While a human drama continues to play out at the border —with political ramifications— it’s impossible not to recognize that everyone bears some guilt in this situation. Republicans, for having become the primary obstacle to a legislative solution that reforms all the components of an anachronistic and insufficient immigration system; and the Democrats, for having wasted various opportunities to act when they controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House.
In addition, all the political protagonists in this migration drama know exactly what they have to do at the legislative level. However, not only is the will to do it scarce, but there is an abundance of cowardliness and personal and partisan expediency standing in the way.
Meanwhile, far from the preliminary U.S. elections political chess match, thousands of migrants continue on their way, traversing geographic regions full of dangers, with no other objective in mind than to arrive to the U.S./Mexico border, as the only solution at hand for them at this moment in human history. They keep alive the mental image of a “beacon of hope,” a light at the end of the tunnel that has been dimming without expectations of re-illuminating—at least in the short term—beginning some time ago and continuing to this very day.
It’s true that the Biden Administration announced programs for family reunification and the opening of processing centers in countries that send migrants, or who are along the path north. That is without counting on the CBP One application to make appointments for their cases if they are not in the United States, a technology that has not worked out due to its constant glitches, as the migrants traveling have reported. But none of that seems to pause the thousands of human beings who want to come here.
Agencia EFE reported on Tuesday that the Border Patrol detained 22,220 migrants in a timespan of 72 hours. Moreover, border cities began to declare states of emergencies because their shelters are full and migrants continue to come.
As if that were not enough, the Biden administration announced it is sending 1,500 additional troops to the border to provide support and administrative services, but not detain migrants.
Some weeks ago, in this same space, we published a column where we stated that this measure, Title 42, was put into place in March 2020 by the Donald Trump administration, and therefore the current U.S. government has had time to plan its response to the anticipated increase in migrants once they were allowed to apply again. But for politicians, the issue of immigration is like a pebble in your shoe that you want to remove and continue on your way, so their solutions are usually inadequate and ill-timed.
And that is where the consequences lie: lives cut short for people who once believed in the rhetoric of safety and welcome, but now face a legislative and ideological wall that might have always been there, but which reality has completely exposed and shown the United States to be a smaller-minded nation than what was once believed. Essentially, the timeline for immigrants doesn’t run parallel to that of those who are supposed to do their job and legislate on the immigration issue. In fact, they are experiencing a noble and admirable migration that they may not deserve.
Sending troops to the border also does not offer a compassionate face to thousands of people who have crossed through jungles and deserts, running from misery, violence, abuse, and corruption. If it is to dissuade them, we don’t think it will be very effective.
Because no matter what happens post-Title 42, migration flows will always be a constant at the southern border. The challenge that politicians have not known how to face is to put forward laws that make this flow something regular and normal, and when there are increases, the situation does not become a crisis. Moreover, that visas exist for those who want to come and offer their very much needed labor; that the millions of undocumented immigrants who have been here for decades get legalized; that citizens and residents can apply for relatives to immigrate without having to wait decades to reunite; that asylum laws are strengthened so that everyone who needs it can apply for it and their cases are not decided without a true review of the reasons that brought them to seek asylum.
These are all the components of the broad immigration reform that, over decades, has been the victim of politicking, with terrible repercussions for millions of human lives and our economy.
To say that the Biden administration distinguishes itself from Trump’s because it is tackling the issues in a more humane fashion doesn’t mean anything, if the measures they implement are so similar, like when the Republican sent troops to the border before the arrival of migrant caravans.
As the Democratic Senator from New Jersey, Bob Menéndez, said recently: “The Administration has had over two years to plan for the eventual end of this Trump-era policy in a way that does not compromise our values as a country. I have offered them a strategic and comprehensive plan, which they have largely ignored. Trying to score political points or intimidate migrants by sending the military to the border caters to the Republican Party’s xenophobic attacks on our asylum system.”