Editorial: There’s a crisis at the border all right, but one created by political posturing
Despite widespread outcry, the governors of Florida and Texas say they will continue to bus or fly more migrants to unexpected locations across the nation to raise awareness about the crisis at the border. Using vulnerable humans as pawns in a political game is morally wrong and further destabilizes an already dysfunctional immigration system.
Buses began transporting confused and mostly Spanish-speaking migrants in April, dumping them without resources in Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York City. Last week, three buses deposited migrants in front of Vice President Kamala Harris’ official residence, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis chartered jets to transport migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Another flight last week delivered migrants to Sacramento, California’s capital. The next destination may be Delaware, the home state of President Joe Biden.
Most of these migrants are coming from politically unstable countries like Venezuela and have made harrowing journeys through jungles and other dangerous terrain across various countries. The are not undocumented immigrants, but asylum seekers.
And there are processes in place designed to help them during their first few days and weeks in the U.S. An immigration officer conducts interviews to determine whether they have a credible fear of persecution or torture. Those allowed to temporarily remain in the U.S. are determined to have viable claims for asylum and are released with notices for immigration hearings to further determine their cases. These are systems that also help control the border by ensuring migrants are processed correctly. By circumventing the normal process, DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and others involved in the transportation of migrants are making the situation much worse.
What’s going on may also be a crime. Some of these migrants reported being lured onto planes and buses by government officials using deceptive tactics. A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the nonprofit migrant organization Alianza Americas against DeSantis states that migrants were given $10 McDonald’s vouchers and promised jobs, housing and other assistance. The lawsuit says migrants were “sequestered away from the migrant center, and from the possibility of actual good Samaritans finding out how the class members were being abused.”
Legislators and a Texas sheriff are also looking into whether it’s legal to ship migrants across state lines.
Aid organizations are experienced in providing assistance to migrants after they are released by border officials. These groups mobilize volunteers, help connect migrants to temporary housing and provide transportation to other cities where they have relatives or other resources. Importantly, they make sure that migrants are ready to attend their scheduled immigration hearings, which determine whether they get to stay in the U.S.
There is no question that there is a crisis at the border. Apprehensions by U.S. Border Patrol are on the rise, increasing more than 22% from July to August. But it is a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by political posturing, not one caused by an uncontrolled border. It’s an emergency that has been created by the lack of goodwill by politicians more interested in their own political viability than the stability of the country and fueled by decades of failure by Congress to tackle comprehensive immigration reform.
Given the volatility of Venezuela and other regions, we can expect more desperate migrants to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border. Many organizations helping migrants are supported by the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, which is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Legislators should make sure that this program has the resources to provide the needed assistance.
But we also need leadership. This political stunt may have called attention to the pressures that migration places on border states, but it has also illuminated the callousness by some elected officials who would manipulate desperate, scared people to score political points.