The most surprising thing about the border is that US presidents keep being surprised by it

New photos released by a US congressman Monday revealed conditions in Border Patrol custody: Migrants packed on mats in crowded cage-like spaces, wrapped in Mylar blankets.

If these images of children and families detained in a government-run tent facility in Donna, Texas, look familiar to you, they should.
We’ve seen this before. Again and again.
      This photo shows a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, in May 2019.

        Two female detainees sleep in a holding cell at a US Customs and Border Protection facility in Nogales, Arizona, in 2014.

        Why does this keep happening?
        Here are two big reasons:

          US presidential administrations keep getting caught by surprise at the border

          Back in 2014, when a surge of families and unaccompanied minors hit the border during the Obama administration, immigration experts had warned for months that a crisis was brewing. But still, when the migrants arrived officials were caught unprepared and ended up in triage mode.
          When caravans of migrants started coming to the border in 2018, and when new waves of unaccompanied migrants and families reached the border in 2019, we once again saw troubling images of overcrowded facilities. Trump administration officials also seemed surprised by the sudden upticks, and blamed what they called legal loopholes for driving migration, repeatedly pointing to the border to fire up Trump’s conservative base.
          But most immigration experts will tell you the border has been broken for a long time. And that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
          It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a functional immigration system that’s designed to deal with fluctuations in the number of economic migrants and asylum-seekers who show up. A key question: Will the Biden administration really be able to fix it?

          Migration patterns often have nothing to do with who is president of the US

          It’s a point we’ve made before, but it’s worth repeating. The equation behind why someone decides to migrate is complicated. And a major factor is what’s going on in the country where they’ve been living.
          Those specifics vary from country to country and from town to town. But generally speaking, poverty, crime and corruption in Latin America have long been drivers of migration. Now climate change and the pandemic are playing a role, too. Not to mention misinformation being peddled by smugglers who make a lot of money moving people across borders.
            This is all adding up to an increasing number of migrants trying to come to the US right now.
            It’s not a new equation. But again, a big question is whether enough people in power — on either side of the US-Mexico border — have the political will to solve it.

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