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Report: Biden quietly telling Mexico to curb surge of migrants

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The Biden administration has been quietly urging Mexico to increase its efforts to stem the flow of Latin American migrants, according to a New York Times report Thursday.

This report came the same day that the administration announced plans to share millions of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses with Mexico and Canada.

At Thursday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the United States was planning to send 2.5 million doses of the vaccine to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada, adding that it was “not finalized yet, but that is our aim.”

During a video call this month with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President Joe Biden asked him whether more could be done to help solve the problem of the migrant surge at the border, Mexican officials and another person briefed on the conversation told The Times.

MORE ON THE BORDER: Biden’s message to migrants: ‘Don’t come over’

The pair also discussed the possibility of the U.S. sending Mexico some of its extra vaccine doses, a senior Mexican official told the newspaper. Mexico has publicly asked the Biden administration to send it doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Both governments cooperate on the basis of an orderly, safe and regular migration system,” Roberto Velasco, director general for the North America region at Mexico’s foreign ministry, said in a statement, referring to the engagement between the two countries on migration and vaccines, according to The Times.

However, Velasco said there was no quid pro quo for vaccines: “These are two separate issues, as we look for a more humane migratory system and enhanced cooperation against COVID-19, for the benefit of our two countries and the region.”

MORE ON THE BORDER: Mayorkas grilled about testing migrants for COVID-19

A Biden administration official declined to comment on discussions with Mexico, but noted to The Times that both countries shared a common goal of reducing migration by addressing its root causes, and said they were working closely to restrict the flow of migrants to the border.

Mexico has agreed to boost its presence on its southern border with Guatemala to impede migration from Central America, one of the government officials said, according to the newspaper. Local Mexican officials too, The Times reported, say their country has lately increased efforts to stop migrants on the northern border with the U.S. also.

MORE ON THE BORDER: Arizona AG: Biden ‘incentivizing’ migrants ‘to break the law and come here’

As The Times noted, there were indications that Mexico’s commitment to stopping migrants might have decreased in the final months of the Trump administration, who would threaten tariffs against Mexican products unless the country acted more to stem the flow of migrants.

Between October and December of last year, the number of Central Americans detained by Mexico dipped, while arrests by the U.S. rose, according to Mexican government numbers and data gathered by The Washington Office on Latin America, a research organization that promotes human rights.

“The likelihood of the outgoing Trump administration threatening tariffs again was low, so there was an incentive for Mexico to go back to its default state of low apprehensions,” said Adam Isacson, a border security expert at The Washington Office on Latin America, according to The Times.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Immigration

IG Audit shows nonprofit wasted $17 million taxpayer dollars on hotels to not house illegal foreign nationals

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An audit report by the Inspector General shows enraging information as to exactly how millions of dollars from the American people were completely wasted.

One doesn’t need to read past the IG report’s headline to become furious: “ICE Spent Funds on Unused Beds, Missed COVID-19 Protocols and Detention Standards while Housing Migrant Families in Hotels.”

In summary, an unbelievable $17 million was wasted on not housing illegal foreign nationals. At the heart of the story is Endeavors, a nonprofit which has received half a billion dollars in taxpayer money “through no-bid government contracts to house foreign nationals who illegally entered the U.S. and were released by the Biden administration instead of being deported” reports The Center Square.

The audit evaluated the process used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to grant no bid contracts to Endeavors and their compliance with federal law, the article explains.

The report evaluated an $86.9 million sole source contract first awarded to Endeavors earlier this year. The contract was awarded for six months to provide “temporary shelter and processing services for families who have not been expelled and are therefore placed in immigration proceedings for their removal from the United States,” The Center Square previously reported.

Months after it received its first no bid contract, Endeavors received a second $530 million contract and hired former Biden administration official Andrew Lorenzen-Straight as its senior director for migrant services and federal affairs, Axios reported.

The Center Square explains:

Sole source contracts are used when an agency can demonstrate the contract meets specific and justified criteria. If contracts don’t meet one of the criteria, they must be awarded through an open competitive process.

Endeavors has no professional history of providing housing services and has never provided beds or all-inclusive emergency family residential services, OIG auditors found. Those critical of DHS’ contract process argue the agency should be awarding contracts through an open competitive process to ensure that those bidding for funds can offer the services they claim they can provide.

Under the contract in question, for six months between March and September 2021, Endeavors was responsible for providing 1,239 beds and other necessary services in hotels. It used six hotels and repurposed them as Emergency Family Reception Sites to accommodate families staying less than three days while ICE considered conditions of release, including alternatives to detention.

The IOG made four recommendations for ICE to improve its contracting and oversight of hotel facility management and operations. “ICE concurred with one recommendation and didn’t concur with three. Based on information ICE provided in its response, the IOG said it considered one recommendation resolved and closed, and three recommendations administratively closed.”

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