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Horrified by the images of the border patrol mistreating Haitian migrants? Blame decades of dangerous immigration policy

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It hasn’t been a good week for U.S. immigration officials after conditions in Del Rio, Texas and the mistreatment of dozens of Haitian asylum seekers camped there were caught on camera. Many of those likely asylum seekers had traveled from as far as Chile and Brazil to reach the US-Mexico border, having first emigrated from Haiti to South America after a devastating earthquake in 2010.

This made reports of their swift deportation to Haiti, a nation some had not seen for over a decade, seem particularly cruel. Worse, Haiti’s precarious state – after another earthquake, tropical storm and presidential assassination in just the past three months – makes it a poor candidate for safe and legal repatriation.

But what sparked the most outrage was the footage of border patrol officers on horseback attempting to physically block asylum seekers or get them back to Mexico by swinging horse reins (many observers took them for whips). Is this the “safe, orderly and humane“Immigration System The White House Biden Promised?”

“Almost any tools you could possibly need to deal with a situation like this have been very exhausted.”

On September 20, the Department of Homeland Security responded to the outcry with a statement calling the footage “extremely disturbing” and promising a full investigation that “”define the appropriate disciplinary measures to be taken. “These reports give the impression that DHS has already decided to let Border Patrol cowboys take responsibility for the bad press, but no one should be surprised by this latest ugliness at the border. the border will always be ugly, because the official policy behind it is ugly.

U.S. immigration policy has not changed for decades beyond a few tweaks at the edges that appear to have only increased its cruelty and ineffectiveness. It relies on multiple strategies to prevent migrants from reaching the United States, ad hoc bureaucratic and physical barriers at the border, and capricious and intrusive enforcement in work communities across the country. If politicians weren’t afraid to appear lenient on immigration – or worse, bow to neo-nativists’ obsession with “”excellent replacement”Conspiracies – healthier, more human scenes might be the rule, not the exception at the US-Mexico border.

Not a border crisis

America’s unspoken immigration policy has been to make the process as onerous as possible and to make conditions at the border as miserable as the richest nation in the world could get away with. This policy is of course immoral and cruel; the worst is that it does not work.

Marginalized and vulnerable people in the Western Hemisphere seek not only to escape poverty and lack of opportunity, but also the social disorder, corruption and state-sponsored violence that threaten their daily lives. This desire is predictable and understandable. He won’t be stopped by bigger walls or beaten with horse reins.

Donald Kerwin is the executive director of the Center for Migration Studies in New York. What Americans need to understand, he says, is that what they are witnessing in Texas is not at all a “border crisis” or a “refugee crisis.” “It’s a whole different kind of crisis; it is a displacement crisis…. These are people driven by absolutely impossible circumstances.

U.S. immigration policy has not changed for decades beyond a few tweaks at the edges that appear to have only increased its cruelty and ineffectiveness.

These impossible circumstances include a global pandemic that has disrupted economies across South America, but struck particularly harsh countries where Haitians, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and other national groups have found respite from political conditions. and economic in their country of origin. This is clearly not a crisis that can be resolved by more aggressive enforcement at the US border.

The United States is currently particularly unprepared to respond, according to Kerwin. President Joseph Biden Jr. inherited “a truly extraordinarily bad situation,” he says, due to the policies of the Trump administration which have severely degraded the capabilities of the country’s immigration and asylum systems.

“Almost any tools you could need to deal with a situation like this are very depleted in terms of infrastructure,” Mr. Kerwin said. “Having strong asylum and refugee systems with sufficient staff and funds would help a lot at this stage, but it doesn’t exist. Now, under duress, the Biden administration will have to focus its “build back better” mantra on immigration and asylum, he said.

Over the decades, an execution mindset has led to imbalances that contribute to calamity at the border. Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, the federal government has spent approximately $ 333 billion for execution. But economic and social development assistance to Central American states, where most of today’s migration originates, has generally accounted for the smallest fraction of this expenditure.

While various interventions over the decades have contributed to instability, violence, and poverty in the region, the United States has not been really generous with non-military aid. In 2016, the United States provided just $ 131 million in aid to Guatemala, $ 98 million to Honduras, and $ 68 million to El Salvador. The following year, in the Trump administration’s first budget, funding fell even lower, to $ 69 million for Guatemala, $ 66 million for Honduras, and $ 46 million for El Salvador.

Congress must act

The Biden administration plans to reverse the course somewhat in 2022 with a $ 4 billion, four-year Central American initiative. It is to highlight that overall DHS expenditure for law enforcement remains unchanged, and the administration is even seeking a boost of $ 291 million for the border patrol, now funded at more than $ 5 billion for the first time.

“Our legal immigration system … has not been overhauled for 55 years,” Kerwin points out. “We haven’t had a major legalization program since 1986.”

The United States could be more generous in other ways than its aid policy. Opening more legal channels to the United States would ease the border crush by creating real competition for criminal entrepreneurs who feed off and in turn foster illegal migration. How many migrants would make a dangerous journey to an uncertain reception at the border if there was a realistic chance of legally managing their emigration?

But for many people categorized as low-skilled, like many Haitian migrants in Del Rio, backlogs, quotas, and waiting lists mean that there is essentially no legal route to the States- United. The United States limits EB-3 visas for “unskilled” workers to just 10,000 per year. Many immigration analysts believe this figure could be dramatically increased and that unused visas could be “clawed back”, especially at a time when employers struggle to fill thousands of positions that current US residents are unwilling to accept.

With the likelihood that migration to the US border will only increase in the short term before conditions stabilize in other countries in North and South America, US authorities must consolidate and create existing structures. news. Current mechanisms like Temporary Protected Status only cover immigrants already in the United States, and refugee resettlement quotas are insufficient for the problem (and the system emptied under the Trump administration), according to Kerwin. The asylum system requires potential immigrants to go to the border to apply, a trap if the hope is to avoid more unfortunate experiences at the border.

But, according to Kerwin, extending humanitarian parole at the border and restoring the capacity to adjudicate asylum claims, which had been diminished under the Trump administration, is a step towards a more humane approach. This would allow migrants to be quickly moved from the border region to the United States while their asylum appeals are heard.

He suggests that the United States could create and begin issuing humanitarian visas that allow people at risk to enter the United States with legal status. This would take them completely away from the precarious migratory trail and prevent the enrichment and empowerment of the criminal networks that destabilize life in Mexico (creating another push factor for migration to the United States).

With the likelihood that migration to the U.S. border will only increase before conditions stabilize in other countries in North and South America, U.S. officials must consolidate existing structures and create new ones.

But nothing will change until Congress makes sweeping immigration reform, which has been rotting since 2013, a bipartisan priority.

“Our legal immigration system … has not been overhauled for 55 years,” Kerwin points out. “We haven’t had a major legalization program since 1986.”

The last attempt to revise immigration policy was pushed back on September 19, the same day of the confrontation in Del Rio, when the Senate parliamentarian ruled that immigration reform legislation could not be included in a recent budget reconciliation package.

As an autonomous politician who will now have to make his way in Congress, the Biden administration U.S. Citizenship Act would revitalize immigration policy and include provisions to substantially respond to the current migration press from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

It would also create “the largest legalization program in US history for people who are already here, and that would be a positive thing, of course, in itself,” said Mr Kerwin, who in turn would create “other legal opportunities for people to be admitted.”

But for all the outrage and finesse this week over immigration, there seems little reason to hope that the 117th Congress will break a long-term trend of inaction. Immigration, says Kerwin, remains “a politically controversial issue, unfortunately.”

There are many better solutions and models to choose from, says Kerwin, which lead to a more just, orderly and humane alternative to the current system. Congress need only approve them.


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