Kids in cages, mounting deportations, continued land seizures for border wall construction. 

We graded President Biden on the needs of South Texans during his first 100 days in office – and he is failing.

On his first day in office, President Biden announced an ambitious immigration agenda for his first 100 days that included a deportation moratorium, limited enforcement priorities, and plans for comprehensive immigration reform. We hit the 100 day mark today, and he has so far failed to keep his bold promises to South Texas residents.

Today, La Unión del Pueblo Entero, the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network and the Texas Civil Rights Project released the South Texas Border Report Card – Biden’s 100 Days We graded President Biden’s Administration on 11 issues related to border militarization and immigration. Despite a stark departure in rhetoric from the previous administration, the report card finds Biden’s government is failing to deliver on eight of these 11 issues important to South Texas residents.

We represent families of mixed immigration status, families fighting the federal government to save their homes from border wall construction, and people who have been caged in Border Patrol and ICE detention. The grades we issued reflect our region’s need to have a home where newcomers are treated with dignity, where privacy is not violated daily, and where brutality is not a government job with benefits.

The first 100 days is a benchmark to measure the early success of a new president. The South Texas Border Report Card shows the significant work left for the Administration to do to live up to the expectations of border residents and the campaign promises of President Biden. Because he has failed to make meaningful progress on a bold agenda, one that mirrors the way border communities welcome new immigrants and visitors alike, he has left our region vulnerable to outsiders who use our region to score political points and tarnish our reputation in the process.

South Texas has been used as a political football for too long. We have an otherwise useless 30-foot-tall symbol of hate and exclusion running along the Southern border. We don’t need any more symbolic action. We need tangible results.

In the report card, we credit the Biden Administration for formally ending the cruel Remain in Mexico policy. But as we note, “The administration’s deterrence efforts effectively leave Remain in Mexico’s” spirit alive.”

We also give Biden failing marks on immigration detention and the Administration’s use of Title 42 – an obscure health law that both Trump and Biden have used to expel recently arrived immigrants without due process and with no genuine public health rationale.

This failure to break definitively from mass detention has resulted in the overcrowded, unsanitary detention centers that have been widely reported in the media. Outside politicians saw the opportunity Biden’s inaction left open: seize on crowded detention centers to stoke fear and hysteria and use it to attack the president.

These outsiders have been happy to cast border communities as unwitting victims, when they acknowledge us at all. They ignore our long history of providing hospitality to newcomers and visitors, fighting against border militarization encroaching on our rights, and calling for real investments in health care, dignified jobs, neighborhood infrastructure and the services our communities need to thrive.

The report card also grades the Administration on a number of issues that have received more limited media coverage, like the Administration’s continuation of legal cases aimed at seizing land for border wall construction or its plans for construction of “smart walls” to expand surveillance of the region.

“The reality is residents of border communities are still over-policed, over-surveilled and forced to play host to the ongoing violation of the basic human rights of families arriving here in search of a better life,” we write in the progress report. “If President Biden wants to turn the page on the adversarial relationship between border communities and the federal government that he experienced as part of the Obama Administration, we need to see an end to the militarization of our region and the criminalization of migration.”

Border residents know what we need to thrive and live without fear. Biden can welcome newcomers with dignity and human rights while turning away from militarization and surveillance that cage people and separate families. What’s more, doing so would undercut his opponent’s arguments by striking a clear difference between himself and President Trump at the border.

In his first 100 days, President Biden has made some promising moves. But his follow-through is going to need to get a lot better if he is going to earn our trust and show that he is different than past presidents who have used South Texas to score political points and left our people struggling.

Biden does not have to continue on his failed course. He can follow the lead of border communities who are welcoming newcomers with dignity and human rights. Biden can turn the page on Trump, but he must do that by turning away from militarization of border communities and the criminalization of migration.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by John-Michael Torres of La Unión, Norma Herrera of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, and Roberto Lopez of the Texas Civil Rights Project. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the authors. They can be reached by email via: [email protected]

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