Having worked in the immigration field since 1995 — almost three decades — I have a unique perspective on what both liberals and conservatives call the “Border Crisis.”

I’ve practiced under five presidents, from Bill Clinton with his restrictive policies on criminal aliens, through George W. Bush with his attempts to create a guest worker system, through Barack Obama who created DACA, through Donald Trump who issued a travel ban against citizens of certain terror list countries, commonly called the “Muslim Ban,” up to Joe Biden, who has done little or nothing to provide a workable solution for both the chaos at the border and the problems within the immigration system itself.

Of course, the blame cannot be laid entirely at Biden’s feet. In fact, no single president is responsible for the “Border Crisis,” which is a term that does not adequately convey the true state of the immigration problems our country is currently facing. Although the management of the immigrant flow rests squarely with the Executive Branch and the agencies under both the Justice and Homeland Security departments, the fact that Congress has refused to do any heavy lifting in this field is one of the major reasons we have drug cartels spilling over the border, children being trafficked in for labor or sexual exploitation, and children who were brought here as minors and are trapped in a limbo because of the suspension of DACA renewals.

READ MORE — Christine Flowers: The collapse of everything

It is the reason that people, whose only “crime” is having crossed the border but who have paid taxes for decades and cooked our restaurant meals, harvested our crops and built our homes, are essentially without any legitimate status or hope of permanence in their adopted country. It is the reason we have asylum seekers who are forced to wait up to ten years to have their cases heard before an immigration officer or a judge, and who live in fear that the spouses and children they left behind will be tortured, or killed. 

This intransigence on the part of Congress is good for only one thing: votes.

After having done this work for so long, I feel safe in saying that the only people who really benefit from this stasis, this refusal to make any headway, are the extremists on both sides who make their bread and butter off of human suffering. If we never fix the problem, we can always use it for political purchase. We can accuse the “illegal aliens” of committing the crime in our streets (when statistics show that the vast majority of crime committed is by the native born), and on the other side we can accuse ICE of being cruel and inhuman.

With respect to that last point, remember when there was that outcry about Border Agents bending over from their horses to whip Haitian immigrants? Remember when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and a slew of public officials defamed and condemned the agents for crimes against humanity? Well, that was a lie, and not even a very clever one. It was exceptionally easy to prove that none of what the agents were accused of doing actually happened. Remember when Biden, Harris and the others apologized for their error?

Neither do I.

And this incident is emblematic of what is happening in the country whenever we start talking about immigration. There are myths that we embrace because they align with the narratives we prefer. If we are the type of person who wants the border hermetically sealed and demands people “get in line” for their visas, we embrace the idea that immigrants are dangerous criminals who only cross the border to prey on innocent Americans.

If, on the other hand, we look upon those who work at the border and attempt to enhance its security as fascists reminiscent of Mussolini’s brown shirts, we swallow the line that our public officials are engaged in whipping immigrants of color and deliberately separating children from their parents in an attempt to cause them some form of emotional torture.

Neither of these narratives are correct, but the real story, the one that has much more gray mixed in with the comforting absolutes of black and white, is rarely told. That is because there are very few neutral storytellers out there, people who are focused on solving the problem instead of reinforcing the myths.

This past week, I was fortunate enough to travel with a group that is focused on the former, on trying to solve the problem. Americans for Prosperity sponsored a visit to the border to allow journalists and other media types to really see what was going on at one of the most active border points in the country: McAllen, Texas.

It was eye-opening for me, a woman who has practiced immigration law for 28 years and who regularly meets with people who “crossed the border” but who, herself, never actually visited the points that are key in progression from Central America and Mexico to Texas, Arizona, California and well beyond. As someone who has lived her entire life in a northeastern city, I am well aware of the needs of immigrant communities in Philadelphia, Newark, Baltimore, New York City, Buffalo, Washington, Boston, Norfolk, and many of the other cities I’ve traveled to to serve my clients.

However, with the exception of Buffalo which is a busy point of entry at the northern border, and a long ago visit to a detention center in Oakdale, Louisiana, most of my understanding of what it takes to integrate immigrants into the community as well as vet them comes from a northeast perspective. I would bet most of the people reading this piece have that same perspective.

The differences between what we see in Southeastern Pennsylvania and a border town in Texas, Arizona, or Southern California are vast, and even the distinctions between those border points are pronounced. But it was a revelation for me to stand by the Rio Grande and see Othal Brand, the son of the longtime former mayor of McAllen, point out the clearings on the Mexican side of the river that had been made by the cartels to traffic in drugs. When I asked him if drugs were the only cargo that was being trafficked across the border, he gave me what I can only describe as an exasperated smile and assured me that human beings, many of them children, were also being taken forcibly through that channel.

[W]e need to balance the rights of American citizens and our entitlement to border security with the human rights of those who did not have the great fortune to be born in this country.

It was also eye opening to see “the Wall” that has been the catchphrase in every presidential election for the past three decades, at least as long as I’ve been practicing in the field. I saw parts of the wall erected by Bush, parts erected by Trump, and even parts erected on state land by Texas governor Greg Abbott. There was no continuity between them, and there were gaps that were wide enough for anyone to travel through them. And during the ride along the Wall’s perimeter, I saw no more than three or four border agents.

A shocking fact that explained why that might be the case was presented to our group by the former Chief of Border Patrol Chris Clem at a luncheon we attended. He mentioned that there are more police officers in the city of New York than there are border agents at the entire expanse of the California-Arizona-Texas border. 

Let that sink in.

As I mentioned before, Americans for Prosperity designed this trip to provide us with information, not to lobby for a particular viewpoint other than that we needed to fix the chaos. Far from being “anti-immigration,” AFP states on its website that it supports enforcement at the border as well as improvements to the system that would permit legal immigrants to regularize their status in the United States. They are focused, according to their mission statement, on the welfare of the U.S. and its economy.

They also, however, appealed to this human rights attorney’s heart by incorporating a visit to a local Catholic Charities refugee center. This center, run by the Catholic Church, provides temporary housing and support for immigrants who recently crossed the border and are awaiting reunion with family members in other cities in the U.S. The center only accepts parents with children, no single adults are permitted. They provide shelter, hot meals, religious services if desired, and recreation for the many young children who are their temporary guests. 

The highlight of this trip was the brief couple of hours we spent reading books to toddlers and young children from Venezuela, Ecuador, Honduras, Brazil and Haiti. Like most children, they were filled with affection, hope and trust. A picture of a heart, drawn for me by Salome from Venezuela, is now one of my personal treasures.

With this trip, Americans for Prosperity provided an invaluable opportunity to many of us from the East Coast and the Midwest who are interested in the immigration crisis but who would otherwise have no idea of what is actually happening on the ground. Even with three decades of practice under my belt, I learned that there are complications that can’t be solved with the usual slogans, and that we need to balance the rights of American citizens and our entitlement to border security with the human rights of those who did not have the great fortune to be born in this country.

I hope to write more fully about some of the issues that were discussed during our trip last week, and I want to express my gratitude to both Americans for Prosperity and Broad + Liberty for giving me the opportunity to participate in this life-changing experience.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61

9 thoughts on “Christine Flowers: An eye-opening trip to the Mexican border”

  1. Very good read. It seems to me the bigger our government gets, the less it does to
    solve problems we have, such as the border.

  2. I can recall growing up not knowing much of anything about immigrants from Latin America. There was a community of Hispanics where I lived and with whom I went to school. They were just kids, typical teens although some would go to Texas in the summer to visit relatives. Others hung out with us as teens do. We grew up and some intermarried into our different cultures, (as some of the Latinos said at the time, the Gringo culture). I guess that is the way I have always understood immigration from Latin America, and so, I am continuously pained by the reports in the news about what is happening at the border. hate to say it but I have come to believe the immigration mess was created and is being maintained by political parties looking for easily manipulated future voters, industry looking for cheap, docile workers and “Progressives” looking for willing mob members for forcing societal changes. I want to disclose the fact that my experiences were developed at a time when farm or orchard labour was provided in my area by teens who did the picking when harvest was ready. It was not easy work, and the pay was poor, but it was the only work available for my age group at that time. Later, buses came during harvest time, usually having: “Jesus Saves” painted on the front bumper and filled with migrant workers going from place to place doing the harvesting. I am probably no correct, but I think that the unwillingness of Americans generally to do the picking or stoop labour, led to the use of exploited migrants growing into today’s problems.

  3. Christine is confident (and probably rightly so) that her “followers” will read this and believe that she is a good person, with actual empathy for others. Not the hyper-fake sensitive Catholic apologist who ​by her own admission, breaks into tears whenever a saint or some other fictitious character is insulted and then when outwitted, resorts to childish insults about how people look or dress or their occupation. It was actually refreshing when she announced only days ago that she was leaving Twitter. Of course she was back in a few days, keeping with her long tradition of deception and outright lies. It does make perfect sense that she attached herself to “Americans for Prosperity,” a far Right wing organization founded by the Koch brothers. Now that, within itself is fine, but in her next breath she will have nothing but vitriol for George Soros who donates in the exact same way. Just more hypocrisy from Christine. The most amusing part is watching her act almost decently towards immigrants. But then you realize that they are how she makes a living and it all falls into place. A 14 y/o Venezuelan girl at the border receives empathy from Christine. But a 14 y/o girl who needs / gets an abortion (and her parents) are walking demons to her. (And yes, of course she believes in actual demons). Want a good laugh? Re-read this latest column keeping in mind that immigration is her bread and butter. Then, go read through her Twitter or Facebook feed and how she really feels about her fellow humans. The contrast is hilarious.

  4. It is very discouraging to see what should be rational people devolving into ad hominem diatribes rather than addressing the reason and logic behind positions people take. If you have a problem with the author of a piece, get a megaphone and shout it from your porch. Don’t clutter up comment sections with it, keep the comment section for exchange of serious ideas. BTW, it is The Kochs and George Soros are not identical, the Kochs believe in less government, more freedom of choice, George Soros believes in the rule of elites and one world government. In my opinion, society needs George Soros like birds need parachutes.

    1. It’s too bad (for you) that you disagree with Broad and Liberty’s policy of allowing people to respond both positively AND negatively to the articles on their site. I understand that in your world, only people who agree with you should make their opinions public. As far as ad hominem… unfortunately it is necessary in Christine’s case because her positions are all based in bias, intolerance and hatred. She also uses ad hominem herself as her primary argument when she is cornered intellectually and that occurs nearly every time she expresses her hateful rhetoric. This particular article is different because if a person who knows nothing about her read it, it would come off as somewhat rational. However, with just a small taste of the type of person she is from the media where she is her true self, it is easy to see how hypocritical she is and that is why I recommended looking at her social media accounts. It’s a valid point. As far as your comparison between the Kochs’ and Soros and the “elites’ and the “one world order” you exposed yourself as a conspiracy nut at best and / or an anti-semite at worst.

  5. One only needs to read the reports coming from the Davos conferences and from the World Economic Forum to see the ideological basis of one world order. I would also now draw your attention to the recent moves to establish the World Health Organization as the legal entity enforcing medical decrees world-wide. This includes being able to override any nation’s laws and regulations. Appears to me as a one world order. As Henry Kissinger famously said, “even paranoid people have enemies.” As far as antisemitism is concerned, it is a cowardly attack, it is asking to prove a negative in the same manner as being asked if you stopped beating your wife. As to conspiracy nut, I am sane enough to be allowed to dress myself and go out to stores on my own.

  6. To describe the dereliction of duty on the part of one Party is to describe the dereliction of duty by both Parties and every past administration.
    This invasion could be resolved quickly by simply deporting anyone here illegally and assisting in the assimilation of those who opted to enter our country legally via established federal law.
    Ms. Flowers, Catholic and Lutheran charities and the myriad of others who aid/abet or harbor illegal aliens should cease deciding whether those who “contribute to our economy” are good people or cartel members/criminals and adhere to one policy: illegal you are deported; legal immigrants you are welcome.

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