Editorial | This is the real border crisis


U.S. Customs and Border Protection/TNS

Migrants line up for processing at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in McAllen, Texas, in June 2018.

There is a crisis at the southern U.S. border.

This crisis is not the influx of undocumented migrants or children seeking refuge from gang violence as President Donald Trump often insists. Rather, it is a humanitarian crisis concerning their treatment. We’re sticking children in border facilities that are so overcrowded they cannot stand and denying them soap, diapers, toothbrushes — providing only a foil blanket to separate their weak bodies from the cement floor on which they are expected to sleep.

The immigration debate has proven to be politically polarizing for Democrats and Republicans, but the current condition of border facilities is not a matter of who should be allowed into the country and who should be sent back to their home nation. It’s about human rights that are being violated at this very moment — something that should be condemned by all political parties. Democrats and Republicans need to throw their ideological differences away in order to ensure that people arriving at the border are, at the very least, being treated humanely.

According to the Humanitarian Coalition, a humanitarian crisis arises when an event “affects vulnerable populations who are unable to withstand the negative consequences by themselves.” The website also notes that the people affected are often left in urgent need of shelter, food, water and health care. This is precisely what is happening at our southern border.

After an influx of reports about unlivable and inhumane border facility conditions rolled in last week, Columbia Law School’s director of Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Elora Mukherjee, decided to enter the Clint facility in El Paso, Texas, to see the conditions for herself.

“Nearly every child I spoke with said that they were hungry because they’re being given insufficient food,” Mukhurhee said. “Everyone gets an identical tray regardless of if you’re a 1-year-old, or you’re a 17-year-old, or a breastfeeding teenage mother who has higher caloric needs. The same food is served every single day, and none of the children receive any fruit and vegetables or any milk.”

Other sources have reported influenza epidemics and lice infestations, all going untreated. It’s possible that this is related to the hygiene of the children, who have been barred from using soap, toothpaste and showers. In some facilities made for 125 people, there are up to 900 migrants being held. Some cells, designed for 35 people maximum, are holding 155 people, leaving detainees with no choice but to stand on toilets for breathing space. Many have only had room to stand for days or weeks, according to reports in The New York Times.

All of these conditions, in addition to the fact that families are still being separated at the border, violate human rights in almost every way. Nobody should be willing to stand by while human beings are treated this way, no matter where they stand on immigration.

The House of Representatives succeeded in rushing an emergency humanitarian aid package to the border and placing new restrictions on Trump’s immigration policies, though the bill passed by a slim margin. Some Democrats refused to vote in favor of the bill out of concern that the money would be used to further push Trump’s inhumane policies, rather than aid the suffering people. The senate has a different bill, and could still reject the aid packaged based by the House. 

But even with the aid package, the humanitarian crisis at the border is far from over. Democrats and Republicans need to work together to reverse the human rights violations at the border. Treating human beings like human beings is not just the duty of a politician, but the duty of every person.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this editorial mistakenly identified Congress as rushing the bill, when it was actually the US House of Representatives. The Pitt News Editorial Board regrets this error.