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Queens Chronicle

A bipartisan bill addresses the crisis on the border

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Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2019 10:30 am

To put it in the words of comedian Jeff Foxworthy, if you don’t think the immigration and border security bill Congress put forth last week is a good compromise, you just might be an extremist.

Conditions at the border with Mexico and within some of the facilities housing immigrants have been horrific, not meeting the standards that should be met by the United States of America. No, they’re not concentration camps, as some have said — reflected for one thing by the fact that people keep coming here knowing they will be held in them — but neither are they anything to be proud of.

Children sleeping on concrete floors. Inadequate shower facilities and hygiene supplies. Lice and diseases that previously had been wiped out in the United States spreading.

All of this is an embarrassment to the country and some of it possibly a violation of international law. But now the bill overwhelmingly passed in both the Senate and House of Representatives gives the government a good chance of rectifying the situation, even as it deals with record numbers of children and families coming over the border.

The $4.6 billion measure passed 305-102 in the House and a near-unanimous 84-8 in the Senate. If that’s not bipartisan, nothing is. It was negotiated by Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Appropriations Committee.

The bill will hike funding for the Department of Health and Human Services by $2.9 billion to alleviate the suffering of migrants who make the dangerous trek across Mexico to the United States. That will enable the government to better provide for the children being housed in facilities such as the ones in McAllen, Texas, and Homestead, Fla., where deplorable conditions have been documented. Most of the other funds, about $1.3 billion, will go to the Department of Homeland Security, also to improve conditions at the facilities, by doing things like expanding medical care and access to items such as clothing and baby formula.

These measures are exactly what the government should be doing, yet there are those who opposed the bills because they also give the Trump administration a little more money, about $145 million, to fund Department of Defense facilities along the border; $200 million for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency; and $110 million for Customs and Border Protection employee overtime funding, according to The Texas Tribune.

But you can only oppose those elements of the bill if you oppose any border enforcement at all. And the nation must have borders, and enforce them, if it is to be a nation.

International law allows for refugees to seek asylum in the United States, and it is clear that conditions in countries south of the border, in particular the “Northern Triangle” nations of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, are appalling and drive many to seek safety here. But that does not mean the doors of the nation are open to everyone from everywhere everytime. Lately we’re seeing, for example, groups of people from African nations crossing the Rio Grande just as single men from Mexico have always done — not just to seek work but for permanent residency. Whether they should be allowed in is a question for debate among elected officials. It is not one to be predecided just because people are choosing to come here in this manner.

The most important thing right now is to make sure that those who come here are kept in humane conditions. This bill helps to do that. As to who can stay here, that’s something for Congress and the president still to decide. At least now we see bipartisanship on such issues remains possible.

Welcome to the discussion.