“Agile” smugglers are doing a better job of encouraging Central American migrants to rush the US-Mexico border than the White House is doing of deterring the dangerous and illegal treks, the Biden administration’s coordinator for the crossing admitted Tuesday.
Roberta Jacobson — who previously conceded last week that mixed messaging out of the Biden administration may be fueling the surge at the border not seen in 20 years — said that finding a way to reach would-be migrants more effectively than smugglers is key to stemming the tide.
“The smugglers are agile and quick, and word of mouth gets through, and they are exploiting people’s hope and desperation,” Jacobson told CNN’s “New Day” morning show on Tuesday.
“Our own message is getting out less than smugglers,” she continued. “We always know that. But we are doing everything we can — and that includes Spanish-language radio, social media — making sure that we convey the message that the border is not open, that the majority of people will be returned, and that it is not ever a good idea to come in this irregular fashion.”
Since President Biden was inaugurated and began dismantling the more stringent immigration restrictions of his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, tens of thousands of Central American migrants — including thousands of unaccompanied children — have made for the border, expecting to be welcomed by the new commander-in-chief.
Many have been spurred, Jacobson said, by opportunistic smugglers who overstate the ease of getting into the US to convince them to pay for passage over the border.
“The smugglers’ message is very pervasive,” said Jacobson. “They prey on people and they prey on their hope, and they tell them things that simply aren’t true. But we are fighting back.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, however, had admitted that the Biden administration could be doing more to deter the wave of illegal immigration.
The border rush has included several migrants who have tested positive for COVID-19 and, according to a contingent of Republican lawmakers who toured the border on Monday, suspected terrorists.
Despite the public health, security and humanitarian concerns, Jacobson, Psaki and DHS have refused to label the spiraling situation a “crisis.”