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Letter to the Editor: There Is No National Emergency on Our Border!

Friends, neighbors, countrymen and women, let’s be honest. There is no evidence to support the President’s declaration of a national emergency.  

The “caravan” of people from Honduras that walked 2,700 miles through Central America is composed mainly of children and family members who are fleeing for their lives from drug and gun wars that stem from our policies in the 1980s. Drug lords and human traffickers are not standing in lines waiting for asylum at the border; they continue to do their dirty work through normal channels of commerce. Efforts to cross illegally are at a long-term low. Immigrants from Central America, with or without green cards, are responsible for fewer acts of violent crime here in recent years than native-born citizens. These are well-known facts uncovered by our media.

What really gives the lie to the President’s declaration, however, is the work of journalists from other countries. One such report by Roberto Saviano is translated from Italian in the New York Review of Books (March 7). The caravan began with 160 people who gathered on Oct. 12 (the date Columbus arrived in America) at the bus station in San Pedro Sula, and by the time they left the city the number had swelled to 1,000. Saviano calls it “the biggest anti-mafia march the world has ever seen” (p. 14), because it was in direct defiance of both drug lords and traffickers (“coyotes,” who charge thousands of dollars for smuggling people).

The numbers grew to 10,000 along the way until people arrived in stages at Tijuana, Mexico, where large camps formed to wait for asylum hearings, which were metered at 10-15 a day. Faced with uncertain prospects, 1,300 migrants returned to homelands; 2,900 received humanitarian visas from Mexico and 2,600 were arrested in San Diego for “crossing illegally” (p. 15), leaving “hundreds” still in the makeshift camps. These are not numbers that constitute an “emergency” for a country of 360 million people, and for a border patrol that has been beefed-up heftily with military personnel!  

The problems here lie with policies designed to threaten people who are seeking asylum in keeping with international law; with rhetoric that brands them as criminals when they are actually laying their lives on the line to resist criminals and criminalization; and with what seems to be gross incompetence at the border. How would you respond if, say, the Canadian border officials told you that they could only begin to process 10-15 requests for asylum a day?

The people seeking asylum will not stop coming no matter what draconian policies we enact, because their lives are already at stake in their own countries. The legislation just passed to prevent a government shutdown is woefully inadequate and probably dangerous to our civil liberties. Impeachment is certainly in order, but we need a Senate that can actually think about solving problems instead of preserving the GOP.

Estella Lauter

Fish Creek, Wis.