March 20, 2021

The right has decided to turn the humanitarian crisis at the southern border in the United States into their next Benghazi, with Fox running hundreds of segments a day, breathlessly "reporting" on the recent influx of unaccompanied migrant children who are fleeing Central America and fearmongering that terrorists are coming across the U.S.-Mexico border:

This week, Republican members of Congress went to the U.S.-Mexico border with the intent of hammering President Joe Biden on the recent increase in migrant crossings at the border, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested that suspected terrorists are trying to cross. Despite a lack of evidence, right-wing media are echoing the Republican lawmakers in fearmongering that terrorists were crossing the border, at times suggesting migrants from countries such as Yemen, Turkey, or Iran pose a threat by nature of their home countries. [...]

The assertion that terrorists are crossing the southern border is not new on the right, and former President Donald Trump’s administration and his right-wing allies frequently pushed the scare tactic even though it has been repeatedly debunked. Now, right-wing media are helping Republicans take advantage of an increase in migrants coming across the border to fearmonger that migrants coming from countries like Yemen, Turkey, and Iran are terrorists.

As the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported this week, despite the fact that the Trump administration carried out the "cruelest anti-migration policies in decades," they also "presided over the largest flows of migration at the U.S.-Mexico border since the mid-2000s."

They also put the Mexico "border crisis" narrative being pushed by the right into context:

The increased numbers of people crossing the border right now is something that border experts have predicted for some time now.


The increased border crossings was predictable, not because of Biden administration policies like winding down “Remain with Mexico,” but because of the dangers put in place by Trump’s cruel and illegal policies of deterrence.


Of the 96,974 migrants whom Border Patrol “encountered” in February, it quickly expelled 72 percent—down only slightly from the end of the Trump administration, which expelled 85 percent in December and 83 percent in January. The remainder whom Border Patrol actually had to process last month—26,791 migrants—was the 77th most out of the past 114 months. Being in 77th place hardly constitutes a crisis.

There is a serious capacity issue right now, though, for one especially vulnerable category of migrant: children who arrive unaccompanied by a parent or guardian.

And as journalist Maria Hinojosa discussed in the segment above, this humanitarian crisis is nothing new:

HINOJOSA: What's going on at the border is a humanitarian crisis. It is not a conundrum. I'm sorry, with all due respect, I love you, not a surge we use to talk about troops in Iraq, not a surge. So people need to understand why is this happening? When you have had over the last six years, the end of the Obama administration, entirety of the Trump administration really pushing down on shutting this completely down in terms of the border or any kind of movement, people are not sitting there saying, huh, okay, there's a Democrat that's been elected, let me go ahead and do this now. no. What it is is bubbling up of extreme trauma.

Hinojosa urged President Biden to change the narrative on why these children are fleeing to America and to focus on the humanitarian aspect of the crisis, and the fact that it's fear and desperation driving people here, not the desire to come to the United States to pick vegetables.

When MSNBC's Ali Velshi rightfully noted that the Trump administration's response to the humanitarian crisis was to make it worse, Hinojosa pointed out that sadly, this is nothing new, and U.S. foreign policy in Central America has been making things worse for decades. She hopes the Biden administration responds by not only trying to change the narrative on the crisis, but by taking responsibility for the role the United States played in creating the crisis as well.

IPS reported on the change in policy we may see from the Biden administration back in December: Joe Biden's war on corruption in Central America :

Unlike migrants, corrupt elites in Central America had nothing to fear under Trump. Joe Biden wants to change that — and the elites are closing ranks

For four long years Donald Trump, as US President, harassed Central American migrants with ever more innovative methods. In particular, it was people from the countries of the ‘northern triangle’ of Central America who suffered under Trump. When migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador fled poverty, violence and corruption in their home countries, and hundreds of thousands made their way north in huge caravans, the then US President vilified them as ‘criminals’ and had children separated from their parents in US detention centres.


‘The United States’ greatest interest in Central America is to curb migration,’ explains Álvaro Montenegro, Guatemalan columnist and co-founder of the citizens’ movement Justicia Ya, which fights for transparent policies in Guatemala. Barack Obama had already given top priority to the issue of migration – but the approach was different to Trump’s term in office. ‘Back then, the US government also focused on reasons for fleeing, such as widespread corruption,’ Montenegro recalls. ‘So it was primarily about strengthening state institutions and supporting civil society.’


During the Trump administration, they worked to roll back important advances in the fight against corruption to safeguard their own political and economic interests. With a lot of money and perseverance, they tried to discredit the CICIG in Washington as an allegedly partisan commission with a left-wing agenda – and in the end their effort succeeded. When Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales allowed the commission’s mandate to expire in 2019, Washington did not intervene. ‘For Trump, the Guatemalan government and the country’s businessmen were the only allies,’ explains Montenegro. ‘Now, with Biden taking office, civil society can finally be heard again.’

Let's hope they're right. Don't expect anything to change the drumbeat on the right. They're going to flog this all the way into the midterm election, because lies, race-baiting and fearmongering are all they've got to run on. The last thing they want to discuss is the root of the problem, and the role the United States has played in creating it, making it worse, or what we do now to try to fix it.

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