To win on immigration, Trump must address both its security and humanitarian crises – Washington Examiner
As Congress continues its gridlock over immigration, the humanitarian crisis at the southern border continues to deteriorate.
Lawyers who visited an overcrowded border station in Clint, Texas, earlier this month said they were met with a “chaotic scene of sickness and filth” where “hundreds of young people who have recently crossed the border are being held,” according to the New York Times. Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul echoed the lawyers’ concerns and said his state’s immigration detention centers are in the “worst” conditions he’s ever seen, as did Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, who told the Washington Examiner Monday that the border crisis has “never been worse than it is today.”
But Congress has yet to act, and the Trump administration continues to sit and wait patiently for its legislative counterparts to do their jobs.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said the health and safety crises at the border are “heartbreaking” but deflected blame to congressional Democrats.
“Of course we do,” Pence said when asked whether the administration believes migrant children should have access to soap, toothbrushes, and other basic amenities. “My point is that it’s all a part of the appropriations process. Congress needs to provide additional support to deal with the crisis at our southern border.”
Pence is right: Additional funds are necessary to substantially improve migrant detention centers. It’s a shame congressional Democrats, who tout their commitment to migrants and their well-being, refuse to work with Republicans and compromise on a deal. But there are steps the administration can and should take to aid migrants at the border while it addresses the “root causes” of migration.
“The president and the administration can be doing more,” Roy told the Washington Examiner, noting that border security is primarily the executive branch’s responsibility. “The executive branch needs to get busy under our current laws.”
Worsening conditions at detention centers is one of many symptoms attributable to the massive influx of migrants seeking asylum. To reduce and fix the symptoms, the overwhelmed judicial system responsible for asylum hearings must be unclogged, and border agents must receive more financial and physical assistance. This, of course, depends on Congress. With that said, the absence of a permanent solution doesn’t negate the responsibility and ability to do what we can to alleviate what both political parties have admitted is a severe humanitarian crisis.
Trump was willing to declare a national emergency to secure funding for his border wall. Though the declaration was arguably an unnecessary overreach of executive power, it showed how far the president was willing to go for an issue he’s made his own. This commitment shouldn’t stop at border security.
Roy said that a few temporary solutions to ease the burgeoning crisis include giving border control officers the authority to quickly make decisions about “credible fear” claims, or initial claims from asylum-seeking migrants that must demonstrate a “well-founded fear of persecution,” according to the Department of Homeland Security. Giving Border Patrol additional authority would expedite the asylum process and ease the backlogged coffers of immigration judges, Roy said.
It seems Trump knows this, if his recent compromise with House Democrats on a border supplemental bill, which will provide funding for food, shelter, clothing, medical care, legal assistance, etc., is any indication.
To make immigration a winning issue, Trump must own both its security and humanitarian aspects. As it stands, Democrats largely ignore the security crisis and Republicans severely downplay its humanitarian toll. Caught up in their partisan bickering, both parties fail to understand the significance of immigration: Their neglect of the other side’s concerns is proof of that. If this cycle continues, neither side will achieve a permanent solution.
By acknowledging the humanity of the migrants seeking asylum while maintaining pressure on congressional Democrats to pull their weight and advocating for enhanced security, Trump might just unite both sides under a coherent policy he can carry into 2020. But that depends on him.