Immigration deadlock reveals inhumanity

January 6, 2024

by Buddy Bell

As winter settles itself in North America, immigrants and refugees are also trying to settle, but they keep running into obstacles put up by various political players, ranging from the sadistic to the indifferent.

The new year arrived without a Congressional grand bargain on immigration, in which the Biden Administration was willing to make (unspecified) changes to asylum law. The other side of the bargain was a continuation of military aid to Ukrainians for their efforts to resist Putin; along with unrestricted financial aid to Israel—while they commit war crime after war crime in Gaza—aid which Israel doesn’t need and should not receive since they have ignored every U.S. plea to stop the genocide of Palestinians.


The ignominious fence at the U.S.-Mexico border (view from San Diego, CA). Photo: Tony Webster, CC-BY-3.0

This terrible deal failed to materialize, mostly due to opposition from U.S. Republicans. They not only claim to want all the restrictive immigration measures outlined in House Resolution 2, they also want to make Biden look bad for not accomplishing anything on immigration. Resolution 2, if it became law, would require Biden to increase border wall mileage from 700 miles to 900 miles. His administration would be legally required to waive the rights of nature, endangered species, and people who maintain their homes on the border in the wake of such a construction frenzy. Border agencies would be limited in their ability to weed out unsuitable applicants until reaching a quota of 22,000 full time agents. Drones would have to be flown 24 hours per day. Non-profit agencies who provide any services to “inadmissible non-US nationals” would stand to lose any federal funding they might receive. This is only the first section of the bill.

Other sections require the mass detention of anyone who is “unlawfully present or who unlawfully entered the United States.” Asylum seekers must be detained or removed to a third country while their cases are decided. Immigration parole, where asylum seekers can live in the U.S. during this time, would be almost nonexistent. States would be empowered to sue the Department of Homeland Security if the agency fails to carry out the detention requirement. The bill states: “[T]here is no presumption that an ‘alien child’ should not be detained.” It requires them to be detained with their parent without limitation on the duration of imprisonment. It expressly nullifies any state law or judicial ruling that imposes licensing requirements on detention facilities or requirements as to the treatment of detainees. DHS is required to deport unaccompanied minors back to their last habitual residence, presumably the one they just fled.

Soon after Congress went home for the holidays, the Democratic U.S. president had a phone call with President Obrador of Mexico. In return for Biden opening up the suspended cross-border freight traffic, Obrador was apparently required to strike his own Faustian bargain. His government arrested 8,000-9,500 migrants per day in the week before Christmas. He sent bulldozers to raze a massive tent city in the border city of Matamoros on Dec. 27. The residents, many of them asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico for an appointment, ran for their lives with no other shelter. About 70 people escaped by swimming into the Rio Grande and became trapped behind a concertina wire fence put up by Texas Governor Abbott.


Countless nonprofits have been helping to house immigrants in south Texas without help from Abbott. But the Texas governor only has money to spare for hiring buses and private planes for migrants to be sent to cities in blue states. In order to avoid citations in the city, some bus drivers have started to discharge passengers at night, at remote locations in the suburbs and exurbs, endangering passengers in such a way that ought to justify a revocation of their CDL.

Though Democratic mayors such as Chicago’s Brandon Johnson have spoken nice words about welcoming refugees and immigrants to their cities, reality has fallen short. Housing options provided by the city to more than 24,000 new immigrants since August leave a lot to be desired. In one Pilsen facility, housing thousands of people, heat was unreliable, and fiber-like particles fell down from the ceiling. Storing food was not allowed, with residents waiting hours to get a plate of food offered by city workers. An oppositional relationship existed between these workers and residents of the shelter. If the residents were seen taking pictures or speaking to media reporters, they were evicted. Chickenpox and flu spread through the facility. One resident told Borderless magazine: “There is no medicine. For those who aren’t working, we are out on the street asking for help to buy medicine. At the moment, my husband is sick. He has a throat infection [and the flu]. They checked him out, but they didn’t give him anything. No antibiotics. No pain reliever.” A 5-year-old boy died after convulsing with a severe fever. Authorities were notified too late for him to be saved.

Chicago is a city where Democrats have held control for 100 years, and there is not enough humane housing for new immigrants. The problem is long-running, since there was already not enough humane housing for lifelong Chicagoans experiencing homelessness, or for low-income Chicagoans. With 200,000 people on the Chicago Housing Authority waiting list for housing assistance, the agency is sitting on about 500 vacant units. Caroline Dodge, an 84-year-old resident—who twice had to vacate apartments CHA refused to maintain—said what is common sense: “Open them back up. Get better management. Don’t let them run down.”

Long ago, instead of bringing existing CHA housing up to snuff and building more, the Democratic Party in Chicago sold out to other interests. Nationally, Biden will not be able to win through triangulation. Based on past elections in several European countries, centrist parties have only strengthened the far right by adopting parts of their agenda. What is needed is to validate an immigrant journey as part of the universal exertion, the striving to expand human freedom

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