On Christmas Eve, temperatures in Washington, D.C. plummeted to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, the lowest on record. In our neighborhood, people have been admonishing their neighbors for leaving their dogs outside for too long. “It’s 15 degrees damn!”
However, the governor of Texas still decided to throw another 130 men, women and children – some of them wearing only T-shirts – at the gate of Vice President Kamala Harris’ mansion. Three buses arrived between 8pm and 10pm, and thanks to the work of volunteers, blankets for the dazed and confused migrants were delivered to local churches. Several restaurants donated food. So immigration is fine. But without this intervention, we have to assume that the bus driver was ordered to leave them in a residential area on a cold night, wearing only light clothing, not speaking the local language and not knowing where they were.
This brings the number of immigrants that Gov. Greg Abbott has shipped to DC this year to 8,700. Another 6,520 vehicles were sent to New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.
In at least September, Gov. Ron DeSantis flew an asylum seeker plane to Martha’s Vineyard in a similar attention-seeking stunt. Two Republican governors are engaged in a merciless duel. Perhaps the next step will be to shoot the legs of would-be immigrants, as Trump demanded in 2019.
Yes, the country is being inundated with would-be immigrants, and a mature polity will address that with sensible reforms. But that’s not what the governors of Florida and Texas are asking for. They and their right-wing media advocates say that immigrants clamor to enter the United States only because of President Joe Biden’s “open borders” policy.
They repeated the mantra even as it contradicted another of their favorite topics, namely the record number of Border Patrol encounters with would-be border crossers. Customs and Border Protection reported a record 2.2 million encounters between agents and illegal border crossers in fiscal year 2022. (Many are repeat crossers.) If the borders were actually open, Border Patrol wouldn’t be arresting anyone, right? They would stand aside and wave them in.
The fact that the GOP has refrained from “opening” the borders may actually exacerbate the problem, as it spreads an impression globally that it’s worth trying to get into the US.
This is the complicated reality. It is not Biden’s fault that so many people want to come to the United States. Border conflicts have also increased significantly under the Trump administration (from 310,531 in FY 2017 to 859,501 in FY 2019—a number that temporarily declined during the COVID-19 pandemic). People want to come here because (1) so many countries around the world are hell, some of them are within walking distance; (2) it’s a place where people with a good work ethic can get ahead and enjoy their freedom; (3) Our immigration laws and regulations are confusing.
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A 1980 law allowed immigrants to apply for asylum. Unfortunately, it requires asylum seekers to be physically present in the country – hence the congestion at the border. Also, rumor has it all over the world that you can claim a fear of persecution and at least get a hearing (although 75% of claims are denied, which is probably less well known). So many have attempted to take advantage of this avenue that the current backlog stands at 1.29 million cases. Perhaps one way to deal with the hordes of people hoping to gain admission is to clarify the criteria for asylum. Another possible reform would allow people to file asylum claims at the U.S. embassy in their country.
Here’s another solution to the immigration problem – more legal immigrants welcome!
More immigration is in our national interest. Even setting aside the ever-present dynamism of immigration, we face a serious labor shortage. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell estimates that a lack of immigration is pushing up wages, adding to our inflation problems. The wait for a green card, even for those who have been fully vetted, can be extremely lengthy because of our needlessly complex laws that cap by country of origin. For example, immigrants from India and China can wait their entire working lives.
We need workers urgently. Americans are paying more for food, housing and other goods and services because of a severe labor shortage. We have a backlog of immigrants who have been vetted, asylum seekers and refugees with credible applications who would gratefully (dare I say tearfully) accept jobs and jobs in this country if we could not go our own way. Life.
But our politics are poisoned by demagogues who label immigrants “aggressors” and warn of disaster if we don’t close our borders. Contrary to the best traditions of this country, which is a haven for the persecuted and a friend of the oppressed, it sees immigrants as enemies. No – worse. Enemies will be entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit what Greg Abbott did on Christmas Eve.
Mona Charen is policy editor at The Bulwark and host of the “Beg to Differ” podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense.
© 2022 Creative Syndicate