Much has been made lately of the conditions of the migrant camps at the southern border, and for good reason. The conditions there are, quite frankly, horrendous. There has been all kinds of name calling and finger-pointing about this, as seems to be the case with any political issue these days. I decided to spend some time actually looking into what is and isn’t true about these camps as well as what has led us to this point, and it was rather eye-opening.
The first thing I was unaware of is that we house asylum seekers in the same camps as those detained for entering the country illegally. Under both federal and international law asylum seekers are not breaking the law in any way. Housing them with criminals seems grossly unfair and potentially dangerous, but this is the system as it’s been for decades. Can you imagine being a refugee from horrific gang and drug violence only to wind up being housed with some of those same folk???? I certainly cannot.
Another thing I discovered is that the reason the camps are currently so overcrowded is truly the fault of the current administration. We used to have a program called the Family Case Management Program that allowed for low risk migrants (i.e. low risk for flight or to commit crimes) to be released from detention and monitored through means like ankle bracelets and cell phone apps. These methods were very successful – well over 98% of the people made all their court appearances – and cost under $5 a day per person on average. (Estimates for detention range from $135 to $500 per day). But, shortly after Trump took office FCMP was quietly shut down without any reason given AND without any increase in budget for the now only (and much higher cost) option of long-term detention for all. Why this hasn’t been shouted from the rooftops I have no idea. It certainly should be. There are also reports of delays in hearings for asylum seekers and the refusal of ICE to allow humanitarian aid to the person in these camps. It certainly appears this administration is going out of its way to make the conditions as bad as possible. If there’s another explanation I’d love to hear it.
Third, can we all agree to stop calling these “concentration camps”? We ALL know the connotation of that phrase and quite frankly I can’t believe the Jewish Anti Defamation League hasn’t done come out against this. No one in these camps was ripped from their homes by armed men simply for being a race or religion that was deemed unacceptable. No one in these camps is going to be executed by horrific means. Yes, the conditions at the camps are awful. But there are many other words that we can use to get the point across without resorting to the most inflammatory ones possible.
Finally, what can we do now? We need to put pressure on our elected officials to overhaul the process. We need to stop treating the asylum seekers as if they are breaking the law. We need to strengthen or at the very least enforce our laws that deal with hiring illegals and give businesses more than a slap on the wrist if they are caught breaking those laws. If there were no employers willing to hire illegals there would be one less reason for someone to enter illegally. And most of all, we need to stop with the partisan name calling and the refusals to listen to anyone from “the other side”. This is a big problem and it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to solve. We need to acknowledge this problem has been avoided and kicked down the road by administrations of BOTH parties and that unless we all work together it’s never going to get solved. We need to be open to good ideas no matter where they come from.
Can we do this? Honestly, I don’t know anymore. But I really hope so.