This NY Times story about the US immigration system is remarkably straightforward about the many ways in which our current system is overwhelmed and therefore does not work as intended. The story focuses on a small group of migrants from Africa who are now living in Portland, Maine but the real news here is what the Times reports about the system as a whole.
At a modest hotel a few miles from the ocean here, most of the rooms have been occupied this summer by families from African countries seeking asylum — 192 adults and 119 children in all.
They are among the more than one million undocumented immigrants who have been allowed into the country temporarily after crossing the border during President Biden’s tenure, part of a record-breaking cascade of irregular migration around the world.
Distinct from the hundreds of thousands who have entered the country undetected during Mr. Biden’s term, many of the one million are hoping for asylum — a long shot — and will have to wait seven years on average before a decision on their case is reached because of the nation’s clogged immigration system.
The Times doesn’t offer any specific numbers for the “gotaways” who entered the country undetected, but the estimates are that as many as 500,000 have entered the country in Fiscal Year 2022. And then on top of that you have another million people who have crossed the border to claim asylum. Those people are now part of an overwhelmed asylum system which will take 7 years to adjudicate their cases. As the Times admits, some of those people will never even show up for a single hearing related to their case. The Times even mentions in passing why this is happening:
Some disappear into the shadows, never showing up for their court dates or required check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Others struggle to comply with reporting requirements in a system that is ever more overloaded and unorganized…
The million who have been allowed in since Mr. Biden took office — a figure that comes from internal Homeland Security data and court filings — are from more than 150 countries around the globe. With few pathways to enter the United States legally, crossing the border without documentation is often the only option for those fleeing crime and economic despair.
At this point, it would have been helpful to point out that, under our asylum laws, “fleeing crime and economic despair” are not valid reasons for seeking or being granted asylum. This obviously seems relevant to the point at hand because it’s one thing if a million people claim asylum and the majority of them have a legitimate case. It’s something else if we know in advance that the overwhelming majority of those folks aren’t eligible and are almost certainly going to have their claims rejected at the end of that 7-year wait. But I guess the Times didn’t want to give readers too much information all at once.
That said, the story does point out that none of these migrants are legally allowed to work for about six months. Meanwhile, someone has to pay for their lodging, their meals and provide free schooling to their children.
Last year, about 400 asylum-seeking students joined South Portland’s schools and were bused from the hotels; dozens more are expected to register over the next month.
Breakfast and lunch are provided by the hotel in South Portland, using the same state funds it receives to house migrants. For dinner, African dishes are prepared by volunteers. Several days a week, a doctor is there and English classes are provided. Legal clinics are also offered at the hotel, and transportation is arranged to and from immigration court in Boston…
In July, asylum seekers started moving into a Comfort Inn in Saco, funded through the state to house up to 300 migrants for a year, with support from Catholic Charities. About 40 students will start school in the coming weeks, a fact that drew concern at a recent school board meeting given the additional costs to the district.
Portland Public Schools has almost 50,000 students so 40 students or 400 won’t create a huge disruption. Still, all of those extra students require extra teachers and that costs money, money that the parents of those kids aren’t putting into the system in taxes. Even once the parents start working and paying taxes they likely aren’t earning enough to contribute what the community is delivering to them in terms of public education. That money comes from other citizens.
Again, a few hundred migrants aren’t a big problem. But the whole point of this story is that the same thing is happening all over the country because we’re actually talking about a million migrants just since Biden took office. And that is a significant number of people to have lean on the public for seven years at a stretch.
The piece concludes with a small scale acknowledgment of what happens in most of these cases. One of the refugees living in Portland, Maine, a woman named Marie Zombo, has been waiting 8 years for a judge to decide her case. In that time she’s started a business, bought a home and had a child who was born here and is therefore an American citizen. At this point it really doesn’t matter what the judge decides about the merits of her case from eight years ago. Marie is never the leaving the United States and neither are the vast majority of the million people we’ve allowed to cross the border thanks to dubious asylum claims. The current system works well for migrants who are successfully gaming the system and for the activists and Democrats who want a defacto open border.
This clearly isn’t what the asylum system was intended for and some of the commenters get it. This is currently the top response.
Seven year wait? Every single family will have a citizen child by then, and as a result even if the asylum claim is denied the family of a young citizen won’t be deported. This is what most Americans hate about the immigration/refugee system: there’s always yet another avenue for entrants, legal or illegal, until they stay permanently. Cross the border and you are a permanent addition no matter what.
The #2 comment (as upvoted by readers):
The failure to protect our border is disgraceful and scandalous. We cannot humanely feed, shelter, educate and assimilate the people that are already here let alone allow more people in who cannot fend for themselves. This is unfair to taxpayers and the communities that have to absorb undocumented immigrants. By not securing the border we are only encouraging more people to enter our country.
We have millions of American who struggle with poverty, inadequate education, lack of good housing, food scarcity, gun violence and the lack of decent healthcare. They cannot get decent work to help lift them up. But drip by drip their chances are undercut by this process and I fear that the net effect will be an ever worsening circumstance for those already in trouble here with slim prospects that grow slimmer. The argument that we need this influx is a canard. Most people reading this will of course remain comfortably unaffected.
Anyway, it’s impressive to see even a portion of what’s really happening published at the Times. Hopefully they’ll keep up the good work.