Asylum seekers in and of themselves are not a “crisis” for the United States, nor is an increase in the flow of undocumented immigrants in general, as long as resources are available to humanely manage the flow. people.
The legacy of the Trump administration continues to be felt on the US border with Mexico. After four years of increasingly harsh actions to restrict access to asylum, including the deportation of women and children under false cover of the COVID-19 pandemic, the misery left by Trump is finally revealed.
Ironically, many Trump supporters are now blame the Biden administration for increasing the number of families and children arriving at the U.S. border, arguing that this is what happens when we treat immigrants with kindness. But allowing asylum seekers to make their case in the United States, as the Biden administration has begun to do by canceling many Trump programs, is not generosity. It’s the law.
To turn the tide after four years of mismanagement and disastrous policies is messy. As DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has repeatedly noted, the Biden administration inherited a eviscerated infrastructure, which had done nothing to prepare for possible increases in migrant arrivals.
After all, the Trump administration was under no obligation to do so. He had put in place so many measures to restrict access to the border that he had artificially suppressed the number of people CBP and ICE would process in the United States.
Trump officials have limited the number of asylum seekers who can show up at the border on any given day. They redefined the key elements of credible fear tests and the right to asylum to make it virtually impossible for many asylum seekers, especially women, to access the asylum process.
And even for those who were allowed to see an immigration judge to seek asylum, Trump’s policies would not let them pursue their case from the United States. Instead, thousands of migrants were forced to “stay in Mexico” in squalid and dangerous makeshift camps.
And when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the Trump administration no time wasted by declaring that the presence of undocumented migrants at the border was a threat not only to security, but also to national security. The CDC issued sweeping and unnecessary rules that restricted migration, preventing access to asylum contrary to the law. DHS quickly used the order to establish a new form of immediate deportation – known as Title 42 deportation, for the section of US law that the CDC relied on to limit entry into the United States – resulting in more than half a million evictions between March 2020 and February 2021.
But not all of these people have vanished into thin air. Many returned to the border, hoping to try again, and many more who had not yet crossed waited, hoping for a better day.
So, yes, the election of Joe Biden changed the dynamic at the border. Biden’s many executive orders and early changes in immigration policy reversed some of the worst excesses of the Trump era. Notably, the stay program in Mexico has ended and migrants, mostly families, who have been forced to live in inhumane conditions are gradually being admitted to the United States to pursue their claims.
Likewise, unaccompanied children are no longer subject to Title 42 deportations, and therefore the number of children entering the United States and placed in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement has increased significantly.
But for COVID-19, the initial influx of children would not have been a problem. Before the pandemic, the ORR had one bed for 13,000 children every day, but security measures drastically reduced availability. This has resulted in delays and safeguards in the rapid movement of children from inadequate CBP detention facilities; in recent weeks, the government has announced its intention to open a number of emergency shelters. Although many of these facilities do not offer the full range of services usually available, they are designed to process children quickly and reunite them with their family members.
Naturally, the administration has refrained from calling backups and is delaying a crisis. They wanted to show that the administration is capable of managing the situation. And it is, provided Congress funds the necessary infrastructure at a level that recognizes the suppressed demand. People will come and the government has to be ready.
But there is a crisis brewing. In fact, it is already there. It is a humanitarian crisis, which has been worsening for years in northern Central America, driven by violence, corruption and the collapse of government institutions. Women are often at the mercy of their abusers, with little government support and virtually no legal protection.
“We need to stop pretending that the United States can choose when people flee their country and seek asylum at our border. “
Girls and boys fall prey to gang members who act with impunity in many parts of northern Central America. Many people flee their homes or go into hiding in their country before attempting to come to the United States. And last year’s devastating hurricanes have further undermined the region’s economies, leaving many homeless and without a source of income. Plus, hurricanes are likely a harbinger of what’s to come, as experts predict climate change will continue to lead to instability and desperation across Central America.
In other words, people will continue to flee to the United States unless the situation at home changes drastically. Biden Executive Order on Central America migration and asylum These policies recognize this need and lay the groundwork for long-term planning for financing and reforms that could help Central America recover and rebuild.
But this is all in the future. For now, we need to stop pretending that the United States can choose when people flee their country and seek asylum at our border. Asylum seekers in and of themselves are not a “crisis” for the United States, nor is an increase in the flow of undocumented immigrants in general, as long as resources are available to humanely manage the flow. people.
Trump supporters and junkies brag about the “success” of Trump’s immigration policy, demonstrated by the supposed decline in illegal entries. But it is simply a “out of sight, out of mind” approach to dealing with a very real problem. It was a giant sleight of hand that masked the real number of people seeking to get into Biden’s US policies.
With the deportation of thousands of Haitians, the Biden administration is not off the hook
And yet, the Biden administration is not off the hook. Although he agreed to allow unaccompanied children to enter the United States despite the Title 42 ban, he did so following a preliminary injunction issued by a federal court last November. DHS continues to evict families, as well as single men and women, under the current Title 42 order.
Many of these families come from Haiti, another country rife with lawlessness, poverty and government abuse. So far, according to a major report from the Haitian Bridge Alliance, Center Quichotte, and UndocuBlack Network, more Haitians (1,200) have been deported in the first two months of the Biden administration than the last year. Many of those deported were family groups, and none of them were screened before being flown back to Haiti to determine whether their fears of imprisonment, torture or death should be examined by a judge. immigration.
DHS has also continued to engage in deportations of Mexicans and Central American Americans who are astonishing in their contempt for basic dignity. For example, DHS recently flew 149 migrants– including many women and children – 600 miles from the border post where they entered and dropped them off on the Mexican side of an international bridge connecting El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. The migrants had no idea where they were and, again, had no chance to present their protection case.
These incidents tarnish the vision for human immigration policy that Biden presented and continue to undermine U.S. efforts to regain its place as a leader in refugee protection.
Despite the clear moral and legal imperatives to stop the Title 42 deportations, the Biden administration clearly fears that the return to pre-pandemic treatment of asylum seekers will overwhelm the system. It is also clear that they fear a political backlash if critics manage to label the border as out of control.
It takes courage and political will to take these final steps. Those of us who support the rights of asylum seekers must let the administration know that doing the right thing will not damage its reputation and that we will work even harder to ensure that the implementation of a human immigration policy is not political suicide.
The protection of asylum seekers is a major issue for women. We must encourage and challenge both the administration and Congress to meet US obligations. We must go to the voting booth to support the candidates and elected officials who act on behalf of asylum seekers. And we must push back, by any means possible, those who hope to arm the border in a ruthless effort to turn respect for the law into political responsibility.