First heard in June of 2015, President Donald Trump’s rallying chant to “build the wall” has stoked political divisiveness and greatly influenced U.S.-Mexico relations. Flash forward to 2019, and the debate continues on whether the border crisis is a humanitarian or security issue. After four years of “the wall,” what exactly is happening on the border?
Starting with wall construction, President Trump has wavered on his campaign promise of a Mexico-funded border fence. This caused a government shutdown in December 2018, and since then, President Trump’s wall has received a $6.1 billion funding package paid for by American taxpayers.
When President Trump first took office in 2017, the number of migrants trying to illegally cross the border was the lowest since 1971, despite his messaging. Since then, the number of illegal migrants attempting to enter the United States has increased dramatically, many of whom are families with young children.
This past May, there was an unprecedented number of migrants arriving at the southern border, with 144,278 apprehensions.
The Trump administration’s controversial child separation policy was announced in April 2018, a result of a “zero-tolerance” enforced prosecution of all families who cross the border illegally. This controversial policy has perhaps been the greatest source of outrage related to the border crisis, with politicians and celebrities taking to social media to denounce the treatment of these children.
Since last year, a total of seven migrant children have died in U.S. custody. Before then, no children have died in U.S. custody in the past decade. Many point to the dangerous journey to the United States and poor sanitary conditions within child detention centers as causes of the deaths of these children.
Border patrol holding facilities have resurfaced as a topic of debate this summer as reports of inhumane conditions have been reported. Both adults and children in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody have been denied basic sanitary provisions such as soap, toothpaste and access to showers.
Experts and politicians who visit the detention centers continue to voice their disturbance by the conditions. Pediatricians have described CBP’s medical screening for children as “unequivocally inadequate.” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a vocal opponent of President Trump, has called these centers “concentration camps.”
Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats blame each other for the deteriorating conditions in border facilities, hindering any action.
Regardless of partisan affiliation, there is a crisis at the border that must be addressed by policymakers.