In the recent past, the United States has seen a huge influx in the numbers of immigrants mostly from central America reaching the southern border with the intention of illegally crossing into the country.
Immigration emergency at the Southern border!
-By Heather McDonald
In the recent past, the United States has seen a huge influx in the numbers of immigrants mostly from central America reaching the southern border with the intention of illegally crossing into the country. Most of the migrant caravans some numbering to over 3000 men, women and children originate from countries such as Honduras, Guatemala, and El-Salvador and only grow bigger as they approach the US Mexico border.
During the run-up to the US presidential elections in 2016, Donald Trump promised to construct “an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful wall” along the entire US Mexico 2,000 mile border to curb the illegal immigration problem. Prior to President Trump’s election, the Department of Homeland Security had spent approximately seven years and more than 1 billion US dollars trying to create a virtual fenceÃ¢â‚¬Â or a wall of technology at the southern border which clearly didn’t solve the problem.
The US border enforcement system is meant to apprehend illegal immigrants and promptly send them back to their country of origin but asylum seekers who cross into the US at the ports of entry or have otherwise been apprehended by border patrol officers can evoke their right to apply for asylum and hence cannot be deported right away.
The immigrants have to be screened by an asylum officer to determine their eligibility for asylum after which they have to wait for their case to be heard and determined by an immigration judge. In the meantime, the immigrants are held at migrant shelters across the country. This process can take months or even years due to a backlog of these cases and has consequently led to overcrowding at these centers with some receiving as many as 2,300 people per week.
The government has increasingly come under pressure to control this huge influx of illegal immigrants, and evidence supports that there are more and more children and families crossing into America than ever before and politicians on both sides of the divide seem to agree that the situation is deteriorating into a humanitarian crisis.
Trump’s Executive Order
On February 15, 2019, President Trump declared a national emergency over funding for the border wall which would enable funds to be diverted from other government undertakings, mostly military constructions projects to fund the wall.
The House of Representatives then passed legislation blocking this emergency declaration while the Senate also passing a resolution to terminate the emergency declaration. What followed was President Trump issuing his first veto as president which he signed in the oval office in the presence of reporters and other government officials.
The president insisted that what was happening in the southern border was a threat to national security and something needed to be immediately. Trumps Veto sent the resolution back to the US House of Representatives and also several lawsuits have been filed by various groups to challenge this declaration.
The Justice Department came out in defense of Trump’s authority in a letter to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. While thanking the Republican Senators that voted for border security and the wall, Trump insisted the wall would help stop human trafficking, crime and stop drugs from entering the United States.
Twelve Republican Senators had joined to express concern that Trump’s use of the National emergency declaration as an end run around Congress would set a bad precedent and a future Democratic president could do the same while pushing for his party’s agenda.
Trump visits the southern border
On April 5, 2019, President Trump visited the section of the border fence at Calexico California. He then proceeded to view a new two-mile section of see-through fencing that has been recently refurbished and later attended a border security roundtable.
Addressing elected officials and border agents at the roundtable, Trump sent a message to would-be immigrants telling them that “the country is full” and would therefore not be able to take them in and asked them to turn back. He also applauded the Mexican government and said that they were now doing more in stemming the influx of immigrants on the Mexican side of the border.
Trump had recently threatened to completely shut down legal entry points into the US from Mexico regardless of the economic implications but has since softened his stance. He cited his reason for the turn around as being action taken by the Mexican government in dealing with the immigrant problem on their side of the border. He also said he was giving the Mexican government a year to further improve conditions on their side or he would proceed out to close the border.
In the year 2018, nearly 467,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended; the highest number since 2012. There has a sharp increase in apprehensions this year with over 66,450 illegal immigrants being apprehended in February and over 90,000 in March alone. It has become apparent that Trump will make the border security issue an integral part of his reelection campaign and his visit to the border was to reassure his supporters of his commitment to building the wall and securing the southern border.
The government has already begun surveying lands along the border area in readiness for the construction of the wall which is expected to begin soon.
Southern border wall construction contracts awarded
Recently the department of defense announced it had awarded 976 million in contracts to build part of Trump’s border wall. The contracts awarded by the US Army Corps of Engineers include the construction of a 30-foot bollard fencing and a five-foot plate to prevent would be immigrants from climbing over.
The contracts have been awarded to two companies; the first contract to a Texas-based company called SLSCO Ltd. The company will undertake their part of the wall construction in Santa Teresa New Mexico, which is at the El Paso sector of the border, and it is worth $789 million dollars.
The second contract worth $187 million was awarded to Barnard Construction Company based in Montana for work in Yuma Arizona. Both construction projects will involve a total of 57 miles; 46 miles at the El Paso sector and 11 miles constructed at Yuma.
The funds to be used will be drawn from the $1 billion that has recently been diverted from army personnel accounts into the 284 counter drug account that presides over the border barrier construction. Both contracts are to be completed by October 2020 although it is not yet clear exactly how much it will cost the taxpayer to completely finish that part of the wall.
DHS Secretary Resignation
After issuing a warning on March 27 that the US Immigration and customs enforcement services along the southern border was at a breaking point, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned on April 7th. She joins seventeen other high-ranking officials who have resigned in the recent past.
Kirstjen has been the face of some of President Trump’s most controversial policies including that which allowed family separation at the border. According to reports Kirstjen had come under pressure from President Trump whos has in the past accused her of not doing enough to stop the growing influx of illegal immigrants into the US.
Towards the end of last year, leaks from the white house had indicated that she was about to vacate her position as the president had considered her handling of the border crisis as weak.
In her resignation letter, she reiterated that Congress and federal judges were the main cause of the border crisis and that she hoped her predecessor would get more support than she did. Kevin McAleenan the current US customs and border protection commissioner took over her position in an acting capacity.
Illegal immigration is a huge problem in the United States and has been for some time. It is a fact that Illegal immigrants have contributed to smuggling activities, human trafficking, and narcotics movement across the southern border into America.
Some parts of the Southern border region are very remote with rough terrain making it difficult to adequately patrol or control. The actual border is approximately 2,000 miles long with only about 670 miles of fences, walls, and virtual barriers of cameras and sensors to monitor it.
A proper continuous wall would not only reduce illegal border crossing and solve most of the other problems that come with it but also ease the pressure on the already stretched thin border security personnel.
It is a fact that Illegal immigration overburdens social welfare including health and educational programs. For instance, past data show that the average illegal immigrant family receives approximately $24,721 in government welfare but only pays about $10,344 in taxes. According to the white house webpage, illegal Immigration costs the US Taxpayer more than $300 Billion a year in net fiscal costs. The State of California alone spends approximately $23billion and it’s by far the biggest spender on illegal immigrants.
According to the Los Angeles Times, about $50 million will be spent on expanded legal services for immigrants. Although public schools get the most of California’s tax dollars, their health care programs take the cake with a price tag of $105.6 billion dollars in a combination of state and federal funds. Immigrants rely heavily on the public school system and health care programs.
Border policing is an integral part of the preservation of a nation and its people, and it’s very clear that President Trump is very keen on delivering on the promise he gave on his campaign, and that was to build a wall spanning the entire border to protect all Americans.