Fed-up immigration advocates ditched a virtual meeting with Biden administration officials to protest the White House’s plan to restart former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” program, according to a report.
The advocates read a statement blasting the administration for “playing politics with human lives” before a virtual meeting with top White House and Department of Homeland Security officials on Saturday morning, adding that they can no longer “come into these conversations in good conscience,” Politico reported.
“We have sadly reached a turning point,” they said before leaving the call.
“I cannot stand one more meeting of them pretending,” Ariana Saludares, a 40-year old advocate from the New Mexico-based Colores United, told Politico.
“They give us accolades on the outside, but on the inside, we’re having to take out the metaphoric knives from our back,” she said.
The administration said last week that it was looking to restart the immigration program, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, next month as long as Mexico agrees.
A federal judge in August ordered the White House to restart the Trump-era program that requires migrants seeking asylum in the US to wait out the legal process in their home countries.
The White House told the publication that it does not “agree with or support” the Remain in Mexico policy but will comply with the judge’s order while DHS appeals.
“We are incredibly thankful and appreciative of the work immigration advocates and organizations do around the clock to improve our immigration system,” the White House said.
The dust-up focused on the Remain in Mexico program, but the report said tensions between the advocates and Biden officials have been festering for months and only surfaced on Saturday.
The activists believe the Biden administration’s decisions on immigration are rooted in politics and that some White House officials view border issues as a losing proposition for Democrats.
“I think they’re afraid of the backlash of anti-immigrant groups, and we’ll continue to remind them that that backlash will exist regardless of what they do,” Luis Guerra, the 32-year-old strategic capacity officer at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, told Politico.
“We don’t actually believe they’re doing everything in their power to actually restore asylum at the border, the way that they say that they’re trying to,” said Guerra, who was among those who walked out of the meeting.
Some activists saw hope in Biden who promised during the presidential campaign to operate a “fair and humane” immigration program, but they say he hasn’t delivered on the pledge.
“It’s almost like we were bamboozled into thinking that this was going to be the best option, and it isn’t. It’s actually worse,” Saludares said. “It is as if you know that your family is now turning against you and telling you that it’s okay. It’s not.”
The Biden White House has scrambled to quell the crisis at the southern border as arrests hit a record 1.5 million in fiscal 2021.