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Late last year, while the caravan was still making headlines, my mother and I watched as a Mexican journalist interviewed a Latin American migrant. When asked why she was headed to the United States, she replied matter-of-factly, “Porque necesito pañales.” That is, “because I need diapers.”
At a time when America has been mistaken for the world’s diaper-changing station, two crises hit a crescendo—one on the border and the other in the heartland.
Though the liberal media deny our porous border has triggered a “national emergency,” the situation has become so untenable that even the New York Times can no longer avoid the fact that we have reached a “breaking point.” Just in the month of February, an estimated 76,000 illegal aliens were apprehended at the southern border. It gets worse.
Steven Kopits of the Princeton Policy Advisors notes that “apprehension numbers could rise substantially heading into the summer months as migrants rush to cross the border before new legislation can be prepared.” If only new legislation would be prepared.
None of this should come as a surprise.
Liberals on our side of the border have made it abundantly clear that foreign nationals who make it to the United States will be bestowed with taxpayer-funded benefits. Why else would California Governor Gavin Newsom make universal health care for illegal aliens a plank in his platform?
Yet even as we wonder why Democrats are abandoning the interests of American citizens in favor of those of illegal border crossers, a second border related crisis crests.
Deaths among Americans from alcohol, drugs, and suicide have climbed to the highest levels since the federal government began collecting the data. The figures show clearly a tragic correlation: President Trump won the most votes in counties with above-average rates of suicide, alcohol poisoning, and drug overdose. Deaths from opioids, like fentanyl and heroin, rose 45 percent from 2008 to 2017.
An estimated 93 percent of all heroin consumed in the United States comes from Mexico, while more addictive fentanyl now surges through our border in large quantities as well; around 80 percent of which traffics through the San Diego border, before poisoning Americans all across the country.
Although the media, bureaucratic, and political elite were quick to label the situation at the border a “humanitarian” crisis—but not, to be sure, a national emergency—no such “humanitarian” concern has marked their attention to the plight of American citizens in the communities ravaged by drug traffickers.
These Americans, the bedrock of President Trump’s base, truly are representative of “the forgotten man.”
They have born the brunt bad trade deals, automation, and the influx of cheap labor from south of the border. But they also foot the bill for the diapers and other “free” goodies illegal aliens receive from our government. They are, as William Graham Sumner put it, “the man who never is thought of.”
“He works, he votes, generally he prays,” wrote Sumner, “but he always pays—yes, above all, he pays.”
I left California for forgotten man country not long ago. What I noticed right away was that even on the most run-down homes you will find American flags clinging, if only just barely, to flagpoles looming over crumbling porches.
Here are the descendants of the European immigrants who manned our factories and braved our mines to make America great. The paint on their homes may peel, but their patriotism does not. While America may have forgotten them, they have not forgotten America. Yet it is because of the high price they pay that their devotion is so admirable.
Where you find children begging parents to wake from their opioid stupor, you will find the communities that cling tightest to their Bibles and flags, the places that voted for Trump, the man who they saw as their one and perhaps only hope. How Trump handles these interconnected crises will determine if their hopes were well-placed.
An insecure border means that poison will continue to flow into the bloodstream of the heartland. It means the continued influx of a cheap, illegal labor force that is good for big business, though it brings suffering to the working-class; and when the working-class suffers, it turns to alcohol, drugs, and suicide. To make matters worse, we are now being asked to redirect our resources and energies to caring for the world at our doorstep.
America needs now, as Warren G. Harding said, “not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality.” Trump said that he would remember the forgotten Americans when no one else had or would. But he cannot be true to his word while our border is broken. Congress has so far, and will likely remain, unwilling and unable to do anything. It falls on Trump, then, to keep the promise.
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Photo credit: Loren Elliott/AFP/Getty Images