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Our current immigration crisis is inhumane

A deadly mix of inconsistent enforcement and laxity marks our border with Mexico


Mourners gather in Tzucubal, Nahuala, Guatemala, on July 16 for the funeral of Pascual Melvin Guachiac Sipac, a 13-year-old boy who was among a group of migrants who died of heat and dehydration in a trailer-truck in Texas. Associated Press/Photo by Oliver de Ros

Our current immigration crisis is inhumane
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Fifty-one illegal migrants were found dead in San Antonio in late June. They were locked inside a tractor trailer that the Mexican drug cartels had made into an exact replica of a rig from a south Texas trucking company. But when mechanical failure halted the journey, the driver simply abandoned the rig along with his human cargo, most of whom perished from the Texas heat in what was essentially a sealed metal shipping container.

It is the deadliest incidence of migrant trafficking this country has ever seen. May it remain that way. But why is this happening and who in authority over the situation cares about the people involved? Our current border management is cruel both to those who live here and to those trying to get here.

This tragedy is far from unique. Last year, 650 people died in their attempts to enter the country. Many others have died from heat and crashes in trucks and other vehicles. Still others die crossing the river or the desert, and an appalling number of women and children are raped and given over to the sex trade.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, returned from his own border investigation having found teenaged boys pressed into serving drug cartels in our cities and teenaged girls coerced into sex work. In other words, slavery. “This is not compassionate. This is not humane. This is barbaric,” he said.

Some estimate that 60 to 80 percent of female migrants from Central America are sexually assaulted on their journey by their traffickers, corrupt government officials, and gangs. “They raped us so many times they didn’t see us as human beings anymore,” recalled one from the horror of her nightmare. That these largely helpless droves include unaccompanied minors (did they start out that way?) appalls and sickens and stirs alarm.

With full knowledge of the situation, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, pointing to the tragic tractor trailer deaths, blamed the migrants themselves, saying in effect, “We warned you!” He added, “They put their lives, their life savings, in the hands of these exploitative organizations, these criminal organizations that do not care for their lives and only seek to make a profit.” He speaks as though he were someone who, by contrast, does care but can do nothing to help.

Some estimate that 60 to 80 percent of female migrants from Central America are sexually assaulted on their journey by their traffickers, corrupt government officials, and gangs.

Secretary Mayorkas, however, oversees his government’s virtually open-border policies that encourage people from throughout Central America and across the hemisphere to make for the Texas border. During the Biden presidency through the end of April this year, border officials have had almost 2.7 million encounters with migrants. They have turned away half of those migrants under Title 42. But including the estimated number of those who evaded detection, the rush for the American border was over 3 million people in President Biden’s first 15 months. From day one, he ceased construction of the border fence and adopted a “catch and release” policy that is, in effect, “meet and greet.” That widely publicized border-laxity has drawn a pitiful multitude into terrible distress.

All of this illustrates what has been obvious: Our current government’s ambiguously open-border policy, established in practice though not in law, is the most inhumane alternative to either the rigorous enforcement of current laws or a controlled, come-one-come-all immigration system. Our border with Mexico is not literally open. If it were, we would not turn migrants away in such great numbers on grounds of disease control such as for Covid infection. Nor would the migrants use “coyotes” and deceptive means to get here. They would all just walk carefree into the country at any convenient point or drive across in a bus. There is enough enforcement to make for a chase and require dangerous methods in many cases, but not enough to stop hundreds of thousands of successful crossings every month that draw more people into the game. Our national policy is thus inconsistent: We insist on a legal border but do far too little to protect it.

If, after democratic deliberation, it is the desire of the American people to give asylum and opportunity to millions of people from central America, that should be expressed legislatively through Congress.

As it is now, millions are suffering as expendables in someone’s larger political game. For the sake of both self-government and compassion, we should either change the laws to allow entry of much larger numbers of immigrants and asylum-seekers or complete the wall and enforce the laws so that southern neighbors seeking a better life or fleeing local monsters will seek or flee to a refuge closer to home. The current situation is both unworkable and unjust.


David C. Innes

David C. Innes is professor of politics in the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program at The King’s College in New York City. He is author of Christ and the Kingdoms of Men: Foundations of Political Life, The Christian Citizen: Faith Engaging Political Life, and Francis Bacon. He is also an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.


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