- I biked 1,600 miles alongside the southern border and spoke with residents, immigrants, and border patrol.
- The narrative politicians and the media have unfold a few disaster for border communities is fake.
- The one disaster on the border is how the US is treating immigrants and asylum seekers.
- Doug Pagitt is an evangelical pastor and co-founder and govt director of Vote Frequent Good.
- That is an opinion column. The ideas expressed are these of the creator.
In case you take heed to sure politicians and pundits on sure community information reveals, you might be left with the impression that communities alongside the US-Mexico border are a hellscape of crime and violence fueled by malevolent immigrants crossing the border, intentionally making an attempt to bypass our authorized immigration system. On this view, borderland communities are victims in want of saving.
However after spending 5 weeks biking more than 1,600 miles along the border with a bunch of religion leaders and activists, the place I spoke with border patrol officers, ranchers, humanitarians, religion leaders, mayors, enterprise homeowners, residents, migrants, and asylum seekers, I can say this image of the state of affairs on the border is much from the reality. There’s a disaster on the border, however it’s one which places immigrants — not US residents — in peril.
Border communities aren’t as harmful because the media and politicians say
All through our journey, which aimed to create a greater understanding of the US immigration system and the fact alongside the border, I requested the identical query of everybody that our group met: “What are you aware to be true primarily based on dwelling right here that you just want individuals in the remainder of the US knew?”
One of the crucial widespread solutions is that border communities should not as harmful as they’re portrayed within the media. We heard this all over the place we traveled, from individuals of all backgrounds and political persuasions. Someday we floated alongside the Rio Grande River close to McAllen, Texas, touchdown within the precise location the place a bunch of governors held a press conference simply days earlier than wherein they stoked worry in regards to the border. The native riverboat captain we had been with pointed to the place the place they held the press convention and stated to me, “We’re right here daily. What they described is solely not actuality.”
The border is protected until you might be an immigrant. For immigrants and asylum seekers, it’s harmful and even lethal. The one choice for getting into alongside the southern border is to cross the Rio Grande River, climb a wall, or trek by a desert. We spoke with immigrants who instructed us about their experiences practically dying within the desert of thirst as they tried to make it to the US. We heard from others who practically drowned with their kids making an attempt to cross the river. Immigrants have drowned crossing the river in the exact same place the ten governors spewed their lies. We met a girl who fell from the wall and broke her pelvis, and we had been simply ft away when a person broke his legs from a fall off the wall in El Paso.
Why do these immigrants take such dangers? As a result of they’re left with no higher choices.
No higher choices
Since 2018, the US has shut off practically all asylum claims for individuals from Central America and more moderen COVID-19 restrictions have frozen the asylum course of for everybody else. What’s extra, the roughly 200,000 farm worker visas which are provided annually are nowhere near sufficient to fulfill the wants of employers within the US or migrants searching for to work.
In the meantime, the disaster in elements of Mexico and Central American nations is intensifying. We spoke with Indigenous ladies from Guatemala who wanted to flee their villages as a result of gangs had been recruiting and threatening their kids’s lives. We talked with a person from Honduras, who lived on a small island off the mainland that caters completely to cruise ships, and who was economically devastated by the impacts of the pandemic. His city had been thrust into poverty. His daughter wanted surgical procedure to appropriate the results of scoliosis, so he knew that he wanted to do all he might to get to the US and earn sufficient cash to pay for the surgical procedure.
There was once a means for individuals on this state of affairs to enter the US. However because of the “Stay in Mexico” coverage — a Trump-era coverage that’s continuing under President Biden that requires practically all asylum seekers to await their adjudication in Mexico — tens of hundreds of asylum-seekers live in makeshift camps in Mexico. This makes them susceptible to Mexican drug cartels. The entire individuals we spoke with instructed us they not solely needed to pay to make their journey to the US, however they went into debt to legal cartels alongside the journey. Now they face an much more dire monetary state of affairs than after they began. The “Stay in Mexico” coverage has strengthened cartels and created extra human struggling.
A lot of this may very well be solved with modifications to US coverage. The US should drastically enhance the variety of farm employee visas out there from 200,000 per yr to at the least 1 million per yr. The shortage of workers within the US calls for it. The Biden administration should additionally instantly put an finish to the Trump-era ban on asylum seekers. As soon as that is carried out, the asylum adjudication course of will have to be overhauled; the US ought to interact hundreds of former judges and magistrates to function asylum judges and create a system able to processing extra circumstances per week. The Biden administration’s plan to lift the refugee cap to 125,000 is best than the disastrous 15,000 below the Trump administration, however it doesn’t go far sufficient. We have to additional enhance the variety of refugees allowed to enter the nation.
There’s a disaster on the border. It isn’t a menace to Individuals or borderland communities, however it’s a determined gauntlet of life or demise for hundreds trying to escape violence and construct a greater life. Immigrants should not those to be feared — they want our assist.