Tough Stuff at the Border for Asylum Seekers and Immigrants

Immigration Reform

New Orleans     The President is still running and running hard against immigrants and immigration, even though the issue has now fallen out of the top ten concerns for the American public. It seems a classic case of fighting the last war, rather than the current war, when Americans are focused on the cratered economy and pandemic which still seems spiraling out of control.

Shockingly, while our attention is focused on other pressing concerns, the tragedy of asylum seekers and the travesty of our current public policies are creating a human rights disaster at the border.   Sixty per cent of the American people in recent polls in fact do believe that the border should be hardened during the pandemic, which has given carte blanche to hard-fisted and draconian policies. Some 70,000 have been turned away at our southern border in recent months, and asylum seekers are being denied legal requirements to receive a hearing and be treated on a case by case basis.

I listened to an interview with a Guatemalan woman and her child who turned themselves into Border Patrol and were literally dropped in the middle of the night on the bridge over the Rio Grande without explanation or a hearing after being told they could not enter; the border was closed.  Mexican authorities finally took them off the bridge and dumped the pair in an overcrowded shelter.  US policies have also precipitated a crisis in Mexico where there is no place, plan, or resources to house swelling numbers of people there, and where concerns over spiking virus and economic problems are also being exacerbated by this desperate migrant stream.  This story was commonplace, not exceptional.

Immigration lawyers along the border are outraged at the government’s willful disregard of asylum laws.  Lawsuits are falling like rain over these practices, but meanwhile they continue unabated, and now largely outside of public scrutiny.

There has to be a better way.   Reading about the coming wave of climate forced migration in Central America and southern Mexico in a special edition of the New York Times Magazine based on extensive data and scientific modeling, it is clear that we haven’t seen anything yet like the crisis that will be coming.  Millions will be on the move over the next several decades with nowhere to go but north.  Harder borders and deficient or antagonistic policies will force terrible deprivation in Latin American countries hit by rising temperatures and reduced precipitation leading to crop loss and starvation.

Migration and asylum are different things, and current polices are treating them as one, which is a mistake. Right now, the administration is all blunt talk and hard fists, but this is not a sustainable policy.  We need to fix our border, and if we want to meet the challenge of migration, we need to help our neighboring countries with policies and resources that allow people to live and work in their home countries, rather than being forced to hit the road to survive.  We can’t put our heads in the sand and have that work, especially when the desert sands are expanding all around us.


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Thanks to WAMF.