Nativists have long warned that the border states are undergoing an invasion. They’re not lying.
But, it turns out, the invaders aren’t Mexican immigrants eager to do the dirty and dangerous jobs that Americans won’t go near at any price. Like the rest of the country, which is grappling with severe worker shortages as we come out of the COVID-19 lockdown, the biggest problem Americans have with immigrants at the moment is that we can’t get enough.
The real menace swarming Texas and Arizona right now is a wave of slimy and opportunistic Republican governors from around the country racing to jump on the anti-immigrant bandwagon. And in the process, they’re tripping over their party’s glaring contradictions, rank hypocrisy, and mixed messages about whether states should have a hand in shaping U.S. immigration policy.
Spoiler alert: They should not. In fact, the states should generally keep their mitts off immigration policy.
The Constitution agrees with me. Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have power to establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization…” Time and again, the federal courts have agreed with the principle that the federal government should run the show on immigration by striking down brazen attempts by the states to horn in.
See: California’s Proposition 187 that, in 1994, tried to get rid of illegal immigrants by denying them access to schools, hospitals, and social services. A federal judge struck down the measure as unconstitutional.
No matter. More than a half-dozen Republican governors—all of them seeing a chance to earn street cred with the base by appearing tough on immigration—have their sights set on the border.
—South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, likely to be a top contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, is preparing to deploy up to 50 National Guard troops to Texas to help secure the border. This week, Noem said she’ll send another 125 troops in the coming months.
—Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another likely presidential contender, recently said that he will deploy state and local law enforcement officers to both Texas and Arizona because “where the federal government has failed, the states are stepping up in to do our best to fill the void.”
— Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has also authorized a 90-day deployment for up to 40 National Guard troops in order to, as he puts it, “reduce the adverse impact of illegal immigration on Arkansas.”
— Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds recently authorized National Guard troops from her state to head to the border because, she said, the Hawkeye State “has no choice but to act.”
— Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is “stepping up” and deploying state troopers to the border.
— Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is also sending highway patrol officers to the border.
— And Idaho Gov. Brad Little has said his state plans to help but is evaluating its “resources” to see what it can spare.
Texans, you’re going to need a bigger state.
The governors should advise the personnel they’re sending to the Lone Star State to be careful where they step. The place is a crime scene.
On Aug. 3, 2019, Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old white nationalist from North Texas, drove 10 hours to the border city of El Paso where he allegedly shot and killed 23 people and injured 23 others.
Most of the victims were Mexican or Mexican American. No surprise there. That was the point. Crusius allegedly told the officers who arrested him that he intended to “kill as many Mexicans as possible.” He wrote in a racist manifesto that he wanted to fend off the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Today, nearly two years later, you’ll still hear Texas Republican politicians like Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick irresponsibly toss slabs of red meat to their party’s overwhelmingly white base.
“We are being invaded,” Patrick said at a press conference last month. “That term has been used in the past, but it has never been more true.”
“Homes are being invaded,” Abbott said about the same time when he announced the state would be spending an initial $250 million to construct a do-it-yourself barrier on the state’s southern border with Mexico. The governor was apparently referring to the too-close-for-comfort run-ins that property owners along the border have with immigrants crossing their land.
Sure enough. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that they encountered 180,034 migrants during the month of May. But nearly 62 percent of those migrants were turned away at the border by authorities under pandemic public health restrictions.
Some invasion that turned out to be. Amateurs.
Republicans don’t have facts on their side, so they’re peddling fear. And fear doesn’t need facts. Abbott remains convinced that his state—which, not for nothing, used to be part of Mexico until it made the mistake of being too welcoming of troublemaking migrants like Sam Houston, James Travis, and Davy Crockett—is being overrun by brown people. So much so that the Texas governor hollered out for reinforcements.
In June, Abbott and Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona sent their fellow Republican governors a two-page letter declaring that “Border states like Texas and Arizona are “ground zero” for this crisis and bear a disproportionate share of the burden” while asking for the cops and Guard members arriving now.
Abbott and Ducey also claimed in the letter that the Biden administration had proven “unwilling or unable” to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and instead laid the groundwork for an “open-border disaster.”
I call bullshit. In the course of writing about immigration over the last 30 years, I lived in both Arizona and Texas. Let me tell you what I saw at the revolution: a whole lot of employers who made a bunch of money by hiring illegal immigrants. Some of those immigrants, we can assume, have relatives who now want to join them in the United States.
If Texas and Arizona have become popular destinations for undocumented travelers, they have only themselves to blame. If Abbott and Ducey want to go all Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, I suggest they round up the scoundrels responsible for hiring so many immigrants over the last couple decades: the employers who keep the economies of Texas and Arizona humming along.
If Texas and Arizona are indeed behind the eight ball in the current immigration crisis, it wasn’t geography that put them there. It was greed.
And now a lot of what’s driving Republican governors to set their sights on the U.S.-Mexico border is greed’s first cousin: ambition.
Securing the border is now, has always been, and will always be the responsibility of the federal government. It doesn’t take a village of idiots.