DESPITE A BLOOD-SOAKED drug war that has convulsed Mexico, a broad array of data shows that America’s southwestern border is increasingly safe, secure and, thanks to measures launched by President George W. Bush and sustained by President Obama, much harder for illegal immigrants to cross. Yet against substantial and mounting evidence, Republicans in Congress continue to portray the border as beset by rising violence, out of control and a grave threat to national security.
Given the clear data, it is hard to view these scare tactics as anything but a cynical effort to distort the debate on immigration reform. The intent is to distract Americans from the problem of 11 million immigrants here illegally by pointing to an imaginary wave of crime and instability at the border. Of course, goes the argument, we need immigration reform, but we can’t possibly achieve it until order is restored.
The Republican strategy is dishonest — and effective. “This is a national security threat,” Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, told a congressional hearing. “So we need to regain the confidence of the American people before they’re going to allow us to move forward . . . to fix our broken immigration system.” Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican presidential hopeful, agreed with a questioner at a town forum this week that U.S. troops should be redeployed from South Korea to south Texas — a move that might comfort the North Koreans but would have little or no effect in Texas.