We As Democrats Need to Engage with the Immigration Situation, Too
I don’t know how everyone else feels about the immigration situation in the United States, but in many ways, I think, Donald Trump has done himself and his administration a real disservice by sounding alarm bells about caravans and rapists and criminals. Trump lies, a lot, and he’s a racist with a white nationalist advisor running our immigration policy, and so we — as Democrats — have a tendency to push back or ignore Trump where it concerns matters of immigration. When Trump says that there are “animals” who are “pouring over the borders,” we’re like, “F*ck you, these are human beings escaping violence and seeking better lives,” and maybe some of us ignore a very real problem that may be getting out of hand at the border.
There is a problem, and it’s actually a problem that Trump has ironically exacerbated with his draconian immigration policies. The Times has written a fairly comprehensive article on the challenges posed by the situation, but the predicament is this: There are 100,000 people crossing the Mexican border every month, most of whom are legally seeking asylum. Our system — in part because of the way Trump has pulled resources — cannot accommodate that many people. There’s a backlog of 800,000 people awaiting their asylum hearings, but we don’t have the resources to detain 800,000 people for the nearly two years it takes to get a hearing. So, most of those people — particularly those with families — are released into the country after 20 days and are expected to return for their asylum hearing two years later. If they miss the hearing, they’re deported (if they’re caught). If they go to the hearing, there’s a good chance under Trump’s more stringent laws that they won’t qualify for asylum, and so a lot of people don’t go to the hearings for fear of deportation, which itself leads to an increased number of undocumented immigrants, some of whom are rounded up by ICE and deported and some of whom who have to spend their lives living in the shadows.
It’s even more f**cked up because Trump’s policies have actually led to an increase in crossings. From The Times:
Yet, perversely, the president’s own anti-immigrant rhetoric has helped supercharge the pipeline of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Smugglers lately have been buying radio ads in Central America, warning that Mr. Trump is about to shut down all immigration. If you ever want to go to the United States, they say, go now!
The system is apparently at a breaking point. So, what the hell is the solution? Trump wants to build a wall, and we all know that won’t work (in fact, because resources were pulled during the government shutdown over the wall, even more migrants crossed the border). Republicans want to change the laws so that we don’t even have to accept asylum seekers, although that is against international law. We have to accept asylum seekers, and then we have to give them a hearing. However, in these hearings, only about 20 percent of refugees are granted asylum status, so obviously, there’s an incentive for many not to show up for the hearing out of fear of being rejected and deported back to their home countries, where they face potential violence.
The Democrats’ strategy is to basically provide financial assistance to Central American countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to increase the quality of life there so that fewer people will want to flee to America. I don’t know how effective that has been, either, because a divided Congress is probably never going to provide enough funding to those countries to make them better places to live. But that same divided Congress is also never going to change the existing laws to stop migrants from asking for asylum, and so the system expands beyond our country’s ability to sustain it because the divided Congress will also not provide more resources for the system to accommodate a million people a year coming to America and legally asking for asylum.
So what the hell is the solution? I legitimately do not know, and Democrats aren’t really offering a lot of options. Do we just let anyone in who wants in? That’s the “open borders” option for which we get sh*t from Republicans. I mean, personally, I feel like we’re a huge country with a low unemployment rate and a lot of resources to support an influx of migrants looking for a better life. It would increase the number of people who are allowed to immigrate into the United States legally and make it easier for asylum seekers to qualify for asylum, thus increasing the number of people who come into the United States legally. The more legal immigrants we have, the better chance they have of contributing to the welfare of their own families and society at large. But I think in a divided system, that’s not practical, either, and I doubt we can convince the other side that letting more people in legally is a better option than a system in which migrants are forced to dodge the system in order to remain, thus increasing the number of undocumented immigrants.
We live in a politically divided country, and I almost feel like compromises on this issue are just going to exacerbate the problem. All of which is to say: I’m at a goddamn loss, but it feels like a problem that we can’t continue to ignore, because the more out of hand it gets, the more likely it is that Trump and the Republicans will seek inhumane solutions to reduce the number of people legally seeking asylum.
What do the immigration experts among our readership suggest?
Source: The NYTimes
Header Image Source: Getty Images