We need different approaches for folks who have entered different ways - Albuquerque Journal

We need different approaches for folks who have entered different ways

It was 8:30 a.m. and I was delivering a load of clothing and school supplies to Respettrans, a migrant shelter in Juárez, Mexico, when I tripped and crashed onto the rough pavement. The four young migrants helping me were stunned and helped me into the building, where two nurses from the states of Guerrero and Michoacán insisted on washing and bandaging these scrapes. I was more embarrassed than hurt, but this incident crystallized what I have experienced in four years of meeting with hundreds of migrants in Juárez and Palomas, Mexico, El Paso and Deming.

These are overwhelmingly good people who have made grueling and dangerous trips to our border to escape unbearable situations of violence, corruption, poverty and now climate change in their countries. They deserve humane treatment and a fair resolution to their issues.

What are the issues and what could be done?

I see five categories of migrants:

1. Guest workers. Our farmers and construction companies need workers, but the numbers allowed to come on seasonal permits are way too low. As a result, many come illegally and then stay here because it is too difficult to go back and forth. Increasing the number of permits would allow them to return home after a season of work, would reduce the number who are here illegally and would help U.S. employers who need workers.

2. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). These are kids who were brought here by their parents when very young. For the most part, they have absolutely no ties to the countries they came from, and to send them back would be shameful.

3. Migrants here illegally. Most came legally, overstayed their visas, have been here for years, pay taxes, own homes and are an asset to our country. Why not treat them as we treat other Americans who disobey the law? Assess a penalty, and then let them get on with their lives.

4. Those arriving illegally. I’ve had the opportunity to be with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents as they patrolled the mountainous area west of El Paso and Juárez and have seen how efficiently yet humanely they detain those attempting to cross illegally. This “human wall” is much more effective than the steel one where “coyotes” can cross in seconds using lightweight but sturdy ladders. The question is one of having enough personnel.

5. Asylum seekers. This is a two-fold issue. The lack of focus on the growing number of migrants awaiting final judicial asylum hearings has created a backlog of well over a million cases. This is a question of adequate judicial personnel.

More immediate is the plight of the thousands who are stuck at the border. I am impressed with the efficiency of the CBP’s screening process, but the process has become increasingly complicated with obtuse and politically motivated rules.

The immediate need is to support shelters like Respettrans as well as Colores United in Deming, a goal for what could be a joint Mexico-USA Border Task Force. New Mexico’s governor and congressional delegation need to get involved.

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