Asylum: Chaos on the Border

border wall
Border Wall

My husband and I spent a long weekend in Tucson a few weeks ago. The topic of the border wall, and US military activities along the border are not only salient for Arizonans but in your face. 

We ate lunch with friends in Tubac, 40 miles south of Tucson, and 20 miles from the US/Mexico border.  Every car returning from Tubac to Tucson is stopped by the military and checked by a dog for drugs.  There were at least 30 cars parked in the parking area as we passed.  I don’t know if the cars belonged to the many military personnel on patrol or people who were stopped. Either way, a lot of human manpower  in one location.

As four older white adults, we didn’t raise many eyebrows at checkpoint.  I’m sure if we sported young brown Hispanic faces our experience might be quite different. Ironically, we weren’t even crossing the border. This stop, is not at the border but rather between two U.S.communities.   According to my friends, our cursory stop was the shortest wait they had at this particular check point.  Sometimes, cars are backed up for 30 to 40 minutes.    

While visiting,  we attended a presentation by a national expert on Asylum. The expert told us that the rules were changing so quickly that no one could provide a clear answer to anyone wanting accurate information about what steps to take to seek asylum. 

I had hoped to tour the wall while visiting the southwest for a better personal understanding of what we are talking about when we say the U.S. is building a wall to “protect” us.   We are going back in March to Tucson with a different set of friends. Unfortunately, all the tours by the Border Community Alliance, a Tubac, Arizona nonprofit, committed to wider public knowledge of border issues are booked through March.  My husband and I may drive down to the border crossing at Nogales just to view what is going on.  But Tripadvisor recommends against American tourists going further south than Tubac unless on a legitimate tour.

I heard on National Public Radio (NPR) today.  That we have just changed Asylum regulations again.  Anyone who is visibility pregnant is not allowed into the country even if they have a legitimate already assigned court date to determine if they qualify for asylum.  Since these pregnant women are stopped at the border trying to get to their court date, they miss the appointment.  One of two things happens; best case scenario they get another court date after the baby is born or they are disqualified for asylum because they failed to show up for their court date and were unable to provide notice.  The obvious reason for this policy is to keep their babies from being born in the United States and qualifying for citizenship.  There is an churlish unfairness  underlying this change in policy. Poor, probably homeless and abused pregnant women  are trying to follow our rules and we are constantly changing them without notice.

The border problems have not been part of the Democratic debates but they certainly should be part of every American’s civic discussions.  We are a country of immigrants. We should be able to agree on a policy on how to process entry into the United States that is easily understandable for individuals legitimately seeking asylum, protection from persecution or fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, or political opinion.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Message on Statue of Liberty Plaque.Statue of liberty

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