Political Malfeasance at the Border | Opinion

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The Senate has unveiled a bipartisan immigration bill three decades in the making. Donald Trump has derailed it.

The bill contains plenty to offend both sides: It provides resources to accelerate asylum review, which has long suffered from intentional Congressional underfunding. It toughens border enforcement while supplementing the physical barrier. It increases the number of Border Patrol agents, asylum officers, detention beds and deportation flights out, to more quickly process and deport people, ending “catch-and-release.” It relaxes some work restrictions to reduce the burden on host communities. If, on any given day, migrants surge and overwhelm resources, the U.S. can close the border.

Republicans should be doing backflips. The bill presents the most enforcement-forward legislation ever passed out of either chamber. After calling the surge at the border an “invasion” for the past three years, Trump loyalists recently organized a border caravan at the border, complete with confederate flags and bathtub baptisms. After blaming immigration for threats to our national sovereignty, health and safety, reform is urgent, they say, as terrorist attacks on American soil are imminent.

Despite the hyped-up hysteria, amplified on the hour by Fox News, Republicans are killing their own success to aid Trump’s reelection efforts. Trump doesn’t want immigration solved this year because border legislation, if signed into law, could give President Joe Biden bragging rights going into the November election.

Speaker Mike Johnson, who spearheaded Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, preemptively declared that the Senate’s new immigration proposal would be “dead on arrival” in the House.

Republicans are intentionally blocking border progress

A strong majority of Americans across party lines want Congress to fix immigration. Despite ongoing public demand for comprehensive reform, Congress has failed to act for decades, largely due to elected Republicans’ shifting perceptions of political liability vs. expediency.

Senators who have invested serious time into the current effort are not happy about Trump’s latest command. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the GOP’s lead immigration negotiator, said on Fox News that Republicans who clamored for immigration reform for so long were apparently “just kidding… [they] actually don’t want a change in law because it’s a presidential election year.”

For his part, Trump wants everyone to know that he’s the puppeteer killing the deal. He brags about it at rallies. According to Trump, “A Border Deal now would be another Gift to the Radical Left Democrats. They need it politically, but don’t care about our Border...” Preserving immigration as his own campaign issue, he then posted, “If you want to have a really Secure Border, your ONLY HOPE is to vote for TRUMP2024.”

Biden, responding to shifting migration, is willing to compromise

Republicans are not wrong about a dramatic increase in border crossings, which are part of the largest recorded global movement of displaced people since World War II. Following an unprecedented spike in the number of migrant crossings, Biden embraced the bipartisan border fix, which would also unlock GOP support for Ukraine and other national security measures.

Adapting to the surge in migrants, Biden has demonstrated a strong willingness to compromise by accepting an enforcement-heavy border deal that wouldn’t have been acceptable three years ago, even though the surge is attributed to factors outside his control. People are fleeing economic collapse, political instability, wars and violence in Central America, South America, Africa, parts of Europe and the Middle East. Millions more are escaping regions rendered uninhabitable by climate change. The U.N. reports that in 2022, 84% of refugees and asylum seekers were fleeing highly climate-vulnerable countries, up from 61% in 2010.

MAGA craves another civil war

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court, to the wild displeasure of Texas governor Greg Abbot, recently affirmed the right of federal Border Patrol agents to cut razor wire Texas installed along portions of the southern border.

Claiming the Constitutional right to “defend itself” against the border “invasion,” Texas is directly challenging federal sovereignty over the U.S. border. Demonstrating his acute ignorance of American history, Trump supports Texas’ challenge.

Quoting from the 1860 South Carolina Succession Proclamation, Abbott claims the feds have “broken the compact between the United States and the States.” Not a word about Trump and Johnson’s insistence that the border remain broken to help Trump politically, or the 25 Republican governors cheering Abbott on, despite the GOP’s refusal to fix the problem.

The destabilizing potential of challenging the feds’ territorial sovereignty is as real today as it was in 1860. It’s becoming clear that MAGA would prefer to re-litigate the Civil War - or embrace fascism - rather than accept changing demographics, under which white Christians’ presumptive majority is threatened.

Meanwhile, voters outside the MAGA bubble are disturbed by the plausible candidacy of a violent insurrectionist, a fatuous authoritarian pawing at the door of the White House just to avoid the big house.

Sabrina Haake is a 25-year litigator specializing in 1st and 14th Amendment defense. Her columns appear in OutSFL, Chicago Tribune, Salon, State Affairs, Howey Politics, and RawStory. She and her wife split their time between South Florida and Chicago. Follow her on substack.


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