A crowd fleeing misery at the US border. An editorial by Andrea Riccardi

As the policy to limit asylum applications expired, the flows increased. A staggering number of minors travelling alone.

In recent weeks, a sorrowful crowd of immigration applicants has been swarming to the southern borders of the United States as the measure introduced in 2020 by Donald Trump - known as the 'Title 42' - used to turn away asylum seekers, expired on 11th May. The entry rules were further tightened using anti-pandemic restrictions. The Biden administration, after some hesitation, decided not to renew the policy. So many (apparently about 150,000) from Central America hurried to reach the border. 

The government has sent 1,500 soldiers claiming that it is not a question of giving free access, despite accusations of the Republicans who govern the border states with Mexico. The US administration announced measures to stem the flow of migrants. In the Trump era, Rule 42 prevented people from seeking asylum and allowed border agents to reject or deport them immediately. It was also often the case that parents were separated from their children.

A climate of alarm has now been triggered in several American border cities. As usually happens also in Europe, the only response is securitarian.  The issue is sensitive also in Mexico, especially after at least 38 migrants died in a fire at a migrant processing centre in Ciudad Juarez at the end of March. On the other hand, human traffickers have been circulating rumours that the end of Title 42 would widen the net to enter the US.

There are three push factors for emigration: the effects of the pandemic, climate change and the instability of Central American countries. These are unravelling, prey to corrupt and authoritarian governments. The US continues to favour harsh and despotic governments in Central America. The most critical aspect is the staggering number of unaccompanied minors: their parents let them travel alone because they think it is easier for them to enter. 

More and more children and young people are travelling alone, at the risk of falling into the traps of slave or organ traffickers. The US administration is considering opening 'processing centres' in Guatemala and Colombia. These centres are intended to facilitate legal routes and ease the pressure at the border.

The migration issue is linked to the upcoming 'primaries' and presidential elections in 2024. In the background is a debate on ethnic substitution similar to Europe. A fresh poll in April among voters in swing states found that 52% of them believe Biden to be too weak on immigration.

Yet the Americans are still uncertain about what to do. The situation is critical, and the real problem is the crisis in the Central American states, where the economy is in dire straits and security at an all-time low. The migrant population drama needs to be addressed with intelligence and humanity.

Editorial by Andrea Riccardi in Famiglia Cristiana 28/5/2023 (IT).