More than 50 women and children from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador died from extreme heat inside a truck in San Antonio, Texas last week. The truck did not have any working cooling system and temperatures topped 100 degrees in Texas.
The suffering they endured is unimaginable. We know why migrants take the risk to come to the U.S. They are fleeing desperate economic hardship, as well as, gang violence and narco-violence.
But most of these Central American migrants would not qualify as asylum seekers. Many have indeed fled fear and terror. But the U.S. generally denies claims from migrants from Central America.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is welcoming Ukranians coming through the U.S.-Mexico border and from Europe. Yes they are fleeing war and Russian violence.
Those fleeing Central America also are fleeing violence, threats of rape and displacement from their homes if they don’t go along with the gangs or narcos. How is this not a “credible fear of persecution,” the criteria used to identify an asylum claim?
The U.S. can beef up border security. The Border Patrol already operates more than 100 checkpoints, most of them along highways and secondary roads that are 25 to 100 miles from the southern and northern borders.
But this didn’t stop this truck which cruised through a border checkpoint without being stopped.
After seeing the failure of the Border Patrol, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he had ordered the Texas State Police to create their own checkpoints to inspect trucks.
The answer is not more militarization of the border. The answer is more humane immigration policies. The U.S. has to redefine who is eligible to be a refugee and create pathways to help them. There have to be options so people do not feel desperate enough to try to cross the border in the back of a truck.
President Biden has largely failed in his immigration policies. There’s been no movement on national immigration reform, permanent status for DACA or much else. Biden, however, has increased the numbers of refugees allowed into the U.S. and green cards granted, which went to historic lows under Trump.
One hopeful bit of news came Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Biden Administration to rescind the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy.
The Trump policy required asylum seekers, mainly from Central and South America, to either be detained in the U.S. or sent to Mexico. In Mexico, these migrants have lived in squalid camps near the border and have waited months to have their asylum claims reviewed.
The Biden administration said its new plan would delegate asylum claims to trained customs and border control officers instead of to the immigration courts. There already is a tremendous backlog with more than 600,000 asylum seekers waiting for case hearings, according to TRAC data.
If asylum claimants are granted protection, they would be allowed to stay in the U.S. and bypass the immigration courts. For those denied asylum, their cases would be reviewed by an immigration judge within 90 days, prior to deportation.
The Biden Administration also tried to end Title 42, an emergency public health order that allows the government to turn away migrants seeking asylum because of the COVID-19 pandemic.. But 24 state attorney generals sued the administration. A federal judge in issued a ruling blocking the CDC from ending Title 42. Such policies also may lead to an increase in smuggling cases like the one in Texas
We have to offer asylum to those with a credible fear or persecution fleeing Mexico. U.S. policy has largely been to not grant asylum status to those from Mexico.
For years the U.S. has stepped up immigration and border enforcement, even under President Obama. These policies have failed.
It’s time we look for solutions that actually work and the U.S. should start by allowing more people from Mexico and Central America to apply for asylum.