By Desmond Stone
I’d like to respond to Kevin Martin’s opinion piece on immigration, published in the April 2 issue. I believe there are several areas in which his opinions show a lack of full understanding about why we are seeing an increase in illegal immigration, or immigration to the United States in general.
First off, to say that from a domestic perspective, the reason for the increase in immigration has to do with what President Biden has said and done in his term so far is not entirely accurate. Yes, President Biden has done what he said he would do and lessened the flawed deterrence theory of policies, but that does not fully explain why people are still coming. Even under the former administration, which implemented policies that Kevin seemed to support, people were still crossing the border illegally by the thousands. Why is that? Do the words of our president not mean anything to those who are doing so? Exactly—they don’t care about what the President says, and why should they? They aren’t American citizens; they are people who are fleeing for their lives to the United States in the hopes of protection and safety. In short, these people are desperate, and no matter what kind of policies are put in place, they are not going to stop trying.
Second, the claim that the end of the Migrant Protection Policy (MPP), sometimes called the “wait in Mexico” policy mentioned by Kevin, was a mistake by Biden—let's explore that claim. The MPP, according to Human Rights Watch, went into effect on Jan. 25, 2019. The first Mexican city to house migrants under the MPP legislation was Tijuana, which was ranked the #1 deadliest city in the world by USA Today for its high murder rate. The next cities which would house those under the MPP legislation were Mexicali and Ciudad Juarez. Ciudad Juarez, on those same rankings, was placed at the #5 deadliest city. In July of 2019, according to Human Rights Watch, the MPP expanded to cities such as Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros, Mexico, both of which are on the United States State Department’s Do Not Travel list. Sure, let’s put those already in a vulnerable position into more danger; that makes sense.
Third, there is a semantic problem with the way Kevin labeled those coming across illegally. He gave them the label of immigrants, which is only true for some of them. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) defines immigrants as those who make the conscious decision to leave their country for a foreign nation, which means they could have made the decision to stay where they were: they had that freedom to choose. On top of that, regular immigrants have the ability to return to their country whenever they want. However those we see crossing the border at this moment are not ones who have such a freedom, especially those swept up by the MPP legislation. Human Rights Watch states that most of those who are put into MPP cities are those who are asylum seekers. Why does this matter? Because the IRC defines an asylum seeker as one who is seeking international protection from the dangers of his or her home country. So unlike normal immigrants, they are held to be reasonably fearful for their lives if they return to their home countries. The idea that those seeking asylum by just showing up at the border are doing something illegal is also discredited by the IRC. The IRC states that according to both international law and U.S. policy, seeking asylum at the immediate border is not illegal at all.
Fourth, presenting a ‘gag-order’ regarding the housing of unaccompanied children and unaccompanied adults as anything new is wrong. According to a 2018 PBS report, the Trump administration did the same thing. So this kind of policy is not unique to either administration. I understand this is an opinion piece: however, for someone who wrote a piece entitled “Stop obsessing over politics,” I would have liked to see a more reserved approach to this discussion from Kevin. In any case, I believe that this issue of illegal immigration is not one that we can simply divide based on political ideology. At the end of the day, regardless of whether you are moderate, left-leaning, right-leaning, fully Democratic or fully Republican, no one can deny that there are flaws with how both sides have handled the situation.