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As GOP Inflames Border Debate, Cooler Heads Are Getting It Right

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Fresh off their blanket opposition to the wildly popular American Rescue Plan that promises to put checks in pockets, vaccinations in arms, people back to work and kids back in school, the GOP is desperate to change the subject. When Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head ran out of gas, they started howling about a “border crisis” that’s not. 

Fortunately, some journalists and commentators are going beyond the narrative pushed by Fox, Stephen Miller and Republican members in Congress to look at what is really going on, who is moving across the border and why, and how, if at all, it’s affecting border communities.

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post breaks down how some in the media are missing the recent history and essential context for the story in, The latest GOP attack on Biden has a huge hole in it.” 

Republicans are benefiting from a media debate that has gone off the rails. There’s a huge hole in this GOP attack, but it’s rarely described clearly in news reports and commentary. You can read endless headlines warning of a “crisis.” But even if that’s so, a crisis relative to what, exactly?

What’s missing is a serious comparison with the pre-Biden status quo. It’s as if the current situation exists in a vacuum: Before there was no crisis, and now there’s a crisis. That’s absurd. The situation under former president Donald Trump was substantially worse from a humanitarian and a pragmatic governing perspective: worse for the migrants, worse for the rule of law and worse for our country.

…Trump’s “solutions” were designed to prevent people from applying for asylum at all. His “Remain in Mexico” policy — which forced thousands back into Mexico to await hearings — was the centerpiece of this. But that was a humanitarian catastrophe. Many were exposed to violence and even kidnapping, or stranded in horrific refugee camp conditions for months.

…That was only a “solution” if you believe cruelty and fear should be used to deter people from applying for asylum. That’s the real Republican position: that those are legitimate tools to ensure that as few people apply and qualify for asylum as possible.

…Yes, these problems are hard to solve. But that’s the point: What’s hard is actually trying to solve them. Calling this a “crisis” outside that context is absurd…

Mireya Villarreal went to the border for a segment on CBS This Morning focused on the kids coming across the border. 

Local law enforcement officer Ruben Salinas: “I actually, myself, have found 5 year olds by themselves in the brush, all by themselves.

Mireya Villareal: How does that sit with you?

Salinas: That’s pretty rough. I have a six year old and I wouldn’t want him out here himself. It’s heartbreaking.

Mireya Villareal: Then, in the dark, Salinas [and partner] find a large group filled with children…The constables keep them on the main trail pushing them toward a border patrol staging area about a mile away…we walk with [a young boy] from Honduras. [In Spanish] Villareal asks, “Why aren’t you scared?”

10 year old boy [in Spanish]: God is watching over me. That’s why I’m not scared.

Gayle King in studio: Boy, Mireya it’s heartbreaking to see that in real time. Parents don’t let their children come unless they’re extremely desperate.

Arelis Hernandez in the Washington Post,Migrants are not overrunning U.S. border towns, despite the political rhetoric:”

The way many Republicans describe it, President Biden has thrown open the border between Mexico and the United States so that anyone who wants to come into the country can do so, illegally or legally.

Former president Donald Trump accused Biden of “recklessly eliminating our border, security measures, controls, all of the things.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) says Biden has rushed to implement “open border policies.” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) says the new president “sent a message around South and Central America that our border is open.”

But many of those who live along the border in Texas say that while there has been a dramatic increase in the number of migrants caught crossing illegally, the border itself has been heavily restricted for nearly a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

…“But for all the agendas, we still haven’t been able to solve this problem,” the Democrat said. “How can we tell the rest of America to wake up and tell your congressional people that what we want — no, need, is comprehensive immigration reform.”

…While a majority along the border vote Democratic, a consistent and growing number of residents have shown a willingness to elect Republicans who speak to their particular concerns.

One thing is clear, however, attorney Ricardo de Anda said: “Support for comprehensive immigration reform has been very high along the border for a long, long time.”

…Along the border, faith organizations, local emergency managers and immigration advocates say they have learned from previous surges how best to coordinate. They are preparing to receive flights and buses full of asylum seekers, mostly recently released families with small children, to ease capacity problems that critics say Department of Homeland Security officials should have anticipated.

Coronavirus restrictions have put capacity limits on shelters run by community organizations on the U.S. side of the border, but the numbers so far are not at 2019 levels, said Pastor Michael Smith of the Holding Institute in Laredo. Shelters and temporary detention facilities operated by U.S. Health and Human Services contractors, however, are at or over capacity.