U.S. Must Find a Better Solution for Migrants

Image by Sujeeth Potla.

A caravan of over 6,000 people, reportedly the largest in more than a year, departed recently from Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala and is on its way to the United States. The migrants hail from countries in Central America, Venezuela, and even Cuba. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to Mexico City to discuss new agreements to control the surge of migrants seeking entry into the U.S.

But this approach is wrong and must be corrected. These migrants are escaping for numerous reasons including poverty, natural disasters, political repression and organized crime. While the U.S. has legitimate concerns, there are better ways to deal with this pressing issue.

In April, the Department of State (State) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced sweeping new measures “to further reduce unlawful migration across the Western Hemisphere, significantly expand lawful pathways for protection, and facilitate the safe, orderly, and humane processing of migrants.”

Like other COVID-era public health measures, the CDC’s temporary Title 42 public health order also came to an end. With the lifting of Title 42, the U.S. returned to using Title 8, allowing immigration authorities to expeditiously process and remove individuals who arrive at the U.S. border unlawfully. The consequences for unlawful entry, include at least a five-year ban on reentry and  potential  criminal prosecution for repeated attempts to enter unlawfully. The return to processing under Title 8 was expected to reduce the number of repeat border crossings over time, which increased significantly under Title42. Individuals who cross into the U.S. at the southwest border without authorization or having used a lawful pathway, and without having scheduled a time to arrive at a port of entry, would be presumed ineligible for asylum.

Some of the main issues surrounding the unlawful entry of migrants into the U.S. are related to national security, drugs and weapons smuggling, and human trafficking. These are serious threats to the country and pose a serious threat to women and girls who are often the main victims of trafficking. Of course, in addition to these threats, migrants who enter the country unlawfully pose a threat to the job security of average American citizens as well as to those migrants who did enter lawfully.

For this reason, considering that there are serious U.S. concerns as well as a legitimate humanitarian crisis on the other side of the border, Blinken and the Biden administration must come up with a creative, resourceful solution that helps the migrants, while simultaneously safeguarding U.S. interests and concerns. The solution must be multi-pronged, addressing the root causes of migration, such as economic disparity and safety concerns in the migrants’ home countries.

One of the ways the U.S. could tackle the problem is through foreign aid, development programs, or diplomatic efforts to improve conditions in those regions. Working with governments in Central and South America could ensure a healthy collaboration that would assist in preventing waves of illegal migrants flooding the border. At the same time, Biden should focus on strengthening border security in a humane and effective way, ensuring that the processes for lawful entry are fair and efficient, and addressing the needs of those who seek asylum or refugee status.

The key in resolving the migrant problem is to find a balance that respects their dignity and rights while also safeguarding the economic and security interests of the U.S. This requires collaborative efforts not only within the U.S. government but also with international partners, including the countries of origin and transit for these migrants. By taking a comprehensive and empathetic approach, it’s possible for the Biden administration to address the complexities of unlawful migration in a way that benefits both migrants and the U.S.

This is only one aspect of the problem. The Biden administration must also address the needs of those who have already crossed into the U.S. and in need of assistance. Whole families with young children require food, water, shelter, and medical care. They need access to jobs and education as well.

Similarly, the U.S. is struggling with the growing fentanyl epidemic, fuelled largely by smugglers coming across the border unlawfully. The double-sided issue needs to be dealt with on both ends of the border and Blinken’s visit must include a discussion on how to stem the flow of weapons, narcotics, and other substances.

The DHS, together with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS) must continue to work together and strengthen cooperation. These government bodies, working in conjunction with foreign governments south of the border, will ensure that the U.S. remains a safe country while helping those migrants arriving in search of a better life.

Chloe Atkinson is a climate change activist and consultant on global climate affairs.