Immigration Texas Border

Migrants, one a child, stand in the Rio Grande behind concertina wire as they try to enter the U.S. from Mexico near the site where workers are assembling large buoys to be used as a border barrier in Eagle Pass, Texas on July 11, 2023. The floating barrier is being deployed in an effort to block migrants from entering Texas from Mexico. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Republicans said they wanted more border agents and a way for the president to shut down the border when crossings spike. They said they wanted to make it harder to qualify for asylum and easier to remove from the country people who don’t.

They said the flow of drugs and migrants over an open border were killing our citizens and altering the fabric of the nation, and it demanded a harsh, resolute and immediate action, lest we lose control of our country altogether.

Republicans got all these things from the border bill negotiated last week in the Senate — and they still said no, torpedoing their own deal under pressure from former President Trump.

Those at the top of the party don’t believe their own rhetoric around the border and immigrations. No one else should either.

The border bill itself is a mixed bag. Hiring thousands of Border Patrol agents and asylum officers would help faster process the people arriving at the border, getting at the backlog that keeps people stranded in limbo for years.

Changes to the asylum program could help the process move faster, too, allowing officers to separate legitimate claims from those that don’t fit the criteria. Such a policy would greatly benefit Maine by making sure that most people seeking asylum would ultimately get it, and that they would be able to work sooner, lifting up themselves and helping our economy in the process.


Funding is earmarked for scanners to detect fentanyl, the drug driving Maine’s deadly overdose crisis. Mostly, fentanyl is smuggled over the border not by mules through the desert but by pedestrians and vehicles through legitimate points of entry. Scanners are needed to check on entrants without disrupting the everyday movement of commerce across the border.

Shutting down the border if migrant crossings reach a certain level, as the bill would have allowed, is a harsh and inexact way to enforce our laws. It makes no distinction between those it lets in and those it kicks out, but for when they arrive.

However, the bill also provides more legal pathways to immigration — pathways that have been mostly blocked in recent years —which would have likely cut down on the bottlenecks at the border, as people find other avenues to enter.

It’s not a perfect bill. But it is a compromise that seemingly had a chance to pass the divided Congress. Republicans got the best of the negotiations, and many believe they’ll never get an immigration deal out of Democrats that is tougher.

Still, Republicans walked away, leaving the problems at the border alone in the hope that it helps re-elect Trump, who despite his harsh talk could not stop problems at the border while president.

That’s not what you do if you truly believe that the people crossing the border are “vermin” or “poisoning our blood,” as Trump has said.


That’s not what you do if you believe President Biden’s policies amount to an “open border” or an “invasion,” as Republican members of Congress say regularly.

But if you want to use the dysfunction at the border as a way to rile up your supporters, making it seem far worse that it is, that is exactly what you do. That’s what happened in 2007 and 2014, when Republicans in Congress both times scuttled deals that would have made necessary changes to the immigration system. If those pieces of legislation had passed, we’d be looking at a different situation at the border today.

But then maybe the border wouldn’t be there when they needed to scare and shock voters.

Conservative media and politicians regularly rail against the “convoys” of migrants coming north, making it seem like a foreign army or a terrorist cell is coming across the border. They misrepresent people seeking asylum as “illegal aliens,” and portray the asylum system as easy to manipulate.

Yet when they had the chance to do something about it, they passed it up — at least three times in the past 17 years.

There is no doubt the immigration system needs reform. Its deficiencies cause humanitarian problems at the border and keep the U.S. from benefitting from robust, orderly immigration.

Those deficiencies could be solved by good immigration policy, and without demonizing the people who arrive at our border.

But to Republicans, from Trump on down, demonizing is the point.

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