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Nikki Haley’s Campaign Photo Op Message: Close the Border. Seriously

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Former South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley was at the southern border on Monday to carry out a slew of theatrics as part of her 2024 presidential campaign, including a photo op at the Eagle Pass International Bridge in Texas. While the former U.N. Ambassador under the Trump administration has tried to portray herself a new kind of Republican, her plans rehash many of the usual GOP talking points, including a call to continue the failed and inhumane Title 42 and Remain in Mexico policies.

The self-promotion was not lacking over on social media, where one tweet sent out from Haley’s account appeared to call for a complete border shutdown. “Close the border,” the tweet read. “It’s not rocket science.” But not only is Haley calling for the physically impossible, similar attempts by Republicans have resulted in both fiscal and public relations disasters. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott should know.

It was just last year that Abbott implemented a stunt forcing commercial vehicles to undergo redundant secondary inspections at ports of entry. It was a purely retaliatory tool against the Biden administration for its attempts to unwind Title 42, and forced vehicles that had already been federally inspected to go through another round of unnecessary checks by state officials.The results? Massive headaches for truckers stuck in gridlocks for as long as 30 hours and costs of more than $4.2 billion and the equivalent of 36,000 jobs, according to one state economist. Meanwhile, not one of Abbott’s redundant inspections resulted in a drug seizure or human trafficking arrest. Not one. Facing blowback from Mexican officials, U.S. business groups, U.S. border officials, the White House, and even his own party, Abbott backed down within a matter of days.

But the fallout over his wasteful inspections continued even after he put an end to the operation, when Mexico decided to reroute a railway that was originally set to travel through Laredo. Following the stunt, Mexican officials decided to have the corridor run through New Mexico instead. “In a Fox Business interview, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) described Abbott’s strategy as ‘genius,’” The Washington Post reported last June. That was the kiss of death.

Rather than providing answers to the complex issue of immigration policy, Haley’s plans would just create more questions. The border isn’t just with Mexico, it’s also with Canada. We’re talking about thousands and thousands of miles of border. Does she want to close off traffic to our two largest trading partners? Does she want to hurt the every day people who travel back and forth for business, school, and leisure? Does she want to close the airports where immigrants, travelers, refugees and asylum seekers arrive? Does she really want to close off the U.S. when many business leaders say immigrants are key to filling labor shortages all over the nation? Recall how Georgia’s anti-immigrant crackdown more than a decade ago left crops rotting in the fields.

Rep. Hank Johnson, a leading House Democrat from Georgia, this week slammed these kinds of theatrics, ribbing Republicans for wearing bulletproof vests “as if their lives were in danger” while touring the border for the cameras.

“They have absolutely no solutions other than build a wall,” Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And we know that that does not work. And it doesn’t work to keep people out, nor does it work for our economy, nor does it work for our security. Unfortunately, that’s the only agenda my friends on the Republican side of the aisle have.”

Haley during her border visit this week was accompanied by Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales, who in recent weeks described an anti-asylum bill introduced by extremist and fellow Republican Texas Rep. Chip Roy as “not Christian” and “very anti-American.” The bill would gut the U.S. asylum system and block even unaccompanied migrant children from seeking relief. Roy’s bill, Gonzales later continued on, has “0% chance of getting signed into law.” But Haley’s plans don’t seem all that realistic either. Does Gonzales support her plans? How about Abbott, Ted Cruz, and John Cornyn? Do they want more of the complete disaster that Texas experienced, but this time on a national scale?

Back in 2016, Haley was chosen to deliver the Republican response to then-President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. Haley in that address “called on the country to resist ‘the siren call of the angriest voices’ in how we welcome and treat immigrants,” America’s Voice noted at the time. But she was a part of the Trump administration when it was forcibly separating children with no plan in place to return them to their parents. Then during a rally in support of failed GOP candidate Herschel Walker last year, Haley urged the deportation of U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, who was born in the U.S. The more she tries to convince us she’s different, the more we see that she’s just more of the same.