In his speech to the American public on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump put forward a nonsensical argument that the construction of some kind of barrier on the US-Mexico border would fix an incredible range of wildly exaggerated problems. There is a crisis on the border and throughout the US immigration system: it is being manufactured by the Trump administration and it won’t be resolved by a wall.
Two children have died in Border Patrol jails in December, in facilities that are not designed to provide care for children. Twenty-two adults have died in the past two years in a detention system that has proven again and again how deadly inadequate medical care can be. Problems can only be fixed when they are identified, but US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s latest release of reports on deaths in 2018 provide significantly less information than prior death investigation reports.
The Trump administration continues to seek funding to lock up even more immigrants in this abusive system, refusing to put resources into developing, testing, and ramping up community-based programs that would allow many people to go to their immigration hearings and meet their reporting obligations without being locked up.
Despite an executive order issued in June, families continue to be separated at the border. Unaccompanied children are finally being released from custody after hitting a record 15,000 in custody last month, but only after Health and Human Services, the agency in charge, dropped a new screening requirement for sponsors under pressure.
Although overall apprehension numbers at the border have fallen to historic lows, there are more families than ever coming to the US, many of them fleeing the well-documented violence and abuse in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The US government is obligated, under US and international law, to process any claims for asylum fairly. Instead, this administration is focused on creating new barriers to asylum, both literally and figuratively.
There is an asylum crisis, a human rights crisis, and a due process crisis, all of which require more resources for oversight, for judges, for fair and efficient processing of claims. A wall (steel or concrete) does nothing to fix those things.