A growing crisis at the southern border


A growing crisis at the southern border

With the number of migrants illegally crossing the southern border at a near two-decade high, President Biden this week directed FEMA— which normally responds to natural disasters— to help process and care for the thousands of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. Some 100,000 border crossers were arrested last month, up 28 percent from January. Most are single adults, mainly from Mexico and Central America, and most are expelled quickly. But since Biden rescinded the Trump-era policy of turning back children who cross without their parents, the number of unaccompanied minors arriving has rocketed. Some 565 are now crossing the border every day, up from 313 a day last month, and more than 13,000 are in U.S. custody. It’s “a Biden border crisis,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said during a tour of immigration facilities in El Paso. “This is human heartbreak.”

The Department of Health and Human Services opened a temporary shelter for unaccompanied children in Midland, Texas, and will use a Dallas convention center to house boys ages 15 to 17. That will free up space in overcrowded jail-like Border Patrol facilities, where attorney Neha Desai said children had told her of sleeping on floors, showering only once a week, and going hungry. “One of them shared that he can only see the sun when he showered,” Desai said, “because you can see the sun through the window.” Biden sought to dissuade Mexican and Central American migrants from heading to the U.S. “Don’t come,” he said. “Don’t leave your town or city or community.”

This was all so predictable, said Robert VerBruggen in NationalReview.com. Biden has pushed through a “liberal wish list” of immigration policies, including opening the border to young migrants and halting construction of former President Trump’s border wall, and has backed a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. Can anyone blame Central Americans, eager to escape gang violence and hurricane-caused devastation, for mistaking this welcoming tone for an invite?

Don’t blame Biden for a crisis he inherited from Trump, said Greg Sargent in WashingtonPost.com. Faced with thousands of legal asylum seekers, Trump’s fix was to dump them in Mexico, stranding refugees for months in tent cities where “many were exposed to violence or even kidnapping.” That was appalling from “both from a humanitarian and rule-of-law perspective,” and Biden is rightfully trying to address that cruel policy. Migrant arrivals may go up, but that’s a small price to pay to rectify Trump’s barbarity.

Biden must tread carefully, said David Frum in TheAtlantic.com. He’s under pressure from the Democratic base to reverse all of Trump’s hard-line immigration measures, but chaos at the border could cost his party control of Congress. Democratic representatives from border states are already warning of a potential midterm backlash, and immigration is sure to be “a powerful wedge issue” as Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) battles for re-election next year. To save his political agenda in the north, Biden must make clear in words and policy that the southern border is not open.