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Border chaos reigns — in Washington — as bipartisan deal is blocked by Trump

Sunday, February 11, 2024

How serious is the chaos at our southern border?

Charles Eugene “Chip” Roy, the excitable Republican who represents a congressional district west of Austin, will tell you: “It is a purposeful effort to deluge our society and to undermine our way of life, to destroy western civilization,” he proclaimed a few days ago. Roy blamed “Democrats in power” for wreaking havoc on western civilization.

How serious is the chaos at our southern border?

House Speaker Mike Johnson will tell you: It’s so serious that Congress — even while facing civilization’s demise — should wait another year or so before solving the problem. Never mind that U.S. Senate Republicans are working with Democrats on a plan they were touting just a few days ago as the toughest, most conservative immigration- reform plan anyone has seen in years. If the bill reaches his desk, President Joe Biden has vowed to sign it and “shut down the border.”

Now, even if bipartisan legislation squeaks through in the Senate, it’s a nogo in the House, because former President Donald Trump has demanded that Johnson ignore it. A border deal might help Biden, you know. The deceptively mild-mannered Louisiana Republican, anticipating a triumphant Trump restoration in November, listens to his master’s voice. And obeys.

Oh, and we almost forgot. While the Senate at least goes through the motions of crafting a border-security package, the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday approved articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Republican committee members insist on impeaching the man for nothing more than carrying out the policies of the president who appointed him.

Their vote mocks the seriousness of the impeachment process as laid out in the Constitution, and, if the full House votes next week to impeach, the absurd crusade will almost certainly die in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Michael Chertoff, former Homeland Security secretary under President George W. Bush, put it this way, writing in the Wall Street Journal: “I don’t agree with every policy decision the Biden administration has made. There are aspects of immigration strategy that are worthy of debate. But House Republicans are ducking difficult policy work and hard-fought compromise. Impeachment is a diversion from fixing our broken immigration laws and giving DHS the resources needed to secure the border.”

Chertoff has been a serious public servant. Impeachment- hungry House Republicans are not, even though we really do have a border problem on our hands. The number of people crossing into this country is more than double what it was during the Trump administration. Most people encountered at the border are removed, returned or expelled, but millions await immigration hearings while in the U.S. The asylum system is broken. Avenues for legal immigration are unwieldy and overwhelmed.

In Texas, meanwhile, a latter-day George Wallace of sorts blocks the schoolhouse door. Despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing U.S. Border Patrol agents to remove a stretch of razor wire along the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass, Gov. Greg Abbott has refused to allow the federal government to do so. Twenty-five Republican governors are supporting Abbott (as does Roy, of course), while fringe militia groups, heartened by Abbott’s obstinance, are headed to Eagle Pass spoiling for a fight.

Abbott, a former attorney general, Texas Supreme Court justice and member of what was once the nation’s self-proclaimed party of law-and-order, said in a statement last week that Biden has “ignored Texas’s demand that he perform his constitutional duties” and that Texas has declared an invasion, thereby invoking “Texas’ constitutional authority to defend and protect itself.”

“That authority is the supreme law of the land,” he said, “and supersedes any federal statutes to the contrary. The Texas National Guard, the Texas Department of Public Safety and other Texas personnel are acting on that authority, as well as state law, to secure the Texas border.”

For Americans of a certain age, Abbott’s defiance has a familiar ring. It brings to mind Alabama’s “segregation forever” governor, George Wallace, who in 1963 barred African-American students Vivian Malone and James Hood from registering at the University of Alabama. In response to his schoolhouse-door defiance, President John F. Kennedy ignored the advice of every one of his aides (except brother Bobby) and issued an executive order federalizing the Alabama National Guard. Gen. Henry Graham of the Alabama National Guard told Wallace, “Sir, it is my sad duty to ask you to step aside under the orders of the president of the United States.” Wallace stepped aside.

Six years earlier, Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus had ordered the National Guard to block nine Black students from enrolling in previously all-white Central High School in Little Rock, thus defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s monumental Brown decision three years earlier. A Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, responded by federalizing the entire Arkansas National Guard, Army and Air, and by sending riot-trained units from the 101st Airborne Division to escort the students into their new school. Both Eisenhower and Kennedy relied on the Insurrection Act of 1807 as justification.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, has urged Biden to take similar action. “Gov. Greg Abbott is using the Texas National Guard to obstruct and create chaos at the border,” Castro posted on X. “If Abbott is defying yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, @POTUS needs to establish sole federal control of the Texas National Guard now.”

The president could do just as the congressman suggests, but the blowback would be fierce.

“That would be the biggest political blunder he could make,” Abbott said on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show.

Like Wallace, a four-time presidential candidate, the Texas governor craves national recognition and would relish having Biden inadvertently help him. In addition, University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck, writing in the New York Times, suggests that such a move “would be legally dubious on its own.”

In Castro’s X post, there’s that word again: Chaos. Chaos in Washington that rivals anything at the border. How else to describe Republican border positions?

Cynicism also comes to mind. Thanks to a pairing of border-security legislation with military aid to a desperate European nation facing a “border crisis” that is nothing short of existential, it’s cynicism combined with heartless political calculation. Republican recalcitrance — and Trump’s history of fanboy fawning over Vladimir Putin — means that the brave people of Ukraine are being left to Russia’s ravaging wolves.

What’s frustrating about the chaos, cynicism and political calculation emanating from Washington is that Congress alone has the power to address the problem, if not fix it. But Congress refuses to do so. It has refused for decades.

Before western civilization gets destroyed, we might note that in Greek mythology, Chaos (or Khaos) is one of the primordial gods, ruling over a “chasm” or “void impossible to measure.” The word came to mean “confusion” centuries later. Lucky us. On our southern border and in Congress, we have all three — a chasm, a void, and utter confusion.

Law professor Vladeck suggests at least one path toward clarification. Biden, he writes, “would be well advised to give a public address identifying facts and fiction about the administration’s immigration policies, especially as they compare with those of his predecessors. The goal is not a publicity stunt but rather an honest effort to identify what the current challenges are, how they align with (and differ from) the challenges of the past and what he’d like to do to meet them.”

Here’s an even more fundamental path: According to Greek myth, it took a lightning bolt from Zeus to rein in Chaos. Since neither Biden nor Trump are lightning- bolt hurlers and since Republicans in Congress have no intention of solving our border confusion, it will likely take the American people to assume Zeusian powers. As election season arrives, we urge voters to reject nativist ideologues and Trumpian cultists in favor of sensible, conscientious public servants, whatever the party. Casting well-aimed bolts — er, ballots — We The People have the power to bring order out of the current border chaos.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666