Migrants at Jacumba encampments
Migrants at Jacumba encampments James Cordero with Border Kindness

Immigrant advocates are labeling camps near the US-Mexico border wall in Jacumba Hot Springs, California, as open-air detention centers (OADs), according to a report by The Guardian. These camps, housing over 200 asylum seekers, have become focal points for those navigating the gaps in the border wall, seeking refuge while awaiting processing.

Despite assertions by US Border Patrol that the individuals at these sites are not in detention, the issuance of wristbands and specific directives on where to be raises questions about the nature of their situation, as highlighted by Jacqueline Arellano, the director of US programs for the migrant relief organization Border Kindness.

The report delves into the experiences of individuals like Yazmin Calderon, a 40-year-old asylum seeker from Colombia, who shared uncertainties about the process and a lack of responsiveness from guards. The Guardian underscores that volunteer organizations, such as Border Kindness and search-and-rescue group Armadillos, have stepped in to provide daily assistance to migrants at the camps, as no official support from US government agencies is evident.

The article sheds light on the harsh conditions faced by migrants, including freezing nighttime temperatures and inadequate provisions. Medical personnel, exemplified by the woman referred to as "Aunt Bunny," report chaotic situations and emphasize the need for more substantial support from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The Biden administration's recent spending proposal includes funding for border security, prompting volunteer groups to advocate for increased government involvement in addressing the humanitarian crisis. The complexities surrounding the US-Mexico border situation are brought to the forefront, emphasizing the challenges faced by both migrants and volunteers amid the absence of official support.

US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden AFP

According to Customs and Border Protection data, over 3.2 million people arrived in the United States in fiscal year 2023, including people with a legal status and those apprehended for illegally crossing the border. Most of those who were apprehended were nationals of Western Hemisphere countries.

Moreover, U.S. authorities apprehended over 240,000 migrants at the border with Mexico in October, according to Customs and Border Protection. The figure is 11 percent lower than September, but still near record highs.

Border security is at the forefront of the national agenda, with Senate Republicans are pushing for a stringent overhaul of the initial standards immigrants must meet when applying for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border in exchange for supporting a broader, $106 billion package, sought by the Biden administration which includes aid for Israel and Taiwan.

The demand for changes to border policy has prompted bipartisan negotiations, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer acknowledging the necessity of compromise, the Wall Street Journal reported. Despite Democrats holding a slim 51-49 majority in the Upper House, any legislative advancement would require 60 votes in the Senate and clearance from the GOP-controlled House.

There is urgency to reach a deal before year-end, but Republicans claim that the proposed aid package to address border issues aims to accelerate the processing of migrants but lacks policy changes.

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