Home/Rod Dreher/The Border Squalor

The Border Squalor

The Inspector General finds disgusting and inhumane conditions at the US Southern border. Excerpts:

Overcrowded, squalid conditions are more widespread at migrant centers along the southern border than initially revealed, the Department of Homeland Security’s independent watchdog said Tuesday. Its report describes standing-room-only cells, children without showers and hot meals, and detainees clamoring desperately for release.

The findings by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General were released as House Democrats detailed their own findings at migrant holding centers and pressed the agency to answer for the mistreatment not only of migrants but also of their own colleagues, who have been threatened on social media.

In June, inspectors from the department visited five facilities in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and found children had few spare clothes and no laundry facilities. Many migrants were given only wet wipes to clean themselves and bologna sandwiches to eat, causing constipation and other health problems, according to the report. Children at two of the five facilities in the area were not given hot meals until inspectors arrived.

Overcrowding was so severe that when the agency’s internal inspectors visited some of the facilities, migrants banged on cells and pressed notes to windows begging for help.

“At one facility, some single adults were held in standing-room-only conditions for a week, and at another, some single adults were held more than a month in overcrowded cells,” according to the report, which built off an initial inquiry by the inspector general in May that described similar conditions in facilities in El Paso.

This is awful, no doubt about it. And those Republicans who have denied this aspect of the crisis are contradicted by the IG’s report. More:

But the government’s own report backed up the Democrats’ descriptions. The facilities were built for the short-term stay of adults expected to be quickly deported. Central American children, who under immigration law cannot be immediately deported back to their origin country, are supposed to be moved to facilities managed by the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours. Single adults are supposed to be moved to facilities built for longer-term detention managed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“These are not facilities that are designed to hold people for more than three days,” said Representative Will Hurd of Texas, the only Republican representing a border district. “You shouldn’t be holding anybody in these facilities for more than that.”

But Department of Homeland Security officials have said other facilities are full as well. To deter migration to the border, the department recently threatened to start nationwide raids to deport undocumented families, which President Trump said will begin after July 4.

An ICE spokesman also said on Tuesday that the agency was issuing fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars to unauthorized immigrants who refused to comply with deportation orders.

Here’s the thing: the reason the US Government is not prepared, in terms of having facilities, to deal with this migrant wave is that it has never had to deal with something like this before. Something Must Be Done to end these terrible conditions on the border — I agree! But I don’t think the Democrats will be pleased until and unless ICE releases all these people into the general population. We all know they will disappear and will never come back for detention hearings.

I feel strongly that the humane treatment of migrant children must be the No. 1 priority at the border. I would like to know how the government can resolve these inhumane conditions for all migrants without releasing them. I’m seriously asking: what are the possibilities?

After that, though, can we give a thought to exactly who is responsible for trying to get into a United States whose normal border channels are full? Do the migrants themselves — a significant number of whom are now from Africa! — bear any responsibility for putting themselves in this situation? Many of them quite understandably want a better life for themselves and their families, and are willing to take their chances at the US border. Yes, the US has a legal responsibility to do better by these people, even if we are ultimately going to send them back home. But no one foresaw this human tsunami, and we aren’t prepared for it, not in terms of infrastructure or in terms of the legal mechanism we need to process these asylum claims.

Why do Democrats and immigration proponents believe that these people who are trying to get into the US bear no moral responsibility for putting themselves and their children into the awful situation at the border? This is not to say that they deserve to be treated this way, these migrants, but it is to say that this horrible, impossible-to-quickly-resolve situation was caused by the migrants themselves, most of whom are using the asylum claim as a way of trying to make a better life for themselves in the US.

I am glad that the OIG and the Democrats are exposing terrible conditions at the border. The government has to do better. That said, a solution that requires instantly allowing these migrants to pass into the general population is intolerable, and will only encourage more. For heaven’s sake, we’re now dealing with Africans coming into the US via the asylum route through Mexico. They’re making fools of us.

Judging by their presidential candidates, the Democrats have become an open-borders party. The plight of the migrants forces the entire national political leadership class to come to terms with a problem that it has been unable, or unwilling, to solve for many years.

I’ve been watching and reading some of the most recent coverage of the crisis. It is important, I think, that the unspoken assumption of all of it is that the migrants have a right to be here. Outside of explicitly conservative media, I have not seen the issue considered from the angle of competing rights — that is, whether the American people, through their elected representatives, have a right to turn these migrants away. The baseline assumption seems to be that of course they have a right to be here.

Frankly, I have no animosity at all towards those migrants. If I had to live in their countries, and I saw an opportunity to get across the border into the US with my family by exploiting asylum law, I would do it.

But.

Does a nation have the right to control its borders? Does it have the right to determine who, from outside the nation, gets to live within its territory? Does it have a responsibility to those who already live there, and their future generations, to manage the inflow of immigrants wisely? Yes to all three questions.

Open borders means the dissolution of the nation as a meaningful concept. Our basic obligations as human beings require us to treat these distressed people with compassion. But compassion for suffering foreigners does not require signing on to a national suicide pact. As global warming will make more of these regions uninhabitable in the years and decades to come, the industrialized nations need to start making long-range plans now for dealing with the challenges compassionately but also sensibly.

UPDATE: He said it, I didn’t — but he’s right. From the WaPo:

On Tuesday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said he would “virtually eliminate immigration detention” by executive order. During last week’s debate, presidential candidate Julián Castro proposed decriminalizing illegal border crossings — a position other Democrats in the race rapidly adopted.

Others in the party are urging caution, saying the push toward decriminalization risks playing into Trump’s hands.

“That is tantamount to declaring publicly that we have open borders,” said Jeh Johnson, who ran the Department of Homeland Security during President Barack Obama’s second term. “That is unworkable, unwise and does not have the support of a majority of American people or the Congress, and if we had such a policy, instead of 100,000 apprehensions a month, it will be multiples of that.”

The Democratic Party is the open borders party. It just is. No denying it.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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