Migrant families may be forced to remain in Texas

A similar program was implemented during the Reagan Administration but it did not work

With a politically divided Congress and the White House unable to pass immigration legislation, the governors of Texas, Florida, and Arizona have been sending busloads of undocumented immigrants to New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and other cities around the country. .

In a new move on the chessboard of the immigration issue, the Biden Administration is now exploring introducing a program that was proposed in the 1980s by then-former President Ronald Reagan.

The plan

The plan entails forcing those who cross the southern US border seeking refuge to remain in Texas. This proximity to the border would make it easier for them to be removed from the country once the preliminary asylum request procedures, that generally lead to a deportation order, are finalized.

The plan of the immigration authorities would be to focus on Central American families since it is easier, due to geographical proximity, to deport them to their countries of origin.

Migrants trying to cross the southern border of the United States. Photo: Rawpixel

The new initiative arose because in May, after the end of Title 42, it seemed that the number of admissions was falling considerably. But in later months the situation changed. A change fundamentally generated by the crossing not of individuals, who are easier to deport, but of numerous families who, in August, have reached one of the highest levels of all time.

In July, for example, the Border Patrol (CBP) reported that more than 60,000 families crossed the US-Mexico border. A figure that represents almost half of all the migrants who entered that month. Although the statistics for August have not yet been released, according to some reports it is estimated that it has grown to more than 90,000 entries. A growth of about 50%, and a historical record that has alarmed immigration authorities and put the focus on families.

Under the plan, selected families would be required to remain in Texas and their movements could be monitored through ankle bracelets connected to a GPS system. While they remain in Texas, they would coordinate with local community organizations to ensure they have housing and other facilities.

But once the initial evaluations are done, those families who are considered not eligible to continue with their asylum procedures would be deported. Being on the border, or close to the border, would help implement the order, which is generally more complicated when families have moved to remote parts of the country.

Expanding FERM

The plan would represent an expansion of the current Family Expedited Removal Management program (FERM) that is used to monitor those who move to different cities in the country. The program not only uses GPS technology, but also imposes other limits such as curfews.

Aside from the convenience of having families close to the border to facilitate their deportation, if that were the case, the plan would also serve as a propaganda tool to dissuade those who are thinking of coming without following the protocol steps that the immigration authorities have established.

Mexican-American border. Photo: Flickr

Those legal avenues include scheduling appointments at a port of entry using the app CBO One, or participating in a program that requires applying to migrate with the support of a sponsor. Those who cross without adhering to these regulations and are detained face much more severe consequences than in the past. Consequences that include the prohibition of re-entering the United States for five years and even the possibility, in cases of repeated attempts, of criminal charges.


The plan is not only rejected by human rights organizations and defenders of migrant interests, but also, at the other end of the ideological spectrum, by governors such as Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis who, allied with nativist groups, are leaders of the American anti-immigrant movement.

More than three decades ago, the Reagan Administration faced a similar situation on the southern border and decided to require migrants to process their asylum request in border cities. But the rejection of local authorities (who even tried to evict and close the operations of federal officials operating in the state) and the ruling of a federal judge (who authorized the migrants to leave Texas) caused the plan to fail.

Thirty-five years later, with Mexico and Central America facing serious issues of insecurity and the never ending economic inequality typical of Latin American countries, the hope of a better life in the United States continues to be a more than attractive alternative for millions who are willing to risk everything.

This article was supported in whole, or in part, by funds provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library and the Latino Media Collaborative.


  • Escritor y periodista de Paysandú, Uruguay, quien actualmente reside en Nueva York, EE.UU., en donde ha trabajado en diversos medios. Su corazón es charrúa y su pluma es latina.

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