by Rev. Randy J. Mayer
It is hard to pinpoint exactly when the US immigration system became callous, cruel, and irretrievably broken. Each administration over the past 20 or more years has foolishly built upon the misguided policies and principles of the other and hastily surpassed the previous administration in its brutality and nastiness. If a group of policy wonks and administrators were put in a room with the objective of creating the most heinous Immigration system for the United States, they could not have created the pure evil that we are experiencing today.
The current administration’s Homeland Security team and immigration hawks have taken the unscrupulous work of other administrations and put it on steroids. Convinced that building walls and criminalizing the fleeing masses that are escaping gang violence and collapsing economies is essential in keeping America safe, the Trump Administration has doubled down to create misery and heartache for the most vulnerable.
Over the summer of 2018, they ratcheted up the “zero tolerance” policy that required criminal prosecution of adult migrants crossing the border without documents. Family separation was the centerpiece of the administration’s consequence delivery system for fleeing migrant parents trying to survive and provide for their children. When the national uproar over the images of crying children and desperate parents searching for their kids hit a fever pitch, the disgraced administration was forced to rethink its policies.
Which brings us to our current crisis. In August, they intentionally slowed down the number of “credible fear” interviews that agents were processing for asylum seekers at the Nogales Port of Entry and other places along the border. Typically in Nogales, 10 to 15 interviews could be conducted a day, but that slowed to 1 or 2 a day so the waiting and despair could be intensified. At the same time they began to hold families and individuals for longer periods of time in detention centers so the misery could happen there as well.
All of this had a ripple effect of needless suffering. In Nogales, Mexico, asylum seekers once again began to sleep in the port of entry; sometimes 50 to 70 people would be camped out there. Some asylum seekers became so desperate, they traveled to the West desert, by Lukeville and Yuma to cross, where the Border Patrol has been apprehending migrant groups as large as 150 to 300. Responding to the crisis, churches and non-governmental organizations began to open up shelters to alleviate the problem in Mexico and support the asylum seekers. Today there are as many as 150 asylum seekers backed up at the border waiting for their “credible fear” interview and staying in crowded, makeshift shelters.
With the capacity in ICE Detention Centers bursting at record numbers, they have now decided to release large numbers of asylum seekers into Arizona communities. This needless suffering of our immigrant brothers and sisters on both sides of the border is nothing short of manufactured chaos and cruelty. Many believe that the release of the masses from the ICE Detention Centers and dropped off at churches is a political stunt, purposefully done to create a storyline for the midterm election: that the US/Mexico border is out of control and overrun with violent and dangerous criminals. Instead of focusing on their job, Homeland Security has made it their purpose to inflict anguish and suffering on desperate people that are only seeking refuge. People of faith and conscience stand in direct opposition to that evil; instead, we offer a helping hand—shelter, food, clothing, and love.