Trump does not want a solution to America’s migrant crisis

“They are using this horrific Senate Bill as a way of being able to put the BORDER DISASTER onto the shoulders of the Republicans. The Democrats BROKE THE BORDER, they should fix it,” Trump posted on his social media platform.

As someone who has spent time along the 3000-kilometre border that separates the US and Mexico, I can tell you first hand: America’s immigration system is a hot mess, thanks to the failures of successive governments over many years.

From a national security perspective, authorities encountered more than 3.2 million people crossing the border in the year to September 30 – far more than the 1.9 million recorded in 2021, which was Biden’s first year in office. About 169 migrants had their names on the terror watch list, more than 35,000 had criminal convictions, and more than 12,000 kilograms of fentanyl have been seized.

Migrants march north to the US border from Tapachula, Mexico.Credit: AP

But from a humanitarian perspective, the vast majority of those crossing the border are not criminals or potential terrorists, but rather people hoping to apply for asylum after fleeing poverty, violence or authoritarian rule in their own country.

They’re folks like Luis Valbuena and Maria Claudia who I met in the Texas town of El Paso recently, after their 2½-month journey with their young daughter, largely on foot, from their home in Colombia.

The family had trekked across the jungles of Panama, through the fast-flowing rivers of Nicaragua, and past the drug cartels of Mexico.

On the day I met them, they were camped outside an El Paso church, after being processed and released back into the community – a practice that limits the number of families placed in detention centres. They were working out what to do as they awaited their immigration hearing to seek asylum.

However, due to the extraordinary court backlog and a lack of resources in the US, that hearing wasn’t due until March 2027. With limited belongings and money, what on earth were they meant to do until then?

Therein lies much of the problem. While many migrants enter the US pursuing the “great American dream”, the process of getting through the courts to validate their asylum claims can take years. For much of that time, they aren’t legally permitted to work, although many find “unauthorised” employment anyway.

And as numbers continue to surge, many have been sent to places such as New York, Chicago, Denver and my hometown of Washington DC – “sanctuary cities” where every person in need of housing has a unique legal right to shelter. This, too, has become unsustainable.


Which brings us back to the hotbed of hypocrisy otherwise known as the US Congress.

If approved, the border deal that Trump and some Republicans now want to reject would reportedly require the border to be closed if encounters reach a daily average of 5000 in a week or 8500 on a single day. It would also speed up the asylum process for people with valid claims, and limit the use of parole to release migrants into the US.

The deal would also unlock money for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan because that’s how Biden presented his supplementary funding request to Congress last year amid growing global tensions.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s arguably the most substantial bipartisan border bill in years. It’s also an acknowledgement by Biden – who came to office pausing all deportations, opposing the border wall and vowing to end the harsh practices of the Trump administration – that this is a mess partly of his own making.

If only there was bipartisan political will to fix it.

“It’s not going to happen, and I’ll fight it all the way,” Trump said at a rally in Nevada on Saturday.

He then went on to spruik his own election plan to solve the crisis: “the biggest deportation program in US history”.

It’s going to be quite an election year.

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