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Immigration

The crisis over the border-crisis

Republicans and Democrats are squabbling over whether there is a crisis at the border. If the truth be told, both sides have a valid point — although neither is being entirely honest about it.
2 Abr 2021 – 10:03 AM EDT
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Republicans call it “Biden’s border crisis.”

Democrats call it “an expected yet mostly preventable logistical challenge resulting from Trump’s myopic dismantling of the asylum system and suspension of U.S. aid earmarked to assuage the push factors in Central America's Northern Triangle countries.”

In other words, Dems are trying to win the court of public opinion with a contextualized and nuanced appeal to reason, while Republicans are focused on simple messaging and #hashtags. Media advantage: Republicans.

Yet in a strange way, both sides have a valid point — although neither is being entirely honest about it.

( Real America with Jorge Ramos visited the border to look at the "crisis" in this week's episode. Watch it here)

Republicans are right that this is indeed a crisis and it’s Biden’s turn to deal with it. But blaming the situation solely on Uncle Joe is ahistorical and amnesic. It’s like an argument made by a patient in an essay by Oliver Sacks.

Team Biden, on the other hand, is right that they’ve been saddled with a debt that was incurred and deferred by Trump. But refusing to call the crisis a “crisis” rings political and disingenuous.

Here are the facts: There are currently 18,170 children in the cramped custody of U.S. government detention facilities because they were desperate enough to cross the southern border and turn themselves in. And here’s the rub: The Department of Health and Human Services runs a network of 200 refugee shelters with a total bed capacity of 13,500, which means they’re currently 4,670 beds short.

That’s why you’ve seen the images of children wrapped in space blankets on the cold floors of CBP holding pens that have all the decorative charm of meat lockers. It’s why FEMA has been called in to help open a bunch of temporary emergency intake sites and overflow shelters.

So tell me again how is this not a crisis?

It certainly feels like a crisis to thousands of frightened kids and teens huddled with strangers under mylar blankets. It certainly feels like a crisis for the untold number of parents stuck on the Mexican side of the border, desperately awaiting news from their children after making the horrific decision to send them across the border into an unwelcoming country all alone or in the care of a smuggler.

For those directly involved in the human tragedy playing out on our southern border, “logistical challenge” doesn't quite capture the urgency of the situation.

On the flip side, Republican calamity howlers who are crying crisis the loudest have overplayed their hand in ridiculous fashion. The gunboat border posturing and nocturnal selfies from weedy riverbanks are absurd theatrics by absurd actors. It’s GOP performance art at its worst.

Yes, the situation is grim. But it’s important to keep some perspective on what is essentially a recurring problem. It’s important to understand what the data truly tells us about what is happening right now.

First of all, the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border still represents a fraction of the total number of migrants trying to enter the U.S. Consider this: Even if upwards of 17,000-plus unaccompanied minors entered the country last month (we won’t know the March numbers for a few days), that’s still less than 20% of the total number of migrants who are crossing the border illegally. '

The lion’s share of people crossing the border right now are single adults looking for work as the U.S., which is posed to make a much stronger economic recovery than its southern neighbors. Many of those people caught trying to cross the border are on their second or third try; the so-called recidivism rate is higher than usual.

Secondly, crisis is a relative term — just ask the crisis experts in Mexico and Central America’s Northern Parallelogram (congratulations to Nicaragua on joining the club!). The push-factors in those countries are too numerous to get into here, but any comprehensive plan to deal with U.S. immigration reform must take the problems facing these source countries into account. Otherwise, it’s like putting a head bandage on a patient who’s bleeding out at the legs.

Finally, and most importantly, it’s important to distinguish cause from effect. The increase of migrants crossing the border is symptomatic of the real crisis. But people aren’t the crisis! If we can’t diagnose the situation properly, we’ll never find a cure.

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