how do you solve a problem like the border?

So let’s attempt to understand the border issue. It’s been in the news much as of late, and clearly it’s a problem. Let’s take a step back, make sensible observations, with a desire to disrespect no one nor repeat any talking points. (We typically don’t find talking points all that helpful.)

First the glaring problem…

Allow me to quote Margaret White, Co-Executive Director of No Labels, the bipartisan problem-solving organization — preparing a less-divisive, “unity ticket” this fall — in summing up the current issue:

“Since 2021, unauthorized crossings across the southern border are up over 42 percent, totaling nearly 2.5 million in 2023 alone. That’s along with a shocking 141 percent increase in suspected gang members and terror suspects caught at the southern border. And the number of migrants claiming asylum has skyrocketed over that time as well, with our under-resourced immigration courts now facing a backlog of more than two million asylum cases.”

Adding to the above info, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that in the U.S. fiscal year 2023 (which ended Sept. 30th), they encountered approximately 3 million people illegally entering the country. As NPR described the issue this winter, “Migrants are showing up at the U.S. southern border in historic numbers.”

The debate then over the size and severity of this challenge focuses on how unauthorized immigration impacts the economy, national security, terrorism, crime and drains on government budgets. One of the reasons the elect struggle to solve this admittedly complex issue is because they tend to minimize one or more of the above aspects, not addressing the totality of the issues.

Let this not pose as any expert account. What we do know, though, is that we are a nation of both laws and immigrants; therefore, none of the above should be minimized. 

Unfortunately (not throwing stones — still making observations), both Pres. Trump and Pres. Biden have been playing politics with the issue. For Pres. Trump to recently announce his lack of support for a legislative stab at solution — calling the passage of a proposed deal “another gift to the radical left democrats” because the public has realized it’s a major issue and the Democrats are finally willing to negotiate — suggests Trump cares more about his political future than about the current problem. Clearly, Trump wants to campaign on this issue as is.

Pres. Biden has also spent ample, obvious time playing politics, pretending for far too long that the border wasn’t even an issue for some reason. Biden recently claimed “I’ve done all I can do” to secure the border, not acknowledging that he purposely rolled back several Trump-era immigration policies which curtailed the issue at the onset of his presidency. Biden has recognized a need to change course, as the border’s current status is a perceived losing campaign issue, one that clearly, he does not want to campaign on as is.

FYI: members of the Senate crafted a current proposal that they are expected to vote on this week. They seem more likely to pass the bill than the House, as there is not wise bipartisan agreement. Note that the bill’s price tag is over $118 billion. Funding for Ukraine accounts for over half that cost; another 25% goes to Israel, Indo-Pacific allies, and foreign, humanitarian assistance. Just over 17% of the border bill actually addresses the U.S. border. Again, it’s difficult to discern what’s a wise way forward when politicians on all sides pick their prime moment to play politics. Such paves the ever-growing erosion in public trust.

Once again, therefore, much as I’m not a fan when disrespect is employed, HBO host Bill Maher arguably said it best. In a panel discussion on his “Real Time” show last weekend, Maher discussed the immigration issue with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu.

“Immigration is real but the reaction to it is not real. It’s all a bunch of acting. They should be getting an award this awards season,” said Maher. “The Republicans act like they want to solve this, but the Democrats called their bluff. I mean, there is a bill right now that a lot of them, Mitch McConnell and some pretty conservative senators saying this is as good a deal as you’re gonna get. They don’t want it because they don’t want this issue to be solved because they need it as an issue…”

Sununu agreed. He also called for all the lawmakers on Capitol Hill to be fired, “every one of them,” seeing Democrats and Republicans alike continually prioritizing power for their party over issues that America desperately needs to solve. Said Sununu, “Make no mistake about it, Joe Biden has a lot of power to change a lot of policy and affect the immigration issue.”

Maher then added, ”That’s true. I was gonna say part two of the acting is Joe Biden saying ‘You know what? If you just give me a new law.’ A new law?! The president can fix this and he already has an existing law. This is all so silly! ‘I need a piece of paper from Congress to deal with the border.’ No you already have that.”

Just making observations, friends. The political posturing is obstructing solution to very real problems. With all due respect, this is evident of why the public’s trust in both of the two likely 2024 presidential candidates has significantly eroded. Something means more to them than solution. Our nation’s need is for each of the elect to be sincere problem solvers. Actors are respectfully better suited for other lines of work.