Editorial: Urgent action needed at border

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The ISD Editorial Board discusses Biden’s lackluster response to what many are calling a border crisis. 

Editorial Board

Still in his first 100 days as president, Joe Biden’s administration faces a new challenge. Thousands of migrants are flooding over the border, many of them unaccompanied children and teenagers. This has pushed immigration infrastructure to its limits, with holding facilities over capacity and children being kept by border patrol longer than the law allows. 

There are approximately 15,000 children currently being held at the border. Around 4,500 are currently waiting to be processed in border patrol facilities before joining the 9,000 minors under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services. The law says children should not be detained by border patrol for longer than 72 hours, yet currently, 3,000 children have been held longer than this. 

The source of this increase is difficult to pin down, but it appears policy changes related to COVID-19 have impacted the border. Last year, the Trump administration halted all border crossings in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. It is believed that this has created a backlog in Mexico for individuals and families waiting to cross. Recently, Biden lifted parts of this ban, still turning back all adults but taking in minors. 

Some people wishing to cross seem to believe Biden will be the answer to their immigration woes, wearing shirts asking him to let them into the country. Biden has made it clear that the country is not yet ready to reopen its borders, telling prospective migrants to stay home.

So far, the response from the new administration has been disappointing. This has been a predictable issue that the incoming president’s team should have been prepared to take on. Immigration along the border has had issues for close to decades — every administration has had their own version of a border crisis. After campaigning on capable leadership, it is time for them to step up and show Americans they can handle these situations. 

The administration is also beginning to fail on its repeated promises of truth and transparency. Following a presidency that was heavily criticized for its inaccurate and withheld information, the new president told the American people he would give it to them straight — good or bad. Despite this, reporters have not been allowed into the border patrol facilities. 

Democratic leaders claim reporters are not allowed inside because of the pandemic and that it’s not appropriate to show the temporary holding facilities that are not the long-term homes of children. This reasoning is weak, as a small group of tested reporters could be safely allowed to observe, and it’s incredibly important for the conditions of these short-term facilities to be humane and properly set up.

How can we be sure that this is the case if reporters aren’t allowed access? How can we know that migrants being held in these temporary holding facilities are being treated right? 

The immigration system has been a constant issue for decades and is in need of a major overhaul soon. The current system is inadequate and is often overwhelmed, leading to subpar living conditions for human beings. Given the opportunity of both the current crisis and the political climate in D.C., the Biden administration should attempt to find long improvements rather than slapping another bandage on this wound.