The continued crisis at the border and what was, has been and is being done to combat it.
By: Lenora Kirkland
The United States receives over one million immigrants each year, bringing in people from across the globe with enticing promises of freedom and liberty. In recent years, the number of people entering the United States by the southern border has increased drastically. In early 2021, the Biden administration saw one of the largest influxes of immigrants across the Mexican-United States border in years. The pandemic has in no way helped the situation, increasing the level of risk for migrants and for those employed by the government to patrol the border. According to CNN, in 2020 alone, 227 people died seeking a way to cross over into the United States.
At the start of the pandemic Donald Trump’s administration invoked title 42, making it possible for immigrants to be refused passage in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This also includes the suspension of asylum cases. By making it harder for migrants to enter legally, many have since opted to enter illegally. Out of those who attempted to enter the country via the southern border this past July, 37% were expelled under Title 42. Although Title 42 was set to expire in May of this year, the current administration has not repealed it. The result has been a backlog in asylum hearings and an increased number of people waiting hopefully to enter the country. By the end of 2021, the number of pending asylum cases skyrocketed to 1.5 million, with an average wait time of five years to gain access to a hearing.
The separation of families has also become a prominent issue, as analyzed by Caitlyn Dickenson, a reporter for the Atlantic. In her article, employees of Bethany Christian Services, a group supported by the government to take care of unaccompanied children, recount their stories of comforting young children forcibly taken from their parents at the border. This process was greatly facilitated by the previous administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and the Remain in Mexico program, both of which invoked stricter penalties for parents attempting to enter the United States. But what is the situation today, and amidst all the issues stated above, what is being done to fix them?
Biden’s electoral victory was correlated with his campaign promises to improve the situation at the border, although sufficient change has not yet been realized. The U.S. Citizenship Act, proposed in 2021, would re-establish the V visa program and enable 11 million undocumented immigrants to embark on the path to legal residency. That being said, the act has still not officially been passed against the backdrop of a divided congress.
Much of Biden’s acts have centered around reversing those of the previous administration. The National Emergency declared under Trump and funds for a wall across the border have both since been revoked. That being said, until the U.S. Citizenship Act or other legislation is passed, it is unlikely that the change required to combat the crisis will be the change we receive.
Sources: CFR, CNN, Migration Policy Institute, New York Times, The Atlantic, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)