The problem is severe. In the four months from October 2020 through February of this year, 29,792 unaccompanied minors have crossed the southern U.S. border — 9,457 of them in the last month. Roughly 10% of the minors are below the age of 12.
America’s long-simmering migrant dilemma has flared up again, to the highest levels in 20 years. There is no end in sight, and the numbers are staggering. There is also no clear plan to deal with the problem.
The immigration challenge has long been a potent political bludgeon. Donald Trump famously hammered on the issue during his political rise, and lashed out against immigrants during his time in office. The Biden administration’s promise of compassion, restraint and orderly administration have not yet been fully developed, and Biden’s team is struggling to deal with the overwhelming numbers seeking refuge.
Republicans are saying, “We told you so,” and are sharpening their political knives. And at least thus far, the Biden administration has appeared unprepared to deal with the immigration surge.
Something needs to be done. A comprehensive bipartisan resolution of the immigration challenge is in the best interest of all Americans. In order to achieve that, however, we need to stop the finger pointing, name calling and political gamesmanship, and get down to the serious business of addressing comprehensive immigration reform.
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed a proclamation to end construction of the Trump border wall. Last week, the House passed legislation to establish a path to citizenship for the “dreamers” brought to this country as children. And a comprehensive immigration bill is in the process of being unveiled in Congress. Among its provisions: permitting a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Passover is a particularly opportune time to think about immigration. What if our families felt the need to flee violence at home, were pursued by enemies and found ourselves at a wall of water? What if the sea waters had not parted, letting us emerge to freedom, away from the dangers of the place we escaped?
In our time, immigration and border crossing solutions must come from our government. But how we handle the issue — and the compassion and understanding we show to those fleeing threats and violence and seeking a better home for their families — is a moral and ethical challenge that confronts the people.
Immigrants should not be demonized. Those seeking a new home, safety and opportunity are all of us. We can and should weed out the bad actors or those not appropriate for clearance, but that can only be done with a carefully developed plan and national commitment to compassion and fairness.
Immigration reform is an issue we should all be tackling together. We encourage our elected leaders to address the issue with care and understanding, and in a manner that will make us proud to be citizens of “the land of the free.”