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“Breaking Point”: Cities Struggle with Rise in Asylum Seekers; U.S. Foreign Policy Linked to Increase

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A sharp increase in the number of people attempting to cross into the United States is straining resources in border communities, as thousands of asylum seekers arrive at the southern U.S. border each day seeking safety from violence, conflict, extreme poverty and the impacts of the climate crisis.

Military interventions, sanctions and war on drugs are driving forced migration

Congressmember Jesús “Chuy” García of Illinois says decades of U.S. military interventions, sanctions and the war on drugs “are all important factors” in what is driving the migration, particularly from South and Central America. “We need a system that responds both compassionately and responds to the root causes of why people come to this country,” he says. […]

REP. JESÚS ”CHUY” GARCÍA: Well, the historic interventions, the military interventions, the sanctions that we’ve imposed on different countries in Central America, in the Caribbean, in South America, and, of course, the failed war on drugs are all important factors that are displacing people, creating misery and responsible for much of the violence, corruption and impunity in Central America, increasingly in places like South America, like Venezuela. […]

That is at the root of what is driving people to desperation. And they’re coming to the U.S. seeking asylum and refuge, fleeing terrible consequences, risking their lives to get here.

And we continue to have an immigration system that, of course, is broken. […]

We haven’t had immigration reform, a bill passed in 36 years. And obviously, we need to change our immigration system. And we need a system that responds both compassionately and that responds to the root causes of why people come to this country. Unless we do that, we’re going to continue to react this way. At the same time, it’s clear that we need to act multilaterally, in cooperation with countries that are the sending countries, where we have a long legacy of, again, intervention and sanctions. And these are the things that are driving people to this country. […]

But it seems that because of our actions across many decades in this hemisphere, whether it’s Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela, Central America, and all of the interventions that we were behind, even though we know very well why people are being displaced and are coming to the border, we refuse to have a system that treats asylum seekers more equitably, that welcomes them and that helps to integrate them. […]

AMY GOODMAN: But we’re going to turn to another Mr. García right now, Fernando García, longtime executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, with us from El Paso, where your mayor, Oscar Leeser, has said that El Paso is at a breaking point. Explain the situation there, also the pressure the Biden administration has brought on Mexico to deport people to their home countries, and what El Paso looks like right now.

Recycling of crisis after crisis

FERNANDO GARCÍA: Listen, we are very frustrated here at the border, not only the organizations that we work with, but also our communities, because what seems to be happening is that there’s been the recycling of crisis after crisis of the same institutional responses. And when I say that, it’s because since last year, two years ago, we were demanding major changes to the infrastructure at the border, to invest more in welcoming centers, to invest more in welcoming infrastructure to provide enough services — shelters, healthcare, education, water, food — for migrant families that were coming across, and nothing has been done, not by this administration, obviously, and much less from the previous administration.

So, we have seen the same situations over and over. In December, the same situation: There was an increased number of people coming, and then the response was either tough enforcement, deportation or a death sentence of some of them that end up being sleeping in the cold weather in El Paso in the streets. The same situation happened in May also, where we had no capacity. […]

So, the situation for immigrants, overall, is getting more difficult. We have a major failure of the administration to provide some remedies short term, but also long term. And I think it seems that there is no way to resolve it, because nobody has the willingness to actually do something, as there is not only political — political actions that are politically motivated. […]

The lack of a fundamental, sensible strategy in Texas has actually allowed — and let me say, this is very important — allowed the state of Texas and Governor Greg Abbott in Texas to launch his own racist enforcement strategies at the border. So he has used this human rights, humanitarian crisis and launched a political game, which essentially is using immigrants as part of the political platform. And he launched the Operation Lone Star, which is — this operation is deploying Texas National Guards and state troopers at the border, building border walls, river buoys, all of these things, to make the statement that the border is wide open, which it’s not. But it’s causing a lot of harm in our communities. So, we don’t have not only in Texas the militarization of the federal government, that we have traditionally had, but also now the new emerging actor of the Texas state also militarizing the border. So I think migrants and border residents are being impacted by those strategies. […]

This will not cease until we until we our interventionist policies

REP. JESÚS ”CHUY” GARCÍA: So, desperation is something that is driving people to come to our southern border. And let’s not forget our responsibility in things that we did decades ago, a few years ago, that is producing this. The latest has been the sanctions against Venezuela, which has shattered the economy, forced people to flee to Colombia and some of the other nearby countries, and, ultimately, they’ve decided to risk their lives, to risk everything, crossing the Darién Gap and, again, being subjected to all of the trials and tribulations of cartels and mafias and corrupt government officials as they traverse in their dangerous journey through all the countries in Central America and Mexico.

This will not cease until we begin to work multilaterally with the sending countries, until we decide to change our past interventionist policies, as well as the sanctions that we have inflicted on many countries. This is at the root of things. We need to work with countries in Central America and in South America. There are progressive governments there that are willing to do this. Until we treat immigration at the root, at where the conditions are displacing people and forcing people to flee, we’re going to continue to experience these things. […]

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