In 2015-16, Candidate Trump ran on an anti-immigrant platform, claiming that Mexico was exporting its rapists, murderers and drug lords to the US. Not only was this not true, but there was no crisis at the border – illegal immigration was on a steady and steep downturn and had been since the early 2000’s.
Two years later, there is a very real crisis at the border, and President Trump is preparing his re-election campaign on the same themes of building a Southern border wall and cracking down on illegal immigrants.
What was fiction then has turned into a real crisis under President Trump’s leadership and management skills (or rather lack thereof). Families from Central America are trying to get from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala into the US to claim asylum from the dangerous conditions prevailing in their own countries. Due to the killings associated with the drug trade, gangs and drug wars, and the political repression of political opponents and indigenous people associated with the region’s civil wars, families are fleeing for their lives.
The President’s responses have been to send troops to the border, separate children from their parents, deny access to shelter, food and medical care, cut funding to the three nations struggling with crime and violence, double down on his demands to fund a wall that most experts judge is ineffective at best and a ridiculous waste of resources on a Presidential vanity project, and close off and slow down the opportunities to asylum seekers to make their claims for asylum. Lately he has fired much of his top leadership at the Department of Homeland Security and invested his hardest line acolytes with the responsibility to address the very real crisis now at hand, and he has directed border and customs staff and officials to break the law. His tough on immigration policies have backfired very badly causing the crisis we now face.
Democrats need to step up and forward with their own recommendations to the humanitarian crises being caused in part by President Trump and his misguided and dishonest policies and in part by intolerable conditions in swaths of Central America. While Central American states like Panama, Costa Rica and Belize are doing well, the levels of violence overtaking El Salvador and Honduras are unimaginable. Our own hands are not clean; we fostered military repression and governmental overthrows in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The US needs adequate facilities to house and provide shelter and medical care for asylum seeking families, sufficient judges and immigration personnel to process and adjudicate their claims, solid standards and a streamlined and efficient process to decide who is entitled to asylum and who is not, and the right kinds of assistance to the countries whose violence the immigrants are fleeing to prevent further exodus of their citizens. See the excellent analysis and recommendations at https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/us-asylum-system-crisis-charting-way-forward.
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin