We keep glancing southward.
This time it is to the border crossing at Tijuana.
Nearly a month ago, we were chagrined to see U.S. troops, including soldiers from Colorado, dispatched to the southern border to confront caravans of Central American migrants. We suspected this was a political ploy. After the midterm elections, the Defense Department announced that at least some of the soldiers were being withdrawn, although the caravans still had not arrived.
Of course, there were other Central American asylum-seekers at Tijuana and elsewhere along the border. So we were even more chagrined to see what the world saw last Sunday, when some of the migrants rushed a fence at a temporarily closed entry point and were met with teargas.
Sadly, this was not for the first time. It was done multiple times in 2013, as well.
There has to be a better way. The asylum-seekers will recover, but can we say the same about American prestige?
It is obvious that the migrants, fleeing appalling conditions in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, still believe they will be better off in the U.S. They still believe we can offer them the prospect of better lives, or simply safety. Yet the images of them gassed at our border make us look not just callous but foolish and weak.
No matter where we stand on immigration, whether we think there should be fewer or more immigrants or whether they should come based on need or merit – this country cannot assault asylum-seekers.
Five years ago, the U.S. Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform with a bipartisan, 68-vote majority.
It would have prescribed pathways for refugees and asylum-seekers. President Barack Obama said he would have signed it, but that is not what happened.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner never let it come up for a House vote. In retrospect, that set the stage for President Donald Trump’s candidacy, which he first fashioned as someone who would keep those “bad people” to the south from entering or remaining here.
We assume you know that they are not all bad people – and that to generalize this way is the foundation of bigotry. Whole classes of people do not come in types or flavors.
Enforcing the laws and even fortifying the border is not really a partisan issue. Neither is immigration reform.
But we have let them become partisan.
Obama, in his 2013 State of the Union address, said, “Leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
“Real reform means strong border security.” And establishing pathways to citizenship, he said, including learning English and “going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.”
“As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill,” he continued. “Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months and I will sign it right away.”
We know what happened next.
“Democrats are just mad now because Trump is doing what they failed at,” said one commenter, seeing that clip of Obama.
This is as wrong as wrong can be. We are still failing, and people of good conscience are alarmed – because Trump is capitalizing on our failure, to fix immigration. He has found our weakness, and no one on either side of the border will be safer for it.