Republicans complain that the left throws around the word “racist” so much that it has lost its meaning.
They’re right. As a result, when we’re confronted by actual racism, it’s hard to get folks worked up.
The same goes for security along the U.S.-Mexico border, which I’ve written about from the Southwest for more than 30 years.
Republicans always chase shadows on the border. They sound like a broken record. Whether the number of migrants crossing the border was a flood or a trickle—the song is the same.
Those on the right throw around the word “invasion” so much that it has lost its meaning. To them, it means anytime a migrant steps across the line without permission to enter the United States.
By that definition, our country has been in a constant state of “invasion” since 1848 when it stole half of Mexico at the barrel of a gun and converted the seized territory into eight U.S. states.
Mexicans have come to the United States ever since. Sometimes, they came with the intention of staying. Other times, they came to work for a few years before returning to Mexico.
In California, those with green cards commute daily across the border to work in border communities like Calexico for $100 per day. That’s about ten times what they could earn for a day’s work in Mexico. Who wouldn’t take that deal?
The reality is that people are always crossing the U.S.-Mexico border—in both directions.
And so, when there is actual chaos on the border, it’s hard for a lot of people to take it seriously.
Well folks, it’s time to take it seriously. This Christmas season, the border is enveloped in chaos.
Ground zero is the 1,254 miles of border that Texas shares with Mexico. Look at a map. For a migrant trekking north from Central America or South America, Texas is the first border state they’re going to come to—before New Mexico, Arizona, or California.
Besides, there are jobs aplenty in Texas. The state’s economy is strong. That’s because it was in large part built by the sweat and hard work of immigrants—both legal and illegal. For generations, Texans have hired immigrants to do their chores for them.
For the last decade, since 2012, the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas has been severely impacted by border crossings. But in the last few months, migrants have been willing to travel further to border crossing stations in West Texas cities like El Paso.
Last weekend was especially chaotic. The actual numbers are all over the place, but they have one thing in common: They’re huge.
According to the Texas Tribune, U.S. immigration officials released as many as 1,744 migrants into El Paso. On Sunday night, more than 1,500 migrants crossed into the city from Ciudad Juarez. As of Sunday, according to a tally maintained by the city, more than 5,100 migrants were being held at the Border Patrol Central Processing Center. City officials claim that at least 611 migrants were released by Border Patrol agents onto the streets of downtown El Paso, because all the shelters in the area were full.
Over the last week, immigration officials have encountered almost 15,000 migrants—the highest weekly total of the year thus far.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, there were—in 2022—as many as 2.3 million “encounters” with migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border. That’s up from 1.7 million last year.
On Sunday, according to CBS News, there were at least 2,400 encounters between migrants and Border Patrol agents. Every month, there are about 230,000 such encounters. And, authorities fear, we haven’t seen anything yet. By January, there may be as many as 500,000 per month.
Doomsday is Wednesday, Dec. 21. That’s when Title 42 is supposed to get eighty-sixed. A provision of U.S. code created by the Public Health Service Act of 1944 to prevent the spread of disease by keeping out foreigners, Title 42 was used by both former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden to maintain order on the border. Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered its termination by Dec. 21.
The White House is terrified of being accused of creating an “open border.” On the eve of an election year, Biden dreads images on the evening news of migrants—what poet Emma Lazarus called “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”—streaming into the United States.
Despite the misinformation on Fox News, the Southwest isn’t being “invaded.” An actual invasion is what the United States did to Mexico in the 1840s. It’s what Russia did to Ukraine earlier this year.
At the El Paso border crossing, hundreds—perhaps thousands—of people are waiting in line to turn themselves into U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Seeking asylum, they aren’t even trying to elude the authorities. As criminals go, these people are amateurs.
Words matter, and so I reject the word “invasion.” Still, although I have been slow to acknowledge it, there is a legitimate crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. And it’s not just about the end of Title 42.
It’s the height of arrogance to believe that millions of people around the globe make the heart-wrenching decision to move to another country because of a policy by the U.S. government.
Did Ukrainian and Russian refugees find their way to the U.S.-Mexico border because of the pending demise of Title 42?
The truth is that there are countless storms occurring all over the world that send people looking for shelter.
And guess what? One of the first places they look has always been the United States. That’s not a problem, a burden or a curse. It’s one of the reasons that our country exists in the first place.
A nation of more than 330 million people can absorb more than the 1 million legal immigrants we take in every year. And we’ll survive hundreds of thousands of people asking for asylum, especially given that only 1 in 4 of them is likely to get it.
Our bigger worry is that Americans can’t talk honestly about immigrants or refugees. Immigrants—including the undocumented—built the United States, and they still benefit this country in countless ways. Millions of Americans have a better quality of life because of the labor of “the wretched refuse” that other countries scare off or toss aside or give up on.
Americans can’t afford to give up. We need to calm down. If our tradition of welcoming the stranger changes, and the soul of America withers due to nativism, then it’ll be time to panic.