America Can’t Have Four More Years of Kids in Cages

It’s up to Americans to make Biden act.

Sikander Hayat Khan
5 min readApr 25, 2021

Think of the migrant crisis at the Southern Border as a patient. It was in desperate need of life-saving surgery. Children were being torn from their parents and locked in cages. But when it was the turn of the Biden administration to operate, it chose to cover the gaping wound with a bandaid instead. And so it comes as no surprise that the patient’s blood continues to flow.

Sure, they made some progress. They stopped sending unaccompanied children back. Parents of 61 migrant children separated by Trump have been found. They even housed 1,200 migrant family members in hotels. But the overarching problem was never solved. Kids are still being locked in cages. All Biden did was make the cages look less scary and throw in a television screen.

And before you get angry, I’m aware he inherited this. But do remember he promised to fix it. And he’s failed. Badly. Because not only has the original problem not been solved, it’s bound to get even worse. What do I mean? The number of children arriving at the Southern border is only going up. That means you’re looking at more arrests. And since the cages still haven't been done away with, where do you think the children are going to end up? Factor in how those “detention facilities” are already running way past their maximum capacities and you realise the conditions they’re going to be kept in are only going to become more inhumane.

Logic therefore dictates that if the Biden administration doesn't grapple with the crisis at hand fast, you're looking at another presidency defined by innocent children locked in cages.

That — make no mistake — will not only affect those fleeing crime, violence, poverty, and the pandemic, but Americans too. For the former, it’s obvious. For the latter however, the effects of a political establishment unwilling to treat the crisis at the border like the crisis that it is could spell disaster.

Why? Because once locking human beings in cages becomes normalised, it won’t matter who they are or where they’re from. The very act of caging people means they were thought of as sub-human in the first place. Which means what? Today, it’s migrants. Tomorrow, it could be someone else.

And that foresight becomes more real if you imagine a Trump-loyalist winning the presidency in 2024. Can you truly put locking more people in cages past them? If you’re thinking that’s impossible, wouldn’t you have thought the same of a sitting president trying to overturn an election he lost? Or that, once he failed, his lies combined with his lawyer’s call for “trial by combat” would end up inciting his followers to attack the Capitol? Even better, that members of his party would be accused of showing the attackers round the Capitol to make it even easier?

Doesn’t logic, therefore, dictate that if their last presidency ended with a violent attack on American democracy, the next one will be even worse? Put differently, if they ended with authoritarianism, won’t they pick up where they left off? And aren’t concentration camps right up an authoritarian’s alley?

You could certainly make the argument that Biden, having merely changed the type of cage kids are locked in, is only making it easier for the GOP to do so. And I’d be inclined to agree with you. You can’t make excuses for a president who’s overseeing human rights violations at his own border. Having said that, I still think there’s one important reason why he could bring an end to those wretched cages.

It’s where Biden differs from his predecessor — malleability. Where Trump, regardless of what the world had to say, didn’t budge on his inhumane policy to cage children, Biden can be made to budge. What do I mean? Take his double U-turn on the refugee cap as an example. Trump, the fearmonger that he was, set that cap at 15,000 — 70,000 lower than it was. Biden, on his campaign website, promised to up it to 125,000. He then decided he’d continue with Trump’s policy and merely fill that cap of 15,000 with refugees from more countries. Needless to say, the backlash was immense. Within the span of a day, the White House announced Biden would indeed be lifting Trump’s cap the following month.

Make no mistake — that wasn't a change of heart. That was politics in action. Where Trump would have used the same backlash to justify an even harder crackdown on refugees, Biden caved. And that’s significant. Because it means America can make this an issue of political survival for him. That goes for Congress too. It doesn't matter if the Republicans are only trying to exploit the crisis their president created for political gain. What matters is if it works. Decent human beings on both sides of the political spectrum would agree what’s happening at the Southern border is evil, to the say the least. And here’s where the Democrats, as a whole, need to chime in. Because if you’re just left with voices from the GOP, they’re easier to write off as party politics. But if his own party takes a stand and demands change, Biden will have to act. A sitting president can’t take on Congress on his own.

As for average Americans, I stand by what I said. The role they have to play cannot be understated. They can’t merely leave the fate of those kids in cages to the “goodwill” of Washington. Was such a thing ever to be extended to the Southern border, it would've happened by now. So whether it’s social media storms or peaceful protest, America has to let Biden know the cages have to go and they have to go now.

Central to that effort is going to be the fact that liberal America will have to let go of its desire to defend Biden come what may. Because having a loyal base that’s ever-willing to accept any excuses for failure his administration throws their way is only going to make failing that much easier — and that much more acceptable. In other words, it’s going to breed complacency. Both in the electorate and in government. With the former, they’ll forget they’re entitled to a government that can get the job done. The latter will only be all too happy they've forgotten. Add in continuing “politician worship” and you’ll find an America where more and more children are kept in cages.

That cycle of denial and bitter partisanship that stems from such complacency is what I’ve seen growing up in the developing world. And it’s what I’ve seen in America too. It was blatantly obvious with Trump in power. But once he left office, America was presented with a golden chance to start fresh. A chance to change its relationship with government. One from fervent defence of politicians to accountability. And with the stakes this high — with children literally locked up in cages — America can’t afford to blow it.



Sikander Hayat Khan

Law and politics grad. Masters in Law. Nuance over ideology. Published in The Friday Times. Twitter @SikanderH8.