As I’ve stated before, Biden’s border policies are an abomination. They are not quite as bad as those of Donald Trump, but they are way too close for comfort. Basically, I don’t think Biden cares about this issue, despite all the very real suffering. Joel Zapata, one of our top historians of the border, has a piece exploring just how bad this is.
The Biden administration has announced an expansion of its use of Title 42, the pandemic measure the Trump administration initially implemented, to immediately expel to Mexico asylum seekers from a list of specified countries.
While in doing so the Biden administration has created a few new avenues for facilitating the arrival of asylum seekers from certain countries, it and the vast majority of news media have failed to acknowledge how deadly such border restrictions have been — and will continue to be — as people in desperate situations confront policies designed to block them at the border.
The funneling of migrants through inhospitable terrain is primarily responsible for deaths at the border. As U.S. authorities have increased enforcement near border crossings in urban, populated communities, they have pushed people into dangerous remote areas. This is intentional. They use such terrain as a natural “wall.” Within the Southwest’s unforgiving mountains and deserts, thousands of people seeking safety in the United States have succumbed to snake bites, animal attacks, heat stroke, dehydration and hyperthermia.
These mass deaths can be traced to border policies adopted in the early 1990s, ones that help us understand where we find ourselves today.
One of the architects of these policies was Silvestre Reyes. Reyes was raised in an El Paso-area farming community near the New Mexico state line as the grandchild of Mexican refugees who fled the violence of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20). On his family farm, he served as a lookout for Border Patrol agents and warned undocumented farmworkers to hide or run.
After being drafted into the Vietnam War, he took various civil service exams, and the Border Patrol was the first federal agency to respond. He moved to Del Rio in southwest Texas to join the Border Patrol in 1969. Reyes rose through the ranks and became the Border Patrol’s first Hispanic sector chief in 1984, when he was appointed to head the McAllen Border Patrol sector, which runs along the Lower Rio Grande Valley to the Gulf of Mexico.
Zapata goes on to explore how Reyes laid the groundwork for the horror show of today. He then concludes:
As a result, between 1994 and 2000, 1,700 migrants died while traversing remote desert terrain. Border Patrol data reveals that over 9,000 migrants have died since 1998 — with the last two years being the deadliest. These are all surely undercounts that do not include full statistics from local and state governments or those who will never be found in remote locations.
Today President Biden equates criticisms from humanitarian groups and immigration hard-liners. He has asserted that both “extremes are wrong,” and that what’s needed is a “middle proposition.”
While the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has a history of supporting violent border policies, today’s leadership has diverged from those stances. Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif. and chair of the CHC) noted her concerns about the expansion of Title 42 and the denial of due process for asylum seekers. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas and former CHC chair) went further, stating that the Biden administration’s extension of Title 42 would “exacerbate chaos and irregular migration at the Southern border.” But they could go further in highlighting the death toll that will result from such a “middle proposition.”
Recent history teaches us that migrants with few choices will risk their lives in trudging through the Southwest. Not unlike Reyes’s grandparents, hunger, destitution, persecution and violence in their countries of origin and on the streets of Mexico will drive people to risk their lives in search of the American Dream. Like previous administrations, the Biden administration’s plans will cause further suffering and the death of innumerable people seeking refuge on American soil.
Biden’s immigration positions are morally indefensible, not too far from the moral stain of northern presidents supporting slavery in the antelbellum period.