Illegal immigrants are the perfect Republican foe. They’re easily exploited as low-cost workers benefiting business and easily maligned for being “lawless” benefiting politicians. They’re a foreign other with a tendency not to speak English so suspicion is ready-made. Plus how are illegal immigrants going to stick up for themselves? They’re not. They’re an ideal rival!
Republicans get to be morally superior. “We’re a nation of laws,” they regurgitate. Unless you’re the company hiring all the cheap labor with little ability to redress grievances, then we’re a nation of turning a blind eye and enjoying the cheap goods and services.
According to Republican politicians, these hordes come over here when the economy is good and take our jobs, and when the economy is bad, they bring in drugs. Sometimes they’re terrorists. Sometimes they’re disease hosts. Whatever evil that comes up in the news cycle, undocumented immigrants can play the role. They’re great for the GOP. Illegal immigrants are the GOP’s bestest fremeny.
America gets to have its own shadow third-world country of workers who can never unionize, fight back or demand a raise. And conservatives get to pretend to combat an amoral swath. It’s a pretty sweet arrangement for Republicans.
So what is the GOP’s sincere (snicker) heartfelt (cackle) solution (eye roll) to this alleged problem? Secure the border. “Under my plan, national and border security will move as the first element of any reform and would require annual votes of Congress to establish that the border is truly secure. No other reform can go forward until this happens,” writes Rand Paul with a “plan” seemingly lifted from every other Republican lawmaker in the nation.
The party stopped feigning fiscal hawkishness somewhere between putting the Iraq War on a credit card while doling out tax cuts. In the past we raised taxes for war—a practice apparently too passé for the new Grand Old Party. Tax and spend? Pshaw. Cut and spend! Woo!
And our border is a pricy red herring. “According to the Migration Policy Institute, a think-tank, border enforcement costs $18 billion a year, more than all other federal criminal-law-enforcement agencies combined,” writes The Economist.
We went from having 4,000 agents at our border with Mexico in 1993 to having 20,000 today with hopes of providing more if the House ever passes any bills. Small government? Try small army.
Then there’s the $2.3 billion boondoggle on our southern border known as the Great Wall of America. Does a fence lock up the border? No. Does a fence keep people from coming in? Evidence suggests not.
Maybe we’re not trying hard enough. Why not a dome? Have we even considered a dome? How about we can’t have immigration reform until there’s a dome. Why are you against a dome? Don’t you care about national security? Dome now—dome forever! Hurry up and build the dang dome!
Why are GOP lawmakers’ hair on fire over all the alleged tax money being spent on undocumented Americans’ public education, health care and other municipal services but not on the copious amount being flushed away on border security?
Why? Because we’re a nation of laws and secure the border. That’s why!
Truly securing the border is totally unattainable and Republicans know it. No matter how much money we throw at a fence or agents or buses, it’ll never be “secure enough” to satisfy right wing lawmakers’ migrating goalposts. Obama will never accomplish it, therefore immigration reform is something Republicans will never have to do. And, really, they don’t want to. The immigration system works best for Republicans when it’s broken. They can lament how inefficient government is while reaping the rewards of an underground labor market.
Now they have the added bonus of denouncing Obama’s executive action on the issue. Here comes the hysterics. Republicans get to act shocked and collectively recoil in horror at the idea the president they oppose would do basically the same unilateral action Reagan and Bush did. Of course, when Obama does it it’s suddenly tyrannical, unconstitutional and grounds for impeachment.
Mainly because Republicans have stopped working for the American people and just work against the American president. And immigration is just the latest example.
Photo by Jim Greenhill