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"Migrants are the engine of the United States, but Democratic leaders are lukewarm in proposing root and branch changes"
In an exclusive dialogue with LPO, Latino expert Ernesto Castañeda analyzes Biden's announcements to address the crisis at the border and explains why the United States needs migrants.

Ernesto Castañeda is a Latino specialist with extensive experience who studies the dynamics of integration and exclusion from population displacement. Professor of the Department of Sociology at American University in Washington, Castañeda received his doctorate from Columbia and has just taken over as Director of the Immigration Lab, a place that generates reports on the global migratory flow on a permanent basis. His work makes him one of the most authoritative scholars to analyze the latest movements of the Biden administration regarding the immigration crisis. In an exclusive dialogue with LPO, he gives his opinion on the plan that Joe Biden announced a few days ago together with Alejandro Mayorkas, he talks about the president's trip to the southern border and explains that migration from Mexico to the United States has been falling steadily since the crisis of 2008.

What does Biden visit to El Paso and the new plan announced by his administration to order the immigration crisis indicate?

President Biden's visit to El Paso, Texas, was symbolic in response to criticism from Republicans and some Democrats that he had not visited the border. His uneventful visit clearly confirms what data indicates: that this is a very safe and calm city, and that there is no kind of national security crisis. The passage of migrants through the Paso del Norte region is not new, and the request for asylum in the region went unnoticed before the pandemic. The increase in the number of people is partly the result of the economic effect of the pandemic and the difficult economic situation in countries such as Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Establishing a legal mechanism to accept people from these countries in a more orderly and less dangerous way is positive. However, the numerical limit and the return of people from those countries to Mexico is something that will mean that the situation is not completely fixed.

To what extent is Biden a prisoner of Trump's policy on the matter and to what extent does he take advantage of the Republican preaching to seek a balance and not define a clear course?

At the beginning of his term, Biden quickly ended the construction of the border wall and the blockades on migration from the Arab world, he reduced deportations from the interior and tried to reunite the families of children separated by Trump. None of these practices ended 100 percent, but they lost the practical and media emphasis of the Trump era.

En un mano a mano cargado de tensión, Abbott culpó a Biden por ir dos años tarde a ver el "caos" que generó en la frontera

It is precisely the anti-immigrant practices inherited from Trump that have garnered the most attention. The Quédate en México (Stay in Mexico) program continued by order of the courts, and although it technically ended, that practice has been transformed through Título 42 (Title 42) and the new public policies recently announced by Biden. What these two programs have in common is that, with the consent of the Mexican President, the United States can send back to Mexico not only Mexicans but citizens of other countries in the hemisphere, including those planning to seek asylum. It is true that Trump began these practices, and the Biden administration has been forced by court decisions, congressional inaction, practical considerations at the border, and pressure from border patrol to continue closing the border to people of various countries and deny the right to seek asylum, to which persecuted people are entitled under US and international law.

Biden on the wall that separates El Paso from Ciudad Juárez.

According to the information that emerged from the summit, Mayorkas asked Mexico to receive three times as many migrants as the United States intends to expel. What is the logic that guides the United States policy in this attempt?

The truth is that Mexico does not necessarily have a good count of how many people it receives, especially since many of the people are sent back several times. The estimate of 100,000 people is based on dubious data from the United States.

What Título 42 and ‘Quédate en México' program have in common is that, with the consent of the President of Mexico, the United States can send back to Mexico not only Mexicans but citizens of other countries in the hemisphere, including those who are planning to seek asylum.

One of your articles says that the historic migration from Mexico to the United States has been on hold since 2008, when the recession began. What kind of association would be virtuous for the two countries in this matter? How could they both benefit?

Yes, Mexican emigration has decreased, but it is not zero. Many Mexicans continue to leave for economic, family, professional, and related to impunity reasons and the war against drug trafficking. At the same time, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans move in significant numbers to Mexico, both forced and voluntary. There is a need for regional integration through people.

"Todo el mundo entiende que necesitamos a los migrantes, incluidos los políticos racistas que los usan para la campaña"

A recent study has just reaffirmed that the fertility rate in the United States is one of the lowest in history and the country needs migrants to grow again. Why do politicians of the two Parties not know how to take advantage of this potential from the economic point of view and cannot argue clearly on the issue?

That's right, migrants have always been a population engine for what is now the United States. Migrants also bring important economic and cultural capital and have been a key player in technological and cultural innovation.

White supremacists groups have always been against the migration of non-Protestants from northern Europe. And because the right wing and an important part of the leaders of the Republican Party since the 1980s have politicized the issue of migration and used it to have more votes in the short term. For many years, Democratic leaders saw it as a stigmatized issue and are lukewarm in proposing root and branch changes.

The right wing and an important part of the leaders of the Republican Party since the 1980s have politicized the issue of migration and have used it to increase votes in the short term. For many years, Democratic leaders saw it as a stigmatized issue and are lukewarm in proposing root and branch changes.

The growing presence of Latinos is transforming politics. What would you say is the main consequence of this demographic, cultural, economic and political change?

There are all kinds of Latinos. Many vote for the more inclusive Democrats, but many are politically conservative and, like other groups, almost half do not vote or are not active in electoral matters. Over time, as happened with the first immigrant groups, Latinos integrate themselves into the majority and many become indistinguishable, others are racialized and excluded, others become reactionaries to feel more at home given the anti-immigrant discourse that prevails in some electoral circles and times. But despite this, the United States today cannot be fully understood without keeping in mind the Latinos, Afro-Americans, Asians and migrants from all the world who make this country what it is.

Translator: Bibiana Ruiz. 

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