With or without Title 42, migrants continue to risk it all

Washington, DC – Below is a column by Maribel Hastings and David Torres from America’s Voice en Español translated to English from Spanish. It ran in several Spanish-language media outlets earlier this week.

Following the federal judge’s ruling that prevents the Biden administration from ending implementation of Title 42, which the White House assures it will appeal, there is a common denominator in press reports. That is, with or without the measure in place, migrants will continue to arrive at the border with the hope of seeking asylum at some point in time.

This seems to be the logic of basic survival that anti-immigrant people—including politicians, officials, and a part of U.S. society—will never understand nor accept. There could be thousands of obstacles along the way, but for someone who is trying to leave behind what threatens their very existence, and that of their loved ones, there is no barrier that will keep them from at least trying.

Essentially, thousands of migrants are waiting in various border cities because, with or without Title 42, they will continue to come. In fact, one of the fallacies that Republicans and some moderate Democrats brandish is that the elimination of Title 42 would generate “chaos at the border,” in the mass arrival of migrants. From there they insist on latching on to this health measure, activated by the COVID-19 pandemic, to deal with migration challenges, without any sort of real debate in Congress about approving or rejecting legislation.

It is, plain and simple, a sort of legislative “give and take” in which thousands of human lives, completely vulnerable, are part of a perverse game of political convenience, where what’s most “important” is beating your opponent, whether that be the court or the press, putting these migrants in the middle like an ideological stratagem, whether they are defending or attacking them. Meanwhile, those migrants unfortunately remain, as always, in migratory limbo.

In other words, Title 42 has been like a weapon for those politicians who have dedicated decades to blocking broad immigration reform that, in addition to legalizing undocumented immigrants, would address the obsolete asylum laws that govern in this country. What’s more, Title 42 has allowed these asylum laws to be undermined even more, impeding entry especially to foreign born people from Latin American, Caribbean, and African countries, among others—a phenomenon that began during the Trump administration, also revealing the xenophobic part that goes along with this policy of evident exclusion.

In that way, these politicians’ cynicism has no limit. The end date of Title 42—this past May 23—had not even arrived, yet they began to argue that there was a “border crisis.” If there was a “crisis” with Title 42, then why cling to this health measure to confront the disaster that is this country’s immigration laws, in the supposedly most powerful nation on the planet? Why not legislate?

The answer is simple. Because it’s easier to exploit the issue for political ends than “put on your big boy and big girl pants” to make difficult decisions and reform a migration system that does not correspond to the reality of this 21st century. It’s easier to turn to demagoguery than to do the work for which they were supposedly elected.

“They should put themselves in our shoes one day,” is the message from an undocumented immigrant to U.S. legislators, when she is interviewed by Noticias Telemundo in a shelter in the Mexican city of Reynosa, where she awaits the opportunity to solicit asylum. “Hopefully they will help us because we are humble people with a heart ready to work.”

Her words encapsulate the true and profound feelings of a real migrant who only wants the opportunity to demonstrate what each generation of migrants has, not only for this country, but for any that have done so throughout human history.

But the lack of guts of these legislators is so much so that, in the talk about the border and managing thousands of asylum seekers daily, it would seem like this is an underdeveloped nation, incapable of dealing with an increase in the number of migrants.

This contrasts with the petulance they always show in Congress, where the United States is “top dog,” fully in charge, capable of managing anything. Right now, with the crisis in the scarcity of baby formula, one congressperson commented on a cable TV program that seeing those empty shelves in supermarkets and pharmacies was inconceivable because “this is the United States of America.”

Well, if this is the United States of America, they should comport themselves like they are part of a developed nation, capable of confronting challenges that really matter from an urgent, humanitarian point of view. For example, they just approved sending $40 billion (!) for the war in Ukraine, but apparently cannot tend to an increase in migrants at the border with Mexico.

The reality is that with or without Title 42, migrants will continue to arrive, especially now that summer, when the numbers skyrocket, is starting. Because they are not only seeking asylum—since many of them come from countries allied with the United States and the possibility of obtaining this status is remote—but also, like so many others, are fleeing misery, and violence in all of its forms.

Those are the situations that compel them to cross deserts and navigate shark-infested waters on rickety boats. If they survive the crossings and are then deported, they will try once again. With or without Title 42.


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