The many ways that governments can fail are on brutal display in Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas today where 1,500 migrants live in tents on rough ground beside a highway, most already approved for asylum hearings by U.S. Border Patrol and ICE agents, having demonstrated “credible fear” of persecution in their home countries.
The Washington Post reports that parents from the makeshift refugee camp are now sending children alone across the bridge that ends with the U.S. border entry station. Families that have already crossed the bridge together, already been found to have credible fear and therefore warrant full consideration of their asylum claims, have been sent back to the tent camp on the Mexican side where children are getting sick, the squalor increases with each new arrival, and parents worry that their children might die. And so some of these children are bundled up and amid cries, sent back on the bridge alone. The solitary children, often visibly ill, make a stronger case for admission to the U.S. for medical care. The choice for parents is brutal.
Kevin Sieff reports for the Post:
Marili, fleeing gang violence in Honduras, knew that unaccompanied children were admitted into the United States without enduring the MPP bureaucracy and the months-long wait. The 29-year-old mother — who, like others here, asked not to be identified by her last name, for fear it could affect her asylum case — believed that returning home would be suicide. So she bundled up her children in all of their donated winter clothes and scrawled a letter to U.S. immigration officials on a torn piece of paper.
“My children are very sick and exposed to many risks in Mexico,” she wrote. “I don’t have any other way to get them to safety.”
She pressed the letter into Josue’s hand, she said, and pointed the children to three U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in the middle of the Gateway International Bridge, the span across the Rio Grande that connects Matamoros to Brownsville, Tex.
“Josue told me, ‘Please don’t send us,’ ” Marili said, crying at the memory. “But as a mother, I knew it was the best decision for them.”
By international law and treaties the U.S. has bound itself to, asylum requesters have the right to consideration of their cases for asylum, and safe harbor during the process.
Instead, these men and women and children have been pushed back across the border to wait. To live in squalor. To live as targets of the cartels, of kidnappers, of every disease that flowers among medieval sanitation and exhausted men, women and children packed together in fearful masses.
The ways that governments fail are layered upon each other here in malignant display of stunning proportions.
The United States, chartered on the notion of universal human rights, denies its own promise to the world in blinding itself to these people’s basic rights, and spends vastly more to shove them out and hold them away than it would in offering them modest respite.
Mexico’s corruption and unpredictable aims – help the people? line the pockets of petty authorities? protect the cartels? – leave that nation as the innkeeper who might as easily kill a guest, sell him to slavers, or offer a room.
The United Nations, choosing not to poke at the bear of the Trump administration and not to grease the palms of the Mexican authorities and not to rouse the appetites of the cartels, does nothing. It does not recognize the refugee camps on the U.S. border as refugee camps. It does not send aid, though aiding those caught between countries is a pillar of the UN’s mission. It does nothing here to help hundreds of thousands of displaced people in desperate need live.
It’s worth keeping front of mind that the Declaration of Independence affirms that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Not consent of the citizens or of the party in power, but of the mass of all of us who are touched by the laws of this nation. Our nation can only be a just nation if those who are subject to the principles of its laws and the powers of its enforcement are seen as fully human, with the fundamental human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. At the border, in the camps, our nation is failing entirely to honor these rights. Here is where the real work must begin.
More on the camp in Matamoros from the Washington Post, here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/in-squalid-mexico-tent-city-asylum-seekers-are-growing-so-desperate-theyre-sending-their-children-over-the-border-alone/2019/11/22/9e5044ec-0c92-11ea-8054-289aef6e38a3_story.html