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The crisis at the Mexican border

At last the situation at the Mexican border has become a crisis. But it’s in no way a security crisis, as falsely claimed by the president, but rather a humanitarian one. 

Immigration facilities along the U.S./Mexican border are now holding more than 80,000 migrants (and growing) with little or nothing being done to process them. In May, 144,000 refugees, the highest number since 2007 with nearly half from Guatemala, sought to enter the country, the vast majority through established legal points of entry. President Trump’s response to this situation has been barring or imprisoning asylum seekers, separating children from their parents and scattering them around the country without documentation so that families may never be re-united, and cutting our paltry foreign aid to the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. These are not solutions to the problems we face, only cynical ploys to please his base.

For more than a hundred years, United States meddling in Mexican and Central American affairs has shaped these countries in unfortunate ways. In 1954, the U.S. government overthrew the only democratic government that Guatemala has ever had. Since then, extending through the Reagan administration, the country suffered under nearly four decades of civil war during which nearly half a million people were killed by the CIA funded Guatemalan army. Events in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua over the past 60 years have been similarly grim.

With the notable exception of Costa Rica, Central America today is beset by several years of drought, lack of jobs, gang violence, crime and weak, corrupt governments. According to the World Bank, two-thirds of Hondurans live in poverty. In 2017, the U.S. provided just $181 million in foreign aid to the Northern Triangle countries and has cut this meager amount considerably since then, thus assuring that many more migrants will head north seeking asylum. 

The president and his subordinates have, without any evidence, been claiming that the caravans of migrants coming to the southern border have been infiltrated by terrorists from the Middle East and Africa, the first wave of international evil-doers sneaking into our country in preparation for war against the U.S. This was the apparent rationale for Trump’s claim for additional funds, denied by Congress, for his proposed border wall. As it is, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been patching the deteriorating fences installed during the Bush and Obama administrations and Trump has been telling everyone that he is building “new walls.” But even if Trump’s claims were true, what difference would a wall or fence make for families seeking asylum and presenting themselves legitimately at the border stations? 

Going back to the Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall and even the Berlin Wall, history suggests that walls are only successful, temporarily, as propaganda devices and make work projects, not as ways of keeping people apart. Determined smugglers or migrants are seldom deterred by a wall or fence and find a way to go under, over, around or, as is most often the case, through legitimate crossings. This is the most frequently crossed border in the world with more than 350 million documented crossings every year.

Every member of Congress whose district abuts the nearly 2,000 mile border has come out unequivocally against Trump’s Wall. Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd whose district has the longest stretch of border calls the wall, “a third century solution to a 21st century problem.” He favors, instead, a complex program for controlling the border featuring more guards, processing agents, cameras, radar, and most of all, a comprehensive plan for regulating immigration. And, greatly increased, carefully administered aid to help the citizens of the Northern Triangle, too many of whom are desperately fleeing their broken countries. 

The answer to defusing the crisis at the border is to address the root causes and for our government to properly process the enormous backlog of asylum seekers wanting to enter the country, not building walls that our Congress has vetoed and our people, by more than a two to one majority, don’t want.

                                                                     

Mac Gordon lives in Lakeville.