I don’t have a tremendous amount of faith that Congress is actually going to do anything useful or productive when it comes to either illegal immigration or how we should handle overwhelming numbers of asylum seekers from Central America and points south. Still, at least there is a discussion of the subject taking place so there’s always room for hope. The editorial board of the Washington Post jumped back into the fray this week with their own suggestions for what should be done regarding asylum seekers.
To their credit, the WaPo’s editors begin by admitting that we do, in fact, have a refugee crisis on our hands. They go one step further, admitting that the Obama administration was “flummoxed” by the unending flow of families and unaccompanied children trying to flee Central and South America and enter the United States, particularly in 2014. But they are dismissive of the one solution being put forward by the Trump administration which might actually make a difference. We’ve had a “safe third country” agreement with Canada since 2004. Under that plan, migrants are to apply for asylum in the first “safe” country they reach. So why can’t we have a similar deal with Mexico? Because, at least in the opinion of the Washington Post’s editors, Mexico is too much of a craphole nation to offer them any safety. (Emphasis added)
In 2002, the United States and Canada secured a similar arrangement, known as a “safe third country” agreement. It has worked because Canada is, in fact, a safe third country: Migrants who apply for asylum there are secure, and their cases are fairly adjudicated.
By contrast, Mexico is patently unsuitable as a place of refuge for most migrants, especially those from Central America, who suffer exploitation, violence and sexual assault almost routinely as they make their way north. In a recent report, Doctors Without Borders noted that two-thirds of Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Honduran migrants in Mexico have reported being victims of violence; almost a third of migrant women there had been sexually assaulted. Twelve of the world’s 50 most violent cities are in Mexico. Forcing refugees to seek sanctuary in Mexico would thrust tens of thousands of them into a country with weak law enforcement, a flimsy judicial system, an anemic asylum process and predatory criminal gangs.
I’m sorry, but isn’t that sort of… racist? The Washington Post is declaring that we can’t tell migrants to apply for asylum in Mexico because so many of them “suffer exploitation, violence and sexual assault” in that nation. Wait… are you saying that Mexico is full of rapists? And if you’re quoting statistics saying that 12 of the 50 most violent cities in the world are in Mexico, that their law enforcement system is “weak,” their courts are “flimsy” and it’s full of gangs, it kind of sounds like you’re describing a real ****hole nation to me. I thought people who said things like that were, by definition, racists. At least I’m sure I read that somewhere.
One other claim in the editorial deserves attention. The editors want to make sure that you know this isn’t an argument in favor of open borders. Perish the thought!
This is not an argument for open borders. Rather, the right response, and the one most likely to succeed in the long term, is for the United States to redouble efforts to strengthen governments and fight the lawlessness that has seized Central America’s refugee-producing countries. Short of that, the administration’s efforts will be self-defeating.
The grimly humorous part of this argument is that the WaPo editorial board is essentially correct on the specifics of all these claims while wildly mischaracterizing the reality of what they’re asking for. A real solution to the burgeoning migrant crisis would indeed be found in one of two pie-in-the-sky plans. We would need to either find a way to more directly and appropriately process all of the asylum seekers in a timely fashion or address the conditions in their home countries causing them to flee. Wonderful in theory, but how do we do either of those things?
To do the first (process all the claims) we would need massive facilities all along the border to house the applicants while their cases are heard as well as adding a staggering number of judges, courts and immigration officials to process all the claims in a reasonable period of time. Recent requests for even modest increases in these resources have been bogged down. So we’ll switch to the second “solution” the WaPo offers and simply cure all of the endemic violence, corruption and societal ills plaguing nations such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Right. That should be no problem at all.
So if those proposals both prove impossible, but Mexico (the aforementioned s***hole nation) is unsuitable, what’s left? The obvious answer is to return to our previous, unofficial “open borders” policy of releasing migrants into the interior of our country and hoping they all show up for hearings months or years later. Oh, and also fervently hoping they weren’t actually coming here with violent intents.
The United States is one of the most generous nations in the world when it comes to helping disadvantaged people around the globe. And we already accept a staggering number of asylum applicants every year, often at considerable risk and cost to ourselves. But there have to be limits to even our generosity, particularly when there are gangs and terrorist groups eager to find a way over our borders. Mexico is a trading partner and an industrial nation, despite the rampant corruption, crime and violence which takes place there. They can take on a more significant role in this process, even if it’s only in the form of setting up refugee facilities near the U.S. border where people can wait for their claims to be processed. If they don’t want to carry their share of the burden, don’t blame it on us.