The Southern Border Highlights the Anti-Immigrant Policies of Both Parties

Truck traffic at the U.S.-Mexico border near Laredo, Texas.

On April 6, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas imposed an outrageous order requiring additional and totally unnecessary safety inspections on trucks crossing the border from Mexico. This caused a massive back-up of trucks crossing the border into the United States. In some cases, trucks waited in lines for more than 30 hours, which led to huge delays in shipments of food and other products, and billions of dollars in losses. Abbot pretended the extra inspections were necessary due to security concerns, but it’s pretty clear that he just made these up. After nine days of extra inspections, no illegal shipments were identified and there were zero arrests. It was a total sham, and a cheap publicity stunt for Abbot who is up for reelection in November. He cancelled the new order on April 15 after enormous backlash.

Abbot tells these lies because he has decided to stake his reelection on fanning the flames of racism in the Texas voting population. He has simply followed the racist playbook of Trump: falsely blaming the difficult economic situation of Texans on immigrants, portraying immigrants as criminals who pose a threat, and holding up intensified border security as the only solution to what he claims is an emergency at the border.

Abbot imposed his latest stunt with the truckers while falsely claiming that the Biden administration was relaxing security at the southern border and having an “open border policy.” In reality, all of his accusations are totally false and he knows it, and is willing to say and do anything to play on people’s prejudice and create fear among the population to get reelected.

In fact, despite the big promises from the Biden administration about being on the side of immigrants, his administration has simply continued many of the anti-immigrant border policies of the Trump administration. Since October 2021, the U.S. has arrested more than one million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, the highest total in more than two decades. Biden has continued a policy Trump imposed during the pandemic called Title 42, which allows border agents to quickly deport anyone arrested at the border as well as anyone seeking asylum. This order was supposed to only apply as a means of reducing the spread of Covid, but as the Biden administration quickly removed many other Covid safety measures, they left Title 42 in place. Only recently did Biden finally announced he would likely remove Title 42 in May 2022.

But meanwhile, the overall situation in Central and South America and the Caribbean has been getting worse. Because of climate disruption, drought and extreme temperatures have been destroying people’s subsistence farms and cutting off their access to basic necessities. The general economic situation has been made even worse since the pandemic. And all of this is happening in many countries that have been facing years of violent conflicts led by rival gangs and government forces. The number of people fleeing their countries for survival has only grown since the pandemic.

Instead of offering migrants an easier path to asylum, the Biden administration has let a horrible situation spiral even further out of control. Currently there are more than 670,000 asylum cases pending in immigration court, each of which takes an average of five years to settle. In his State of the Union, Biden promised to put in place more immigration judges to speed up this process. But so far nothing has been done, and it will take a lot more than a few extra judges to change any of this.

At the same time, when it has come to asylum seekers from Ukraine, the Biden administration has shown that it is able to fast track the asylum process. Nearly 10,000 Ukrainians have been processed by U.S. immigration officials in the last two months. The same process for white Europeans fleeing violence and desperation in Ukraine could be granted for Black and Brown migrants fleeing violence and desperation in Central and South America and the Caribbean. It is a choice by the Biden administration to only allow this expedited asylum for Ukrainians.

On the surface, the immigration rhetoric of the Republicans and Democrats can seem very different. Rarely do the same overt, anti-immigrant, racist accusations of Republicans come out of the mouths of many Democratic politicians. But when it comes to the actual policies at the border, neither party stands for the interests of immigrants.