Stop Ignoring the Crisis at the Border

When you've lost the Washington Post ...

By Andrew R. Arthur on March 25, 2019

On March 21, 2019, the Washington Post published an article captioned "Democrats struggle to address rising border apprehensions as they seek to counter Trump on immigration". As that piece states:

Democrats who have railed against President Trump's national emergency as a manufactured crisis are facing a political dilemma as border apprehensions have spiked and are on pace for the highest level since 2008.

Since Trump took office, congressional Democrats have sought to counter his hard-line immigration agenda by pointing to federal data that showed unauthorized crossings had, in recent years, fallen to "historic lows." But after making the fewest apprehensions in 46 years in 2017, the head of Customs and Border Protection has warned that a recent surge of Central American families has left the agency at its "breaking point."

Respectfully, the Washington Post's acknowledgement of these facts will just make the Democrats' job all the harder.

As NPR noted in its obituary of Walter Cronkite:

During a February 1968 broadcast [following the Tet offensive in Vietnam], Cronkite said, "To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."


When President Lyndon Johnson saw that newscast, he turned to his press secretary, George Christian, and famously said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost the country."

As relates to immigration, the same could be said for the Democrats' opposition to the president's request for more funding on border security and the Washington Post's own article.

Although the paper would probably deny it, the Post is a fairly reliable critic of the president, particularly, again, as it relates to immigration. Consider the following headline on the Senate's vote to reject the president's emergency declaration of a national emergency in order to begin construction of infrastructure along the border: "Senate slaps down Trump border emergency; Republicans defect". "[S]laps down?" Colorful, but tendentious. Want proof? The paper also ran the following article from AP about that vote: "The Latest: Senate votes to block Trump border declaration".

Although, true to form, the Washington Post attempts to reframe the terms of the debate. In particular, it quotes "Theresa Brown, a former CBP policy adviser who now works at the Bipartisan Policy Center", who states:

Yes, we are in a crisis situation at the border — a humanitarian crisis, a refugee crisis. What Democrats are trying to deal with is: Is this an immigration crisis? Is this about illegal immigration? Not really. ... Neither side is characterizing this accurately. But it's absolutely, 100 percent true that every part of our border management system is beyond capacity and completely overwhelmed right now.

"[A] former CBP policy adviser who now works at the Bipartisan Policy Center" seems like a reputable source. They could have added that she worked for Michael Chertoff as well, as her Bipartisan Policy Center biography indicates. Of course, the Post probably would have had to add the following:

Brown was director of immigration and border policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; associate director of business immigration advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association; and worked in the immigration practices of large Washington, D.C.-based law firms.

Maybe not the most even-handed source for an assessment of the border situation.

In any event, it is difficult to understand how an influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants entering illegally is a "humanitarian crisis" and "a refugee crisis" but not about "illegal immigration". As my former criminal procedure professor, Jonathan Turley, explained in July 2018:

It sounds like a pitch that only the most craven coyote smuggler would make: If you make it into the United States, you are lawful. Yet, that seems to be the claim by various activists and politicians as our immigration debate continues to divide to the furthest extremes.

The latest iteration came from CNN political analyst and USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers, who insisted on air that people brought by coyotes over the border are doing something perfectly legal under federal law, since most seek asylum. The greatest danger from such statements is not the risk of misleading viewers but misleading immigrants who take such statements as an accurate description of the law.

To be clear: Illegal entry for whatever purpose is a crime under section 275(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Further, neither Brown nor any of the Democrats quoted in that article explain how the security situation in the main countries from which the current flow of aliens are coming (the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA) countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) has changed in any way (let alone significantly) in the past two years, when, that article notes, fewer than half as many migrants entered illegally as are projected to enter this fiscal year.

Nonetheless, the absence of such facts does not deter Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, from describing the current situation as a "humanitarian challenge". He is correct, but not in the manner in which he likely means. As the White House stated in early March:

The smugglers who profit from our weak borders and immigration laws have subjected migrants to horrific violence and abuse. Our border officers are the ones fighting to stop them.

Secretary Nielsen testified on March 6 that law enforcement must give pregnancy tests to all migrant girls 10 years or older as a result of regular sexual assault from smugglers and others on their journey.

One-third of the women making the trek to our border become victims of rape or other forms of sexual abuse.

The humanitarian challenge that is occurring is actually happening south of the Southwest border. Loopholes that I have referenced numerous times are encouraging aliens to subject themselves and their children to such harm (assuming that they even are aware of the dangers — smugglers usually don't advertise the risks) in order to seek a better life in the United States. Congress can act to plug those loopholes today. But it likely won't, at least not until things get a lot worse.

That said, as the Washington Post makes clear, the problem at the border is getting harder and harder for Democrats to ignore. Maybe the paper has moved the ball a bit to force them to do so.