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The border crisis is a perfect storm of desperation, crime, and misery
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The border crisis is a perfect storm of desperation, crime, and misery

Our government has a duty to protect its citizens. But the dehumanizing treatment of immigrants — even people in the country illegally — is wrong.

A few numbers paint a grim picture of what’s really happening at the border. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, federal agents encountered approximately 2.5 million migrants in 2023 compared to 850,000 migrant encounters in 2019. This sharp increase has dramatically worsened the humanitarian crisis.

Small border towns are overburdened due to a lack of resources. Meanwhile, migrants endure deplorable conditions. Anger is brewing toward the federal government for its failure to secure the border, as well as fears of an unchecked influx of criminals and narcotics — fears that are far from baseless.

Shipping migrants across the country does not prevent suffering — it simply shifts the suffering elsewhere.

In 2023, border officials seized 26,700 pounds of fentanyl — a shocking 480% increase since 2020. Nearly 99% of it came though the southern border. Overdose deaths topped 112,000 for the first time in history last year, and experts say fentanyl is fueling these drug deaths.

Human trafficking is another major issue arising from our chaotic border policy. Mark Morgan, the former acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the United States is “complicit in the world’s largest human smuggling and trafficking operation in modern history.”

In 2022, arrests for human trafficking rose 50%, and convictions rose 80%. A whopping 72% of those trafficked in the United States are immigrants. The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women estimated that 60% of unaccompanied, undocumented children are caught and exploited by cartels through pornography and drug trafficking. To put that in perspective, in 2022, more than 150,000 unaccompanied children crossed the southern border, which would suggest 90,000 of them are being exploited in unspeakable ways.

The government is undoubtedly failing in its duty to protect innocent lives, and chaotic immigration laws hurt people on both sides of the border. But a disturbing trend has emerged as an extreme reaction to the government’s failure: the dehumanizing treatment of migrants in America.

Spreading the problem

In 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott began sending migrants to blue cities, including New York City and Chicago, where they are presumably “wanted.”

But these cities are not equipped to care for such large numbers of immigrants. Recently, New York City evacuated a high school to accommodate some 2,000 migrants — including families with children — because of extreme weather forecasts. These people were living in tents on a known flood plain for months.

Last month, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker asked Abbott to refrain from sending more migrants to the city amidst sub-zero temperatures. Abbott declined, citing Chicago’s self-proclaimed nickname of “The Welcoming City,” and pointed out that Texas was also facing bitterly cold temperatures.

Many immigrants in Chicago are finding themselves in an impossible situation. Due to lack of available beds, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson implemented a 60-day limit on how long migrants can stay in the shelters. The first round of evictions scheduled to begin in mid-March will affect over 5,000 people.

If the Biden administration has no plans to deport these people any time soon, they will need somewhere to live and somewhere to work. About half of the migrants in Chicago’s shelters are not eligible for rental assistance because they arrived after Illinois cut the program. Anyone who arrived after July 31 is not eligible for temporary protected status, which includes the ability to obtain work authorization. This means most migrants will wait about six months after filing asylum claims to receive a work permit.

In reality, though, it is virtually impossible for many of these migrants to leave the shelter system and support themselves. Those who cannot find a job or afford rent will have to reapply for shelters.

A crying need for reforms

These Republican governors have undoubtedly been dealt a tough hand. But shipping migrants across the country does not prevent suffering — it simply shifts the suffering elsewhere, fuels division between political parties and states, and drives hostility between Americans and migrants. It treats human beings like cargo — unwanted, unloved outcasts — and only weakens America’s already crumbling cities. Plus, by sending migrants even farther into the country, these policies worsen the very problem they purportedly seek to resolve.

Any ideology that objectifies human beings, or uses them as a means to an end, is evil. Which is why we desperately need a national solution that will protect Americans from foreign threats and uphold the intrinsic value of every human being. Such a solution would require our federal and state leaders to put partisan politics aside in favor of the dignity of human life.

First and foremost, our government has a duty to protect its citizens. A wall could help secure the border and keep out human traffickers and narcotics.

Red states should stop sending busloads of people deeper into the country to cities that cannot accommodate them and perhaps instead coordinate with charities, states, and even other safe countries to find places that can help them.

Additionally, the legal immigration system desperately needs reform. In 2019, the average wait time for applicants of family-sponsored or employment-based migrants was nearly six years — up from about two years in 1991. Yet most migrants who claim asylum at the border get released into American cities in less than 72 hours. For people in search of a better life, there is virtually no motivation to take the legal pathway.

It is not charitable for the federal government to allow migrants to break the law and enter the country with virtually no system in place to support them once they’re here. But it also isn’t charitable to send these people to cities that cannot accommodate them. America, broken as it is, remains a beacon of hope for people worldwide. Lawmakers should pursue policies that will maintain that light and uphold the dignity of every person.

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Lily Hayes

Lily Hayes

Lily Hayes is a producer and researcher for BlazeTV.