Crisis at the Border: Deja Vu
If you believe Kevin McCarthy, Lindsey Graham, or Fox News (and why should you?), there’s a crisis at the Southern border like America’s never seen before: a daily flood of immigrants from Central America flocking to border crossings – and it’s all Joe Biden’s fault for promising to reverse Donald Trump’s cruel immigration policies.
Only part of which is true. Yes, there’s a surge of people attempting to cross illegally into the United States or apply for legal asylum. Yes, there’s a new “crisis” at the border. But this is hardly something new. Have we already forgotten the “caravans” of thousands of “drug dealers, disease-laden communists and terrorists” Donald Trump warned about marching across Mexico from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador? Or the thousands of unaccompanied minors who showed up soon after Barack Obama became president?
In fact, a quadrennial crisis at the border is something we can count on. As sure as gas prices will spike every summer, we know that families desperate to get to the United States will test every new president, Republican or Democrat. It happened to George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. And now it’s happening to Joe Biden. The only real question is: What are we going to do about it?
Let’s start with what you DON’T do about it. You don’t solve the problem by calling all immigrants “criminals and rapists.” You don’t secure the border by promising to build a stupid fence that Mexico will never pay for. Or, like Kevin McCarthy, you don’t turn anyone away by staging a photo op at the border and blaming it all on Joe Biden – without offering any ideas of his own on how to fix it.
It’s important to take the long view on immigration. This is an incredibly complex issue. It didn’t start with Trump or Biden. It’s been a problem for a long time, fueled by two realities. One, the United States is the shining city on the hill that millions of people, especially those fleeing violence and poverty, want to make their new home. But two, there’s no way we can’t take them all in.
There’s no quick fix. The only solution, which we’ve known for a long time, is comprehensive immigration reform. Which requires action by Congress in two stages.
First, take care of the Dreamers. It’s unconscionable that Republicans in Congress still block special consideration for some 800,000 young adults who were brought here as young children by their parents. This is the only country they know. This is their country. They’re Americans in every respect but a piece of paper making it official. They have jobs, they pay taxes, they serve in our military.
Dreamers include doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, childcare providers, cleaners, business owners, restaurant workers, and first responders. They include 27,000 healthcare workers, on the front lines against COVID-19. In every poll, almost 80 percent of Americans support protecting the Dreamers from deportation and providing them a path to citizenship. Congress has a moral imperative to act now to protect the Dreamers.
Next, Congress must hammer out comprehensive immigration reform. Again, this isn’t rocket science. We know what needs to be done. President George W. Bush proposed a good plan, which President Barack Obama basically adopted in full, with three essential elements: border security against illegal immigration; an efficient, humane system for dealing with legal immigration and seekers of asylum; and, as Ronald Reagan established in 1986, a path to citizenship for those undocumented residents who’ve lived here for many years and are now hardworking, tax-paying, law-abiding members of the community. Both plans were shot down by Senate Republicans.
No, what’s lacking is not knowledge of how to resolve the latest “crisis” at the border. What’s lacking, again, is the will on the part of congressional Republicans to act. The truth is, Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell don’t want to fix the immigration problem. They see it as their key to taking back the House and Senate in 2022 by stirring up, in full Trumpian fashion, the worst, nativist, xenophobic instincts in the extremist Republican base. Attacking all immigrants as criminals worked for Donald Trump in 2016, they figure it’ll work for them in 2022.
In the end, fixing the crisis at the border is one more imperative to reform or kill the filibuster. It’s bad enough Republicans don’t want to govern. But they must not be allowed to use the filibuster to block action on any issue, starting with immigration.
(Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod, and author of the new book, “Trump Must Go: The Top 100 Reasons to Dump Trump (And One to Keep Him).” His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)
©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.