Republicans are crazy about immigration. No, really. The issue makes them loco. Just listen to the things they’re saying. Many of them have lost touch with reality.
Or maybe Republicans are crazy like a fox. The GOP seems to have once again pinned all of its hopes for retaking power—in this case, by winning back control of the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections and possibly regaining seats in the House of Representatives—on the immigration issue. If either of those things happen, Republicans will be in decent shape to try to retake the White House in 2024.
President Joe Biden has only been in office for about 60 days, and Republicans who want to attack him and his administration don’t have a lot of material with which to work.
Complicating matters for the right wing, a lot of the early moves made by Team Biden have been the right ones, like getting though a $1.9 trillion stimulus relief package. The majority of the American people supported that bill, and yet not a single Republican lawmaker—in either the Senate or the House—voted in favor of it. The GOP can’t very well attack Biden on that front. It’ll blow up in their faces. So they’ve settled on immigration as the issue they’ll use to try to drag Biden down. Case in point: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy leads a delegation of Republicans to the border Monday.
That’s what some of the current fearmongering over the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border—about half of it—is all about. The other half is made up of good ol’ fashioned nativism and racism. That’s one reason why Republicans act like the prospect of what could turn out to be 100,000 would-be refugees from Central America mostly women and children (only one in four of whom will be allowed to stay, in all likelihood) is the end of Western civilization as we know it.
The whole argument is absurd. The same nation that was, nearly 250 years ago, born of revolution against what was then the world’s greatest colonial power, survived its own bloody Civil War, helped win two world wars, won the Cold War, and bounced back from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, is now going to be brought to her knees by 25,000 women and children fleeing violence and chaos?
The chaos on the border should have a familiar feel to it. Tens of thousands of would-be refugees from Central America showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014 during the Obama administration. Thousands more came in 2019, during the Trump administration, which wasn’t exactly welcoming of anyone who didn’t come from Norway.
Here we are again. And the same Republicans who were quiet and subdued when former President Donald Trump confronted this same problem now can’t stop talking about this being a “crisis.”
It all points to the fact that political expediency is the chief motivation for the scare tactics and macho chest stumping.
Triggered by the caravan, conservatives—both in elective office and in the media—have cranked up the crazy. Consider the following:
In a recent statement, former President Trump blasted President Biden's handling of the border crisis which, according to Trump, puts America at the end of days. Trump said: “Our country is being destroyed at the Southern border, a terrible thing to see!”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the U.S.-Mexico border has become a “great way for terrorists to come into our country” and that the current influx of migrants is “going to be a national security crisis, because they’re children today but they could easily be terrorists tomorrow.”
Hannity in turn told his audience that the situation at the border was caused by Biden and Democrats. “Their policies are causing this terrible situation at the border,” Hannity said. “Biden vowed to give amnesty to millions, vowed to expand asylum visas, halted all border wall construction, losing American jobs.”
During an appearance on Newsmax TV’s Chris Salcedo Show, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) reached for the familiar GOP talking point that all immigrants are criminals. “If you were deported under Donald Trump, Joe Biden says, ‘Come on back.’ That’s true even if you’re a murderer, even if you’re a rapist, even if you’re a child molester, even if you have killed people as a drunk driver.”
Radio host Hugh Hewitt told his audience last week that Democrats actually support illegal immigration as a means of importing future Democratic voters. “Joe Biden and his team want illegal immigration. They do not want it to stop. They want it to continue. And that is because they are making a calculation. Democrats do not want to close the border. It’s a long game.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently declared that the U.S.-Mexico border is in a crisis, and he said it all started because Biden cares more about people in other countries than he does the folks in this one. “He does not care about Americans,” Abbott said about the president. "He cares more about people who are not from this country.”
Finally, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has suggested that Democrats want open borders. During an appearance on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, Cotton said: “This is the Biden border crisis. Now, Joe Biden and the Democrats may not think it's a border crisis, because they don't believe in borders. So they, by definition, don't think there can be a crisis at the border, but the American people know that we have a crisis there.”
These tantrums are sad and predictable. Republicans can’t sink Biden on COVID or the economy, so they reach for immigration, which is already perhaps the second most divisive public issue in America after race and which has paid off for them in the past. See: Trump.
The message is clear: Alert! Scary, dark-skinned, Spanish-speaking foreigners at the U.S.-Mexico border, bringing crime, disease and national security threats. Only Republicans can save the Republic.
In truth, when it comes to U.S. immigration policy on the U.S.-Mexico border, the Biden administration is making some wise moves.
It’s not perfect, of course. There are still too many young people—especially teenagers—being incarcerated in primitive holding cells at the border for much longer periods of time that the law allows.
But Team Biden is showing that it is capable of thinking outside the box in tackling this difficult problem. And that’s a good thing.
In a recent example, the administration is now planning to deploy the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the U.S-Mexico border to help care for thousands of unaccompanied migrant teens and children who packed into detention facilities and tent shelters.
Republicans should be delighted. They keep calling this a “crisis.” FEMA is on the way. Isn’t that what should happen in a crisis?
Unless what the right wing really cares about isn’t what happens to these poor people who have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border but rather what happens in the next election.