While the White House is pushing an immigration reform bill with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, it is also advancing executive actions and policy changes to bring an end to some of the most onerous practices of the Trump presidency, including the detention of children and families. In addition to being urgent and necessary, this is a vital task to meet the moment, especially considering the human capital that millions of undocumented immigrants bring to this nation, and the very future of this country that they represent.
But as in other administrations with more benevolent immigration policies, immediately the Biden government is being accused of inciting a “crisis” at the border, as if it were a new phenomenon or this nation is incapable of handling it. It’s so obvious that administrations come and administrations go, but the border remains, with its own dynamic, its own questions and responses. In sum, the border alone defines itself.
To begin with, we can’t skip over the fact that it was Trump’s policies that generated the recent chaos at the border, among many, such as when he began to send legitimate asylum seekers to Mexico with the singular objective of making them lose hope. It was a predacious and insulting policy that has fortunately come to an end and, little by little, the hundreds of cases that had seemed to be stalled forever are beginning to receive their due process, benefiting not only migrant families but also restoring decency and morality to the legal asylum process.
But the fact that migrants from diverse nations undertake the journey north looking for safety and opportunities is nothing new. Didn’t migrant caravans occur during the era of Trump, one of the most anti-immigrant presidents in modern history? The former president separated children from their parents —many of them have not even been reunited with their families— and not even that deterred the flow of immigrants. The new administration intends to reverse this offense to the human rights of immigrants, little by little reuniting children who were torn from their parents’ arms at the border; but it seems that the “influence” of the previous administration wants to make political noise in order to confuse and misrepresent a mission that is clearly, fundamentally humanitarian.
In that sense, it’s to be expected that once a pro-immigrant government takes control, waves of immigrants who risk everything, even their lives, to try to come to this country would be produced, erroneously believing that the border is “open” because the government changed. In their desperation, they are victims of “coyotes” who also exploit the situation, making them believe that with Biden in the White House, the border has its doors wide open, an argument made by Trump himself and his minions who also contribute to the disinformation campaign that fuels the crossings.
But the reality is that it doesn’t matter who is president; the waves of migrants are constant because the violence, corruption, unemployment, hunger, and other needs in their countries of origin are also constant. The COVID-19 pandemic has also worsened circumstances there, as well as natural disasters.
On this point, anti-immigrant people always ask why the poorest people on the planet choose the United States as their destination, risking everything, including their lives. The answer, which they know but pretend to ignore, has nothing to do with migrants wanting to “invade” this nation because they feel like it, but because the logic imposed by the economic paradigm turns the self-styled “most powerful nation in the world” into the inevitable route toward human survival, at this time. And the invisible hand of the United States in the policies that generated the chaos in these migrants’ countries of origin is something that, on this side of the border, is always ignored.
On the other hand, when Trump applied the cruel policy of family separation to discourage others from arriving at the border line, the media showed the horrors of what was happening. Now that a president who wants to implement changes to eliminate many of these policies, and try to pass permanent changes through legislation, the bets on his failure begin.
Essentially, the Biden administration will face challenges at the border line, exacerbated by the pandemic crisis and its limitations for how to handle new entries.
Therefore, the fact that politicians in Washington, of both parties, should use this as an excuse for inaction, on one hand, or delay in the required actions, on the other, is another matter. The electoral and political considerations also are a constant when it comes to mismanaging the border.
But whether it’s called a crisis, challenge, or chaos, the reality of the border has always been there for those who only acknowledge its existence when they have to report on it or to perpetuate the narrative that any attempt at change is destined to fail.
It would be sad, in any case, if outside of the White House, Trump continues defining U.S. immigration policy, especially at the border.
To read the Spanish version of this article click here.