Is the Biden Administration’s Message About the Border Working?

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While the U.S. continues to turn away the vast majority of arriving migrants under Title 42 of the Public Health Safety Act, with exceptions made for unaccompanied children, some families with young children, and people who were sent back to Mexico to wait for their court hearings in the U.S., research shows that their closed border messaging to other countries does not stop people from coming, reports Vox. Migrants typically get information about the conditions on the border from people in their network who have successfully made the journey, rather than from top-down declarations from U.S. officials. Smugglers have also sought to spread misinformation about the Joe Biden administration’s plans to process asylum seekers. Immigrant advocates on the border have reported hearing rumors spreading that migrants staying in certain camps will be processed or that the border would open at midnight.

There is no research to support that the kinds of information campaigns the Biden administration has launched in Central America are actually effective in deterring migrants from making the journey north. A recent International Organization for Migration report found that a series of information campaigns in Dakar, Senegal and Guinea changed perceptions of the risks of irregular migration and intentions to migrate for roughly 10 to 30 percent of potential migrants who participated. Another study showed that peer to peer, where migrants who have already made the journey report back to others, are more successful. What might have had a bigger impact on people’s decisions on whether to migrate was news coverage of a crisis at the border and Republican lawmakers, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, disingenuously warning about how Biden’s policies have allowed migrants to “flood over here.” In reality, Title 42, the pandemic-related border restriction, has kept most of them out.

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