The Arizona-Mexico border fence near Naco, Arizona, March 29, 2013.
Samantha Sais/Reuters

Border reality should change GOP talking points

Among Republicans, certain basic truths are so widely understood, they’re not even questioned. They know Obama increased the deficit. They know “Obamacare” is government-run healthcare. And they know the Obama administration has been woefully indifferent to securing the border.
 
Of course, all of these truths are plainly wrong – in fact, they’re the opposite of reality – including that last one. The Washington Post has a great piece this morning on the changing nature of the debate about border security.
As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades. The nation’s population of illegal immigrants, which more than tripled, to 12.2 million, between 1990 and 2007, has dropped by about 1 million, according to demographers at the Pew Research Center. […]
 
Homeland security officials in the Obama and George W. Bush administrations – who have more than doubled the Border Patrol’s size and spent billions on drones, sensors and other technology at the border – say enhanced security is driving the new trends.
R. Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told the Post, “We have seen tremendous progress. The border is much more secure than in times past.”
 
To be sure, it’s a complex picture, and the shifts in immigration trends are probably the result of several overlapping changes, some of which relate to security measures, some of which don’t.
 
That said, when Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) argues that the Obama administration and its allies are “refusing to secure our border,” we know for certain that’s the opposite of what’s actually happened.
 
And when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) insists that the U.S. border is “porous,” and officials must “secure our own borders” to prevent “ISIS infiltration,” I’m sure it’s a successful applause line among partisan activists who don’t know any better, but it’s also the sort of thing a politician says if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
 
Greg Sargent added this morning, “Apprehensions at the border are down, too. Some experts think changes in Latin America, at least as much as increased security, explain the drop. Either way, this should shift a debate in which Republicans insist on ‘securing the border’ as a condition for reform.”
 
Agreed. For months, congressional Republicans have blocked bipartisan, comprehensive solutions by sticking to knee-jerk rhetoric: Congress can’t even think about working constructively on reform until the White House starts taking border security seriously.
 
But the argument has long been based on ignorance – the Obama administration has taken border security to levels the Bush/Cheney administration never even considered. The results, for those who choose to care, are undeniable.
 
So where’s the accompanying shift in Republican rhetoric? Where’s the acknowledgement from far-right ideologues that their demands have, for all intents and purposes, already been met? Where are the new talking points, revised to reflect some semblance of reality?
 
At a campaign event in New Hampshire last week, Jeb Bush was willing to acknowledge, albeit indirectly, that border security is better under President Obama than it was during his brother’s tenure. Are other Republicans prepared to concede the same thing?
 

Immigration Policy and Immigration Reform

Border reality should change GOP talking points