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Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.
When he was running for president in 2016, Donald Trump said he was going to build a 1,000-mile concrete wall, maybe 30 feet high, on the southern border, and that Mexico would pay for it. The idea, meant to halt gobs of illegal immigration, was outlandish, empty-headed and abandoned.
Instead, Trump admired his success in almost completing 450 miles of a wall that wasn’t much of a wall and 200 miles shorter in length than a wall finished in the Obama years. The wall’s potency is doubted, but Trump did in fact fix things to the point that it took the election of President Joe Biden to institute a fresh, inhumane, dangerous border crisis.
To start with, Biden made a move not as foolish as Trump’s dream of a wall, but close. He called for a bill legalizing America’s 11 million (maybe 22 million) illegal immigrants and offering them a path to citizenship. Despite complicating details, this is an invitation for excruciating numbers to come running.
Biden also tried to put a 100-day stop on Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents initiating the deportation of criminally involved illegal immigrants. A federal judge, caring about law and public safety, said no, and so the Biden team toned it down a bit, saying ICE could act in cases of murder, rape and recent crossings, but not much else.
Significantly, Biden ended Trump’s deal to keep those claiming to be refugees on the Mexican side of the border until judges were available. What he did as an alternative was restart catch and release, a policy setting thousands free with no judicial ruling. That meant they could maybe disappear for good after first invading small Texas cities in no way prepared to deal with them.
Put it all together and you get a migrant surge that could be a 20-year high with 100,000 last month pouring in, many of them children coming by themselves.
These young ones are being placed in detention centers in which, for a period, no reporters were allowed, and surely no photos. It’s nevertheless known that resources to take care of them are insufficient, and a recent Associated Press report said 10 percent of immigrant children in a West Texas camp were infected with COVID-19. Border guards have had to quit guarding the border to lend a hand and themselves risk infection.
To get to the border, these victims mainly trek through the desert. For phenomenal prices, gangsters often serve as guides, some of them toting drugs and some of them human traffickers.
It’s often assumed that people worried about undocumented immigrants are against immigration generally. I am absolutely for legal immigration, though with more emphasis on skills our country badly needs and less on relatives. We should also take refugees judicially validated in their home countries; no one crosses the border without a passport. I am for citizenship possibilities for hard-working, long-term illegal immigrants once our borders are adequately protected and we’ve put an end to those illegally overstaying their visas.
Trump, by the way, never got Mexico to pay for any wall, but he did get them to invest large sums of money in meticulously guarding their own southern border to prevent marches northward along with harboring refugees. We need the same kind of cooperation from progressives. They must understand the danger of opening the gates to everyone who wants to come here — some 750 million people according to Gallup polls — and get it that good intentions should be accompanied by realism.