It was so dark at 1 a.m. that Jhonatan Cortéz could hardly see the wall separating Tijuana from San Diego in front of him. As he pulled himself up, hand over hand, he was both determined and terrified. He couldn’t go back to El Salvador, where he would lose the opportunity to use the culinary degree he’d just earned and instead be forced to join a gang. He had to get to the U.S. to safety, and climbing this wall was his only option. He was about halfway up the second barrier when Border Patrol spotted his group. He used all his might to scramble up and over, and then slipped and fell hard, some 30 feet onto U.S. soil. He sprinted about 45 feet before collapsing in pain, the adrenaline was pulsing so hard he hadn’t realized his ankle was totally mangled.
With the border still closed for most migrants, a growing number who have no safe way to present their asylum claims have taken desperate and sometimes fatal measures, like climbing the border wall. To countless migrants escaping violence, economic and climate devastation (and in many cases trying to reunite with family and loved ones) the only feasible option for entering the U.S. is to risk injury and death.
That’s not a political mistake; it’s by design. Biden now joins a long tradition of presidents who’ve added to the immigration enforcement strategies of border militarization and prevention through deterrence. Right now, though, Biden must overturn the deadly policies that keep the border shut to asylum seekers. Until that happens, the human casualties of these policies, and in particular title 42, fall on the shoulders of this administration.