Invisible Suffering at the Border Is Not A Deterrence

Alayne Unterberger
7 min readOct 2, 2019

Are Migrant Protection Protocols the End of Asylum?

Photo courtesy of Priscilla Orta, Team Brownsville.

Every day we learn of fresh and worse trauma inflicted by our government’s policies around immigration. The inside look that we got on just how far from justice we are was a Washington Post article of 9/18/19 by Nick Miroff ( His article, while trying valiently to provide “both sides” of immigration, illustrates how our government is creating a climate of “business as usual” that is ending in trauma, death and zero basic human rights. This new status quo, one I never thought I would see in my lifetime, has put and is now putting people in real danger of kidnapping and torture, which goes against the UN Convention Against Torture, to which the US is a signatory. The worst part of it all is that it is mainly invisible to us in the US. Our government has put up tents and invested heavily in technology so that asylum cases can be heard as far away from US citizens as possible.

I wrote this article to explain the situation better and to issue a call to action for us to not forget that there is a crisis on the border and to ask that people of conscience continue to write, call, email or otherwise force Congress to take up this problem and do its job by enacting updated immigration reform legislation.

The Back Story: How did we get here?

We are living in a time when discussions of immigration are summarized in tweets. Yet, immigration is a complex topic with many layers and most of us are not lawyers or immigration policy experts. My cursory analysis of twitter further supports this claim where arguments are further confused by the lack of clarity and definition on types of immigration. The Trump Administration and anti-immigration groups like FAIR and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) are deliberately blurring the lines between forced migration and voluntary migration. These distinctions matter in the real world. However, the blur between them means our government is dismissing cases of credible fear, which typically qualifies an immigrant for asylum, which is supposed to be protected. To add to the confusion, the…

Alayne Unterberger

@Dralayne is a medical anthropologist, nonprofit executive, adjunct faculty and researcher focusing on work, gender and migration. writes fiction, mental health