The Painful Humanitarian Crisis at the US-Mexico Border

The US-Mexico border is currently facing an immigration crisis that has attracted global attention. Many people of Latin American origin have been trying to enter the United States of America in search of better living conditions. Individuals who are currently living illegally without proper documentation within the United States have also been identified and deported to their countries. This has created a huge crisis, given the policy of zero tolerance towards immigration. Trump’s harsh views with regard to immigrants have also fuelled this crisis beyond resolution. The problem does not just involve people trying to enter the United States, but it is, in fact, a consequence of instability in the region. This has created repercussions for the fate of political stability and human rights in this region.

An overview of the crisis

The United States of America is currently facing a huge influx of immigrants from the Latin American nations, especially from the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. This influx has worsened the conditions at the borders where a large number of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants are currently being detained. Several reports and images of violent deaths of immigrants and inhumane detention have stirred up a response at the global level. Several accusations regarding the separation of children from their families at very young ages, where they cannot even understand the legal repressions of their actions, has brought attention of the global community to the US Mexico Border.

The situation is however not something new. The inflow of immigrants into the United States seeking a better life has been a constant one in the 21st century. The years following the Global Recession 2008 saw one of the highest influxes of immigrants into the United States. The situation today is not the same and the policy environment has also changed very significantly. Today, the demographics of the immigrants who arrive at the borders have changed. They are now arriving as family units and as children unaccompanied by adults. This has indeed complicated the situation for the Customs and Border Protection. The zero tolerance towards immigration policy is also harming the immigrants, worsening the situation.

This today has created a humanitarian crisis that requires the attention of the government. Many reports regarding deaths of immigrants under violent circumstances have raised concerns regarding the human rights of peoples who are caught between deplorable situations at their home country and their dreams for a better life in an unwelcoming country. The conditions in which these immigrants are being housed also make a good cause for a humanitarian crisis. The problem here is that the environment of hatred towards immigrants is adding to existing issue of detaining them before processing and granting asylum. The fundamental issue here is the unwillingness of the United States Administration to respect and uphold the basic human rights of immigrants and asylum seekers.

Causes behind the crisis

This crisis is primarily a consequence of the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump Administration. The allocations made to the Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been substantially increased and so have their powers and activities. However, we cannot disregard the fact that violence and instability in Latin America is forcing people to flee to the United States. People believe than the USA is a better place for them than Mexico. They are fleeing gang violence, poverty and crime in their own countries and are undertaking a difficult journey towards what they believe would be a good future. The availability of improved transportation has made this journey relatively easier. The humanitarian visas granted by the Mexican government have also encouraged people to stay in Mexico for 90 days and fight their case for asylum.

The major question that arises is whether this crisis is a manufactured one. There is considerable debate surrounding this question and we can only debate with facts. When we take the stance of it being a manufactured one, it can be argued that the policies of the administration have been such that the number of asylums granted is limited. This policy of metering has actually prolonged the processing of immigrants and provision of asylum, creating a need for facilities to house this large population of immigrants at the border. Another problem here is with the screening of these applicants. Earlier, immigrants who were considered to have a substantial claim to asylum were allowed to enter the United States and fight their case, However at present, they are continued to be detained in various centres, increasing the number of people detained and the time period for which they are detained.

The arrest of illegal immigrants already living in the USA during various ICE raids has also increased the number of detainees. It does appear that the government has deliberately slowed down the process and has increased the number of people being detained. On the other hand, the capacity of the detention centres for housing so many people being arrested within the USA and apprehended from illegally entering at the borders has not been expanded. We can also argue that the unprecedented surge of immigrants was not expected and therefore the facilities have not been made available. But the problem with this argument is that the number of immigrants arriving at the border is not as high as it was post 2008. The problem here is that the administration is making it more and more difficult for people to seek asylum and tightening the provisions that allowed for seeking asylum.

Repercussions of the crisis

This crisis has created political repercussions for the neighbouring Mexico which is now facing increased inflow of immigrants. Mexico has become a transition location from where these people fight their asylum cases into the United States. The country is now facing increased violence between state actors and the immigrant population. Following pressures from the American government, Mexico has now agreed to take in immigrants before they are being processed into the United States. This has been a consequence of threats by Trump administration to increase tariffs on their exports. This has indeed increased the burden on Mexico and also instigated incidents of violence and shootings in the country.

Unlike the detention centres in the USA, the detention centres in Mexico are far worse in terms of providing a basic living environment for the people. The National Guard in Mexico has also been unleashing violence against immigrants housed in Mexico following political pressure from the United States. This has added to the uncertainty and unrest in this region. But the reality is that people are still willing to migrate despite the difficult situation, because the conditions that they are fleeing are far worse. However, making it difficult to enter the United States is not making it easier for them but the situation has only been getting worse. It has not really deterred people from entering but has made them more desperate to get in.

The other major concern is the human rights of the immigrants. United States does not want to take the responsibility of upholding their rights and has failed to provide them with any legal counsel. Many individuals who are seeking asylum do not really know what they are entitled to, given the circumstance of their immigration, and therefore have failed to argue their case and seek asylum. Another important factor is that the reason for migration may be multiple and people cannot really understand and argue their cause. For instance, even though poverty cannot be a cause for an asylum claim, poverty caused by government persecution of ethnic minorities like the Mayans can indeed act as grounds for asylum claim. The lack of legal counsel has threatened the human rights of the already repressed peoples.

A solution ahead for this problem can be complex to decipher. Firstly, for the time being, the pace in which asylum is granted needs to be improved. Trump believes that making this difficult would prevent people from coming but it has actually increased the magnitude of the problem. Closing the borders is thus not a solution for this issue. Streamlining the process into a timely one, where those with valid claims are granted asylum and those with considerable claims are allowed to explain them to an immigration judge would provide people with the right signal. People would now understand that only those with valid claims can try and it is not a process where only those who are lucky enough get through. Ultimately, peace and stability in Central and South America is the only solution for the future.

Picture Courtesy- Vox

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