To Americans who see the caravan of immigrants in Mexico seeking better lives in the United States as beleaguered refugees in search of asylum, the dominant image from Sunday’s confrontation was one of helpless women and children crying and screaming after Border Patrol agents launched tear gas across the border.
To Americans who see that caravan as an invasive and dangerous group demanding a residency to which it has no legal claim, the dominant image from Sunday’s confrontation was one of stealthy young men scaling a barrier, hellbent on entering, heedless of the law.
But the problem is not so simple, and the solutions are vastly complex. The inflammatory tweets of President Donald Trump and the tear gas shot at helpless people are not helpful. But neither are Democrats who in many instances side with the immigrants without presenting any plan that doesn’t encourage the continual flow of asylum-seekers from violent and poor Central American nations.
In partnership with Mexico, we must treat amnesty applicants at our border fairly and humanely, insisting that each receives the due process our laws require. Families must not be separated and their petitions to be allowed into this country should be adjudicated quickly.
When the caravan of several thousand migrants who traveled north for several weeks to seek asylum in the United States got to Tijuana last week, the walkers found thousands of asylum-seekers already waiting to be processed. U.S. agents at the busy entry point just north of the border in San Ysidro, California, are processing fewer than 100 applications a day. These migrants’ desperation is real.
Over the summer, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that victimization by gangs and domestic abuse would no longer be considered legal justifications for asylum. The separation this summer of more than 3,000 children from immigrant parents here illegally, and Trump’s politicizing the military by sending more than 5,000 U.S. troops to the border just before the crucial midterm elections, again have inflamed the immigration issue.
Both short- and long-term solutions are needed. Trump should send as many immigration judges as necessary to the border to adjudicate asylum cases as soon as possible. In cooperation with Mexico, the United States also must send resources to feed, clothe and shelter the migrants.
The new Congress must take control of determining who enters and who stays. It should pass immigration reforms that grant legal status to people brought here as children through no fault of their own and which welcome workers the nation needs and the freedom-seekers who deserve to be here, while barring those who don’t. These reforms must also stop employers from hiring people here illegally. Finally, the United States must pursue trade, aid and security policies that help our southern neighbors become law-abiding, prosperous societies. Here, and in Europe, it is becoming clear that people will not stay in unsafe countries.
The United States is too wealthy, powerful and welcoming a nation to menace helpless refugees with tear gas and soldiers. We can do better. — The editorial board
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