I am an evangelical minister and cycled 1,600 miles along the US-Mexico border. The only border crisis is the nasty treatment of American immigrants.


A woman wearing a face mask with a child gets off the bus, and a man behind the face mask also gets off the bus with a purple bag. Uniformed border guards are standing by the bus door and watching over them.

Immigrants leave the Border Guard bus and prepare to be accepted by the Val Verde Humanitarian Union after crossing the Rio Grande River in Del Rio, Texas on September 22, 2021. Brandon Bell / Getty Images

  • I cycled 1,600 miles along the southern border and talked to residents, migrants and border guards.

  • The story spread by politicians and the media about the crisis in the border area is false.

  • The only crisis at the border is how the United States treats immigrants and asylum seekers.

  • Doug Pagitt is an evangelical minister and co-founder and executive director of Vote Common Good.

  • This is the opinion section. The ideas expressed are those of the author.

Hearing from certain politicians and experts at certain network news shows, the U.S.-Mexico border community was triggered by malicious immigrants who were deliberately trying to avoid illegal immigrants across borders. It leaves the impression of a hell of crime and violence. system. In this view, border communities are victims in need of salvation.

But after spending 5 weeks Ride more than 1,600 miles along the border This picture of the border situation is far from a group of religious leaders and activists who have spoken to border guards, ranchers, humanitarians, religious leaders, mayors, business owners, residents, immigrants, asylum seekers. I can tell you from the truth. Borders are at stake, but they endanger immigrants, not US citizens.

Border areas are not as dangerous as the media and politicians say

Throughout our journey to better understand the US immigration system and border reality, I asked the same question to everyone our group met. Did people in other parts of the United States know? “

One of the most common answers is that border communities are not as dangerous as described in the media. We heard this from all backgrounds and political persuasive people everywhere we traveled. One day we floated along the Rio Grande near McAllen, Texas, Governor held a press conference Only a few days before they feared the border. The captain of the local riverboat we were with pointed to where they held the press conference and told me, “We are here every day. What they explained is not just reality.” Told.

Borders are safe unless you are an immigrant. For migrants and asylum seekers, it can be dangerous and even fatal. The only option to enter along the southern border is to cross the Rio Grande, climb a wall or trek through the desert. We talked to immigrants who told us about their experience dying in the thirsty desert when they tried to go to the United States. I heard from people who were about to drown as their children tried to cross the river. Immigrants drowned across the river at exactly the same place where the ten governors lied to them. I met a woman who fell off a wall and broke her pelvis. We were only a few feet away when a man who fell off the wall of El Paso broke his leg.

Why do these migrants take such risks? Because they have no better choice left.

There is no better choice

Since 2018, the United States Shut off Almost all asylum claims against Central America and more recent people COVID-19 restrictions Frozen the asylum process for everyone else.In addition, roughly 200,000 agricultural worker visas What is offered every year Not enough anywhere To meet the needs of US employers and immigrants looking for a job.

Meanwhile, the crisis in Mexico and some Central American countries Intensified.. We talked to an indigenous Guatemalan woman who needed to flee the village because the gang had killed and threatened her children. I lived on a small island off the mainland dedicated to cruise ships and talked to a man in Honduras who was economically devastated by the pandemic. His town was in poverty. His daughter needed surgery to correct the effects of scoliosis, so he needs to go to the United States and do everything he can to make enough money to pay for the surgery. I knew that.

There was a way for people in this situation to enter the United States.But for a “stay in Mexico” policy-the policy of the Trump era Continued under President Biden As a result, almost all asylum seekers have to wait for a ruling in Mexico. Tens of thousands of asylum seekers live in temporary camps in Mexico. This makes them vulnerable to Mexican drug cartels. All the people we talked to told us not only had to pay to travel to the United States, but they also borrowed money from a criminal cartel during the journey. Now they are facing a more dire financial situation than they were when they started. The “stay in Mexico” policy has strengthened the cartel and created more human suffering.

Much of this can be resolved by changing US policy. The United States needs to significantly increase the number of agricultural worker visas available from 200,000 a year to at least 1 million a year. NS Shortage of workers The United States requires it. The Biden administration must also immediately end the Trump era ban on asylum seekers. When this is done, the asylum review process will need to be overhauled. The United States needs to appoint thousands of former judges and justices of the peace as asylum judges and build a system that can handle more cases a week. The Biden administration’s plans to raise the refugee cap to 125,000 are better than the dire 15,000 under the Trump administration, but that’s not enough. We need to increase the number of refugees allowed to enter the country.

There is a crisis at the border. It’s not a threat to Americans and border communities, but it’s a life-threatening and desperate challenge for thousands of people trying to escape violence and build better lives. Immigrants are not afraid-they need our help.

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