Send them back to where?
When President Biden took office in 2021, those of us working in any capacity connected to the migrant crisis knew things would change. It took less than two weeks to see that Vice President Harris was going to take a “hands-off" approach to the issues at the southern border and that has remained true as well.
Biden promised to reform what he called an inhumane approach to immigration policy which was more a political statement than a promise of any change as Trump spent money, time and effort for four years to clean up the mess that had been left to him by the previous administration which, if I am not mistaken, included Biden.
Biden’s reference to the “inhumane” actions of Trump referred to the increased number of apprehensions at the southern border during Trump’s administration.
As Trump was taking office, people were increasingly fleeing the rising violence and economic crisis in Haiti, Venezuela, Central and South Central America and elsewhere.
More people meant more immigrants. More immigrants meant more crossings. More crossings meant more illegal crossings. More illegal crossings gave CBP more opportunities to apprehend more people. The actual treatment of these people became much more humane compared to previous administrations (both Dem and Rep) as Trump took great pains to make sure that standards of care were raised and custody times were shortened. I can attest to this myself.
The problem with the criticism of border policies is two-fold; first, nobody ever takes the 30,000 foot altitude view and sees the global changes that create migrant surges at our southern border as I have just mentioned. Secondly, nobody ever takes the macro-view which is only seen by those of us with our boots on the ground dealing with the migrant issues every minute of every day at the ground level one migrant at a time.
Yesterday Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it is strongly rejecting any effort to implement the controversial Trump policy of “remain in Mexico” for asylum-seekers.
I don’t blame them, but the United States is not a travel agency either. Here is what I mean:
The “remain in Mexico” policy, officially named the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP), requires some asylum-seekers to be sent back to Mexico during immigration proceedings.
Back to where they came from. The view that Trump took was that of a businessman with many years of experience in business and efficiency. There was no way that holding all of these asylum-seekers was going to be sustainable so a system was created where the asylum was applied for and the seekers were given court dates but they were told they had to wait where they came from. That where was Mexico. If a Venezuelan crossed at McAllen, Texas, they crossed from Mexico, correct? Correct.
Now, back to Mexico’s point of view.
In December, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk halted the Biden administration’s latest attempt to end the program while a legal challenge, launched by Texas and Missouri aimed at forcing its reinstatement, was considered in court.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said, after the judge issued the stay, U.S. authorities notified them of their intention to restart the program. Here is what they had to say:
“Regarding the possible implementation of this policy for the third time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Government of Mexico, expresses its rejection of the U.S. government’s intention to return individuals processed under the program to Mexico,” the statement said.
As I said, I understand. Mexico is inundated with immigrants from countries all over the world everyday; after all, they are there before they are here. They do not need more.
The breakdown has occurred at the southern border of Mexico to be honest. Mexico has its fair share of immigration issues but few realize just how serious it is. While dealing with cartels that are growing stronger everyday and violence smears the streets across Mexico destroying communities and ruining tourism, there is a battle at the southern Mexican border going on as well!
As I re-watch the footage from 2019, I am reminded as to the seriousness of Mexico’s own struggle. Mexican soldiers, armed police and migration officials blocked thousands of migrants after they crossed the border from Guatemala in a caravan into southern Mexico.
This was no peaceful entry but rather was a show of mob-mentality brute force as gates were smashed down upon the soldiers who were attempting to stop what was literally an invasion.
Just last month Mexican military clashed once again with a crowd of immigrants from Cuba, Haiti and countries in Africa who violently beat down border fences and assaulted law enforcement and military personnel in order to gain access to Mexico. This was not in order to live in Mexico, this was merely to be able to pass through to the United States.
“Remain in Mexico” was first developed and implemented by the Trump administration in 2019 and has been billed has a deterrent to preempt invalid asylum claims. The truth is, about 20 to 30 percent of asylum requests have been granted annually since 2009, but that does not mean that the remaining 70 to 80 percent of cases are always invalid. There are many reasons why an asylum case might otherwise be dismissed or closed.
Human rights advocates say they have documented cases of kidnapping, extortion and rape in areas where those subjected to MPP are sent. U.S. border officials and independent researchers note the extensive influence criminal organizations (cartels) have along the border.
Biden campaigned on the very promise to end the MPP. But where do we send these people then? Back to where they really came from? Do we shelter them all here? How do we sustain efforts like the current sheltering of immigrants in some states that supply thousands of dollars in free rent, phones, healthcare, clothing and more (in some cases even vehicles!). This is ongoing as I write this!
Obviously we are not a travel agency and it would be inhumane to send Venezuelans back to Venezuela and Haitians back to Haiti, but what are the choices at the moment? There are homeless people living in my community and I could offer to take them in which would make me quite the savior with Texas’ present cold weather, but how would I do it? The cost of groceries for my large family is killing me at the moment and what if one of these folks got sick? How could I get them medicine? Who would pay for it? How would I afford to drive them to appointments or a job (if they got one)? Should I just buy them a car?
The point I am trying to make is that I understand why Mexico does not want to see these people a second time, but if we do not make them wait where they came from, what is the better option?
When an arena makes me wait outside until the gates open, when Ace Hardware makes me wait until they open before I can shop, are they being inhumane or are they attempting to maintain some form of control which protects their assets and therefore ends up creating a better environment for when I eventually do gain entry?
It remains to be seen whether or not MPP is reinstated and DHS says it will continue to fight for it despite court rulings and push-back so we will have to wait and see. The numbers don’t lie, it is a bleak subject no matter how you look at it. 74,000 migrants were returned to the Mexico side under Trump, but more than 2 million have made it across the border in the last year that we know of and CBP estimates another 599,000 “gotaways”.
That’s 2.6 million people. To put that in perspective, that is the population of Chicago.
Is there a solution? I doubt that but I do believe that there has to be ways in which governments can work together to support each other better than we are seeing presently and I truly believe that if we continue to run this country on social media and refuse to reach across the aisle to each other, we are going to think that 2.6 million was a low number very soon.
Side Note: A look at what is driving the traffic
More than a year after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, Haiti’s humanitarian crisis has grown more dire. Amid continued political upheaval, the country has fallen deeper into economic disarray, with inflation reaching double digits and more than 70 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, the combined effects of natural disasters, disease outbreaks, high fuel costs, and a surge in deadly gang-related violence in the capital, Port-au-Prince, have spurred calls for international intervention. To escape the turmoil, tens of thousands of Haitian migrants have risked their lives to seek asylum in the United States, with most making the dangerous journey to the southern U.S. border on foot or by boat.
Over 541,000 of the more than two million migrants who arrived at the southern U.S. border in 2022 hailed from the so-called Northern Triangle Countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. After decades of civil war and political instability, the Northern Triangle countries have among the lowest economic output and highest homicide rates in Latin America. Criminal violence was on the rise in 2022, and El Salvador’s sudden spike in gang violence led to a sweeping government crackdown.
Record numbers of migrants risked their lives in 2022 to cross the treacherous Darien Gap, a remote jungle region bridging Central and South America. The gap became a leading transit point for those in search of work and safety in the United States after authorities cracked down on other routes by air and sea. More than 151,000 migrants made the trek in the first nine months of the year, up from just a couple hundred people annually a decade ago. The majority were from Cuba, Ecuador, Haiti, and Venezuela, though some traveled from as far away as Uzbekistan.