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Two new pieces offer reminders that Trump’s policy choices helped create the chaos and disorder on display at the border by dismantling processes and laws and whipping up fears and lies. Even further, the articles highlight that Trump’s proposed hardline deterrence solutions don’t work, won’t work, and aren’t even directly responsive to some of the specific contours of the caravan.
Dara Lind at Vox explains how Trump’s decisions and policies gutting asylum processing and protections helped create a pressure cooker and the disorder now on display.
… It was nearly inevitable that tensions at the border would boil over, and that they would do so at El Chaparral. For months, it has been the unofficial “waiting room” of the United States.
… They don’t say how long the wait will be. And there’s no line for asylum seekers to wait in — no official way for them to hold their spot or secure an appointment, no guarantee that they’ll ever be allowed to cross.
And so asylum seekers wait, for days or weeks or (increasingly) months: sometimes in migrant shelters whose capacity has stretched to the breaking point, sometimes huddling together on bridges, sleeping on the street, in the cold, vulnerable to the violence they hoped to escape in their home countries.
The violence that erupted Sunday was a distress signal, a sign that the situation at the border has grown untenable. The unofficial, sometimes arbitrary processes to let people in under metering are threatening to collapse into chaos, and it’s not clear if order can be restored.
The Trump administration’s proposed solution is to legally codify the idea that asylum seekers should be held in Mexico, in limbo. On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that the administration would sign an agreement with the incoming government of Mexico that would force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico after starting the asylum process — changing the current practice of allowing them into the US to wait for their asylum claims to be heard. Dubbed “Remain in Mexico,” the new policy, if enacted, would essentially formalize what’s been happening on the ground these past few months.
In a Washington Post analysis titled, “The migrant situation near Tijuana undercuts Trump’s proposed solutions,” Philip Bump describes how Trump keeps whipping up lies and fears about immigrants before noting:
The response Trump offers for these terrors is straightforward. Build a wall on the border. Deploy the military as needed (at least in the weeks before an election). Prevent people from seeking asylum if they cross the border illegally.
The recent tension near Tijuana following the arrival of the migrant caravan, though, makes clear that none of those proposed solutions is actually a solution — at least in this case.
The migrants arrived at a place where there’s already a wall. After having departed from Honduras in early October, the caravan of migrants had a choice of where it would go… The result, though, is that the migrants headed to a place where a wall already exists. Even Trump acknowledged this, tweeting a photo last week showing how the wall had been bolstered in anticipation of the migrants’ arrival.
… No wall will ever be free of points of entry. In the incident over the weekend where migrants were tear-gassed, Border Patrol agents were responding to a push from a group of migrants that attempted to climb fences or run through lanes of traffic at the San Ysidro port of entry.
… While the president has threatened to close the border entirely, that’s not practical, given how much traffic (and, indirectly, money) crosses it each day. There will always be places such as San Ysidro where there is no wall and where people can cross the border.
The vast majority of the migrants are waiting to apply for asylum at the port of entry. Most of the migrants seeking asylum in the United States are waiting in Tijuana to cross into the United States at the port of entry.
… The Trump administration issued an executive order this month requiring that those seeking asylum enter at ports of entry to make such claims. This was apparently an effort to dissuade a not-uncommon practice among migrants of crossing the border at any point and then turning themselves in to a Border Patrol agent to claim asylum.
… The role of the military has been limited. The incident over the weekend was apparently handled by CBP, which closed the border crossing and fired the tear gas. Images from the scene showed members of the military on scene, but CBP took credit on Twitter for managing the situation.