While [Kevin] McAleenan [the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection] was emphasizing the need for more resources and legal authority to keep people from the U.S. interior, advocacy groups said the Trump administration should instead treat the migrants as refugees and invest in foreign aid. Migrants are streaming out of Central America for a complex set of reasons — including drought, poverty, violence and political instability — problems that will persist regardless of U.S. border policy.
“They don’t need new money. They need a new strategy,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy group. “They think that if we’re just tough enough, people will stop coming. That completely misreads what’s happening.”
As migrant numbers have surged upward, thousands more Central Americans are waiting in Mexico, at shelters in Ciudad Juarez, and U.S. officials say they probably will cross the river in coming days and weeks.
Although Border Patrol apprehensions remain below their annual peak of 1.6 million in 2000, the nature of the increasing migration flows has shifted dramatically, and that shift is driving the alarm. In prior eras, most of the migrants were adult men who could be easily deported to Mexico; now, many of those attempting to cross the border are asylum-seeking Central American families and, to a lesser degree, minors traveling on their own. Because those seeking asylum have a legal right to have their cases evaluated, most families are released into the United States to await hearings in clogged immigration courts, a process that can take months or years.
The migrants arriving in El Paso are crossing the Rio Grande, arriving in a place where the United States already has formidable, modern border barriers. By surrendering to agents on U.S. soil — the strip of land between the river and the tall U.S. fencing — the migrants can assert their legal right to seek asylum. Border Patrol holding cells in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas also are overcrowded, as are facilities in Arizona.
The most dangerous overcrowding is here in the El Paso area, where Border Patrol stations are at 300 percent to 400 percent capacity. Most parents who arrive with a child are issued an appointment with an immigration judge. But agents are so overwhelmed by the volume that they often do little more than a cursory screening, officials said. [Continue reading…]
At his rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Thursday:
Trump mocks asylum seekers, mimicking them saying, "I am very afraid for my life, I’m afraid for my life." Then he says, "it’s a big fat con job."
— Colby Itkowitz (@ColbyItkowitz) March 29, 2019