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Politics don’t help at border

As politicians hurl blame and lies about the unrelenting surge of migrants, the Biden administration is engaged in an unprecedented effort to transform a broken immigration system.

The U.S. Border Patrol apprehended nearly 100,000 refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border in February, the 10th consecutive month of increased apprehensions and a return to levels last seen in mid-2019.

During a hostile grilling in a House committee hearing Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas predicted the southwest border was on pace to see more refugees than in the past 20 years.

Mayorkas said the department was reactivating detention facilities in Texas and Arizona, and deploying FEMA to help care for the overwhelming number of migrant children until they can be returned or placed with sponsors.

The border is not open — most single adults and families who cross illegally are expelled to Mexico. Migrants shut out by former President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy are making perilous journeys out of hope — desperately fleeing conditions in Central America unimaginable to most Americans.

Thousands are sending their children in hope they will have a better chance of asylum. About 8,500 children are being held too long in conditions where no one, especially children, should stay, especially during a pandemic.

Transformation is messy, and while there are no quick fixes, progress must be swift.

Yet political rhetoric is deterring progress.

“This is more than a crisis,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said. “This is a human heartbreak.”

Indeed. But this isn’t the first surge, and there is plenty of blame to share.

Like many Republicans, McCarthy did not express outrage in 2019 when a record number of migrant children — almost 70,000, many unaccompanied — were held in U.S. custody. There wasn’t a word of concern from others who are now speaking so loudly.

Where was the outrage then? Where was their anger when in 2020 it was widely reported that the parents of 545 children who were separated at the border could not be found? Was their indignation and concern for migrants muted because a Republican was in the White House?

Immigration has been broken for decades and we need a bipartisan effort for systematic change.

Enough with the bickering and lies. If concern about the border is genuine, then get to work on comprehensive reform, including substantive relief to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Roberta Jacobson, Biden’s coordinator for the southern border, shared the administration’s plan to “seek $4 billion over four years to address the root causes of migration — including corruption, violence and economic devastation exasperated by climate change.”

We can’t build a better immigration system — one that exemplifies humanity and security — with rote partisan responses.

* Editorial from the San Antonio Express-News

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