United States: Biden continues cruel border policy

May 26, 2023
US immigration
Most pro-immigration rights groups had hoped that Biden’s government would be better than Trump’s on immigration. But they were mistaken. Image: Green Left

Title 42 of the United States’ immigration law expired on May 11.

The code was enforced for three years during the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed the government to stop and expel migrants trying to enter the country.

Since its enforcement, millions of political and economic refugees have languished in Mexico or other countries in horrific conditions.

Democratic and Republican administrations have both carried out inhumane treatment of migrants. The rhetoric by Republicans has been openly racist. But the results of Joe Biden’s administration have been just as cruel.

However, the end of Title 42 means little for those trying to enter the US. Under pre-Title 42 regulations, former President Barack Obama deported more people than any previous president (Obama was known as “Deporter in Chief”).

Reality at the borders

In the hours leading up to Title 42’s termination, “migrants continued to gather near ports of entry on the southern border with Mexico, hoping for a new opportunity to enter the US as confusion over the imminent policy changes and their impact persisted,” reported the May 12 Los Angeles Times.

Department of Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas warned on May 11 that “starting tonight, people who arrive at the border without using a lawful pathway will be presumed ineligible for asylum”, said the LA Times. Ahead of Title 42’s termination, Homeland Security mobilised 24,000 Border Patrol personnel.

“Do not believe the lies of smugglers,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “The border is not open. People who do not use available lawful pathways to enter the US now face tougher consequences, including a minimum five-year ban on re-entry and potential criminal prosecution.”

Mexico is helping Biden in his anti-immigrant efforts and its officers participated in a joint drill with US Border Patrol personnel in the week leading up to Title 42’s termination.

According to the LA Times. “As part of the exercise that spanned several lanes of the port of entry, agents threw what appeared to be tear gas canisters. A few steps away on the Mexican side, a group of National Guard elements held their own drill.

“Mexico’s National Guard has been positioned along the southern layer of border barrier in recent weeks, and Thursday [May 11] was no exception. Tijuana police also seemed to more closely monitor activity at ports of entry.”

We are human beings

Who are those people seeking entry on the southern border? Many are not from Central America. The issue of migration is global.

It can take years to become a naturalised citizen in the US, assuming you are granted a “green card” or have a special employment visa.

At the border, the LA Times spoke to Guri Singh, who fled India “after experiencing religious discrimination as a Sikh. His parents, who are legal residents in England, couldn’t get him a visa. So, he said he paid smugglers $50,000 to fly to El Salvador, then took buses to the US border”.

US economic sanctions against countries such as Cuba (a seven-decade embargo), Venezuela and Nicaragua, along with Iran, Syria,and many other countries cause tens of thousands of people to flee for survival.

According to the LA Times, “People from Senegal, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Iran, Russia and Brazil were among those who waited in seats under tented white tarps for rapid COVID-19 tests and travel itineraries.

“I.B., a Peruvian man who asked to be identified by his initials out of concern for his immigration case, said he had flown to Mexicali, crossed the border and turned himself in to border agents. He was detained for six days before being released in Yuma [Arizona]…

“A 21-year-old man, 19-year-old woman and 8-year-old boy — orphaned siblings from Ecuador — walked to the end of the line next. The man, who asked to be identified by his initials, J.Z.G., winced in pain. The backs of his shoes were folded under his heels. Something had gotten inside one shoe and cut his foot.

“He said they had flown to Nicaragua and walked from there to the border…”

Historical record

The US policy on immigration has historically been based on national origin and ethnic discrimination. The early settlers were from England, Scotland and Northern Europe.

In the 1800s there was a de facto open door to people from Northern Europe (Caucasians).

Asians, Africans and other non-whites were only accepted as workers — as Chinese men learned in California. They built the railroads but could not bring in women or other family members.

Each state decided its own immigration policy. The first major federal law was passed by Congress in 1882 — the Chinese Exclusion Act.

In 1924, Congress passed a sweeping immigration law. A key plank codified quotas for legal immigration based on people already living in the US, by national origin as of the 1890 census. There were few Asians or other non-whites — except former slaves and Indigenous peoples — living in the country.

In 1965, as the impact of the anti-colonial revolutions and a powerful domestic civil rights movement was felt, the US government changed its policy regarding quotas for Asians and Africans. The new quota system also made it easier for family reunions.

When Obama was elected as the first biracial Black president in 2008, the Republican Party decided it needed to become more open to minorities as demographics were changing.

But in 2016, the rise of a white fear-mongering backlash — led by Donald Trump, a lifelong New York City Democrat who decided to run for president as a Republican — popularised the once-fringe view that “others” were taking over the country.

Trump declared immigration his main campaign issue. His slogan, “Build the Wall” became a chant at his rallies. Today, every Republican politician who runs for office rants about foreigners (undocumented and legal) replacing “Americans”.

Biden’s policy

Most pro-immigration rights groups had hoped that Biden’s government would be better than Trump’s on immigration. However, it quickly became clear that while the rhetoric is more friendly, the practice is more similar than not.

For Biden — Obama’s former vice president — immigration is not about justice and human rights. He pledges enforcement of current immigrant laws, and supports stricter rules, a better border wall and making it harder for immigrants to stay. Biden is quietly building a 10-metre-high wall in southern California, which locals oppose on both sides of the border.

The end of Title 42 did not lead to chaos at the border as predicted because Biden’s team has been implementing a strict removal and denial of immigrants for two years.

Title 8, which has been in place since 1940, will keep new migrants from applying for five years if they don’t follow new rules. They include registering in a third country and setting up an appointment by using a special mobile phone app.

The US already has over 11 million “unauthorised” migrants, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The new tougher border restrictions will not stop people entering, however, as has been true for decades.

The big agricultural enterprises and other manufacturing businesses in states such as California seek cheap labour and will hire undocumented migrants. Scaremongering the public will not change that.

The solution? Open borders

Open borders would give all refugees from economic crises caused by US sanctions and climate change access to migrate. These refugees should be given court dates, temporary work permits and allowed basic services.

History shows that refugees, like all immigrants, create more wealth than they take in their transition to permanent residency and citizenship. Most immigrants are willing to do jobs that many native-born citizens won’t. Their children get educated and generally are successful. Democrats and Republicans know these facts.

An open-border policy is the solution few will acknowledge, since it begins with human rights — not cruelty and scapegoating immigrants for society’s other problems.

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