Life on the U.S.-Mexico border is chaotic. An immigration expert explains why — and never for the explanations some GOP lawmakers claim.

As a debate about US immigration policy is tightening As the 2024 presidential election campaign approaches, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate fact from fiction on the US-Mexico border.

In May 2023, shortly after the tip of a health restriction that allowed US authorities to right away expel asylum seekers, a team of educational and humanitarian colleagues and me went to the Mexican city of Matamoros, just across the banks of the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas.

At that point we didn’t encounter any “Invasion on the border“ that conservative lawmakers just like the governor of Texas. Greg Abbott predicted would occur once the COVID-19 restrictions – officially often called Title 42 – Expired.

As we have now learned, the actual rush of 1000’s of individuals across the border occurred in the times leading as much as the repeal of Title 42 on May 11, 2023. Many migrants told us they saw this as their last likelihood to cross the U.S. border.

Most of the people we spoke to were waiting in overcrowded, makeshift camps in Mexico, fearing that in the event that they tried to enter the United States, they might lose their likelihood at asylum and be deported. restrictive policy revealed in the course of the Biden administration.

The situation on the border has been continually changing since then. But the short period wherein Title 42 ended is an ideal example of the differences between Hysteria from the appropriate and the realities on the bottom.

The development of US border policy

Since fall 2019, I actually have been working within the Mexican border towns of Reynosa and Matamoros – across from McAllen and Brownsville, Texas. This 12 months, the Trump administration began Protocols for the protection of migrants.

Known as “Stay in Mexico“The restrictive policy ended the opportunity of asylum for approx. 70,000 Migrants, mostly from Central America. Instead, they’d to attend in Mexico with no realistic likelihood of with the ability to enter the United States legally and stay there. Anyone who entered the country illegally was immediately deported and was not allowed to use for asylum for five years.

The border became much more restrictive in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Title 42 was implemented in March 2020. It restricted entry into the United States on the border to U.S. residents and residents.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, traditional crossings on the U.S.-Mexico border have been closed to asylum seekers. For example, those that reached the crossings on the international bridges in Reynosa or Matamoros were turned back halfway and never allowed to set foot on U.S. soil.

As a result, the general public we spoke to in 2023 were waiting in Mexico and afraid.

In the asylum camps

In 2020 and 2021, my colleagues in academia and the nonprofit sector witnessed migrants toiling in squalid, makeshift camps.

One of the primary asylum camps was arrange in the ultimate days of the Trump administration, across from Brownsville, Texas, in Matamoros, Mexico. The Mexican government allowed religious organizations and non-governmental organizations similar to Team Brownsville And Solidarity technology to bring tents, food, water and other supplies.

It wasn't long before 1000’s of individuals, mostly from Central America, were sleeping on the streets next to the international bridge that connected the town to Brownsville.

At one point the camp had approx. 3,000 people live in it. There were only two portable toilets.

A man prepares food on a grill in the middle of several large tents.
A migrant cooks dinner at a makeshift camp in Matamoros, Mexico, on May 12, 2023.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Around the identical time, a second, unofficial camp opened within the town square of Reynosa, a city across the border from Hidalgo, Texas. This one too was overrun with people, making it difficult to even walk through the camp. Mothers told us stories of how they couldn't sleep at night because they were continually afraid of sexual assault and violence.

Unlike many refugee camps all over the world, these camps are sometimes very structural, with almost no security and little organization. Although there are some portable toilets and sometimes makeshift showers, hygiene is a major problem. Many people bathe within the nearby Rio Grande.

Food is scarce. Churches and non-profit aid organizations occasionally provide help. But this help is rarely enough to fulfill demand.

Hundreds of people are crowded together on a dirt road.
Migrants line up to purchase clothes and supplies at a makeshift camp within the border city of Reynosa, Mexico, July 10, 2021.
Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images

The biggest problem for the people within the camps is protection from organized crime and Drug cartelsFamilies with young girls were particularly concerned, sexual assault Cases of

Women were afraid to exit at night. In desperation, some even sent their children across the US border alone within the hope that they might be allowed to remain within the US.

As dangerous as this journey was, they believed it was more dangerous for the kids to Cartel-occupied camps.

Critical decisions

So far within the 2024 US presidential election, Immigration has develop into probably the most necessary issues amongst voters.

In this polarized political environment, it could be easy for people across the political spectrum to conclude that the border is in chaos and desires to be closed.

In my view, a everlasting closure of the border – as former President Donald Trump and other right-wing legislators attempted – could be a mistake and never in the perfect interests of national security, the US economy and, ultimately, the lives of asylum seekers.

As a researcher who has spent countless hours with asylum seekers and other migrants, I consider that restrictive measures – whether by Trump or Biden – only help organized crime, which regularly Controlling immigration on site along the US-Mexico border.

This often puts asylum seekers in great danger, each from the direct violence of the cartels and from the difficult terrain they have to traverse to avoid detection by immigration officials.

If Trump returns to the White House or US President Joe Biden If the United States decides to take a harder line, more restrictive border policies could force individuals who have already fled their homes to either remain in cartel-controlled camps or risk their lives attempting to enter the United States illegally.

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