The Southern Border region has always been a place of hope, welcoming and opportunity. Border communities know that the challenges we’re experiencing at the border are NOT a ‘crisis’ and are not new — they are the result of the hyper-militarization of the Southern Border over the last two decades that has criminalized migrants, rather than recognized them as human beings. It is also the result of the near total closure of the border to people seeking protection, which is an abdication of the United States government’s responsibility in the global community. The government has gone so far as to weaponize laws and provisions against migrants that meant to keep people safe, like Title 42. Trump’s misuse of Title 42 to block and expel asylum seekers placed them in grave danger, and one year later, President Biden has done nothing to stop it.
What is Title 42? Title 42 is an obscure provision that was invoked by the Trump Administration, and continued by the Biden administration, that denies entry to immigrants and asylum seekers under the false-pretense of stopping the spread of COVID-19. In fact, public health experts have stated there is no evidence to justify turning away asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors under the guise of public health concerns. Yet, this Trump-era policy is still being upheld by the Biden administration. It is time to leave behind the harmful policies that have manufactured a humanitarian crisis at the border.
We must employ a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to expeditiously welcome those arriving at our borders seeking protection and build welcoming centers and other infrastructure that expands public safety, upholds human rights, and welcomes all people to our region in a safe, orderly and dignified way.
The United States has the capacity to face the challenges at the border — this moment is a call to action. Our country is at our best when we live by our values of compassion, dignity and respect. The harmful legacy of militarization in our region — through deadly walls, unaccountable agents and discriminatory policies like Title 42 expulsions— is threatening those values, as well as the rights of people seeking safety at our borders, and of border communities at large. Now is the time for our nation to set right those wrongs and implement infrastructure and policies that welcome people in a safe and dignified way, and connect them quickly to resources.
Instead of using this challenge to score political points, we need to work together on real and proactive solutions. Facing the challenges at our southern border will require a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach. Resources — including federal funding — are needed, alongside a surge of social workers, trauma specialists, medical professionals and human rights specialists. Border communities and organizations are on the ground and at the ready to support a system that welcomes people in a humane and efficient way.
We must develop a rights-respecting welcoming system that doesn't rely on detention. Militarized border agencies like CBP have long legacies of holding people in cruel and inhumane conditions. We cannot allow them to continue keeping people, including children, in cages or to think that this is an effective solution to the challenges we are experiencing in the southern border region. The only role border agents should be playing is to quickly identify needs and refer people to the appropriate resources.
The United States has the capacity to protect people seeking safety at our borders, just as it has the capacity to undo the harmful effects of harsh enforcement policies at the border. The Biden-Harris Administration must not be deterred from moving towards equitable and responsible border governance, starting with a halt to the misuse of Title 42. It is time for a New Border Vision that expands public safety, protects human rights, and welcomes all people who live, work or travel to the region.