Saturday, June 15, 2024
Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Loving God and neighbor without distinction: A pontifical institute of women religious of the Roman Catholic Church

FeaturedImmigrationNewsNo Category

Fixing Our Broken System

Op-Ed: Laying the groundwork for better border policies

Laurie Jurs Special to the Arizona Daily Star

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Sen. John Cornyn (TX) brought a bipartisan group of senators to the border two weeks ago. The trip was meant to lay groundwork for immigration reform. Indeed, the problems at the border are complicated and troubling. Policy solutions have compounded the problems they aimed to fix. Manipulation of narratives for political reasons has made it all worse.

However, breaking down certain aspects is not rocket science. As a 40-year resident of the Arizona borderlands and long-time humanitarian activist, I have some contributions.

1. Open up the ports of entry: Modernize our asylum systems. Make them efficient, effective and fair, at the same time considerate of traumatized people. Significantly staff up processing functions at the border, without sacrificing due process, legal input and just mercy. Upstream, hire more immigration judges and begin to decrease the immense case backlog. Make it easier for people to come legally, which will get good people out of the desert. Let law enforcement go after bad people. Modernize our work permit systems for efficiency and effectiveness. Immigrants want to work and we have the jobs.

2. Go after fentanyl where it is: Fentanyl comes through the ports, not the desert. Invest in the ports. Quadruple the number of trucks and vehicles examined daily.

3. Focus on Congressional authority: Complicated problems require comprehensive, well thought out solutions crafted by honest brokers. Given a commitment to rule of law, make sensible laws that meet the moment.

4. Agree to stop inflammatory rhetoric: I hope these senators will dial down the heated rhetoric and encourage colleagues to do the same. No one is proposing open borders. Yes, there are a lot of people coming to the border due to intensifying push factors, but “invasion” is a loaded, fearful term. Migrants allowed to stay and start their asylum process are being vetted. Proven alternatives to detention exist. Migrants that are sent on their way are indeed showing up for their hearings.

5. Meet with more stakeholders: The diverse challenges require meeting with equally diverse stakeholder groups. All solutions are not to be found with law enforcement. The National Border Patrol Council (the Border Patrol’s union) has been detrimentally politicized.

Might the senators meet with more non-governmental and community leaders, immigration attorneys and even activists like me who go into the desert every week? We want to tell Esteban’s story, the 5-year-old we found standing alone on this side of the border on the phone to this father in Memphis. Or the story of the man that carried his best friend on his back for five hours before he died? Can we explain how Title 42 contributed to these situations? Can we discuss the National Immigration Forum’s document titled “42 Border Solutions That Are Not Title 42?” Can we please tell how hardening of the border has directly caused lucrative opportunities for the cartels? And how the Remain in Mexico policy has been a field day for them. Would the senators meet with asylum seekers, hear their stories first-hand?

I am basically a little old lady in tennis shoes, as are most of my colleagues. We’ve been saving lives and relieving suffering in the desert since 2006 with never a threatening situation caused by migrants. The threats we have experienced have been from high-speed Border Patrol chases or from vigilantes.

Border security, as currently defined, is not a reasonable precursor to reforms of our busted systems. Border security is three-dimensional. In public health school we learned that when you see bodies in a river again and again, you don’t just keep taking them out or build a dam to make it easier to collect them. You go upstream and figure out why there are bodies in the river.

In closing, I truly thank the senators for coming to the border. May good things come from this delegation.