Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What's Worse than US Border Politics?

Have you been following the news from our border with Mexico?

Perhaps you've heard that the flow of undocumented children coming into the United States from Central America has decreased.  Perhaps you've heard that more children are now arriving with at least one parent - usually their mother - than earlier, when kids were crossing the border without any parent.

Apparently, these reports are true, even if all we have to gauge their veracity is what the media is telling us.  Our government has not been eager to participate in the information campaign regarding this humanitarian crisis, and for the most part, the media is telling us what each respective news organization's editorial board thinks we need to hear.

President Obama still has not visited the border to see the situation for himself, Texas' governor Rick Perry has mobilized the National Guard without really having been asked to do so by law enforcement agencies at the border, and social media sites have turned the whole thing into a circus.  Websites have posted everything from grotesque photos of border-jumpers who died en route, to claims that undocumented Muslims are streaming across the border with impunity, taking advantage of lax security as border control agents perform babysitting duties at detention centers.

How much of all this is true?  How much is wildly exaggerated?  We simply don't know.

According to the New York Times, President Barak Obama is having his Homeland Security apparatus expedite the deportation process for this summer's crop of illegal immigrants.  Their plan is to have our visitors from the south spend no more than ten days in detention centers before being repatriated, which is a fairly aggressive timetable, considering the months it usually takes for a conventional processing schedule.

For conservatives who are skeptical of the Obama administration, a ten-day turnaround should be good news, but there's little celebrating going on in Republican quarters.  One of the major hiccups involves an ability of these Central Americans to claim violent reprisals against them if they return to the crime-ridden neighborhoods from which they've come.  Conservatives don't want to appear blatantly calloused towards the plight of people who may have a legitimate fear for their lives in their native country.

For agents, judges, and caseworkers on the front lines of our border crisis, however, determining which immigrant is telling the truth is tricky.  After all, they've already broken the law to get here.  And violent crime in Central America is old news to American government employees who've made careers out of border enforcement.  Besides, you want to talk violent crime, ¿seƱora?  Have you been to Chicago this summer?

Meanwhile, whatever is or isn't happening down at the Mexico border, things may be about to get a lot worse.

Another reason why skeptical conservatives are holding their breath on Obama's ten-day objective involves rumors from the White House that the President is quietly formulating a plan to revoke the deportation threat for millions of illegal immigrants already living in the United States.  He likely would proffer such a scheme through executive action, and claim Congress' inability to address the immigration crisis on Capitol Hill as his justification.

Conservative media is already rife with fury over the President's previous executive actions regarding illegal immigration.  These are the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) from June of 2012, and a confusing outline of "prosecutorial discretion" in what has become known as the Morton Memos, of which the White House claimed ownership in August of 2011.

Immigration law experts from both sides of the political aisle have been sparring amongst themselves about how both the DACA and Morton Memo actions impact what's supposed to be the official policy of the United States regarding illegal immigration.  Some conservatives claim these two actions by the White House are the culprits behind this year's surge of illegals from Central America, while some liberals say that DACA and the Morton Memos are simply trying to bridge the gaps in immigration law that conservatives don't want to close for political reasons.

It's all one big mess, and of that, everybody should be able to agree.

Meanwhile, do you notice something?  Not only have the illegal immigrants become a pawn in Washington's partisan powerplays, but hardly any politician is talking about how we actually deal with the reasons why people are willing to come here illegally to begin with.

Are illegals blatantly lying to us, telling us they're in mortal danger, when in reality, they just want "a better life?"  Hey - who doesn't want a better life, right? 

Are illegals truly in mortal danger, and if they are, don't we have some sort of responsibility to help alleviate that danger for the people who remain in those countries?  Liberals complain that it's not humanitarian to repatriate this summer's crop of illegals, but what about the people who respect America's sovereignty, and have stayed in their native countries to suffer through whatever dangers exist there?  Does one's willingness to pay coyotes to enter a country illegally make their desperation heroic?  Or one's willingness to not enter a country illegally, and try to survive by one's wits?

What about the political reasons why most Central American leaders seem ambivalent at best about the problems plaguing their countries?  What about the cartels, and the demand for narcotics in the United States that has fueled the drug trade's growth throughout Central America?  Are law enforcement organizations in the United States more interested in seeing us bicker over illegal immigrants and spend tax dollars on ever-bigger police departments to combat illegal drug activity?  Who benefits from all of the problems associated with our porous border with Mexico?

Illegal immigration is a frightfully complex issue, and many American voters have neither the interest nor, frankly, the ability to process all of the factors that contribute to our border crisis.  President Obama and his unilateral executive orders fit into such a miserable scenario easily, since he can appear to be making decisions and taking action, while most Americans will either cheer his bravado or deride his meddling no matter what he does or doesn't do.  Solving problems isn't the objective anymore, but appearing to.

The problem with any executive order, of course, is that they're all temporary, effective only as long as the president who executes them is in office.  In the meantime, however, executive actions can create huge problems of their own, since they're almost always used to rebuke Congress, which is our country's law-making arm.  So while many conservatives will excoriate the President for stirring the Tex-Mex border pot, the President can blame them for putting him in such an untenable position.  And depending on the media they listen to, America's electorate will either think something's being fixed that isn't, or they'll fret over long-term consequences that likely won't exist - at least, not any longer than Friday, January 20, 2017.

It's a vicious cycle off of which both Democrats and Republicans feed, even as nothing substantive, proactive, and sustainable gets accomplished.

About the only good thing to be found in Washington's absurd antics is that even with these people we've voted into office, Central American residents would still rather live here than in their home countries.  What kind of awful things does that imply for the leaders in the countries these illegals are streaming from?

If we Americans pity ourselves for our politicians - not to mention our media, and our fellow voters - imagine the disillusionment in Central America!

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