Ron DeSantis looks ridiculous on immigration — but so does America
COMMENTARY You can call Florida's governor "Ron Quixote" as he deploys forces to storm the border this week — but both liberals and conservatives are responsible for America's immigration disaster.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis looks a tad ridiculous this week, sending his anti-immigrant torches and pitchforks over to the U.S. southern border to help beat back a migrant invasion that it turns out isn’t there.
Last week, of course, there were big fears that the end of Title 42 — the pandemic-related public health rule that made it harder for migrants to seek U.S. asylum — would mean a new deluge of migrants at the frontier. What’s happened instead is a 56% reduction in border crossings since last weekend.
That isn’t deterring Florida’s great alien fighter, though. On Tuesday DeSantis announced he’s deploying more than 1,300 state National Guard and law enforcement personnel to Texas — at a cost of God-knows-how-many millions of dollars to Sunshine State taxpayers.
We understand, Governor, that this arch-political showboating is on your long to-do list as you launch a Republican presidential primary campaign groveling to xenophobic MAGA voters. But to the rest of the country — the less unhinged electorate you’ll face in the general election if you get that far — your name’s evoking a bit of the absurd. They might be calling you Ron Quixote.
Still, I’m not laughing — and nor should any American. DeSantis may appear ridiculous right now; but the fact that the border could have experienced more torrential migrant chaos this week — and therefore a more legitimate backdrop for his nativist crusade — speaks to how ridiculous America as a whole looks today when it comes to immigration.
How did a “country of immigrants,” as we love to call ourselves, become this incompetent and intolerant when it comes to the actual practice of receiving immigrants? Even a closed-border demagogue like DeSantis knows how quickly Florida would unravel if he really did expel all the undocumented workers who keep his state’s vital tourism, agriculture and construction sectors alive. So how can an economy that depends on immigrant labor as greatly as the U.S.’s does have an immigration system as wrecked and dysfunctional as America’s is?
And I’m talking to the country’s liberal, pro-immigration cohort as much as I’m addressing its conservative, immigration hardliners. We’re all to blame for this crisis — which is payback for our incorrigible national cluelessness about our history and hemisphere.
We're all to blame for America's immigration crisis — it's payback for our incorrigible national cluelessness about our history and our hemisphere.
The history first. DeSantis and all the other anti-immigrant vigilantes need to realize how stupendously disingenuous it is to claim that they’re shocked — shocked — to find America’s southern border is so porous. What should surprise them is that it’s not even more porous than it is.
You don’t wage a territorial conquest like the Mexican-American War of 1848 — which is what even Ulysses S. Grant called that war, by the way — then create a 2,000-mile-long border with one of the most underdeveloped regions in the world, and then not expect to someday have an immigration challenge on your hands. Especially when, at the same time, you wage an interventionist hemispheric policy in the 19th and 20th centuries that helps prevent said region from ever really developing.
Eventually, that region’s desperate migrants are going to come — in droves — as they started doing at the turn of this century. And no wall is going to keep them from coming or, for that matter, keep them out.
Open-border liberals are equally naïve about that reality. Which reminds us: liberals, too, are guilty of perpetuating our hemispheric oblivion.
Democrats have been just as notorious for pushing Latin America and the Caribbean to the foreign policy back burner. So have the mainstream, left-of-center media. OK, the region doesn’t have nukes. But the overweening way our Ivy League elites have conditioned Americans to consider, say, South Korea to be more deserving of their attention than next-door Mexico has only spawned American ignorance of the Americas.
And, in turn, our lack of awareness of the socio-economic disaster, from Haiti to Venezuela to Honduras, that’s been boiling in the Americas over the past generation — and is now driving a migrant wave that our collapsed immigration infrastructure is incapable of managing.
That last word — managing — is key. As I’ve written here before, grown-up countries neither close nor open their borders — they manage them. Which Congress better start doing with immigration reform, before all the Ron Quixotes out there take ridiculous to new and more costly levels.