There Are No Bathrooms at the Border...and Other Shocking Revelations

AP Photo/Christian Chavez

There are no bathrooms at the border. Can you believe that?


Molly Hennessy-Fiske of the Los Angeles State Media Times was literally shook to discover just how “dismal” things have become in migrant camps along the border.

I don’t mean to make light of the harrowing conditions at the border. Regardless of the cause, it’s not nice to witness humans in peril, even of their own making. What I am making light of is the L.A. Times and their ilk finding a “story” in the obvious and calling it news.

The very obvious truth is and has always been the same…there aren’t restrooms at the border. It’s not because the United States hates desperate immigrants or even desperate Haitian immigrants or the despotic coyotes who exploit them. There are no bathrooms at the border because bathrooms don’t belong in the middle of nowhere. Bathrooms are for civilization, where they can be connected to indoor plumbing sources and electricity. In America, bathrooms are an intricate and necessary part of civilized society and that is why we make sure that in areas where people live and work, there are plenty.

Where we don’t maintain bathrooms is in the middle of nowhere. It obviously comes as a shock to people like Molly Hennessy-Fiske, who clearly have not spent much time in the middle of nowhere and thus do not understand that bathrooms don’t grow in the wild. They require civilization to operate. Sometimes people build outhouses in the middle of nowhere, but I suspect our observant reporter would find those to be equally “dismal” were she to run across one.


No, Ms. Hennessy-Fiske, there are not bathrooms at the borders because most of the American border qualifies as middle of nowhere. Therefore, it shouldn’t be that shocking to learn that people who show up in the middle of nowhere do not have access to bathroom facilities, shelter or food services. If those people choose to congregate in the middle of nowhere, relieve themselves in the middle of nowhere, and squat for days and weeks in the middle of nowhere, the middle of nowhere will indeed become filthy and squalid. This is what happens when people poop and pee and live in one spot without the civilized amenities of running water and bathroom facilities.

However, I do have news that may come as another shock to Ms. Hennessy-Fiske. Admittedly, I’ve been Jen Psaki-ing the truth about bathrooms and borders in order to make a point. The whole truth – the one I need to circle back to – is that there actually are bathrooms at the border and they are accessible to everyone around them. Those bathrooms are available for use at the designated legal entry points to the United States. These facilities are connected to running water and electricity so as to keep the users as comfortable and healthy as possible.

Ah, modern civilization. What a time to be alive.

The people amassing at the border, though sad, are not living in squalor because they are forced to. We have over fifty areas on our southern borders for people to cross legally.

America has a door.


We invite people to come through those doors whenever they choose. There is absolutely no need for people to be living in squalor on our border nor for reporters who rarely leave their urban, west-coast bubbles to be shocked at the squalor on our border. We have the means to give people the dignity of cleanliness and indoor plumbing. All we ask is that they come to the door and knock.

The tragedy here isn’t of our making. We have everything anyone could need to be healthy and safe. These people choose not to avail themselves of our laws and that has consequences.

Can 10,000 potential immigrants a day get through the legal border at San Ysidro? No. But it doesn’t seem to occur to the L.A. Times reporters of the world to follow up on why. That would be a story. Maybe they need to learn why our immigration service limits legal immigration every year, and what is involved in navigating the legal immigration system. Is there red tape to be removed that could make the process easier for the type of people desperate enough to squat in the desert? How many immigrants do we admit legally each year anyway? Why do we even have an immigration system at all? What purpose does it serve?

These seem like simple, reporty-typeish questions that someone like Hennessy-Fiske might want to ask while investigating the mess at the border, but that’s all information and information is boring. Feelings are what matters to what is left of journalism these days. It’s an easy sell to show people sitting in their own filth as they pray for entry into the greatest country in the world. It takes a lot more effort to actually dig underneath the surface outrage to get to the real crux of the problem.


The United States Border Patrol is not going out and kidnapping foreigners only to leave them stranded at the border. No American has forced a single person to sit in squalor at the border. Everyone who is there is there because they choose to be there. They all came from somewhere else and had hours, days, and weeks to reconsider their choice to squat at the border.

It certainly is heart-wrenching to watch human beings suffer, but it becomes a little less so when you realize they don’t have to and we don’t have to change a hundred years of immigration law to stop their suffering. We could simply guide them to the door, where there are bathrooms and water and probably even air conditioning. They aren’t there because they choose not to be there.

Doors and bathrooms go together in this country and we invite every weary immigrant to avail themselves of both.


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