Immigration and asylum seeking is a hot issue where we just came from, namely Arizona, but it is a hot issue everywhere. It seems to bring out the best and the worst in people. In Europe it helped fuel the rise of populism in England, Germany, Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, France, Romania and many other countries. Everyone knows how flammable an issue it is in the United States. It is even volatile here in meek and mild (we thought) Canada. Everyone has an opinion and often it is a hot one.
Ed Lavandera, a reporter with CNN, was disgusted by the family separations he saw on the southern US border. Dee Margo, the Republican Mayor of El Paso, the largest city on the border said, “This is not who we are as a nation.” Mary Bauer, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center said, “The number of family separations are much worse than we thought. 10,000 people are now detained across the U.S. as a result of deliberate U.S. policies of the Trump administration.” She called it a “deliberate and nefarious policy.” Thousands of children have been locked up in detention facilities and many of them will bear the scars of that trauma for the rest of their lives. As Bauer said, “This does not have to be. This is the result of calculated, deliberate, intentional acts to separate children from their parents and to use children essentially as bait, to lure their parents into the deportation system.” What would you do if your child was locked up somewhere and you could not visit the child and you knew the child was likely suffering trauma as a result of being locked up in a strange country without any family around to help?
We have to remember that most of these immigrant families have recently come from Central America, not Mexico at all. Many of them have made long journeys at considerable risk and expense. According to Lavandera, many of these desperate people have been exploited by smugglers who had fed them misinformation and charged them significant sums of money for their “help.”
This confirms what Rick Jervis and Rafael Carranza reported in USA Today.They reported on an asylum seeker Lillian Menendez from Honduras. Trump Administration policies, initiated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, at the time, were to make it very difficult for asylum seekers to enter into the United States to make their claims for refugee status as they are allowed to do by international law. Jervis and Carranza reported as follows:
“Over the past year, Lilian Menendez has evaded street gangs in her native Honduras, paid $5,000 to free her kidnapped brother and made the perilous 2,000-mile journey from her home country to this border city. Now, Menendez and husband, Osman Guillen, face perhaps their most daunting task: Turning themselves in to U.S. authorities to seek asylum.
Rebuffed at the international bridge that leads to McAllen, Texas – and to U.S. sanctuary – Menendez said she was calling relatives to scrape together the $10,000 smugglers are demanding to float them across the Rio Grande, where they can turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents and begin applying for asylum. “I’m at the point of desperation,” said Menendez, who has been staying at a migrant shelter near the border since Jan. 1. “The idea was to cross the bridge and ask for asylum. But they tell us we can’t.”
Under international law, migrants have for years flocked to the U.S.-Mexico border to legally seek asylum and be allowed entry. But in recent months, Trump administration policies have slowed the flow of asylum-seekers into the U.S., leaving many migrants stranded far from home, vulnerable to violence in dangerous border cities and unable to request asylum.”
That is now the America way. Because of Trump’s policies the asylum seekers are stuck in Mexican cities near the border entry points while they wait for their chance to make their asylum claims (many of which are entirely legitimate). Unfortunately, at the those cities criminal gangs are ready to prey on them like crocodiles lying in wait for hapless wildebeest . It is a heartless policy that puts asylum seekers directly into harms way.
All of this has come about on account of the America “metering” policy whereby the American authorities will only process a low number of asylum claims each day, keeping the claimants at the mercy of criminal gangs while they wait for their case to be heard by American Immigration Courts. This procedure has resulted in lengthy backlogs of claims, and clearly the American authorities are doing this just to make it more difficult for all asylum claimants to assert their claims. As Jervis and Carranza said,
“Determined to find a way in, migrants like Menendez are increasingly turning to criminal smuggling rings to get to the U.S., where they can then request asylum and, the hope is, seek safety. The backlog in processing asylum seekers is inadvertently bolstering the illicit and dangerous trade, according to migrant advocates and experts, creating an increased demand for human smuggling and illegal border crossings at a time when President Donald Trump has threatened to close the border.
A few months ago, President Trump ordered more troops to the border to help lay down concertina wire. There were as a result 4,350 active American troops, in addition to all the regular border patrols, on the southern border. According to migrant advocates as well as analysts this military build-up has made more asylum seekers search out “help” from illegal smugglers to guide them across the border instead of waiting any longer.
According to Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a political scientist at George Mason University in Virginia and author of Los Zetas Inc., “In the Rio Grande Valley, independent smugglers are charging exorbitant prices to sneak desperate migrants across the river and into the U.S…From Central American smugglers, to independent smugglers along the border, all the way up to the cartels: Everyone’s making money.”The clear result of Trump’s policies is that criminal Mexican gangs are making lots of money at the expense of mainly poor and helpless asylum seekers fleeing violence in their own countries. And does any of this make America safer?
As a result many smugglers are shifting these migrants to the New Mexico and Arizona borders where advocacy groups are better equipped to help the asylum seekers while they are making their lawful claims. However the terrain at the border is more hostile with large deserts, mountains, and farther away from major cities. Because of the lengthy delays at border crossings, criminal gangs are increasingly preying on waiting migrants and more asylum seekers are taking serious chances to get across the border. As Correa-Cabrera, said, ““You’re starting to see more families trying to make it through more dangerous areas”.
Is this really the American way?