Yes, there is a border crisis.
And, yes, a big part of Democrats’ struggle in Texas is their unwillingness or inability to accept that reality and to offer support for clear enforcement solutions.
Until they do, they will struggle politically.
Look no further than the news last week that Border Patrol agents set a record for apprehensions along the border in this fiscal year. The number of arrests? Some 1.8 million, with many of those being repeated apprehensions of the same people.
Republican leaders including Gov. Greg Abbott get a lot of criticism in the mainstream press for using loaded language such as “invasion” and for supporting enforcement policies that go beyond the federal government’s efforts at border security. Some of that criticism is warranted. The bellicose rhetoric is unhelpful and lends itself to a false understanding of migrants, most of whom are fleeing violence and oppression.
But the political problem falls heavier on Democrats in this state, who can’t seem to openly admit that the porous southern border is a major problem for Texas. And they can’t separate themselves from a Biden administration that has done little of value to address that problem and more likely has exacerbated it with ill-considered rhetoric that has been taken as a welcoming mat.
Beto O’Rourke has been twisting himself in knots trying to walk the line between saying something needs to be done at the border while not offending a base of voters for whom any enforcement is too much. O’Rourke can’t even seem to settle himself on whether the Trump-era Title 42 requirement that migrants be returned to Mexico should be revoked. He waffled on the matter with a suggestion it should remain in place, then clarified it should be revoked after a scolding from leftist activists.
An astute story in The Texas Tribune this spring laid out O’Rourke’s struggle, one he shares with Democrats across the state.
It was summed up in a quote from former Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd.
“The Republicans are going to have near — if not record — turnout in Latino communities because Democrats have been absolutely idiotic when it comes to border security,” Hurd said.
We can’t help but agree that Hurd has it right. But we can’t blame Democrats entirely for their own failures. Anyone who tries to inject the sort of serious nuance the border question requires is liable to get caught up in rhetorical gymnastics in a political atmosphere that rewards forceful, if shallow, statements.
But Democrats such as O’Rourke could do themselves a huge favor. Accept the reality that there is a crisis on our southern border. Then, have the guts to say it.
If we start there, maybe we can get somewhere.