Deseret News reporter Tad Walch and photojournalist Jeff Allred, on assignment in Arizona, spotted the cover of a local newspaper with a compelling photo of the border fence (wall?) stretching between the U.S.-Mexico border.
The newspaper story was about the structure's new addition — concertina wire, circular razor wire that stretches the length of the border barrier separating Nogales, Mexico, from Nogales, Arizona, directly south of Tucson down Interstate 19.
Pictures of this wire-encased barrier say a lot about what's going on in the country about border security and political fighting. It says a lot about Washington, D.C. But as is almost always the case, the real stories start with the people on either side of the wall.
So it was here on the Mexico side that our Deseret News journalists met Maria and her daughter Gloria at the La Roca shelter. They're waiting at the border, hoping for their opportunity to come through the gates and into the U.S., just as busloads of migrants are doing here just about every week.
As Walch writes in Sunday's print edition and online:
"A decade-long spike in the number of families seeking asylum in the United States has overwhelmed ICE, according to an agency spokeswoman. Most of the families seeking asylum are fleeing what universally are considered some of the world's capitals of murder, gang violence and poverty in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
"Whether families have crossed the border illegally or they lawfully presented themselves at a port of entry and expressed fear about their homelands, ICE is by law required to accept asylum seekers. The government then must determine whether they have a credible fear about returning home."
Both in Arizona and in Mexico, Walch and Allred met families trying to flee what they said were dangerous circumstances. As Walch reported, each of these people become temporarily able to stay in the country pending their hearings. They are given status and papers that say: "Paroled: Humanitarian."
It's been widely reported that the number of apprehensions of people trying to cross the border peaked at 1.6 million in 2000 and has steadily declined to a low of 303,916 in fiscal year 2017, bumping up to 396,579 according to Customs and Border Protection, as reported by the Washington Post. The figures have been used repeatedly to challenge President Trump's assertion that a national emergency declaration was needed.
But the number of people seeking "credible-fear interviews" to gain asylum in the United States jumped from 5,100 in 2008 to nearly 92,000 in 2016 because of violence in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America, according to Homeland Security officials.
Today's story addresses those families seeking asylum. Once they are initially processed into the country, there is a gap of time where humanitarian care is needed. And that care is being provided by members of congregations from many denominations in Arizona. Food, clothing, water and a bit of hope is given without worrying about politics.
The Deseret News tries to provide a look at the many aspects of the immigration debate that has been going on for decades, from the state's ground-breaking Utah Compact which guides the state's immigration policies and principles, to the actions of President Bush, President Obama and now President Trump.
In December we reported on the plight of Maria Sanchez and her children, who were deported from the United States after her arrival to Utah 14 years ago. Her decisions and the decisions of elected officials brought about her deportation. Her children, born in America, have returned thanks to the humanitarian work of teachers willing to house and be with them.
Today's story is another in our ongoing coverage of immigration and migrant issues. We are trying to provide coverage that reveals the good people are doing in the face of immigration policies that span different administrations and decades of failed efforts to resolve the key questions: Can we protect the border and welcome those to the country who need help? And can we make policies that will strengthen families rather than rip them apart and provide futures for those who want to work?
I recommend all the above coverage if you missed it when it was first published.
In addition, we follow and report on the day-to-day wrestle going on in Washington. Each member of Utah's congressional delegation will have an interesting decision to make in the coming weeks, as will all members of Congress.18 comments on this story
President Trump's emergency declaration to get funds to increase the length of the border barrier is expected to be challenged not just in the courts, but also by the legislative branch. The House will likely pass a resolution opposing the declaration. That will then force the Senate to vote on it within 18 days. If a joint resolution passes it can override the president's emergency declaration.
So will the president's action be supported as a constitutional right, or will Congress determine it's a power grab of legislative authority and is a threat to future governing?
For now, it is comforting to know that there are people helping people with food and water. Sometimes you have to start with the basics.