“Title 42, the policy that allowed the government to quickly turn away certain migrants at the border during the Covid-19 pandemic, is set to expire. Encounters between US border agents and undocumented immigrants had fallen early this year but have recently increased to around 7,000 per day. That number is expected to rise dramatically this week as border towns in northern Mexico are already bursting with an estimated 36,000 migrants waiting for the end of Title 42.” (CNN, May 8,2023).
Readers of this blog are aware that we take pains to avoid discussing controversial current events. However, caseworkers who support the marginalized population of immigrants on our southern border are about to be swamped.
- There is a massive global refugee crisis currently, more than 68 million people have been displaced from their home countries. On our southern border families with children enter the United States daily to escape their own poverty-ridden countries, many of which are filled with violence. Those crossing the border do so for several urgent reasons, including poverty and hunger, gang violence—including the forced recruitment of minors into gangs— and violence against women and families.
- Most refugees and migrants who cross the southern border originate from Central America – Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Known as the northern triangle, this region is one of the most violent on earth. Ravaged by a history of civil and political conflict and deep poverty, citizens of these countries often perceive no other choice than to flee for their lives.
- When Title 42 expires, border officials will return to fully enforcing Title 8 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. U.S. officials are estimating that migrant encounters along the southern border could rise to 10,000 per day after the pandemic-era restriction ends. Border detention centers along the border have already exceeded their capacity with more than 20,500 migrants in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody as of April 29, according to CNN.
Social Workers’ Role
There are several ways to immigrate to the United States, including asylum-seeking and family reunification. This means that immigration social workers are always needed in a variety of different settings.
- Social workers help immigrants with navigating an unfamiliar system.
- Social workers help immigrants secure education, housing, employment, and health care.
- Many immigrants suffer from language barriers as well as emotional and mental health issues.
- Some immigration social workers choose to work in hospitals or government agencies, while others work in schools, refugee camps, and social service agencies.
- Immigration social workers provide direct support and a variety of services to immigrants to help them make the transition to their new homes.
- Some believe a migrant should only receive refugee status if they are fleeing political persecution or war. Others argue citizens of these countries are essentially running a state of war-like lawlessness.
- Women’s rights advocates believe that women fleeing violence are members of a persecuted minority.
Straddling The Border
Social workers also find themselves on the Mexican side of the border. The US convinced Mexico to hold large numbers of migrants on the Mexican side of the border and not cross into the US. But the conditions migrants are in on that side are also inhumane. People are in large holding areas for weeks or months at a time. The requirements are unsanitary and crowded. In addition, many children and adults have also fallen victim to gang predation on that side of the border.
And Then There's The Children
Somehow in this chaotic border scramble children become separated from their parents and end up being kept in metal cage-like holding pens. Their parents often lose track of them. Social workers help separated families reunite. They also place children in temporary foster care while waiting to reunite with family, and they provide therapeutic services to traumatized children, families, and adults.
Let us all recognize the work on behalf of the marginalized immigrant population that the social work community has embraced. It’s time to put political debate on pause and support these compassionate social workers. Aren’t they the best of us?