The crush of migrants that overwhelmed U.S. border facilities in the spring, producing appalling conditions for migrant children at Customs and Border Protection stations, has eased with summer’s arrival as scorching temperatures and deterrent measures adopted by Mexican authorities drove down border-crossing arrests by nearly a third between May and June. Together with the $4.6 billion in supplemental funding enacted by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, that is taking pressure off the government’s capacity to manage the flow of migrants, especially the families and minors that have transformed the immigration landscape.
What will remain, however, are urgent questions about the Border Patrol, and the degree to which the agency’s failings of culture exacerbated a shocking humanitarian crisis on the southwest frontier.
Without doubt, thousands of Border Patrol agents have struggled to contend with the biggest spike in migrant border-crossing in more than a decade, and many went the extra mile.
Still, the accounts of visitors to the Border Patrol’s station at Clint, in far west Texas, and reporting on the same facility by the New York Times, strongly suggest that Border Patrol officials failed to respond to warnings of filthy, dangerous conditions for unaccompanied minors there. That those children, some of them infested with lice, were forced to endure weeks at the station without clean clothing, soap, toothpaste and other basic necessities is a sign of institutional indifference.
That impression is reinforced by reports of private Facebook group pages linked to current and former CBP agents that feature obnoxious, obscene references to undocumented migrants and Hispanic members of Congress. Border Patrol and Homeland Security officials insist the pages are unrepresentative; they have ordered investigations and taken disciplinary action.
It’s anyone’s guess how deeply infected the Border Patrol has become by the toxic attitudes reflected in those Facebook groups. What’s worrying is that the contempt for migrants afoot within the agency have only been encouraged by Trump, whose constant disparagement of migrants is a hallmark of his rhetoric. Little wonder it has found echoes in the far bureaucratic reaches of his administration.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST