Thousands of asylum-seekers have been waiting months to years at US-Mexico border

Jonathan Gutierrez, his wife and newborn son have waited for nearly two years in a sprawling camp to get asylum for their family. Migrants recently fought frostbite as storms battered Texas.
10:11 | 03/04/21

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Transcript for Thousands of asylum-seekers have been waiting months to years at US-Mexico border
Reporter: For two years, Jonathan Gutierrez has been staring directly at his dream. Just on the other side of that river lies the possibility of what the 23-year-old father says could be a new life. Safety. Asylum for his growing family. His wife, Blanca. 4-year-old, Enrique. 2-year-old, Rebecca. 1-month-old. They've been waiting in a sprawling camp. The risks outweigh their suffering here, he says, going back to Central America is not a choice. The family's been left in limbo alongside hundreds of other migrants here. This transit camp housing just a fraction of the nearly 25,000 asylum seekers forced to, quote, remain in Mexico. Pushed to a foreign country under the trump-era immigration policy called migrant protection protocols. Asylum seekers are being told to wait in northern Mexico for their immigration court dates, sometimes months, even years away. President Biden will sign an executive order that will review but not cancel the trump administration's migrant protection protocol. Reporter: Homeland security secretary all Han I don't mallorca laying out an ambitious plan to slowly allow asylum seekers to make their claim in the United States. What we are seeing now at the border is the immediate result of the dismantlement of the system and the time that it takes to rebuild it virtually from scratch. Reporter: But first sending a message to asylum seekers. We are not saying, don't we are saying, don't come now. Because we will be able to deliver a safe and orderly process to them as quickly as possible. The administration says that this is not a crisis, they call it a challenge. The numbers tell a completely different story. Just look at the month of January alone. Border patrol agents encountered more than 78,000 migrants at the border in January. We're seeing an average of 200 kids a day crossing the border without their parents, getting apprehended by the border patrol. Reporter: Just this week, we witnessed as migrants continued to cross illegally, many of them eager just to find safety. Entire families taking the risk together. Helicopters flying low. There are a number of vans here to pick up a group of migrants that apparently smuggled across the border, hunkered down inside this orchard somewhere. Reporter: On this day, border patrol telling us they weren't permitted to speak with the media. But seen why are dhs officials told ABC news there has been, quote, a significant surge along the U.S. Border with Mexico. In January, crossing attempts were up more than two-fold compared to last year, the highest for the month of January in at least a decade. These are some of the high grants and possible asylum seekers they've pulled out of this orchard over the past couple of minutes. You can hear the helicopter to my right. They've loaded up a group of they're now probably taking them to a border patrol station. Now the administration coming under fire for housing migrant children in the very same tent facilities Democrats criticized the trump administration for using. I feel like this is the same thing and that you're still detaining kids at the border. And it's not meaningfully different than what trump was doing. It's absolutely not the same thing, we are not ripping children from the arms of their that is horrible and immoral, and something we saw in the last administration. Reporter: Last month, Democrats unveiled one of the most ambitious immigration reform bills in decades, which includes funding to help streamline the backlog of asylum seekers and increased security at ports of entry. He wants to provide legalization for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in this country. Here's the reality check on that right now. There is no appetite for this. They've got to get others on board if they want to pass something like this. Reporter: As the gears churn in Washington, thousands of families are still waiting to make their asylum plea. For months forced to live in the land of extremes. Many migrants here seeing snow for the first time. Their flimsy blankets and tents freezing overnight. Families burning what they could just to keep warm. Reporter: The couple reaching a point of desperation in January. Just before president Biden took office, Blanca, 8 months pregnant, says she jumped into the river and made it to the U.S. With her children. Her water broke once there. Soon Blanca welcomed her son, Jonathan Jr. The youngest of the three siblings is now a U.S. Citizen. But she says within three days they were expelled back to Mexico. The U.S. Has long struggled to balance welcoming refugees and enforcing security at the southern border. Nature and the fence. Those are the weapons of "Operation gatekeeper." Beefing up the border control on California's frontier with Mexico in an effort to slow down the number of illegal immigrants crossing into the United States. We are a nation of but we are also a nation of it is wrong to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it. The "Secure fence act" authorizes the construction of hundreds of miles of additional fencing along our southern border. We're modernizing the southern border of the United States so we can assure the American people we're doing our job of securing the border. The immediate crisis, that flood of children arriving here alone. Thousands of them now sleeping on the floor at detention centers. A humanitarian crisis congress is now being asked to help end. I want to make something clear. Fixing our broken immigration system is one more big thing that we have to do and that we will do. Reporter: But for president trump, the issue became a rallying cry. A lightning rod. The biggest loophole drawing illegal aliens to our borders is the use of fraudulent or meritless asylum claims to gain entry into our great country. Reporter: For years the administration rolling out a series of controversial policies aimed at slowing the number of migrants coming to the united States. They're limiting artificially the number of people who can cross. It's called metering and has spawned migrant camps in Tijuana south of San Diego. Reporter: Reporter: In 2018 we saw the first impacts of that metering program right here. With the remain in Mexico policy that once-small encampment ballooned. It's here that we met Melissa, husband Armando, and their then 9-year-old daughter. They asked us not to use their real names. They said they spent three months living there, just a stone's throw from the U.S. Border. Melissa was one of 18 pregnant women named in a complaint filed by the aclu against the department of homeland security over the remain in Mexico policy. The family was eventually allowed to enter the country, settling in Ohio, while their asylum claim is considered. Melissa's baby boy, born in the U.S., will turn 1 later this month. One of the worst things that I think happened with the trump administration is not just the policies they enacted, but the narrative that came out of that administration. Dehumanizing immigrants. I think the Biden administration has done a very good job of changing the narrative. But it's going to need to continue to do that, and it's also going to need to change the culture within the agencies to make it clear that seeking asylum is not breaking the law. Reporter: Back at the border, Jonathan and his wife getting a glimpse of hope. The family given a wristband. And after two years of waiting in Mexico, they are allowed to enter the country. Today the family on an airplane for the first time in their lives. Boston will now be home as their asylum case makes its way through the courts. Our thanks to Matt. Coming up, fire failure.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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