WACO – At a niece’s wedding here last weekend one question popped up repeatedly when people heard we were from El Paso: “What’s going on at the border?”
The guests were from all over the U.S., including a few from other countries, and I suppose they thought we would know the real story and what should be done.
Remember this was before the distressing photo of the drowned Salvadoran man and his 23-month-old daughter were found with arms entwined face down in the Rio Grande near Brownsville. I’m sure interest is even greater today, especially with the House and Senate now passing the $4.6 billion border assistance bill.
After cueing my questioners, I probably couldn’t add much to what they already knew. I told them this: There really is a crisis on the border but it is not that we’re being overrun with rapists and drug traffickers but, rather, it’s that our border authorities are overwhelmed by sheer numbers of people coming across, many bringing children. Some come seeking refuge from gang violence or, like the Salvadoran man mentioned above, seeking economic opportunity – or both.
People with children, or children traveling alone, are a somewhat recent development. Some adults come with kids because they believe the children will guarantee better treatment and more favorable consideration. A very few have tried to game the system by recycling little kids to other migrants.
Government detention facilities as well as the housing provided by churches and other aid groups are overwhelmed, and this has led to some awful conditions that have been well documented. Too, current rules require that kids not accompanied by parents but by other adults are routinely separated until a caseworker can make sure they are placed with appropriate relatives.
To illustrate the problem I mentioned the widespread footage of 1,037 migrants coming through the wire just east of Downtown a few days ago. And I cite official figures suggesting 133,000 would-be immigrants were detained last month after crossing illegally.
Reactions to my comments were varied. Trump haters said it was all the President’s fault and that the United States should welcome migrants and return to its historical role as a beacon for freedom and opportunity.
Hard core Trump lovers took a harsh stance against migrants and said we need to do a better job of sealing the border and deporting those entering illegally. In between those extremes I had people just listening and trying to learn.
In truth, the two extremes have their points. So here’s my 10-point plan to channel more people though legitimate ports of entry, make it easier on those seeking asylum and opportunity, and better secure the border before some ISIS fanatic decides to take advantage of the current chaos.
No. 1 – Move fast to alleviate harsh conditions on those awaiting processing, especially the children. It appears money will now be available to do just that.
No. 2 – Do a better job of sealing the border. We don’t need Trump’s “big beautiful wall” but we do need to harden the border to discourage dangerous desert or river crossings. From barriers to technology to manpower, the Border Patrol knows what it needs where. Congress should listen and respond.
No. 3 – Require all new employees to be vetted by e-verify, the government system for verifying right to work. Companies are obligated to make sure their hires are eligible to work in this country but prosecution of employers is rare. That should change; otherwise, the promise of under-the-table work will continue to lure undocumented migrants.
No. 4 – We need to set up and publicize asylum application procedures at our embassies and consulates in the countries sending the most undocumented migrants, namely El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
No. 5 – In those countries, we also need to create investigative teams for preliminary screening of people who want to be considered for asylum. Those who are deserving should be given a court date in the United States while still in their countries. Those who would not qualify for asylum but are just seeking a different and better life should be encouraged to use the regular process.
You might be thinking, “We can’t afford that – especially the overseas investigator part.”
Gimme a break. We just spent $4.6 billion to improve conditions for detainees. We can’t afford not to do this.
No. 6 – We need to take a hard look at immigration quotas with an eye to an increase. We now have the lowest unemployment in this country in years and employers will tell you they have a hard time filling positions. Why not set flexible quotas according to the need? We also should look at implementing a legal temporary worker program. When I lived there, Germany exported its unemployment by reducing immigration quotas, depending on the need for workers.
No. 7 – Border authorities have been hamstrung by court decisions granting anyone who sets foot on American soil the right to an asylum hearing. The problem is, our courts are jammed so a hearing date could be more than a year out. Migrants hope for a best case where they are turned loose and even allowed to work pending their hearing. Some show up for their court date. Some don’t. If we implement in-country asylum procedures, we should be able to reinstitute immediate deportation. But the law will have to be changed.
No. 8 – We need to become proactive in educating would-be migrants in their own countries on the dangers and hardships if they decide to enter illegally. Town hall style meetings, advertising on radio and social media should be used to promote these meetings.
No. 9 – Mexico should be encouraged to continue efforts to stop migrants from traveling north without money and papers – they are the most vulnerable and most likely to be victimized.
No. 10 – I believe those whose deportation proceedings have been delayed because of the DACA program should be regularized with green cards and a path to citizenship. I refer to those brought here as children through no fault of their own, who do not have felony records, and especially those with limited ties to their parent’s country of origin.
My two cents. Love to get yours.