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GOP, show you care about kids at border

By Maria Cardona
updated 5:16 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Maria Cardona: Border protests show madness of right-wing to all things immigration
  • She says there is dire need for solutions, but GOP blocks them, puts politics over governance
  • She says GOP holds $3.7 billion in aid hostage, ludicrously claims Obama not strong on border
  • Cardona: GOP fires up base, but it will need Latino votes, must show its desire to fix problems

Editor's note: Maria Cardona is a political commentator for CNN, a Democratic strategist and principal at the Dewey Square Group. She is a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and was communications director for the Democratic National Committee. She also is a former communications director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Madness has gripped our border. I am not talking about the migrant children fleeing from crime and violence in their home countries in Central America and looking for the opportunity to live a better life. I am talking about the misguided protesters—and the right-wing public officials that egg them on, railing against anything they think even might be an immigrant.

Here is an example: On Tuesday a group of protesters in Oracle, Arizona, whipped up by a local sheriff known for his extremist views on immigration, mistakenly blocked a bus full of YMCA children. They thought the kids were unaccompanied minors from Central America being bussed to a local facility where they would be cared for.

Maria Cardona
Maria Cardona

In the same incident, Adam Kwasman, an opportunistic local Republican congressional candidate, who was slightly behind the curve, jumped in to claim that when he went to confront the bus, he saw fear in the faces of the "migrant" children because of the lack of rule of law and enforcement. When a reporter clued him in about the YMCA, an awkward back-pedal ensued.

It would be comical if it were not so serious.

America's crisis on the border needs solutions, but they must live up to our American values and reflect who we are as a country. And they must be bipartisan. Republicans need to get hold of themselves, understand facts and keep their anti-immigrant extremist voices in check. If they don't do it for the country's future, they should at least do it for their own political survival. Republicans cannot afford to further alienate the county's largest minority. If the GOP does not reverse its lack of Latino support, it can say good-bye to its chances of getting to the Casa Blanca.

So, how about dropping the political posturing and perhaps redeeming the party in the face of a crisis that could not be more personal to Latinos? This may be too much to ask.

Take Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. His solution is a hard-line approach, demanding that any legislation dealing with the border crisis include an end to the President's Deferred Action for Child Arrival. DACA allows children brought here by parents, through no fault of their own, to remain in the only country they know and to contribute without fear of deportation. Cruz's fix would deport Dreamers' who have not yet applied or been granted deferral.

Even some Republicans acknowledge that deporting children who have been here their whole lives, sometimes becoming valedictorians and serving in the U.S. military (or expressing a desire to do so) makes no sense and is no solution to the crisis.

But Cruz is walking in lockstep with nativist-and-proud Iowa Rep. Steve King. One of the few immigration bills that passed this Congress was sponsored by King and called for the deportation of all of these so-called Dreamer kids. Not unusual for a congressman who cannot talk about immigrants without talking about criminals. Such dehumanization of immigrants as "the other" is too common on the right. (One GOP elected official, a Kansas state legislator, once went so far as to "joke" that shooting undocumented immigrants from helicopters might be a good way to keep them in check.)

Come on, GOP, callous grandstanding only proves to the American people you are interested in politicking, not governing. To do that, you will have to acknowledge facts.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said this past Sunday that President Obama's request for emergency funding did not include enough money for border security. He also suggested the National Guard be called in to stand at the Rio Grande to act as a "deterrent" for the unaccompanied minors and women crossing the border.

He and other Republicans claim—ludicrously--that President Obama needs to secure the border and that they can't trust him to enforce immigration laws

Why is this ludicrous? The fact is this president has been a stronger enforcer of our deportation laws than any other president before him, even to the chagrin of some of his allies, who have dubbed him the Deporter-in-Chief.

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The fact is this president has tripled enforcement resources on the border and doubled the number of border patrol agents, which is more than any other president in recent history has done.

The fact is that during the Bush administration, the undocumented population added anywhere from 3 million to 4 million people. Its growth under President Obama has been net negative. Even if 100,000 children ultimately show up at the border this year and all of them end up staying, the growth of the undocumented population under President Obama will still be less than zero compared with any other recent U.S. president.

The fact is these children are not a national security threat. They are not fleeing from Border Patrol agents. They are doing exactly the opposite and turning themselves in to the first law enforcement agents they see. Calling out the National Guard, as Perry has suggested, would not deter them; it might even give these migrants more hope, because there would be more law enforcement officials in whose arms they could collapse.

The fact is, had the bipartisan Senate immigration bill passed, with its stronger border protection measures and strategies for facilitating legal flows of workers at the borders, the country could have spoken out loud and clear to potential immigrants about the United States' immigration policy. It would have made it much harder for criminal actors to distort our country's position and for smugglers to take advantage of parents who only want a better life for their children.

But instead of working with the President and Democrats on reforming our badly broken immigration system—a reform that majorities of Americans, including Republican voters, support--the GOP is capitulating to the most extreme factions of their party who scream "AMNESTY" at the top of their lungs whenever talk of immigration comes along. Then they blame President Obama for sending the wrong signals to other countries?

Now, Republicans in Congress not only refuse to take up any immigration bill this year, but are balking at the $3.7 billion emergency package the President has requested to address the situation at hand. They don't get to have it both ways. They cannot yell that the house in on fire and then cut off the water supply to put that fire out.

Right now Republicans may prefer a pure red meat strategy on the border crisis, led by their anti-immigrant nativist wing and designed to draw the narrow base to the polls, but if they don't find a way to work on real solutions--and fast--political reality will be abrupt and ugly for the GOP come 2016 and beyond.

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