“The immigration policies of this administration exacerbate the dangers that these migrants face, with often fatal consequences”
Maribel Hastings y David Torres
The image of the young Salvadoran father with his little 23-month old girl embracing his back, drowned and face down in the waters of the Río Grande, translates the cruel reality that migrants fleeing economic misery and violence are facing. It highlights, at the same time, how the immigration policies of this administration exacerbate the dangers that these migrants face, with often fatal consequences.
They are two ends that have now converged in one tragedy, and for migrants like Óscar Alberto Martínez and his young daughter Angie Valeria, amount to choosing the longest possible road to death, since staying in their places of origin would be accepting the fact that there were no options other than giving themselves up to the fatality of fate and hunger, lack of employment, or threats from those who control their geographic regions with the barrel of a gun, threatening to assault women and recruit men, especially adolescents.
But, unfortunately, the lifeline they longed for on the other end, in the north, is now nothing more than an immense valley plagued with obstacles to make exercising the right to request asylum more difficult–and that’s before even getting to a decision.
Because if the current White House would stop putting obstacles before migrants who arrive at the border with the hope of soliciting asylum, as international law allows, perhaps this tragedy, like many others, would have been avoided. An orderly process would have allowed the family to submit their petition, and maybe it would have been granted or maybe not, but the closure of the ports of entry to applicants causes many to make the desperate decision to get to the “other side” by any means possible, even though they are putting their lives at risk.
Sadly, others have met this same fatal destiny, with the difference being that there is no photo capturing the horror. But they have still become powerful statistics in this human tragedy: for example in 2018, 376 migrants’ deaths were registered in the passage between Mexico and the United States, according to the Missing Migrants Project, which puts this region as the second-highest corridor for migrant deaths, after the Mediterranean with more than 2,000 cases–another zone that also represents a wakeup call to inequity in the world.
Essentially, the Rio Grande and the vast desert between the United States and Mexico is burial ground to many, such as in 2017 when the number of migrant deaths reached 415, after 2016’s registered 401 fatalities.
But “out of sight, out of mind” seems to be the motto of politicians and officials charged with applying the laws coldy and, above all, at the whim of a president like Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant aides. In fact, they have taken it upon themselves to manipulate the asylum laws through executive action to make it impossible for Central American migrants to solicit refuge.
There is no lack, of course, of those who applaud, adore, and justify said barbaric actions due to their limited and racist vision of the world–the very same people who have put this country in the catacombs of human rights and the struggle to preserve them.
But luckily there are also those–and they are the majority–who repudiate the atrocities committed, for example, against migrant children detained in Border Patrol processing centers, as recently occurred in Clint, Texas, where thanks to the sorrowful testimony of lawyers who had access here we came to know about the children piled up in inhumane conditions, without toilets or sanitary services, or water or adequate nutrition, and many cases without vital medical attention, dealing with freezing temperatures, without blankets, sleeping on the floor and with lights burning 24 hours a day.
And still, the government’s argument before judges–that these children found themselves in “safe and sanitary” conditions, and that in fact, they did not require such hygiene products–was of no concern to its official representative, Sarah Fabian, who justified the children’s sleeping on cold, concrete floors.
In this way, in the global collective imagination, now the United States of Trump is but a frayed image of what once was a beacon of hope for millions of people who, historically, went on bolstering its demographics, economy or science, always from the perspective of the migrant who at least offered his hands to do his part, no matter his status or his poverty.
But Trump only wants to use immigrants as pawns in his sickly game of political chess, in order to ingratiate himself with his base in the face of the 2020 elections or to press Congress in the battle over funds for his border agenda. There is no other direction in his prioritized political objective, and no one fits in his presidential agenda other than himself–not his aides, not his Cabinet, not his party.
And while Trump looks to gain political advantage on the backs of immigrants, they will keep arriving, because the root of the problem is never reached. The response to the humanitarian crisis is inhumane.
The photo of Óscar and Angie makes one shudder. One wants to believe it would move politicians, particularly the Republicans of this country, especially the religious sector that supports Trump, to recognize the humanity of these migrants.
Lamentably in this era of Trump, dehumanization has become the norm.