Crisis on the Border

If 2018 has made anything clear—apart from the fact that our politics are a dumpster fire—it’s that we have a crisis at the southern border. Whatever one thinks about Trump, he didn’t create it. He is, however, the only one who has been trying to fix it, and next week represents the last chance for Republicans in Congress to help him.

The latest chapter in the saga at the border unfolded on Sunday, when some 500 migrants overwhelmed Mexican police barricades and attempted to breach the San Ysidro, California port of entry. After failing to do so, they sought to overwhelm the fences along our border.

In a statement, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan (a career bureaucrat who also served under President Obama) reported that migrants were engaged in “active assaults, throwing dozens of projectiles at CBP law enforcement personnel.”

He went on:

As we’ve articulated for several weeks, we have been concerned about the size of the caravan, its primarily single-adult composition, and the aggressive and assaultive behavior at both the Honduras-Guatemala border and the Guatemala-Mexico border. U.S. government officials have noted the presence of criminals in the group, and the Government of Mexico has arrested over 1,000 caravan members for criminal violations in Mexico. All of those concerns were borne out and on full display yesterday in Tijuana . . .

. . . In the course of these events, individuals engaged in active assaults, throwing dozens of projectiles at CBP law enforcement personnel. Our Border Patrol agents were able to counter this activity, address the attempted group entry, and resolve the assaults with presence and less-lethal device deployments. Elements of the group then staged west of the port of entry and sought to press into the United States in the area of the Tijuana River channel. This group again became assaultive, with rocks and other projectiles thrown at our agents.

By now, you’ve probably heard that CPB dispelled the activity with tear gas. The mainstream press immediately whipped into a sanctimonious and factually inaccurate frenzy, which would have you believe that the Trump administration spontaneously and without provocation gassed a peaceful crowd of refugee women and children. (Just look at this headline from the Washington Post.)

The facts say otherwise. According to reports on the ground, these migrants are mostly men—by a factor of five. Second, many women and children were offered asylum in Mexico as well as access to United Nations refugee services, but turned those things down. They decided instead the better option would be to drag their children across razor-wire fences and provoke a confrontation with U.S. border patrol.

Whether or not this so-called caravan can successfully claim asylum is another point the media gets wrong. Even the left-leaning MSNBC reported that many of the migrants “have not articulated that need for asylum, instead, they have talked about, you know, going to the United States for a better life and to find work.”

Seeking jobs or looking to reunite with family is not grounds for asylum. Indeed, as DHS notes, less than 10 percent of those claiming asylum from the countries these migrants are from—Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—are found eligible by a federal judge.

Finally, we know that tear gas has been deployed across the border before. Frequently, in fact—including more than once a month during the later years of Barack Obama’s administration, according to Homeland Security data. It was used 26 times in fiscal year 2012, 27 times in fiscal year 2013, and deployed three times in 2016, Obama’s final year in office.

Despite my considerable skills on Google, I found minimal reporting or foaming outrage from the Left or the mainstream media regarding the more than 50 times this practice was employed during Obama’s time in the White House. Go figure.

It’s Now or Never
As the southern border wall once again devolves into crisis, it’s worth asking if this finally will be the impetus to fund President Trump’s border wall. On that point, it’s now or never.

Congress is approaching another spending deadline on December 7, where a funding bill must pass in lieu of a government shutdown.

Republicans, you may recall, promised Trump in September they would fight for his wall money after the election. Previously, Congress appropriated $1.6 billion in border security money in March—but with provisions strictly prohibiting its use on new construction, or to build any of the president’s wall prototypes.

Key questions remain. In the waning days of the GOP majority, will Republicans fold, or will they fight? Moreover, will President Trump wield his veto pen for the first time in his presidency?

Unless Congress sends Trump a bill with a workable wall and adequate border security funding, a veto may be what’s necessary. At a minimum, Congress needs to provide $5 billion in initial funding, without the strings attached in the March omnibus. Additionally, the CBP needs resources as well as judges. These are all issues Congress must address.

Republicans in Congress have spent the past two years fiddling while the border burns. They’ve outright opposed the efforts of their own president to implement more robust border security measures, and ignored the consequences.

Unless they use these remaining weeks to act, the legacy of Republican unified government, for the border, at least, will remain one of wasted time, missed opportunities, and continued unlawful chaos.

Photo Credit: Ulises Ruiz/AFP/Getty Image

About Rachel Bovard

Rachel Bovard is senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute and Senior Advisor to the Internet Accountability Project. Beginning in 2006, she served in both the House and Senate in various roles including as legislative director for Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and policy director for the Senate Steering Committee under the successive chairmanships of Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), where she advised Committee members on strategy related to floor procedure and policy matters. In the House, she worked as senior legislative assistant to Congressman Donald Manzullo (R-Il.), and Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas). She is the former director of policy services for the Heritage Foundation. Follow her on Twitter at @RachelBovard.

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