• Project Angel Island

What’s Really Going On at the US-Mexico Border?

Ever since President Trump took office, there has been more media coverage about the dire situation at the US-Mexico Border. As deportation efforts have become more aggressive, the right to asylum as we know it in America may soon cease to exist. Numerous celebrities have taken to social media and other outlets to call out ICE on its brutality against people who tried to immigrate illegally, and many efforts have occurred to raise both awareness and funds to help out the people stuck at the border.

The crisis at the US-Mexico border highlights the American government’s conflicting narrative when it comes to immigration. Most of the people trying to cross the border are refugees looking to escape gang violence and political instability (especially after the 2009 coup in Honduras) from their respective countries. It is almost impossible for these refugees to gather the right papers and documentation (some things, like passports, require direct government permissions), so when they arrive at the border, they must seek asylum. While the right to seek asylum is protected by both U.S. and international law, the U.S. border facilities are seriously deficient: “More than 5,000 migrants from Central America have reached the border town of Tijuana, as part of the caravan that traveled some 3,000 miles… All told, more than 7,000 migrants with the caravan have reached the state of Baja California, where Tijuana is located, according to the Mexican government” (NPR). The problem is that American authorities have been limiting the number of people who can request asylum to only 40 to 100 people a day. With the rapid influx of people at the border, each individual faces months before their first hearing with U.S. authorities and maybe even years until that claim is processed.

So while the U.S. authorities encourage migrants to go through the designated ports of entry, they also severely limit the number of entrants allowed through. “The ‘competing directives’ have created a backlog, [the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General]* found, likely causing more migrants to enter the country illegally” (NPR).

Those who are apprehended while attempting to cross the border are detained in grossly inadequate, and sometimes even brutal, facilities. Children are kept in cages and routinely intimidated by border guards, which can severely damage their mental health. And now, during the COVID-19 situation, detainees are being sprayed with disinfectant chemicals over fifty times a day (Insider), which causes severe bleeding and pain. In sum, the people who have been apprehended at the border are subject to brutal and dehumanizing conditions.

It may surprise you to learn that the US-Mexico border situation has been an issue since the fiscal year of 2007. The only difference between now and then was that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were thorough in covering up the border crisis. Trump’s Zero Tolerance policy and the recent crackdown on people who try to enter the country illegally have only made the problem worse. And the fact that the Trump administration announced measures in November 2018** denying asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally (later overturned by federal courts) means that the detainees at the border are in serious trouble. At this point, immigration reform is not just another issue: it’s a dire necessity.

*You can find the full Homeland Security publication here

**Listen to NPR’s broadcast about the measures here

Himani Mehta



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