Republicans Feed Immigration Fears
Border safety is shaping up to be a major campaign issue, with some Republicans seemingly intent on arguing the Obama administration has been weak on immigration enforcement.
“I suspect Republicans will also hammer immigration, a topic that preys on economic fears and highlights an issue on which Obama has not acted enough,” Christine Todd Whitman, chair of the Republican Leadership Council and a former governor of New Jersey, wrote Sunday in the Washington Post. And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on Fox News Sunday that the government must up the ante on border enforcement if it wants to prevent the spread of drug cartel violence into the U.S.
His rhetoric on border violence, coupled with talk about beheadings in the desert from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, paints a dramatic picture for the urgency of the border safety problem. But the reality on the border is somewhat different — which Brewer was forced to admit Friday when she told the Associated Press she “misspoke” about beheadings:
“That was an error, if I said that,” the Republican told The Associated Press on Friday. “I misspoke, but you know, let me be clear, I am concerned about the border region because it continues to be reported in Mexico that there’s a lot of violence going on and we don’t want that going into Arizona.”
Drug cartel violence in Mexico is a huge problem, and money flowing to the cartels often comes from the U.S. Still, experts argue that the Obama administration is already making the right moves to prevent spillover violence: Long-term efforts should be focused on helping the Mexican government reestablish order, not keeping Mexican nationals out.
The Obama administration already stepped up its border efforts, sending National Guard troops to the border and signing a $600 million border security bill — pushed by Democrats — to increase patrols along the border. Violent crime is down in Arizona, and border residents say they feel safe. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said the next step should be comprehensive immigration reform.
The New York Times agreed in a Sunday editorial:
The border crackdown has been therapy for a nation spooked. But for solving the real problems of immigration, not so much. The terror babies are a fiction, but millions of unauthorized workers are not. At some point the economy will recover. The demand for immigrant labor will heat up, and illegal crossings will rise. Companies will go begging for legal workers. The drones and the boots and the fences will deter many new migrants, but not all. Eleven million people will still be living and working outside the law.
And the country will learn that it spent billions at the border to solve a problem a sealed border won’t fix.