A Texas National Guardsman observes as Border Patrol agents pat down migrants who have surrendered themselves for processing at Gate 42, some after waiting near the wall for days, May 10, 2023. (Photo by Corrie Boudreaux for Source NM)
The Biden administration is not treating the end of Title 42 as the expiration of a public health policy but rather as a pivot point where a crisis will justify a massive investment in border externalization.
Border externalization occurs when wealthy countries like the U.S. set up policies and make programs to ensure that asylum seekers and other migrants otherwise entitled to humanitarian protections never make it inside the jurisdiction of our laws and never trigger our country’s duty to evaluate their claim to refuge.
Governments around the globe engage in border externalization. They claim that they are doing it in the best interest of the migrants by discouraging them from taking dangerous journeys and engaging in smuggling networks. But the reality is that externalization makes migration more dangerous by forcing migrants who are desperate and determined to arrive to safety to choose even riskier tactics to survive. This is why we are seeing a worldwide spike in deaths of people in migration.
The Biden administration will fund law enforcement operations to keep people from moving through countries to our south. They will manufacture obstacles to keep people from reaching our border. They will call these things laws until they feel like laws and the idea that we once allowed anyone to come to our border and ask for asylum, that we did it for decades, will be a memory.
For those who do make it to the U.S., having navigated a gauntlet of obstacles, most will be swiftly deported through a process called expedited removal.
As Title 42 ends, U.S. detention centers will likely fill up to keep the big business of incarceration going.
Some folks may actually make it in front of an immigration judge or asylum officer to adjudicate their claim for protection under U.S. law. But the Biden Administration will now implement a strict travel ban that denies asylum to anyone who didn’t first apply in a country they passed through. This will all but ensure that only the smallest percentage of people who arrive at the U.S. border will win their asylum cases.
The rest will be in the streets of Northern Mexico. Or in the Darien Gap. Or waiting to be rejected from some process in Colombia or Guatemalans. So many will die and so many others will live half lives.
There was a time, not particularly long ago, where governments around the world did not treat offering refuge and asylum to displaced people as optional. Hundreds of countries came together after the Holocaust to codify a system that ensured that there was an international right for people to seek protection and an absolute duty for countries to receive them, no matter how inconvenient or politically dangerous.
The U.S. government is now poised to abandon those previously sacrosanct conventions and signal to the rest of the watching world that it is ok for other countries to do the same.
We can resist this abandonment if we stand by two very basic principles.
First, migration is not moral. People who move are not good or bad. They are neither criminals nor heroes. They are people who have run out of options.
We must generously afford them equal measures of humanity and rationality and believe that no one takes a dangerous journey crossing continents and leaving behind their homes and families and futures if they felt they had any other choice. We must imagine that we, ourselves, might one day have to move too and grant these migrants the grace we would expect in our own flights.
The second principle we must stand by is that receiving people seeking humanitarian protection is not optional.
We don’t have to grant all people permanent protection but we do need to welcome them and kindly give them the time and space and counsel to prove their eligibility for protection without fear of detention, rapid deportation, or family separation.
For those who think that is not possible, I direct you to the $8 billion Congress allocates to ICE each year, and ask why not?
If we make policies abiding by those two principals, people are going to come to the U.S.
Lots of people will come to the U.S. We will have to make space for them and allot resources to their care.
We have the choice to see this as a crisis.
We can also see it as an opportunity. It could be an opportunity to build up economies. It could be an opportunity to bolster the labor force. It could be an opportunity to create revenue to send back to the poorest countries so that their future generations don’t have to migrate.
It could be an opportunity to make the world a slightly less brutal place for us all.
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