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Title 42 and the Ongoing “Border Crisis”: Razor Wire, Drones, Humvees, and Gun-Toting Troops Confront Asylum Seekers

Immigrants who crossed the Rio Grande are stopped by Border Patrol, May 22, 2022.

 

Under Title 42, the government used a health measure to turn back all migrants and refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. Here immigrants who crossed the Rio Grande are stopped by Border Patrol, May 22, 2022.    Photo: AP

In El Paso, Texas, on the night of December 19, members of the Texas National Guard and Texas State police laid out about 1,000 yards of razor wire on the banks of the Rio Grande—a river that forms the 1,200-mile-long border between Texas and several Mexican states. Many people expected that “Title 42”—a federal government regulation that has been used both by the fascist Trump/Pence regime and Biden’s Democratic administration to expel millions of people from the U.S.—would possibly be lifted soon. If that happened, migrants who had been moving towards and waiting in northern Mexico would be able to enter the U.S. and apply for asylum.

The Bottomless Cruelty of Christian Fascism

As the December 21 deadline for Title 42 neared, Greg Abbott, Texas’s Christian fascist governor, ordered more than 500 soldiers to “set up along the concrete river channel separating El Paso from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, cutting off one of the busiest crossing points for migrants attempting to surrender to U.S. Border Patrol agents and seek asylum.” Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) patrol vehicles and military Humvees were positioned along the river banks. (The U.S. Army describes the Humvee as a vehicle that “… supports combat and combat service support units with a versatile, mission-configurable, tactical wheeled vehicle.”) By the morning of December 20, rifle-toting National Guard troops were lined up behind the razor wire, faced off against about 75 migrants—impoverished, desperate, and definitely unarmed people—who sought entry into the U.S., where they wanted to exercise their legal right to apply for asylum.

Similar scenes unfolded all along the border, from the mountains and desert of El Paso, to Brownsville, where the Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico. In Reynosa, a border city in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, an estimated 4,000 people were in two temporary shelters as sub-freezing temperatures approached; 4,000 others were estimated to be in encampments in the surrounding areas. In the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas National Guard armored personnel carriers and a federal blimp were on patrol. Drones hovering over the migrants showed crowds of people, including families with small children “waiting near barbed wiring and Texas National Guard troops.”

Many of the migrants trapped along the border have been sleeping under tarps or tents, or on sidewalks and the ground, in what the Mexican Weather Service called a “mass of arctic air” that reached into south Texas and northern Mexico. The mayor of El Paso told CNN that he had been told that there are over 20,000 migrants in Mexico across from El Paso, eager to enter the U.S. All were hoping for Title 42 to be lifted soon so they could apply for asylum. He also said that there were “hundreds and hundreds (of migrants) on the streets” [of El Paso]. Two vacant schools and three emergency shelter hotels were being used to house people, and the city of El Paso was bussing some people who did get into the city to Houston and other Texas cities.

The sadistic cruelty of Abbott and other fascists towards immigrants went to new depths as Christmas approached. On Christmas Eve, a bus that had left El Paso with over 130 migrants dropped them off in front of Vice-President Kamala Harris’s home in Washington, D.C. Temperatures in D.C. were below 20 degrees, and many of the migrants had “little more than a T-shirt or a light blanket” to protect them from the cold.

Barbed wire keeps migrants from crossing into El Paso, Texas from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, December 20, 2022.

 

Barbed wire keeps migrants from crossing into El Paso, Texas from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, December 20, 2022.    Photo: AP/Christian Chavez

Transit Bans and Expedited Removal: Democrats’ Proposals to Raise Level of Anti-Immigrant Repression

Relentless attacks on Biden and the Democrats for supposedly allowing the border to get “out of control,” and calls for ever more ruthless repression of immigrants, are cornerstones of Republi-fascist policy. Top fascist Congressman Kevin McCarthy has threatened to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s director of Homeland Security, for Biden’s supposedly lax border policies. As Abbott ordered more troops and police to the border, he wrote a letter to Biden, whining about what he called the federal government’s “inaction to secure the southern border” and “open border policies,” and using those lies as a pretext for the harsh, militarized repression the state of Texas has enforced.

The reality of what the Biden and the Democrats have done is far different. Some examples to demonstrate that fact: almost 2.5 million migrants were expelled using Title 42 since it was first utilized, and there were far more expulsions under Biden than Trump. Biden expelled nearly as many Haitian people in his first year in office as Bush, Obama, and Trump combined had expelled in their total time in office. The Biden administration has allocated over $15 billion a year for “border security”—almost identical to Trump.

In the months leading up to December and the possible end of Title 42, Biden’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deployed an additional 2,500 people from its own ranks, other federal agencies, and contractors to the border, enabling Border Patrol pigs to return to “field work”—meaning concentrating directly on prowling the border and taking immigrants into custody. DHS also hired about 1,000 “coordinators” to expedite the process of what are expected to be “record numbers” of migrants arriving at the border, so many of the detained people could be sent back across the border more quickly. In early December, as the possible end of Title 42 loomed, Biden asked for an additional three billion dollars for personnel and equipment to “fight the surge” of migrants expected to try to apply for asylum at the border.

On December 8, DHS head Mayorkas released a statement vowing that even if and when Title 42 is lifted, the DHS “will process individuals encountered at the border without proper travel documents using its longstanding … authorities, which provide for meaningful consequences, including barring individuals who are removed from re-entry for five years. These consequences include placing individuals in expedited removal, which allows DHS to quickly repatriate individuals who do not have a legal basis to stay in the United States.” In plain language, the Democrats’ plan is to take large numbers of migrants into custody, “process” them, and deport or expel them, very quickly.

Further, the Biden administration is reported to be actively studying implementation of a so-called “transit ban” to reduce the number of successful asylum applicants. Among other things, this would require applicants to prove they tried to get asylum in countries they passed through on the way to the U.S. The New York Times reported that the Biden administration may soon roll out this plan, which would strike “directly at the heart of decades of American and international law …” The proposed measure is also reported to allow for a small number of well-off people to apply for asylum, even as the great majority is turned away, similar to a policy recently developed for Venezuelans.1 The Biden administration is basing the proposed plan for a “transit ban on measures taken by former top Trump advisor Stephen Miller—a rabidly racist, immigrant-hating fascist, who directed the Trump/Pence regime's onslaught against immigrants.2

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An Imperialism Crisis—Not an Immigration Crisis

Intense and volatile conflicts pulse throughout the entire hemisphere of North, South, and Central America. U.S. wars of aggression in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s; economic warfare against countries like Cuba or Venezuela that defy U.S. dictates; super-exploitation of the rest of the continent; and severe environmental disasters—all this has combined to create or worsen a hell on earth in the southern hemisphere. Tens of millions of people are living intolerable lives, and are looking for a way out.

Delaying a decision on Title 42, as the Supreme Court just did, gives the U.S. government more time to marshal and prepare its repressive forces and further develop means of detaining, imprisoning, and deporting people. But it also means that all the pressures building up along the border will intensify.

Neither the openly hateful and racist Republi-fascists nor the Democrats, who maintain a more “liberal” and accepting façade, have any response to the “immigration crisis” that isn’t rooted in, and based on, intensifying violence and repression. They both represent the interests of the capitalist imperialist system, a system that feasts upon and is the source of all this suffering.

The crisis for humanity is not an “immigration crisis,” it is an imperialism crisis. This is a system that has wreaked endless, deepening, and completely unnecessary suffering upon humanity.

As Revolution wrote last week:

The U.S.-Mexico border is a focal point and faultline of explosive conflict and tension. What it will lead to is yet to be determined—and what masses of people, in this country and others in South, North, and Central America will do will be a big part of determining the outcome. The words of Bob Avakian ring out strongly in conclusion:

…in fundamental terms, we have two choices: either, live with all this—and condemn future generations to the same, or worse, if they have a future at all—ormake revolution!
—Bob Avakian, from his talk Why We Need an Actual Revolution and How We Can Make Revolution

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FOOTNOTES:

1. See the Revolution article “Welcome to AmeriKKKa: U.S. Slams Door in Faces of Tens of Thousands of Desperate Venezuelans” for more on this. [back]

2. Miller recently was involved in a lawsuit against the Biden administration in which he argued—and won—a case saying there was “anti-white bigotry” against white farmers in the federal government. The case involved an effort to gain some justice for decades of systematic discrimination against Black farmers. For some background on this, see the Revolution article, “Black Farmers Denied Debt Relief—Federal Court Moves to End Discrimination … AGAINST WHITE FARMERS!" [back]

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