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The Choice: Return to Trump’s Cruelty or Move Forward on Long-term Solutions

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 The Biden administration is attempting to solve problems, put in place durable long-term solutions, and recognize the basic humanity and dignity of migrants and refugees. In contrast, Trump, Stephen Miller and Republicans are attempting to legitimize and return to the cruel deterrence strategies of the past. Below is a roundup of leading voices speaking to this choice.

  • Adam Serwer in The Atlantic, “The Real Border Crisis”: He writes, “To the extent that the United States has a border crisis, it is an enduring one: the mistreatment of human beings in American custody. That problem is resolvable, but only by the U.S. meeting its legal obligation to treat migrants humanely. Even the problem of migrant flows can be mitigated by fixing a byzantine and ineffective immigration system, and addressing root causes in migrants’ nations of origin. But if the “border crisis” is the American government’s failure to be as cruel as possible, there is no solution worth pursuing, and none that would actually work.”
  • Arelis Hernández reporting for the Washington Post focuses on the stories and humanity of the migrants and refugees themselves. She writes, “And despite all they’ve heard — about family separations during the Trump administration, and pleas from the Biden administration not to come — three dozen migrants recently interviewed at the border say the decision to migrate is influenced but does not hinge on a particular president or message. Violence, impunity, hunger, climate change, persecution, the economic fallout of the pandemic and reuniting with family are more powerful motivators. They still believe the United States is where they will be safe and can prosper if given the chance. And for many, they see no other option. ‘There is no justice for women in my country,’ said a 17-year-old Guatemalan girl who said she fled after being sexually abused by criminal gangs. Her family paid smugglers $3,000 to cross the border with a large group of teenagers traveling without their parents. ‘I cannot go back. I do not want to go back to my country.’”
  • Peter Boogaard op-ed in USA Today, “Cruelty at the border is not the same as strength or an effective immigration strategy”: Boogaard, a former DHS official and current Communications Director at FWD.us, writes, “Cruelty doesn’t equal strength and it certainly isn’t an effective long-term border strategy. So we are left with a binary choice: return to Trump’s failed policies, or embrace a new approach. Biden has a plan to finally take action on the root causes of migration and to fix our long broken immigration system. He should continue to follow through on it.”
  • Caitlin Dickerson in The Atlantic, “America’s Immigration Amnesia”: She writes, “The issue is not that the federal government is unable to handle the large numbers of children crossing the border now—rather, that it has been unwilling to spend the money required to process children more safely and comfortably, because of a concern about optics … Moments at the border like this should by now be considered almost routine, but our collective short-term memory — sometimes exacerbated by media hyperbole — allows elected officials to capitalize on them for their own political gain. This misleading of the public also helps Congress dodge accountability for its role in retaining a system that has been outdated for decades.”
  • Jonathan Blitzer in The New Yorker, “Biden and the Blame Game at the Border”: He writes, the Biden administration “has rightly said that the problem needs to be addressed at the source. To do that, it intends to provide more aid to Central America, and to target it in ways that circumvent corrupt officials. The White House also wants to restart a program begun under Obama, and ended by Trump, to process children as refugees in their home countries, and to set up regional facilities to expedite their legal claims before the children reach the border. The plans are ambitious and still largely untested, and, as Biden admitted, they will take time—years, not months—to implement. Trump sought to hide the asylum issue south of the border. Biden is paying a price for bringing it back into view. The question is whether he can withstand the political onslaught long enough to begin to set things right.”
  • Marcela García in The Boston Globe, “Media are falling into Stephen Miller’s trap”: She writes, “It was only a matter of time before Stephen Miller returned to the spotlight … And so begins the normalization process of a white nationalist whose influence caused so much pain at the border and elsewhere … Instead of normalizing Miller, more media outlets should focus on humanizing the migrants whom Miller has worked so hard to vilify.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “There’s a choice here: either perpetuate the never-ending cycle of cruelty and chaos brought to us by Trump, Stephen Miller and the GOP, or go forward to achieve solutions that stand the test of time. Only one of these is grounded in the basic decency and humanity we should come from in the treatment of refugees and migrants.”