Ruben Navarrette: Republicans can't wait to exploit a border crisis they helped create

From the commentary: Republicans preach people taking responsibility for their actions, decisions and mistakes. ... You first, folks.

FILE PHOTO: Asylum-seeking migrants cross the Rio Bravo river in El Paso
FILE PHOTO: Asylum-seeking migrants from Haiti cross the Rio Bravo river to turn themselves in to U.S Border Patrol agents to request asylum in El Paso, Texas, U.S., as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico April 22, 2022.
REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez/File Photo

SAN DIEGO β€” With a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, what the hell are Republicans good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again.

Ruben Navarrete column logo
Ruben Navarrete column logo
Kit Grode / Tribune graphic
From the commentary: The native-born aren't the reason America exists. That distinction goes to the huddled masses currently assembled along the U.S.-Mexico border.
From the commentary: Our children will travel their own path, and the decisions they make along the way will determine where the road leads.
From the commentary: Neither of these amateurs is ready for prime time. Make no mistake, if they do enter the 2024 race, Trump will eat them both for breakfast β€” and still have enough appetite left over to devour a Big Mac.
From the commentary: Our country is ailing. What hope do we have of getting better if we can't even get a decent conversation going?

There's much to say about how unhelpful and uncreative the party of Donald Trump can be in helping clean up a mess it had a hand in creating. Whether they control the White House or Congress or neither, Republicans see immigration as the Democrats ' problem.

That story needs telling, and we'll get there.

First, a word about this crisis. Appearances can be deceiving β€” especially on the border. It's true that, in the days since the Biden administration stopped using Title 42 as a pretext to bar migrants and refugees from crossing into the United States, the numbers of border crossings have gone down, not up.

Team Biden wants Americans to think that this is because the White House has implemented tough restrictions (that it copied from the Trump administration) on how migrants can apply for asylum and ramped up deportations at the border.


The real reason is human nature. The thousands of migrants who have traveled more than 3,000 miles from Venezuela to the U.S.-Mexico border don't want to do anything that results in being apprehended and deported back home. So they're waiting on the other side of the line until they decide their next move.

We still have a border problem. It's just that the migrants β€” who are probably not going home voluntarily β€” have hit pause.

Americans would be smart to use the respite to sort out our contradictions and think about our weird need-fear relationship with migrants (i.e., we need their labor, we fear their presence). Or consider whether we're prepared to scrap America's tradition of being a place where the huddled masses have a shot at asylum. Or accept the fact that both parties have, over the decades, manipulated the immigration issue to serve their interests and made things worse.

Both parties are incompetent, but only one is insufferable. When U.S. immigration policy goes off the rails, the GOP becomes a sanctimonious bunch - and a dishonest one at that. Republicans portray themselves as innocent bystanders and Democrats as the chief culprits in making the U.S.-Mexico border less secure.

It's inspiring to see conservatives β€” many of whom downplayed the lawbreaking that fueled the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and didn't flinch when Trump issued 143 pardons to scofflaws during four years in office β€” rediscovering their passion for the rule of law.

On a recent episode of his podcast, right-winger Victor Davis Hanson discussed the border crisis with contempt and condescension. Declaring himself morally superior to migrants crossing the border, Hanson self-righteously claimed, "I don't think I would deliberately break the law when I knew that people did not want me to come."

Listening to conservatives talk about immigration, you would think that the Republican Party was the only institution in America that cares about the integrity of our borders.

Please. If Republicans had any integrity of their own, they would confess to the many ways they have contributed to the border crisis and admit that they get a lot wrong about immigration.


Never mind. I got this. Consistent with one of the themes of the immigration story, Mexican immigrants β€” or, in this case, the Mexican American descendant of one β€” do tasks that Americans won't do.

It was a Republican president, Trump, who created a pressure cooker on the border by contracting with the Mexican government to have our neighbor serve as a giant temporary storage unit for tens of thousands of migrants from places like Honduras, Haiti and Colombia. That policy was convenient but not sustainable, and President Joe Biden had to end it. When he did, well, you know what happened next.

From the commentary: It's not yet a done deal. Plenty more could happen before the measure is approved, or not. Whether approved in the current or another form, given past scenarios it is more likely to benefit the politicians and their careers than a majority of overburdened and fed-up taxpayers.
From the commentary: There can be only one priority in 2024 if Trump is a candidate: making sure the country's fate is not put back into the hands of a man already proved to be reckless, undemocratic, dishonest, self-dealing and supportive of violence.
From the commentary: Based on what he has done to date, Ron DeSantis' pledge to do for America what he has done for Florida may not frighten the right wing of the Republican Party, many of them Trumpers, but it may not hold up so well among general election voters, who overwhelmingly support Roe v. Wade and think well of Mickey Mouse. And Trump remains the 600-pound gorilla on the Republican side.
From the commentary: The growing number of entrants is good news for the front-runner, who benefits from facing fragmented opposition as he did in 2016. But it's also good news for Republican voters, who are not only getting more candidates to choose from, but also more ideas about their party's post-Trump future β€” even though that may not arrive until 2028.
From the commentary: If we have lost our will as a nation to define what's right and to do it, then we have lost our way in a world that is increasingly being dominated by China, whose president, Xi Jinping, may have correctly diagnosed us as a nation in "decline."
From the commentary: Casey DeSantis has three young children to raise while her husband runs for president. Anyone and everyone can find something to fault her for in how she chooses to balance her family and the campaign and on her roles as wife, partner and mother, which is why none of us should be sitting in judgment.
From the commentary: College grads not only make more money on average; they live longer, according to research.
From the commentary: The numbers: Republicans hold a House majority of only nine members, one of whom is the notorious George Santos. Biden won 18 of the districts currently held by Republicans. One can assume that many of their swing-voting constituents are most unhappy over the party's opposition to reproductive rights. They're sickened by its defense of lunatics' strutting through Walmarts with weapons of war.
From the commentary: If Florida Democrats find an acceptable candidate, they might just recapture the governorship. America probably doesn't want to become DeSantis' Florida. Florida may not like that either.
From the commentary: For now, parents have no choice but to do the best they can to protect children based on insights from experts and researchers.

It is Republicans in Congress who have, for decades, discreetly removed from legislation promising comprehensive immigration reform any mention of economic sanctions on employers who hire undocumented immigrants in violation of the law. Conservatives never talk about the demand side of the equation or accept this simple truth about immigrants: If we stop hiring, they'll stop coming.

And it is Republicans who spout or tolerate incendiary, racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric that fires up the citizenry, terrifies politicians and makes solutions more elusive. A good start would be for them to stop using the term "invasion." They should ask President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine about the proper use of the word. He's seen the real thing up close.

Republicans preach people taking responsibility for their actions, decisions and mistakes.

You first, folks.

This commentary is Ruben Navarrette's opinion. He can be reached at

Β© 2022, The Washington Post Writers Group


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