Border Blues | Sarah Stook
‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’
The words engraved on the Statue of Liberty were meant to welcome the ships that arrived at Ellis Island in New York, yet time has meant that it is more appropriate on the US-Mexico border.
When Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President, he was hoping to usher in an era of change. After the stringent Trump restrictions on immigration, Biden was set to take a more relaxed approach. On his campaign website, he stated that he would ‘end prolonged detention and reinvest in a case management program’ and ‘immediately reverse the Trump Administration’s cruel and senseless policies that separate parents from their children at our border’ among other things.
In short, he’d do everything Trump wouldn’t do. That, however, did not come to fruition.
News media is littered with images and interviews with migrants from Central and Southern America who are waiting at the border, crossing it or have made it into the United States. This time, however, it seems that child migrants are the ones hitting the headlines.
What’s the story?
It’s pretty hard to simplify the history of migration from the southern border, especially in one article. Put simply, it’s due to a lot of issues in the countries where the migrants come from.
Central and Southern America are not the most stable of places. Drug cartels are essentially the government, forcing people to work for them and killing indiscriminately. Wages are poor and there is little protection. Police forces are corrupt and care little for people. Women are at huge risk of violence. Whether you’re pro-immigration or not, it’s easy to understand that people don’t want to live there.
Enter the USA.
It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a remarkable step up. Economic migrants seek better wages to send to their family. Asylum seekers and refugees want to be away from violence. There are also those with nefarious intentions, such as gang members.
Even though the border can be hundreds or thousands of miles away, it’s not impossible to cross. Some hire smugglers or ‘coyotes.’ Others join the migrant caravan, walking across in large groups or holding on tight to trains. Some will cross more than once in an attempt to get into the USA.
Why is it so bad?
There are generally two camps: the blame Trump or the blame Biden.
One of Trump’s key messages was about limiting immigration. His policies included halving the number of green cards issued, limiting the refugee intake to 50K a year, ending the diversity lottery, stepping up DNA checks and building the infamous wall. Though border crossings continued, Trump endeavoured to make it harder.
Contrast with Joe Biden. He’d bring the number of refugees per year up to 125K, higher than Obama level numbers. Biden also promised to set a pathway to citizenship for illegals in the country. Taking a peek at his campaign website will tell you all you need to know.
Does that mean that Biden’s more open policy has exacerbated the crisis?
One Brazilian migrant said he, his wife and three children came over because of Biden’s words. When ABC asked some migrants if they came over because of Biden, they answered to the affirmative. Of course, that’s only a handful of people, but it gives one an indication of how words can really affect an issue.
What’s the media’s role?
Some have complained that the media has been more tolerant of the migrant crisis under Biden than it ever was with Trump.
There’s also the problem of censorship.
Both media organisations and those on the ground have felt silenced by the administration. Border officials have been told not to grant interviews. All queries must go to Washington. Media aren’t allowed insight or photographs. It’s hard to report what you can’t see.
What about the children?
The children in cages scandal rocked the Trump administration, even though the Obama tenure saw the same thing. Biden apologised for his part in this, but from what we’ve seen, not much has changed.
Images have shown children in cramped conditions, the very ones Biden promised to end. Parents and children are still being separated. Word has spread that unaccompanied minors will not be sent back, leading to many underage migrants going it alone in an attempt to get into the US.
Crossing the border is always a risk, for adults or children, but kids are particularly vulnerable. Rape is a huge risk for girls, especially when they’re alone or not with any family. Stories of migrants dying in the desert aren’t uncommon. Coyotes are not known for their honesty. Whilst children may be accepted into the US, they’re still in a foreign country without family- and that can be pretty scary.
Is it fair to send your child alone in the hands of vicious smugglers to a foreign nation? Is it desperation or are they putting their child at risk?
How is the administration handling it?
Biden usually communicates via statement and is yet to do a proper press conference. Journalists are either not asked or only the friendly ones are pointed at. If he is to get on top of this, he must speak plainly.
Kamala Harris is similar, having rejected the idea of visiting the border herself. She is more open to the press and to speaking, so there will likely be more information coming from the Vice President.
Whilst the cabinet and other positions are being voted upon, there isn’t a full picture. Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats in state and federal politics are fighting for the chance to spin this issue. Democrats are either pro-immigration or are trying to distance themselves. Republicans tend to be against and are desperate to score a goal against Biden & Co.
What will happen next?
No one knows!