As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on a measure to block President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday sent a bulletin stating the crisis at the southern border has reached a “breaking point” regarding the number of migrants that have been apprehended.
More migrants were apprehended at the border this past February than in any month since April 2008, with 76,000 migrants crossing the U.S. border.
The “crisis” at the border, however, is more humanitarian than it is related to security.
Immigration levels as a whole are not at historically high levels. From 2000 to 2008, for example, an average of over 80,000 immigrants were detained at the border every month.
Where most migrants were once single men from Mexico looking for work, now the vast majority are part of family units from Central America, oftentimes with young children, according to The New York Times.
The DHS report states that this year apprehensions of family units surged 338 percent and unaccompanied children 54 percent.
The border patrol’s medical and physical infrastructure is simply not equipped for it, according to Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
“The system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point,” McAleenan said Tuesday.
Families are attempting to cross more and more isolated areas of the border, according to border officials, and detaining entire families for several days to undergo initial processing is proving to be very difficult.
Crossing in isolated areas is creating a humanitarian crisis wherein thousands of migrant families are being processed by border patrol officials that lack the resources to care for them, which is required under the law.
Families are forced to spend days in small, concrete cells built to house the last generation of migrants for only a few hours.
Lack of Medical Care
They often arrive at these underresourced, understaffed facilities dehydrated, exhausted, and in many cases in need of medical attention or family-care supplies.
Lack of medical care for migrants has been a major issue driving the humanitarian crisis, particularly after two migrant children, Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, died while in the agency’s custody in December.
McAleenan said Tuesday that the agency is making sweeping changes to approaching medical care in response to the deaths.
The new medical measures include comprehensive screenings for migrant children, additional health care practitioners in high risk, high traffic locations, and additional translation services for Central Americans who do not speak English or Spanish.
“[But] these solutions are temporary and this situation is not sustainable,” McAleenan said.
While harsh desert landscape across the border poses dangers for migrants’ health, they’ve also become vulnerable to abuse at the hands of American authorities.
Senators Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday called on the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general to investigate reports of rampant sexual abuse against children in government facilities at the border.
Internal HHS documents made public last week by Congressman Ted Deutch show that there have been more than 4,500 allegations of sexual abuse committed against unaccompanied minors.
Trump has made clear since his campaign for president that he will take a hard stance on keeping unauthorized migrants from entering the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security’s assessment of the humanitarian crisis and ‘breaking point’ are indicative, however, of policies that have failed to keep migrants out given the record-breaking numbers.
In fact, it’s reported that the Trump Administration’s policies are the root cause of much of the difficulty experienced at the border today.
A Trump-era practice of “metering” at the border has been a major factor in creating a situation where masses of people are being processed at one time.
Unauthorized migrants have historically been able to enter through an official border crossing in order to seek asylum, but the Trump policy of “metering” has complicated the process by giving border agents a directive to limit the number of asylum-seekers they process each day.
One can legally claim asylum once they’ve stepped foot on U.S. soil, so border agents have been stopping migrants shortly before U.S. Border stations must turn back and come another day due to a lack of resources for additional people.
As a result, migrants are entering through more and more isolated and dangerous areas along the border, rather than at typical high-traffic points where in the past they could expect to claim asylum on U.S. soil.
Groups that can reach up to 100 people are attempting to cross in these dangerous areas, and if caught find themselves at severely underequipped border stations.
Seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin traversed through one of these isolated, dangerous areas with her parents on December 6, where they were apprehended by border patrol and sent to a border station where Jakelin got sick.
Jakelin had to take a 94-mile bus ride, to where she could have an air ambulance evacuation that would finally take her to the El Paso children’s hospital. Traveling to medical care, in total, took nearly four hours, and after suffering complications, she died.
Metering has been a policy in practice since the summer of 2018, and is paired with the policy that those coming to seek asylum must enter through a designated port of entry.
Now, bottle-necks of migrants and migrant families are finding themselves stuck along the border. Some stay in migrant shelters for weeks hoping to be amongst those that are granted asylum in a given day.
The Emergency Declaration
The Senate will soon vote on a resolution which aims to negate the National Emergency Declaration made by Trump, and it will likely pass since GOP Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, and Thom Tillis announced they would stand against the president and support the resolution.
Trump declared the emergency after house Democrats ensured only $1.375 billion of Trump’s requested $5.7 billion for a border wall would be included in the spending bill passed in February to avoid a second government shutdown.
The President’s new National Emergency Plan aims to dedicate $8 billion in funding additional barriers.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that the president will veto the resolution and that he expects Congress will not have the votes of two-thirds of members necessary to override it.
The national emergency declaration will likely be subject to various legal challenges from Congress, the courts, and government groups that were promised money or other commodities which will now be repurposed as barrier wall money.
More on the Subject
The caravan of Honduran migrants slowly trekking to the United States includes hundreds of children whose parents are ready to risk everything to give them a better future.
When not crying either over the imposing mass of migrants or from seeing their parents beg for food, the children entertain themselves with improvised games.
They play at a future in which their parents’ American dream has become reality.
They “play as if they were already in the United States,” said Molina, “as if their grandmother had already bought them a car, that they have this, that and the other thing, because they know their grandmother is waiting for them there.”