FINDING SOLUTIONS TO BORDER CONTROL CRISIS
Illegal refugees pouring across the US-Mexico border to fulfil the American dream is not a new phenomenon. However, recent occurrence alarmed the whole nation as thousands of unaccompanied Central American children refugees jeopardize their lives to seek refuge in the borders.
According to US Customs and Border Protection’s data, the number of “unaccompanied alien children” encountered in the southwest border, specifically in the Rio Grande Valley, has disturbingly increased from 19,418 in 2009 to 67,339 in 2014. It has become an international humanitarian crisis desperately in need of a solution.
These children are escaping from the drastic situation they’re facing in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala- the Central America’s “Northern Triangle.” All of them want to flee from abuse, violence, persecution from these countries that are teeming with crime, corruption, endemic poverty and human trafficking. Some of them want to connect with family members already living in the United States and most of them seek work to support themselves, their family or their own children back home. All of them are transported by illegal smugglers. (Roubein, 2014)
Upon arriving, these children are detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). CBP hold rooms are usually not equipped to take care of children so they’re transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Division of Children’s Services (ORR/DCS). But before the children reach a shelter to await a hearing, they must make another journey through a complex and trying Border Patrol processing system.
Thinking they’re finally safe from abuse, there were reports that prove that those who were able to reach the borders and were placed in detention centers are suffering from lack of basic services and are being maltreated by some border patrol officers.
These issues are now prompting concerns among lawmakers to find solutions on what to do with the children, where to temporarily house them and whether or not the U.S. government can afford to care for them.
Although concern on minors crossing the borders is just a part of a bigger problem on border control and immigration, it depicts the worsening issue and calls for the government, and the president himself to make immediate action to solve the problem.
Despite the efforts of the Border Patrol to dissuade illegal migrants from crossing the border without authorization, they keep on coming and repeating their offenses. In 2012 alone, out of the 364,768 apprehended immigrants by the U.S. Border Patrol, 100, 735 have already been apprehended twice. 21,694 of these have already been caught six times or more. There were even border crossers who were caught 60 times.
Why do these people risk their lives so many times just to cross the border? How can this diaspora be stopped or lessened? To be able to determine the solution to border crisis, we must first understand the history and the root cause of the problem of why people are risking their lives just to get a chance to live the “American Dream”.
The border crisis’ brief history
First of all, when we talk about immigration in United States, let us not forget that the ancestry of the people of this country are also foreign immigrants who also risked their lives in search of greener pastures in the land of the American Indians they then called “the new world”. The country experienced consecutive waves of immigration of people from Europe in the 1600s. It was only in the middle part of the 20th century when air travel became cheap that immigration from Asia and Latin America had increased. (Wikipedia)
In Edward’s Alden’s article “Immigration and Border Control” published in the Cato Journal, immigration has been dubbed as the “forgotten stepchild of the second era of globalization.”
The United States, with its neoliberal policies, made conscious efforts to free the market by liberalizing imports and exports of goods, lifting control on investments and capita, and pressuring other countries to follow its lead. Due to the laxity in the influx of goods and capital, the influx of people immigrating had also “accidentally” developed over the years. (Alden, 2012, p109)
Earlier laws also contributed to the leniency of the country to immigrants. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 even allowed migrants to become permanent residents and naturalized citizens that have rights to petition their families abroad to join them.
Although, many criticize the laxness of the US government on the issue of unauthorized immigration, the economic gains of the influx of unskilled and skilled workers can’t be undermined. The country needed cheap labour to fill in jobs in construction, agriculture, tourism and other sectors. When the U.S economy is strong and in need of manpower to work in its industries, the number of immigrants also rises and would fall when the country’s economy becomes weak. (Alden, 2012, 110)
At first it was just considered a nuisance problem, but later, when their numbers increased to millions in the start of 1980’s the problem became a major national issue that forced Border States, Texas and California to deal with it forcefully. By 2007, the total number of illegal migrants that were legalized in the United States swelled to around 12 million. (Passel and Cohn 2011)
But the situation that drove the U.S. government to become stricter to immigration was not just the problem of overpopulation, but rather, the onslaught of possible terrorist attacks just like what happened in 9/11. Because of the permissiveness of the system, all of the 19 hijackers were able to enter the country using legal visas regardless of the red flags that immigration officers left alone and some of them even violated the terms of visa. To prevent another terrorist attack, the US government have put border control as one of the highest national priority to secure the state. This changed the notion of border control from looking it in a wider perspective. Rather than just focusing on the southern borders, entries in air, sea and with the northern land border with Canada had also become primary concerns. (Alden, 2012, p111)
Looking for possible solutions
Legislators from the Congress are united in one stand - that the whole immigration system needs a total overhaul. So far, stricter measures have been implemented. Congress and past administrations— both Democratic and Republican- passed legislations that have increased seven times the number of the Border Patrollers from less than 3,000 agents to a staggering 21,000. 700 miles of fencing have been built to line the southern US-Mexico border. High technology gadgets aiding the troops have been deployed such as pilotless drones, sensor cameras, and other expensive technologies to prevent illegal crossings in the borders.
The visa systems became much stricter that they thoroughly interview and do extensive background checks on every new visa applicant wanting to enter US on various reasons. Border officers seriously take fingerprints and do other screening measures on all those entering the country by air to easily identify criminals, terrorists, or others deemed to pose a threat to the United States.
However ideal these measures are some deemed it not enough to solve the vastness of the border control problem. Some legislators propose new measures to help secure the country’s borders.
In the executive, the president himself, Barack Obama announced last year that he would use his power to push for reforms if the congress doesn’t find a fit solution to the crisis. He ordered the homeland security director and attorney general Eric Holder to transfer existing resources from the interior to the border to beef up security measures and find possible actions that Obama can legally take to solve the crisis using his executive power. He even asked for $3.7 billion to address the unaccompanied minors’ crisis. But sadly, he did not call to change in the law or to take drastic measures to keep more children from coming. (Roubein, 2014)
Last year, Texas representative Randy Weber suggested cutting foreign aids to countries where immigrants are from such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. He said that until those countries solve the reasons why their people are illegally migrating to US, they should be aid should not be given to them. "Hold our southern neighbors accountable," he said in a statement.
Arizona representative Trent Franks suggested enhancing further the security of the border. He suggested an additional 6,000 full-time border-patrol agents, increase in the number of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and pushed the completion 700-mile southwest border fence this year. To bolster the border security much more, Arizona Rep. David Schweikert filed a bill to allow the National Guards to be deployed to serve the southwest border. (Roubein, 2014)
In the Senate, Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and Representative Matt Salmon introduced bills to equally treat all illegal immigrants entering through Mexico, whether or not they are children, to allow them to their respective countries. Once the immigrants are deported, the McCain-Flake legislation also offers additional 5,000 humanitarian visas to countries with the highest numbers of illegal refugees crossing borders such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. This will provide incentives for individuals to process their immigration legally in their home country. (Roubein, 2014)
Former legislators Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick also have suggested possible solutions to this problem. One is, removing the incentives that embolden people to break the immigration laws. Culturally speaking, countries where immigrants came from should debunk the notion of “greener pastures” in America and solve the root causes of the diaspora – which is the rampant operations of syndicates and utter neglect of the government. They also suggested strategies to internally apprehend the beginning of illegal immigration in those countries mentioned before the problem crosses the US borders. (Bush & Bolick, 2014)
US should also put a stop to trafficking cartels that are making money out of smuggling refugees. These Mexican cartels have killed thousands in only a span of four years as they fight over the commodity they’re smuggling – drugs and people. In Ciudad Juarez, 2600 people were killed by gang wars in 2009 that prompted16, 000 households to be abandoned. 400,000 people have left the city. If these cartels are not eradicated, border conflicts with illegal migrants will definitely continue and worsen.
American government’s overrated campaign of the “American Dream” should be reviewed as it is one of the reasons why people are enticed to cross borders by hook or by crook. With the existing campaign, citizens from other parts of the region with lingering poverty situation will try to cross the borders hoping risking their security and even their lives hoping for a good turn-out. It is noteworthy to iterate that illegal immigration is the results of the quagmires of poverty and the absence of opportunities.
US should also help the Central America economy to be able for those countries to create opportunities domestically. Help the countries’ economy to create more jobs internally, help them provide basic services like health care, insurances etcetera to their people. Help them give their citizens what the immigrants are seeking for in America. This way, the root cause of their diaspora will be solved and the need to look for greener pastures will stop.
Lastly, they think that the “reason so many people are entering through the back door, so to speak, is that the front door is shut.” They suggest that the solution to the illegal migration is a “functioning system of legal immigration” that is driven towards the needs of the US economy such as filtering only those immigrants with drive and skills to help the country to become much better. They insist that with this in mind, the nation’s interest is still prioritized while staying true to “our immigrant heritage.”
Alden, E. (2012). Immigration and Border Control. Cato Journal. Retrieved from http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-journal/2012/1/cj32n1-8.pdf
Bush, J. and Bolick, C. (2014). The Solution to Border Disorder. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/jeb-bush-and-clint-bolick-the-solution-to-border-disorder-1406160744
History of Immigration to the United States. Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_immigration_to_the_United_States
Passel, J. S., and Cohn, D. (2011) Unauthorized Immigration Population: National and State Trends, 2010. Washington: Pew Hispanic Research Center
Roubein, R. (2014). Here are Some Possible Solutions to America’s Border Crisis. National Journal. Retrieved from http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/here-are-some-possible-solutions-to-america-s-border-crisis-20140707
“Southwest Border Unaccompanied Alien Children.” US Customs and Border Protection. Retrieved from http://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/southwest-border-unaccompanied-children