Look to the EU to understand the US border crisis
Since President Biden took office, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reported over 2 million apprehensions of migrants at the southern border. To put this into perspective, when President Trump faced an unprecedented surge in migrant arrivals in 2019, that number did not exceed 1 million. In less time, Biden has managed to find himself governing over a historic crisis with enormous unrealized long-term consequences.
To better understand how the issue of mass migration will impact our nation and its politics, we can look to the European migrant crisis of 2015. War in both the Middle East and North Africa drove more than a million refugees and migrants to the borders of several European Union member nations. The influx of migrants became a political catalyst in many ways, but what is most important is understanding its profound and lasting impact on European politics.
Today, memory of this crisis has not faded in the slightest. And what may be the best example of the unconventional political nature of immigration stems from the recent Afghanistan debacle. In response to the potential influx of refugees as a result of the collapse of the Afghan government and regional destabilization, liberal French President Emmanuel Macron said, “We must anticipate and protect ourselves against major irregular migratory flows.” This is a sentiment undoubtedly held by most other European leaders on the left and right.
Imagine if President Biden uttered those same words regarding the crisis at our southern border. This would represent a seismic shift in the right direction in his approach to border security and immigration policy, but it would likely get him in trouble politically with many of his allies on the left. It is this tenuous position for the president which differentiates his approach to immigration compared to his liberal counterparts across the pond.
In the United States, we welcome and cherish immigrants who come to our country legally in pursuit of better lives and to contribute to the prosperity of our nation. However, we cannot withstand the level of “known got-aways” evading Border Patrol, the hundreds of thousands of migrants apprehended by CBP, and hundreds of millions of dollars in drug revenue flowing across our southern border each month, forever. It is only a matter of time until the ill-effects of this crisis creep into our communities.
Immigration will be a major voting issue moving forward. And the rise of migration terrorism like that which is currently occurring in Eastern Europe at the Polish-Belarusian border adds fuel to the fire. As a Republican, a supporter of legal immigration, and advocate for strong border security, it is my wish that President Biden and Democrats in Congress would address the border crisis now, because what will follow may not be pretty.
If what has happened in Europe is any indication of where we are headed, our future is one where fringe nativists are emboldened to stoke fear for political gain and gin up wide-spread anti-immigrant sentiment among the public. A secure border, the compassionate treatment and thorough vetting of refugees, and an aggressive anti-drug and human trafficking strategy are critical to our nation’s security. They are not dubious approaches inspired by xenophobic fervor.
For the United States to live up to its ideals, we cannot afford bad faith actors the opportunity to turn crisis into fear for the sake of political expediency. And if we are to remain a powerhouse in the global economy, particularly compared to China, we need to be a country that attracts the best talent the world has to offer. When issues go unfixed, a vacuum is created for “strongmen” leaders to exploit crises to assume power. We have two options: let the border crisis take us down a dark path or roll up our sleeves, fix the mess, and put this nation on the right track.
Ralph Norman represents South Carolina’s 5th District.
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