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Kevin McCarthy‘s Border Trip Agenda: Distract from COVID Package; Demonize Vulnerable Kids; Undermine Support for Popular Immigration Measures to be Voted on Thursday

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is leading a delegation of Republicans to the border today. The goals: to distract attention from the GOP’s failure to support the very popular American Rescue Plan; to desperately flog an uptick at the border of non-white unaccompanied minors as an existential threat to America caused by Joe Biden; and to try to peel off moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats when popular bills for Dreamers, TPS holders and farm workers come to the House floor this Thursday.  Here are two essential points to keep in mind:

“Biden’s border crisis?” Puleeze. 

Anyone reporting on McCarthy’s border delegation and this larger storyline should be required to first view this below chart compiled by Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council. He calls it: “a brief timeline of major changes at the border, showing attempts to block asylum seekers over the last eight years, to provide some context to those hysterically and very transparently shouting about a ‘Biden Border Crisis.’” The graphic captures the fact that Donald Trump and Stephen Miller presided over the start of the current uptick in arrivals at the border. In fact, under Trump, we saw the highest number of border arrivals since 1940. numbers came down when Trump forced asylum-seekers back to Mexico and then ordered the border closed as the pandemic hit. 

Let’s be clear. The Biden administration inherited a huge mess, exacerbated by Trump’s comfort with cruelty and chaos. He and Stephen Miller separated families, and only stopped when domestic and worldwide outrage forced his hand. They had originally planned to separate 25,000 kids, separated more than 5,000, and to date, some 500 remain separated from their parents. In addition, Trump cut aid to Central America, ended the program (Central American Minors Program) that let kids apply near their homes rather than taking a dangerous journey to the border, and dismantled the asylum and processing systems that were previously in place. The transition from a dismantled and chaotic mess to a functional humane and orderly system will be difficult, take time, and require follow through. We urge the Biden administration to stay on the new course they are charting.

The Republicans are more interested in spin than facts and politics than solutions. 

Even though the fact is Trump broke the system, the GOP presents his record as a success. Even though the current uptick in border apprehensions started under Trump, the GOP presents the increase as all Biden’s fault. Even though most of the nation is focused on COVID and the economy, the GOP is desperate to distract from the enormously popular American Rescue Plan that every Republican opposed. Even though the House will take up two enormously popular citizenship bills this week – to legalize Dreamers, TPS holders and farm workers – McCarthy wants to undermine support, especially from more moderate Republicans and more conservative Democrats who voted for these measures last Congress. After all, “the border is out of control” excuse has enabled the GOP to block popular legalization measures for the past 25 years.

The central issue at the border today: what do we do with vulnerable kids who have fled danger and are hoping to reunite in safety with parents or close relatives

Here are the facts: Most of those trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border are stopped and removed. We don’t like it, but that is what’s going on. The main group exempted from this are unaccompanied minors. They are fleeing life-threatening danger and brutal sexual violence in Central America. These are kids who should be protected, not deported. 

This administration, as distinct from the former one, has decided that these are children who should be admitted, processed quickly in humane facilities, and sent on to join their loved ones in America. As the Washington Post recently reported, “About 90 percent of the minors are released to relatives living in the United States, and in about half those instances, the relative is at least one of their parents.” 

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Kevin McCarthy and the Republican Party are playing politics rather than proposing solutions. They don’t want better policies, they want more power. They hope that demonizing a bunch of vulnerable kids with dark skin seeking refuge in America will excite the GOP’s white grievance base and peel off some swing voters they lost to the Democrats. 

It won’t work. Trumpism’s original sin was immigrant bashing, and in the end it turned off more voters than it turned on. Americans want action that legalizes millions of long-settled undocumented immigrant. They want an asylum and refugee process that is fair, functional and leads to freedom for those deemed eligible. And most of all, they want their elected leaders to be serious about doing big things that change people’s lives.

So, go ahead, Kevin McCarthy. Go stir the racism straw and dehumanize kids fleeing for their lives. If white power is the hill you and your colleagues choose to die on, be our guest. But don’t be surprised that the rest of us will be focused on building back better so that America works for all of us.