On Sunday, a few hundred people from the Central American caravan marched to the border and were met by Mexican police and U.S. tear gas. Despite extensive, real-time coverage, the next day’s politics told wildly disparate stories. While Democrats saw photos and videos of barefoot, crying children, choking from tear gas, Republicans saw an uncontrollable mob and further evidence of a crisis on the border. Despite photo and video evidence, Trump said mothers and children were not tear gassed. Fox News talked about war on the border and invaders and storming the border, and dismissed the tear gas as insignificant:
“It’s literally water, pepper, with a small amount of alcohol for evaporation purposes,” Border Patrol Foundation president Rob Colburn said in an interview with Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy. “It’s natural. You could actually put it on your nachos and eat it.”
Crisis on the border. Invasion. Nachos with a side of pepper spray. Build that wall.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.” [Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, chapter 6, p. 205 (1934). First published in 1872.]
By throttling back processing of asylum applicants, the Trump administration has created a crisis at the border, just not the one it describes. The real crisis is for thousands of people waiting for a chance to legally apply for asylum.
“Before the caravan arrived, wait times stretched to two months, and the migrant shelters in Tijuana were already near capacity.
“Many of the caravan members have been put up in a sports complex in Tijuana that’s been converted into a temporary shelter. Over the weekend, rains flooded the sports complex. The local government and nonprofits have struggled to feed everyone….
“Many migrants in the caravan weren’t expecting the wait or the conditions. They’ve already been traveling for weeks, often with children in tow, with the hope of getting asylum in the US. In many cases, they’ve had the mistaken expectation that asylum would be granted immediately after they arrived. That hasn’t happened, and they’re getting desperate. And desperate people do desperate things.”
While overall border crossings remain at historic lows, the number of asylum applications continue to rise. Under U.S. law, people cannot apply for asylum inside their own countries. They can only apply for asylum at the border or inside the United States. Walking up to a border checkpoint and asking for asylum is legal—but U.S. officials won’t let people approach them.
The Trump administration claims it is making a deal with Mexico to keep asylum seekers there. Under the deal, dubbed “Remain in Mexico,” migrants who are finally allowed to talk to a U.S. official and make a “credible fear” case for asylum would then be returned to Mexico to wait years for a U.S. immigration court hearing. There’s no basis in U.S. law for such a deal, and it’s hard to see why Mexico would agree.
Meanwhile, the echoes of family separation continue to reverberate. 60 Minutes reported that family separation began far earlier and affected many more children than the administration has admitted. Some of those children, like Yeisvi Carillo, are U.S. citizens, and are still separated from their parents:
“Vilma Carrillo was one of a group of migrant women flown to Texas in July from a detention center in Georgia to be reunited with their children, who had been separated from them as part of the Trump administration’s clampdown at the border.
“Over the next several days, she watched as immigration officials paged one mother after another and took them to meet their children.
“I was never called,” Ms. Carrillo said….
“She hasn’t seen her daughter since they were separated in May, but they talk on the phone twice a week.
“Ms. Carrillo has been caught at the intersection of several Trump administration policies intended to make it harder for Central American migrants to settle in the United States. Her case is more serious than what thousands of other migrant families have faced: Because her daughter is an American citizen, Ms. Carrillo has been told that she could lose custody.”