A refugee crisis at the border
This appeared in the Denver Post.
America’s government — from the White House to the halls of Congress to the judicial benches — must treat this influx of asylum-seekers from Haiti and South and Central America as a refugee crisis.
Refugees should be met at our border and provided humane, sanitary and safe conditions while they are processed by our judicial court process that considers their case for asylum. Once refugees enter the system and are documented to await the final outcome of their case, they should be dispersed across America to cities that are ready and willing to provide the resources needed for them to get on their feet.
Instead, the refugee crisis on the border is a mess. We’ve thankfully transitioned from the days when America’s approach under President Donald Trump was to make the suffering so great at the border that refugees would stop coming. And the courts thankfully stopped the mass expulsion of asylum-seekers under both Trump’s and President Joe Biden’s Title 42 order using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to deport refugees (as though refugees were the source of the virus, which started in China and hit the U.S. long before it took a brutal toll on the less well-developed health care systems of our southern neighbors.)
But the Biden administration seems unwilling even to articulate a plan.
All of this is simply embarrassing.
European countries dealt with a refugee crisis many magnitudes the size of this one, all while discussing it openly and hashing out different policy approaches to the influx of millions of people fleeing a murderous dictator in Syria and one in Russia. Germany alone took a million Syrians and, only a few years later, opened its doors again to another million Ukrainians fleeing the same murderous dictator in Russia.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel famously rallied her political supporters and the general population around the humanitarian call to help humans looking for peace, stability and freedom.
No such call has come from Biden.
Instead, we have a government silently shuffling refugees around as though they are a dirty secret.
The people of Colorado are ready and willing to do our part to lessen the suffering of these refugees — so far hundreds have arrived in Denver from the border looking for a place to stay while their asylum cases are processed.
It is obvious and without dispute that refugees should be dispersed across America.
German lawmakers were even able — brace yourself, because this is shocking — to update their laws and policies granting asylum-seekers access more quickly to the labor market and assuring that their cases would be adjudicated quickly. The country provided integration courses that began even before asylum was granted, getting refugees off government support more quickly.
We don’t want to make it seem like all was perfect and flawless in Germany. Many vehemently opposed the acceptance of the refugees, and the conflict is partly responsible for the rise of a far-right extremist party in Germany focused disturbingly on issues of race and nationality. Many cities struggled with the added responsibility of housing a huge number of people without any possessions or assets or even the ability to speak German. And yes, there were tragic acts of violence perpetrated by both refugees and German nationalists.
But just as Merkel promised — the country and its economy have weathered the influx of new residents.
America must learn from Merkel’s leadership and Germany’s approach as we consider the tragedies unfolding in Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Venezuela.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has labeled the displacement and humanitarian needs in these countries as emergencies. The United Nations is using resources to help displaced people arriving in Mexico and other more stable countries. It’d be a shame if our care did not rise to or exceed that of the U.N.
This holiday season, ask yourself what you would do if your family faced starvation in Venezuela, political violence in Haiti, or gang violence in Nicaragua. Then consider how you would want to be treated when you fled for safety.