Martin Schram: A New Year’s border crisis resolution

From the commentary: Let the Biden White House make solving this solvable border crisis its most prominent New Year’s resolution.

Philadelphia aid groups greet migrants as they arrive after a bus journey from Texas to Philadelphia.
Philadelphia aid groups greet migrants as they arrive after a bus journey from Texas to Philadelphia.
(Alejandro A. Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)
We are part of The Trust Project.

Ever true to its traditions, Official Washington has celebrated its holidays by toasting its successes, and then cruising comfortably into yet another new year.

More Commentary:
From the commentary: In another America where laws were once supposed to be equally enforced (the exception being the rule) and truth was not personal, this would likely not have been a problem.
From the commentary: (The judge) said he’d alert everyone when his ruling was coming. ... And that he would give everyone a chance to respond before he released the report, if (it was to be) released.
From the commentary: It's clear that whatever else happens, sets should be safer as a result of what Baldwin did.

So this is the right time to remind our capital’s cognoscenti that some areas of Washington governance can and must do better in 2023. We can think of three: executive, legislative and judicial.

Each of the three official branches of government has always provided us with insider wisdom on just what is wrong with the other two. And in the last week of 2022, we received some genuinely helpful wisdom from the highest perch of the most judiciously restrained of government’s three branches — the Supreme Court. It came in a dissenting opinion to the court’s conservative majority ruling on a case about America’s growing crisis at the southern border. And it has provided us with a classic year-end insight into just how failures within the executive and legislative branches damaged our government — yet could have been averted through cooperative, humane initiatives.

Last week, the Supreme Court blocked a plan of President Joe Biden’s administration to end the Trump’s administration’s so-called Title 42 rule that has been permitting the rapid expulsion of migrants without allowing their asylum requests to be processed. Trump’s Title 42 was controversial because it used concerns about spreading COVID-19 as the basis for immediately expelling the migrants. The Court’s conservative majority agreed with Republican officials in 19 states who argued Biden’s ending of Title 42 would trigger a massive surge of migrants that would overrun U.S. capabilities at the southern border.

But that court ruling was pointedly challenged by a most unlikely source — Justice Neil Gorsuch, a staunch conservative appointed by President Donald Trump. Gorsuch joined the court’s three liberal jurists in dissenting. And his opinion spoke blunt truth to power, criticizing failings within all three branches of government.


“The current border crisis is not a COVID crisis,” Gorsuch wrote. “And courts should not be in the business of perpetuating administrative edicts designed for one emergency only because elected officials have failed to address a different emergency. We are a court of law, not policymakers of last resort.”

Indeed, Gorsuch’s conservative colleagues have too often functioned as de facto policymakers, making liberal use of their conservative activism (as in their ruling on abortion). But Gorsuch’s point here was that the executive and legislative branches had failed to find workable fixes for the growing immigration crisis. There is no dispute about the key facts. Hundreds of thousands have been fleeing problems stemming from failing economies, criminal gang violence, and corrupt police and governments. But we have seen no solutions.

Go to the website of the Department of Homeland Security, which is charged with securing our borders. Sadly, you will see no signs of creative crisis-fixing leadership from Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. (And you never saw any from his Trump-era predecessors.) You have seen no evidence of problem-solving leadership from the United Nations or the nonfunctional Organization of American States. (Is anything more woeful than an AWOL OAS?)

When President Biden tasked Vice President Kamala Harris with leading efforts to solve the migrant crisis, I had hoped this would become her signature achievement. But we’ve seen no evidence of significant accomplishment.

Sadly, what we have seen is evidence of several Republicans playing politics with the lives of desperate migrants. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis loaded up buses and planes with migrants, shipped them north with no preparation and dumped them — just to get attention. In December's icy arctic winter, they just dumped migrants — some with no warm clothes — outside the vice president’s residence. Why? Just to dramatize the fact that border states have been disproportionately shouldering the burden of this crisis.

More Opinion:
From the commentary: By passing bipartisan laws and enforcing strong ethics, our elected leaders can once again demonstrate that they are working for the people and promoting the common good.
From the commentary: People who threaten to blow up an airplane if their political demands aren't met are political terrorists.
From the commentary: A policy of complete openness in most areas of information would lead to a more useful debate of national security issues and perhaps sounder policy choices.
From the commentary: More than anything else, Democrats’ current harmony reflects the fact that few party members now see themselves as facing such a dilemma (back home).
From the commentary: Every day is a new embarrassment, not just for (George Santos) but for the Republicans in Congress.
From the commentary: It is time to recognize obesity in childhood and adolescence for the complex chronic disease that it is.
From the commentary: To be clear, their questions are mainly about determining the best way to deliver care to teens — not about the value of treatment itself.
From the commentary: Businesses are already struggling under the extraordinary cost of doing business in Minnesota.
From the commentary: Today, many Confederate memorials are being curated with markers being erected nearby to tell the story of how the Lost Cause was mythologized. Stone Mountain would certainly need a big marker. Or, a museum.
From the commentary: For many, politics is either an aphrodisiac, or a drug. Both are addictive and difficult to break free from.

Abbott and DeSantis have no shame. But we must now talk truth to our bathroom mirrors: Abbott and DeSantis did have a legitimate point that they wanted to make in the worst way. And they damn well did. Biden administration officials should have made sure this burden was being shared among all states.

So let’s solve the problem now: Let President Biden start 2023 by convening a televised White House summit of Central American officials and congressional leaders of both parties. There, Biden will announce that from now on, the No. 1 way migrants will be granted U.S. asylum — and work permits — will be in highly visible lines at each U.S. embassy or at special ad hoc U.S. consulates in every Latin American nation. Migrants who are terrified by gang violence and fleeing in fear will be processed at a new asylum center to be established in Mexico, perhaps at its southern border with Guatemala.

Let the Biden White House make solving this solvable border crisis its most prominent New Year’s resolution.


Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. This commentary is the columnist's opinion. Send feedback to:

©2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

What To Read Next
"Life is short, ends in a moment, and we don’t think much about it some days. ... It’s a scenic highway, and we should keep it that way, go a bit slower, and enjoy life."
Leadership takes honest reflection and thinking about the needs of others, Jenny Schlecht writes. With that in mind, do we have the right leaders to get a new farm bill passed by Sept. 30?
"Church worship now competes with everything from professional sports to kids activities to household chores. ... we can either have a frank conversation about what church can be, or we can continue to watch the pews empty in cherished houses of worship across the country."
When Katie Pinke directed her daughter to a beef expert in preparation for her speech meet, it made her think about the need for trusted ag sources of information.