Border at 'Breaking Point' as More Than 76,000 Unauthorized Migrants Cross in a Month
Comment of the Day

May 31 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Border at 'Breaking Point' as More Than 76,000 Unauthorized Migrants Cross in a Month

This article from the New York Times posted earlier this month puts some numbers on the scale of the challenge faced in handling migrant issue on the USA’s southern border. Here is a section:

Understanding what is happening on the border is difficult because, while the numbers are currently higher than they have been in several years, they are nowhere near the historic levels of migration seen across the southwest border. Arrests for illegally crossing the border reached up to 1.64 million in 2000, under President Clinton. In the 2018 fiscal year, they reached 396,579. For the first five months of the current fiscal year, 268,044 have been apprehended.

The difference is that the nature of immigration has changed, and the demographics of those arriving now are proving more taxing for border officials to accommodate. Most of those entering the country in earlier years were single men, most of them from Mexico, coming to look for work. If they were arrested, they could quickly be deported.

Now, the majority of border crossers are not single men but families — fathers from Honduras with adolescent boys they are pulling away from gang violence, mothers with toddlers from Guatemala whose farms have been lost to drought. While they may not have a good case to remain in the United States permanently, it is not so easy to speedily deport them if they arrive with children and claim protection under the asylum laws.

Families with children can be held in detention for no longer than 20 days, under a much-debated court ruling, and since there are a limited number of detention centers certified to hold families, the practical effect is that most families are released into the country to await their hearings in immigration court. The courts are so backlogged that it could take months or years for cases to be decided. Some people never show up for court at all.

Eoin Treacy's view

Families with young children immediately require services and are a long way from self-sufficiency. That represents a challenge for border facilities never designed to handle the numbers of people seeking admission. It effectively means that anyone turning up at the border is given leave to remain in the USA.

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