President Joe Biden’s coordinator on the southern border will depart at the end of April even as the administration struggles to cope with a surge of migrants crossing into the United States.
The White House said Roberta Jacobson, a former ambassador to Mexico who had recently visited Mexico, had always expected to leave after Biden’s first 100 days. But some immigration advocates who work with the White House were taken by surprise by the announcement Friday afternoon, which comes several weeks before the 100 days ends.
In a statement, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Jacobson had made an “invaluable contribution” to the administration. “President Biden knew there was no person better to usher in a more safe, secure, and just approach to our southern border,” he said.
Sullivan credited Jacobson with shaping the U.S. relationship with Mexico and launched efforts to work with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to improve conditions on the ground.
But just last month, Biden announced that Vice President Kamala Harris would lead the government’s diplomatic efforts with that region known as the Northern Triangle.
Biden has tried to keep his government's focus on fighting the coronavirus and reviving the economy, but border problems have increasingly taken center stage and even some of his allies have criticized him for his response.
Republicans accuse Biden of pushing through policy changes that have fueled the increase in migrants at the border and not being able to deal with them once they've arrived.
The news of Jacobson's departure comes a day after the administration announced that it saw a sharp increase in migrants attempting to cross the border in March, including a record number of unaccompanied children taken into custody.
More than 18,800 unaccompanied children crossed the border in March, a record-breaking figure; the previous high was more than 11,000 children in May 2019. The March numbers represent an almost 100 percent increase from February, when more than 9,400 minors were taken into custody.
In early March, Jacobson appeared at a White House briefing to discourage migrants from traveling to the United States. But she misspoke when speaking Spanish, saying the border was open when she meant to say it was closed.
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