from August 2022 and well below the more than 220,000 in December, according to figures released in September.

The US has tried to get Mexico and countries farther south to do more. In April, the US, Panama and Colombia announced a campaign to slow migration through the treacherous Darien Gap dividing Colombia and Panama. 

But migration through the jungle has only accelerated and is expected to approach some 500,000 people this year – the vast majority from Venezuela.

Venezuelans were stopped 25,777 times the first 17 days of September, up 63 percent from the same period a month earlier, according to US Customs and Border Protection figures released by López Obrador. 

Those included some people admitted for scheduled asylum appointments, but the vast majority were illegal entries.

Venezuela plunged into a political, economic and humanitarian crisis over the last decade, pushing at least 7.3 million people to migrate and making food and other necessities unaffordable for those who remain.

The vast majority who fled settled in neighboring countries in Latin America, but many began coming to the United States in the last three years.

Deportation flights had been paused in part because the US has few diplomatic relations with the nation.

US and Mexican officials also discussed efforts aimed at combating the trafficking of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Mexican officials continued to explain with some difficulty López Obrador´s blanket assertion – false according to available evidence and the US government – that Mexico does not produce fentanyl.

Bárcena, the foreign relations secretary, said ‘there is no contradiction, chemical precursors are not produced in Mexico.’ 

It was tacit admission that Mexican cartels import precursors, mainly from China, and process them chemically into fentanyl. But since the entire chemical process is not carried out in Mexico the government maintains that fentanyl is not produced here.

US officials highlighted the recent extradition of Ovidio Guzmán López, a son of former Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, to the US on drug trafficking charges as a sign of cooperation between the two governments.

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