The images and stories now being reported from the southern border—families torn apart, children crying for their parents, parents with no idea where their children are—are disturbing and heartbreaking
The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy has obviously created chaos along the border, tasking already overburdened federal agencies with the seemingly impossible job of taking into custody everyone—men, women, and children—caught crossing the border illegally. The number of children taken from their parents and placed in federal custody climbed to about 2,000 from April 19 through May 31, according to figures from the Department of Homeland Security. With border facilities overwhelmed, some teenagers are now being housed in temporary shelters outside El Paso.
But the reporting from the border has also been incomplete, misleading, and at times biased and emotionally overwrought. It’s no secret the mainstream media disagrees with Trump’s push to crack down on illegal immigration and tighten border security, but that shouldn’t excuse the lack of nuance and granularity in much of the reporting we’ve seen over the past week or so.
Illegal immigration and its attendant problems along the U.S.-Mexico border are vastly complex and defy easy solutions. With that in mind, here are four key aspects of the border crisis that the media has failed to report or adequately explain.
1. Prior To ‘Zero Tolerance,’ Families Who Crossed The Border Illegally Were Often Released
For a long time, the vast majority of illegal border crossers were single men from Mexico looking for work. Dealing with them was a fairly straightforward matter: most would be immediately deported to Mexico. It’s not that there weren’t families and unaccompanied minors also illegally entering, but they made up a small subset of illegal immigration.
Beginning in 2014, the situation changed. Large numbers of families and unaccompanied minors began showing up on the border in unprecedented numbers, many seeking asylum from dangerous criminal gangs in their home countries. Most of these foreign citizens were from Central America, not Mexico, and under a 2008 federal law designed to protect victims of human trafficking, migrants from noncontiguous countries have a right to a deportation hearing.
That meant the Obama administration had to figure out what to do with tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and families that could not be quickly deported. Some were placed in shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) along the border, but because shelter space was limited, many more were placed with family members while they awaited hearings. Thousands have waited more than three years for a hearing, and thousands more have been ordered to be removed from the country in absentia (they never showed up for their hearing).