May 23, 2023 - 9:00 pm
With a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, what the hell are Republicans good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again.
There’s much to say about how unhelpful and uncreative the party of Donald Trump can be in helping clean up a mess it had a hand in creating. Whether they control the White House or Congress or neither, Republicans see immigration as the Democrats’ problem.
That story needs telling, and we’ll get there.
First, a word about this crisis. Appearances can be deceiving — especially on the border. It’s true that, in the days since the Biden administration stopped using Title 42 as a pretext to bar migrants and refugees from crossing into the United States, the numbers of border crossings have gone down, not up.
Team Biden wants Americans to think that this is because the White House has implemented tough restrictions (that it copied from the Trump administration) on how migrants can apply for asylum and ramped up deportations at the border.
The real reason is human nature. The thousands of migrants who have traveled more than 3,000 miles from Venezuela to the U.S.-Mexico border don’t want to do anything that results in being apprehended and deported back home. So they’re waiting on the other side of the line until they decide their next move.
We still have a border problem. It’s just that the migrants — who are probably not going home voluntarily — have hit pause.
Americans would be smart to use the respite to sort out our contradictions and think about our weird need-fear relationship with migrants (i.e., we need their labor, we fear their presence). Or consider whether we’re prepared to scrap America’s tradition of being a place where the huddled masses have a shot at asylum. Or accept the fact that both parties have, over the decades, manipulated the immigration issue to serve their interests and made things worse.
Both parties are incompetent, but only one is insufferable. When U.S. immigration policy goes off the rails, the GOP becomes a sanctimonious bunch — and a dishonest one at that. Republicans portray themselves as innocent bystanders and Democrats as the chief culprits in making the U.S.-Mexico border less secure.
It’s inspiring to see conservatives — many of whom downplayed the lawbreaking that fueled the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and didn’t flinch when Trump issued 143 pardons to scofflaws during four years in office — rediscovering their passion for the rule of law.
On a recent episode of his podcast, right-winger Victor Davis Hanson discussed the border crisis with contempt and condescension.
Declaring himself morally superior to migrants crossing the border, Hanson self-righteously claimed, “I don’t think I would deliberately break the law when I knew that people did not want me to come.”
Listening to conservatives talk about immigration, you would think that the Republican Party was the only institution in America that cares about the integrity of our borders.
Please. If Republicans had any integrity of their own, they would confess to the many ways they have contributed to the border crisis and admit that they get a lot wrong about immigration.
Never mind. I got this. Consistent with one of the themes of the immigration story, Mexican immigrants — or, in this case, the Mexican American descendant of one — do tasks that Americans won’t do.
It was a Republican president, Trump, who created a pressure cooker on the border by contracting with the Mexican government to have our neighbor serve as a giant temporary storage unit for tens of thousands of migrants from places like Honduras, Haiti and Colombia. That policy was convenient but not sustainable, and President Joe Biden had to end it. When he did, well, you know what happened next.
It is Republicans in Congress who have, for decades, discreetly removed from legislation promising comprehensive immigration reform and any mention of economic sanctions on employers who hire undocumented immigrants in violation of the law. Conservatives never talk about the demand side of the equation or accept this simple truth about immigrants: If we stop hiring, they’ll stop coming.
And it is Republicans who spout or tolerate incendiary, racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric that fires up the citizenry, terrifies politicians and makes solutions more elusive. A good start would be for them to stop using the term “invasion.” They should ask President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine about the proper use of the word. He’s seen the real thing up close.
Republicans preach people taking responsibility for their actions, decisions and mistakes.
You first, folks.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.