Of course there’s a crisis on the border between Mexico and the United States. It is a humanitarian crisis.
It is a humanitarian crisis. Nearly 2 ½ million people have crossed it illegally in the past year, according to the Border Patrol. That is a record. But there’s no justification for the cruelty of tricking refugees, especially Venezuelans, to send them to a place they do not know.
Let’s start with reality. The border between Mexico and the United States will never be fully controlled. It is porous, because of its very nature and history. Out of its 1993 miles, there are barriers or fences in only about 700 miles. The rest is full of gaps. And no matter how many border agents are deployed along the open spaces, deserts and mountains, it is practically impossible to close it to migrants on foot.
What’s more, historically, the border was set arbitrarily after the 1848 war between Mexico and the United States. That created divided families, customs and jobs. And a constant movement of people and goods from one side to the other. The border is a line that is crossed all the time, with or without papers.
So when Republicans say that they are willing to negotiate an immigration reform – and the legalization of 10 million undocumented migrants – after the border is secured, what they are really saying is that it will never happen. That border is indefensible and unprotected. It was born that way and it continues that way. And neither can the treasonous Rio Bravo/Grande stop a majority of those who want to cross.
The current crisis along the border is due to its vulnerability – geographical and historical – and to the millions fleeing the southern part of the continent following the worst of the pandemic. They have voted with their feet. And they prefer to face the dangers of the trek – and the U.S. Border Patrol agents – than to remain in their countries, with hunger, violence, diseases and no opportunities for their children.
And the wish and need to emigrate grow for those who live in brutal dictatorships. One example: Venezuela. Almost 7 million Venezuelans have fled their country, according to the United Nation’s refugee agency. Many reasons are pushing them out of the country, including political repression.
“The Venezuelan government uses the intelligence services and its agents to repress dissidents,” said a recent report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. “That leads to the commission of grave crimes and human rights violations, including acts of torture and sexual violence.” The report also accuses the Nicolás Maduro regime of “crimes against humanity, committed through the state intelligence organs (and) orchestrated by people at the highest levels of authority.”
It’s impossible to blame Venezuelans who flee their country. On the contrary, we should give them safe haven and protection. But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, instead of helping them, sent about 50 Venezuelans on a chartered flight from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachussets, with a stop in Florida. The migrants said they were tricked, and with the help of a group of lawyers – and learning fast – they filed a lawsuit. I think it’s wonderful that a justice system allows a recent arrival to sue a governor. You don’t see that in many countries.
DeSantis’ decision was branded as “cruel” by many. But exactly the same thing is being done by Texas governor Greg Abbott, using buses. Thousands of migrants detained in Texas have been sent to cities like New York, Washington and Chicago, even thoug their desired destinations were elsewhere.
Both governors want to call attention to the situation on the border, and they did. But by playing with the lives of many migrants, and without offering concrete solutions.
In the end, nothing changed with DeSantis’ airplane or Abbott’s buses. The border has been overwhelmed. Just in August, more than 251,000 undocumented migrants crossed it.
There’s little that can be done to stop so many migrants from leaving their countries. To invest in the development of the south, even with the best of intentions, will take years to show results. Facing that humanitarian crisis, the United States continues to show it has the economic capacity to accept the new arrivals. A recent New York Times report told the story of a Venezuela migrant to arrived in Washington DC with nothing in July and now has a job that pays him up to $700 a week. That’s the kind of personal stories that are told again and again in Latin America and fuel the ideal of “the American dream.”
The very human desire for a better life is much more powerful than any physical barrier. This is an indomitable border. And our obligation, independently of the numbers, is to treat these migrants and refugees like we would want to be treated. To fool migrants in order to score political points is also to fool ourselves.