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The pressure on the U.S. government to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border has intensified over the past several weeks.
But it’s still unclear what approach immigration officials and Congress will take to focus on an issue that has again captivated the attention of citizens around the world, owing in part to a viral photo.
The acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, responded to the image of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, who drowned crossing the Rio Grande.
A Mexican newspaper reported that the father had become desperate due to lengthy wait times in the asylum application process.
Cuccinelli told CNN:
But the reason we have tragedies like that on the border is because that father didn’t wait to go through the asylum process in the legal fashion and decided to cross the river and not only died but his daughter died tragically as well… Until we fix the attractions in our asylum system, people like that father and that child are going to continue to come through a dangerous trip.
And Congress passed a $4.6 billion humanitarian aid bill to assist with the record number of people coming across the southern border.
The New York Times reported on how the package made its way to the president’s desk. The substance of the bill divided Democrats.
The leaders themselves split, with Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader; Representative James E. Clyburn, the whip; and Cheri Bustos, the campaign chief, all supporting the bill. Much of the younger, second tier of leaders — including Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the caucus chairman; Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, the assistant speaker; and Representative Katherine M. Clark of Massachusetts, the caucus vice chairwoman — voted “no.”
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus issued a blistering statement calling the measure “a betrayal of our American values.”
“This bill — opposed by the Hispanic caucus and nearly 100 Democratic members of the House — will not stop the Trump administration’s chaos and cruelty,” the statement said. “What happened today is unacceptable, and we will not forget this betrayal.”
Liberal Democrats were left fuming. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York called the decision “an abdication of power we should refuse to accept.” The Trump administration, she said, “will keep hurting kids if we do.”
U.S. asylum officers have also protested the Trump administration’s procedure for those who are requesting the protection.
The Migration Protection Protocol, or MPP, sends people who are requesting asylum back to Mexico to wait until they can cross. The officers’ union said this policy abandoned “our tradition of providing a safe haven to the persecuted and violates our international and domestic legal obligations,” according to BuzzFeed.
Where is Congress on an immigration policy that will address the current crisis? What is the right way to handle what’s happening at the border? And can anything be done about what’s behind the surge of people migrating to the U.S.?
1A Across America is funded through a grant from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 that is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting.
- Doris Meissner Senior fellow and director, U.S. Immigration Policy Program, Migration Policy Institute; former commissioner, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
- Franco Ordoñez White House correspondent, NPR; @FrancoOrdonez
- Elizabeth Trovall Immigration reporter, Houston Public Media; @elizTrovall
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