Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz was the most outrageous of all the GOP Obama bashers on the border crisis. He called President Obama’s policies “lawlessness” and virtually accused him of hatching a diabolical plan to open up the borders to any and every one who wanted to come in. Cruz’s predictable over the top anti-Obama diatribe was crude and over the top. But other GOP leaders have been just as quick to pounce on him using only a slightly more delicate phrasing. They accused Obama of creating the border crisis. They should be the last to finger point him.
In the last decade, the GOP has drum beat the issue of the U.S.’ supposedly out of control southern border with Mexico to scuttle any deal on immigration reform. And there certainly have been many attempts to put forth a deal on reform. In fact, the best moment to get a deal through on reform came nearly a decade ago when Democrats and a handful of Republicans backed a reform bill. Then President George W. Bush publicly supported the bill and urged passage. But that was only so much show. Republican senators then went to work. They dumped crippling demands in the bill for tight amnesty, citizenship and iron tight border security. Leading Republican presidential contenders that year flatly opposed the bill with the charge that it was much too soft on amnesty and border enforcement. Bush didn’t help matters. Though he urged passage, he did not actively jaw bone GOP House reps and senators to fully back the bill.
The damaging consequence for the GOP is that the party’s hard line opposition to immigration reform undid the inroads that Bush made in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections when he scored gains with Latino voters. A big part of that was due to the perception that Bush would push hard for immigration reform. The GOP instead stayed true to form to its ingrained, nativist xenophobia on what American citizenship should be about. The other centerpiece of that tunnel vision concept beyond the charade of border insecurity was the party’s opposition to a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented.
Two crushing presidential defeats, and the unrelenting hostility of Latino voters, did little to change the party’s thinking on immigration reform. In subsequent efforts to craft a bill, the GOP congressional leaders continued to pile on amendment after amendment; always the deal breaker was border security. The GOP flatly said this was the non-negotiable condition for the bill’s passage. GOP Senator Marco Rubio, who has been propped up as the GOP’s shining white knight on immigration reform, said bluntly, “The only way we’re going to pass an immigration reform law out of the House and Senate so the president can sign it is if it has real border security measures within it.” Rubio and GOP leaders knew better than that since the bill did have exactly that but it still made little difference. Unsafe secure borders were just too convenient a ploy to whipsaw Obama and the Democrats with and kill this as all other reform bills.
This is where the GOP’s hypocrisy not to mention flat out deception has risen to the heights. The U.S. spends nearly $20 billion annually on border security measures and that figure was ramped up even higher this year. That’s more spent on border security than ever before, and far more than the government spends on all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. The massive spending has paid off. Nearly every inch of the border is patrolled, around the clock, by waves of more than 20,000 border patrol agents and at least six unmanned aircraft. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security officials have publicly admitted that unarmed drones are used to patrol the Mexican and Canadian borders, as well as the Caribbean Sea, and in other law enforcement operations.
Despite the heart-breaking pictures of hundreds of children and young adults packed into border detention centers, in the past few years illegal border crossings have plunged steadily. This drop, combined with the surge in deportations which are at an all-time high, add up to an historic low in net illegal immigration into the country. The unstated downside is that with the hyper aggressiveness of border patrol and the immigration crackdown there has been a sharp rise in deaths since 2010 from the desperate efforts of undocumented immigrants to skirt the patrols, and the use of lethal force by patrol agents under dubious circumstances.
Contrary to the media and the GOP’s skilled play on and hysteria over a supposed leaky border and lax Obama administration immigration enforcement, the U.S. is not the only way stop for desperate people seeking refuge from gangs, violence, and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees notes that the numbers seeking asylum in other countries has also soared. The point is there would still be a refugee crisis with or without the alleged failings of the Obama administration on border security.
The GOP will continue to push the insecure border myth to batter Obama and the Democrats and to torpedo meaningful immigration reform. This virtually guarantees that the human tragedy of refugees at the U.S. border will continue unabated.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio.