May 29, 2024

No place to go

Illegal immigration at our southern border is a continuing problem. It’s been a problem for decades, through several administrations. Migrants continue to leave their homes and somehow travel to America, desperately seeking a better way of life for their families, and heartbreaking for those who fail to find refuge in our nation.

Congress should pass an immigration reform bill, and it’s frustrating it never gets done. In 2004, New York Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton co-sponsored a comprehensive immigration reform bill which the Senate passed and President George W. Bush promised to sign. The House, led by Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert (who later went to prison convicted of child molestation), failed to take up the bill. Since then, little effort has been made, except for the time and money wasted trying to build a wall along a rugged border spanning nearly 2,000 miles, and promising Mexico would pay for it.

Recently, the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO), a non-partisan governmental watchdog, published a report on wall-building efforts along the border during the previous administration. It cost $15 billion over four years, and most construction simply replaced existing barriers that had fallen into disrepair. Despite Donald Trump’s false claims, only 52 miles of new construction were completed. The total wall is just 400 miles long, and Mexico has never paid a dime for it.

The GAO report confirmed the worst fears of opponents of the wall - that it would inflict severe damage on wildlife, public lands and cultural resources. Wildlife habitats were scattered, migration routes of animals were cut off, and vegetation including thousands of ancient cacti, were destroyed. Indigenous sacred sites and burial grounds were dynamited. Water resources were severely compromised. Newly constructed roads along the wall now block the natural flow of water, increasing the risk of erosion and flooding. Steep slopes were left unstable and at risk of collapse. New wall construction was halted when President Biden took office.

GAO concluded building the wall did nothing to address immigration or drug smuggling, and they’ve recommended some existing structures be removed where it blocks migration routes of endangered species. The Interior Department concurs with those recommendations.

The U.S. is not the only nation struggling with the flood of immigrants. In fact, there are 10 other countries who take in more refugees than we do. Currently, there are more than 103 million people around the globe displaced from their homes. It is a worldwide crisis of people fleeing their homes from places like Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, Somalia and many others. More refugees arrived at our borders in the first eight months of this year than any year since 2017. During 43 years of the U.S. resettlement program, the average resettlement was 73,000 annually, but now huge numbers of immigrants seek resettlement every day.

Americans are unhappy with illegal immigration at the southern border and it has become a political football. Lowest during the Obama administration, immigration has increased dramatically continuing into the Biden administration. It’s a world-wide struggle. People around the world are leaving their countries in droves.

America’s immigration problem must be solved through bipartisan efforts. Blaming one another is useless because desperate people fleeing their homes are going to keep coming. Immigration policies need to be established and supported financially and compassionately. It is first and foremost a humanitarian problem.

People are fleeing violence, war, hunger, persecution, drought, floods and abject poverty. They want a new life in a safe, free and secure country. Around the world, millions of refugees live in tents, fed and sheltered by nations hardly able to feed their own citizens. Organizations such as Red Cross, UNICEF, Save the Children, etc., try to aid the millions of souls dependent on them, supported by the generosity of millions of others willing to share their wealth.

We can do better in America. We can provide food and shelter. We can provide space for immigrants to live, and jobs to support themselves and their families. Many communities need more people to grow and survive. There are millions of unfilled entry-level, service and agricultural jobs. Employers plead for more workers, and immigrants beg to be allowed to work. It makes no sense migrants are not offered jobs almost immediately upon arrival.

Congress must find the political will to fix the problem.