Border bills set up battle over migrant crisis
The House and Senate passed dueling border bills this week, setting up a contest between humanitarian aid and enforcement amid an expanding crisis. As a photo of migrants drowned in the Rio Grande pushed lawmakers into high gear, the House passed a bill with $4.5 billion in funding, much of it to improve conditions at overcrowded detention centers (see Controversy). House Democrats won over party skeptics by ensuring the bill wouldn’t bankroll immigration crackdowns. The Senate proposal addresses many of the same issues, with $1.3 billion for border facilities and $2.9 billion to care for migrant children, but it comes with fewer limits, which may make it more palatable to President Trump, who has threatened to veto any bill that does not come with money for enforcement. Neither bill includes funding for a border wall.
The photos of the drowned bodies of a Salvadoran father and toddler who had tried to wade the final stretch of their 1,000-mile journey to Texas gave the crisis an added air of desperation. The administration last week threatened to stage nationwide raids focused on arresting families facing deportation but backed down at the last minute, faced with outrage from critics and concerns from agents about the dangers of late-night raids on numerous families, some with U.S.-citizen children. Despite the pullback, Trump appointed hard-liner Mark Morgan as acting Customs and Border Patrol commissioner, after the resignation of John Sanders, who had broader bipartisan support. Last month, authorities detained more than 144,000 migrants along the Mexico border, the most since 2006.
What the columnists said
“Be ready, America,” said Elvia Díaz in The Arizona Republic. There will be more photos to come like the “haunting image” of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria. Mexico’s agreement to post 15,000 soldiers at the border “will only exacerbate the anguish.” The Ramírez family left a Mexican camp where they faced food shortages and 110-degree temperatures, said Zack Beauchamp in Vox.com. Their deaths reveal the “obvious humanitarian consequences” of Trump’s nativism—which, at its core, refuses “to treat noncitizens as humans.”
It’s outrageous to take these stories “as evidence of President Trump’s malice,” said Rich Lowry in NationalReview.com. Yes, images of dead or desperate migrants are hard to look at it. So were the viral photos of “kids in steel-cage holding pens,” which turned out to be taken during the Obama administration. Trump hasn’t secretly persuaded border agents “to treat children as callously as possible.” Rather, our “bizarre asylum rules” are beckoning migrants to the border, as they have for years.
The House and Senate are going to try to iron out a compromise bill, and if they do, “it would be insane for Trump to veto that,” said Greg Sargent in WashingtonPost.com. Everybody agrees on the need for more funding for the centers that take in asylum-seeking families and for dealing with unaccompanied children. If Trump decides to veto the funding, he’ll just be rewarded with more “imagery of horrific conditions.”