The situation at the border is horrific. Thousands of unaccompanied minors are arriving to the United States and turning themselves in to Border patrol agents. I have no doubt that if these images we’re seeing from the border came from an other place in the world, we’d be calling it what it is, a refugee crisis. The Beltway reaction has been largely political and cowardly. Anti-immigrant politicians have tried to seize the opportunity to reframe the immigration debate around border security after losing so much ground since the 2012 elections, when the Latino vote walloped the GOP for being anti-immigrant and obstructionist on the question of immigration reform.
The debate has opened rifts in the GOP, exposing e party’s problem with expanding its base. Discussing the issue, Bill Kristol said to Latina Republican Ana Navarro, “You’re not as Republican as me” (psst, Ana… He means you’re brown).
But Democrats haven’t fared much better. The president quickly called for quick processing and deportation of minors. As did Secretary Clinton, who heartlessly said the children “should be sent back.”
The White House played dirty with Maryland Governor O’Malley when he stated, “It is contrary to everything we stand for to try to summarily send children back to death.” They leaked a conversation the governor had with White House senior adviser Cecilia Muñoz, suggesting that the a Governor had hypocritically told them he didn’t want the border children sent to Maryland. If you read the Politico article this story was leaked to, however, it is clear that is not at all what the governor said. He was advising them not to send children to a specific facility in Maryland, an area that is extremely conservative and where children are likely to receive the same harassing welcome they’ve seen in some parts of Texas and California. Days after the call with Muñoz, that facility was hilariously sprayed with misspelled graffiti: “No illeagels here. No undocumented Democrats.”
O’Malley 1, White House 0.
The other bright light in all of this: Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts. Announcing that his state would welcome a group of unaccompanied minors and fighting back tears, he said, “My faith teaches me that if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him but rather love him as yourself.” See his entire emotional speech at Mother Jones.
What Patrick and O’Malley are showing is leadership. I’ve heard that some in DC have seen polling showing that the border security frame is making American reactions to the crisis less than humanitarian. Leadership means looking at polls like these, understanding what’s right and what’s wrong about an issue, and deciding to do your best to change that popular opinion. By leading.