In 1937, a young Cuban woman became America’s first “illegal immigrant.”
No, she wasn’t the first person to enter the country without permission (that would be Christopher Columbus). But when the New York Times wrote about Sara J. Rodriguez’s attempted suicide, she became the first person to be described as an “illegal immigrant” in an American news story.
Naturally, the bastards would start all this off by slandering a Latina.
In any case, the subsequent decades have seen terms such as “illegal immigrant,” “undocumented,” or even the “brown invasion” used to describe people who cross or crowd America’s southern border.
Or conversely, there is no crisis at all, because the supposed surge is an illusion that “fits a predictable pattern of seasonal changes in undocumented immigration, combined with a backlog of demand because of 2020’s coronavirus border closure.”
So we can’t even agree on the scope of the problem, much less come up with a viable solution.
Of course, the one thing that we can count on is the GOP’s infinite freak-out about undocumented Latinos. When Trump made “Build the wall” the catchphrase of his first presidential campaign, he was not stumbling upon some fresh idea. He was tapping into years of hatred and bigotry in the most obvious and simplistic manner—as was his habit.
The fact that very little of his wall got built, that Mexico didn’t pay a dime, and that the whole thing was a scam to rip off gullible xenophobes has not stopped Republicans from insisting that we continue the futile, idiotic endeavor to barricade the country. The GOP lusts more for its fake wall than teenage boys do for Cardi B.
But there are other ways—many, many other ways—in which conservatives have made the border their focal point, their casus belli, and their very reason for existing.
The GOP looks at the border as an eternal hellhole, “a self-perpetuating problem that only more enforcement can solve.” Republicans insist that the nation’s boundaries must be impervious, even though “there is no way to fully secure the border so nobody gets through.” Setting this impossible goal means that “when their own policies fail, they say it’s because we just didn’t try hard enough.”
It is in the best interests of the GOP to convince their supporters that the border is porous, that the nation can’t accept any more newcomers, “and that the only solution is a constant and ever-increasing militarization of the border.”
These tactics have worked since at least the 1980s, ensuring that “the framework of the immigration debate has been almost exactly the same” for all that time.
That’s multiple generations of Americans who believe, year after year, that if they don’t vote Republican, hordes of brown banditos will bust down their doors and machete their entire family. The result is that conservatives have “only tied themselves more firmly to white grievance politics and fearmongering about immigrants.”
However, it must be pointed out that the problems at the border are not solely the fault of Republicans. Indeed, one could argue that “despite having years, if not decades to get it right, Democrats have again failed in preparing to tackle the predictable issues at the border.” Furthermore, it is undeniable that “both Democrats and Republicans have historically shown apathy towards the plight of migrants of color.”
In reality, Trump is the only president in recent memory who entered office with a clear agenda regarding the border—it was insane and sociopathic, but it was clear. Every other president has apparently begun his term by looking south and mumbling, “Golly, there’s a whole continent below Texas. Who knew?”
Over and over again, “the most surprising thing about the border is that U.S. presidents keep being surprised by it.”
Still, perhaps this is no accident.
Recently, the Biden administration “secured agreements for Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to tighten their borders and stem the flow of migration.” The Latin American countries will “put more troops on their own borders,” establish checkpoints along common migratory routes, and be authorized “to disperse a large contingent of migrants.”
Keep in mind that the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border creates “a vast and booming industry for high-end technology, weapons, surveillance, and prisons.” Regardless of whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican, the same corporations make the same donations and place the same bids for the right to turn the border into a DMZ cash cow. So perhaps we are now exporting the idea of militarizing border enforcement. Maybe this is just another way of opening up a new market for the big business of pointing guns at terrified migrants.
Yes, the fabled military-industrial complex depends upon perpetual war. Similarly, the border complex depends upon perpetual crisis.
As such, perhaps we will always have a problem at the border. Because far too many people want it that way.