A Democrat's Guide To Discussing The Border
Facts Over Fear: Educating ourselves and others on border issues.
The “border issue” is complex, and that complexity causes so much misinformation surrounding it. It’s also what causes so many Democrats to avoid discussions and debates regarding the border.
Another problem involving the border issue is there aren’t enough border voices. While some tireless souls spend their time in South Texas sharing what’s happening on the ground, they’re often drowned out by the louder and bigger platforms on the right.
Some of the most truthful and unbias reporting on the border comes from:
Regarding the border, we must be very diligent about knowing the facts. Multiple right-wing sources have been spreading mistruths, exaggerations, and outright lies about migration for years.
The most significant contributor to misinformation on the border is Republicans in Congress. In every Congressional committee hearing, you can see them spouting the same lies repeatedly, often debunked by witnesses and Democrats on the committees. The GOP in the 118th Congress has made it their number one issue because of the complexity and their ability to mislead millions of their uninformed base.
Here are all the hearings the House Committee on Judiciary has held on the border since Republicans became the majority in January 2023:
Feel free to click the links above to see the committee hearing. I’ve watched them all (some are as long as ten hours), and I can promise they’re all the same. Republicans lie and shout falsehoods while their hand-picked Republican witnesses agree with them, and Democrats and their witnesses debunk them in real time.
I’ve spent the last few months confronting politicians and activists regarding what they’ve been saying on the border. They repeat the same few talking points, so I wanted to address all of those talking points, fact-checking each one, and give you the tools you need to combat Republicans’ misinformation.
If you’re new here, hyperlinks lead to sources.
Joe Biden’s “Open Borders.”
The term “open borders” implies no restrictions to anyone entering. Under the Biden administration, border controls, checks, and endorsements are still in place.
Under the Biden administration, there have been 5.92 million apprehensions.
What is an encounter?
The Department of Homeland Security defines an encounter as a noncitizen declared inadmissible for not having a US passport, green card, or visa. But “encounters” also include the people who are allowed to stay in the US as they apply for asylum or a humanitarian visa for reasons such as political persecution or fleeing human trafficking.
It is important to note that encounters refer to events, not people and that some migrants are encountered more than once. For example, migrants who were expelled under Title 42 were encountered multiple times and counted each time.
What’s an apprehension?
According to Customs and Border Patrol (CPB), apprehensions refer to the physical control or temporary detainment of a person not lawfully in the US, which may or may not result in an arrest.
What happens when a migrant is apprehended?
After apprehension, the first step is processing, which includes collecting biographical information, conducting a health screening, and fingerprinting. CBP officers will also determine the migrant’s nationality and conduct FBI background checks.
CBP will assess the reasons for the migrant’s attempt to enter the US. This involves interviewing the migrant to understand their situation, from seeking asylum to looking for work.
Depending on the situation, the migrant may be detained or released. If detained, they are typically held in a CBP facility. The duration of detention can vary. Minors, especially unaccompanied ones, are treated differently due to legal protections under the Flores Settlement Agreement, which mandates that minors be held in the least restrictive setting possible and released to a suitable guardian if available.
Under the Biden administration, we’re seeing record numbers of inadmissible claims. This means that Biden is telling more people they cannot enter the country than Trump ever did. For example, in July 2023, 45.8 percent of the 98,085 immigrants were found inadmissible at ports of entry across the country.
If the migrant expresses fear of returning to their home country or seeks asylum, they are usually given a “credible fear” interview by a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer. If they pass this interview, they may be allowed to enter the US while their asylum case is processed.
How many immigrants are currently waiting for an asylum hearing?
According to a report earlier this month from PBS, there are currently 3 million cases awaiting the asylum backlog. For comparison, the backlog in 2019 was 1 million.
Why are immigration courts backed up?
One primary reason for the massive asylum backlogs is the sheer number of people escaping violence and political instability around the globe. People who come to the US in search of protection may be fleeing persecution, gang activity, war, extreme poverty, or natural disasters. Some countries may target specific individuals because of their race, ethnicity, political beliefs, gender, or other defining characteristics.
Funding for these courts and legal assistance for immigrants would significantly speed up the asylum process and ease the overburdened court system.
In 2023, Biden requested from Congress $755 million to hire 1,600 asylum officers and support staff to process asylum claims and 30 officers to process work authorization applications. Republicans still refuse to fund increased border operations.
How many asylum requests are granted?
The majority of people who establish a credible fear of persecution are then granted asylum if their case is decided based on their asylum claim. In Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023, 55% of people seeking asylum whose cases were decided on the basis of their asylum claim after a positive credible fear determination were granted asylum.
But, Republicans have said that asylum seekers don’t show up for court. This is patently false.
How many asylum seekers show up for their court hearings?
Evidence shows that most immigrants appear for immigration court hearings. A report that studied 11 years of immigration data determined that an overwhelming 83% of immigrants attend their immigration court hearings, and those who fail to appear in court often did not receive notice or faced hardship in getting to court.
So, this should lead us all to wonder…
Why do Republicans say “the border is open?”
When Biden was sworn in on January 20, 2021, he immediately ended several of Trump’s inhumane and unconstitutional border mandates. The Republicans were mad over it, but it wasn’t until the feud between Greg Abbott and Joe Biden started that Abbott began the “open borders” narrative.
In March 2021, when Greg Abbott lifted the Covid mask mandate, Biden called his decision “Neanderthal thinking.” Less than a week later, Abbott started his border campaign against Biden and crafted the “open border” lie.
So, we’re all clear where this began. The “open border” narrative began with Greg Abbott as retaliation for Joe Biden calling him a “Neanderthal.” However, there is no evidence or facts to back it up.
Which Trump-era immigration policies did Biden reverse?
Reversed Trump’s Executive Order excluding undocumented immigrants from the reapportionment count (the census).
Reversed the Muslim ban.
Repealed of Trump Interior Enforcement Executive Order.
Stopped border wall construction.
Ended the Remain in Mexico policy.
The Trump administration took several actions to dismantle the DACA program. Biden directed the DHS Secretary and Attorney General to preserve and fortify it.
We mustn’t ask why these things are essential but why they are important to Republicans.
Why do Republicans want undocumented immigrants excluded from the census?
The census data is used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives. Republicans argue that states with larger undocumented immigrant populations could unfairly gain more representation in Congress, which might not accurately reflect the citizen voting population.
However, including undocumented immigrants in the census ensures that congressional representation is more accurately aligned with the actual population of a district or state. This is crucial for fair representation in Congress, as districts are drawn based on the total population, not just the number of citizens or legal residents.
Why was Trump’s Interior Enforcement Executive Order so bad?
The order effectively categorized any undocumented individual as a criminal, directing federal resources toward their removal. This led to inhumane treatment of immigrants, including overcrowded detention facilities and the controversial practice of separating children from their parents.
The Trump administration’s narrative on immigration, heavily supported by this executive order, was built on misinformation, hyperbole, and skewed data, portraying immigrants in a largely negative light.
Why is a border wall useless?
Trump’s border wall was expensive and ineffective. Much of the US/Mexico border is rugged, remote terrain, including mountains, deserts, and rivers. These natural barriers make crossing difficult, and constructing a continuous, physical wall across such varied landscapes is absurd.
The cost of constructing, maintaining, and patrolling a border wall is immense. Estimates for Trump’s border wall ran into tens of billions of dollars. This money could be more effectively spent on other measures that address the root causes of migration, such as foreign aid.
Plus, evidence suggests that a physical wall is not practical in stopping illegal immigration or drug trafficking. Many undocumented immigrants enter the US through legal ports of entry with valid visas and then overstay. Drug traffickers use a variety of methods to smuggle contraband, including tunnels, drones, and hidden compartments in vehicles that a wall cannot address.
Why do Republicans want to end DACA?
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an administrative relief program that protects eligible immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation. DACA was enabled in 2012 under President Obama.
As of June 12, 2023, there are about 580,000 DACA recipients.
Facts about DACA recipients:
They cannot vote.
They cannot receive federal benefits like Social Security, college financial aid, or food stamps.
They are required to pay federal income taxes.
Arrived in America before they turned 16.
Under 21 years old as of June 15, 2012 (the date of the Obama’s announcement).
Republicans have had it out for this group since the day Obama signed the paper. They have argued that DACA is an illegal overreach of executive power and that only Congress has the authority to grant unauthorized immigrants federal benefits.
DACA recipients (Dreamers) have been in America their entire life. In many cases, since they were babies. They’ve already fully assimilated into our culture and have settled roots. Republicans want to rip them away from that and send them to unfamiliar countries. Giving Dreamers permanent citizenship is the only humane thing to do.
Why was the “Remain In Mexico” policy bad?
The Remain in Mexico policy came with a detrimental impact on asylum seekers in terms of human rights. The ACLU has pointed out that the policy trapped tens of thousands of people seeking asylum in dangerous conditions in Mexico while they awaited their court dates.
Individuals fleeing persecution were forced to wait in cities where they faced the risk of kidnapping, violence, and exploitation. Courts found the program unlawful, but it continued to be implemented while legal challenges proceeded.
Documented abuses include cases of murder, rape, torture, kidnapping, and other violent assaults against asylum seekers forced to return to Mexico under the policy. These conditions starkly contrast with the asylum process’s intended purpose to provide protection and safety for individuals fleeing persecution.
Immigrants are bringing fentanyl to America.
According to a report by the Cato Institute, US citizens were 86.3% convicted of fentanyl drug traffickers, and over 90 percent of fentanyl seizures occur at legal crossing points or interior vehicle checkpoints, not on illegal migration routes.
That means that American citizens are bringing fentanyl into America through legal crossing points.
Immigrants are bringing high rates of crime into our country.
A study from the Department of Justice found that undocumented immigrants had substantially lower crime rates than native-born citizens and legal immigrants across a range of felony offenses. Relative to undocumented immigrants, US-born citizens are over two times more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, and over four times more likely to be arrested for property crimes.
Immigrants take jobs from American workers.
Numerous studies have shown that immigrants complement the US workforce rather than compete directly with native-born workers. They often take jobs in sectors with significant labor shortages or roles that native-born workers are less inclined to pursue, contributing positively to the economy and creating new jobs through entrepreneurship.
Immigrants are a drain on the US economy.
The idea that immigrants are a drain on the US economy is a myth. In fact, immigrants contribute to the economy in many ways:
In 2018, immigrants paid $458.7 billion in state, local, and federal taxes.
Immigrants create new jobs by starting businesses and spending money on American goods and services.
Immigrants increase the productivity of US businesses.
Study after study shows that undocumented immigrants contribute more to the economy than they take. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for most public services like Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps.
Immigrants refuse to assimilate into American society.
According to Carnegie, the myth that immigrants today don’t assimilate as well as immigrants from previous eras is false. Immigrants to the United States are assimilating as well as or better than immigrant groups from Europe over a hundred years ago.
According to Stanford, evidence shows that assimilation is real and measurable and that, over time, immigrant populations come to resemble natives. That means they are assimilating.
While Republicans’ only solution has been a wall, we’ve already discussed how a wall has been ineffective. It’s clear that there is a migration crisis, and it’s happening all over the world, not just here in America. A pivotal approach is to tackle the root causes of migration, such as violence, insecurity, and economic instability in migrants’ home countries.
Biden is tackling the root causes of immigration.
The Biden-Harris administration has aimed to manage regional migration by focusing on these root causes. This strategy includes collaborating with private sector companies to secure investments for job creation in the region, supporting private sector companies in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to create jobs, and delivering COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries in northern Central America.
Efforts are also being made to rebuild the damage done by previous administrations, which pursued punitive migration policies, and to increase foreign aid to Central America to tackle these root causes directly.
America needs to stop arming the cartels.
More than 500,000 American-made guns are trafficked from the United States to Mexico every year. 70% of guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico come from the US, 40% directly from Texas. It is America’s lax gun laws that arm the cartel that has caused mass chaos and violence in the countries south of us.
In 2023, Democrats introduced the “Stop Arming the Cartel” Act. As of today, the bill still has not been heard in any committee.
America needs to do more to address the climate crisis.
The average temperature in Central America has increased by 0.5°C since 1950 and is projected to rise by at least another degree before 2050. Because of that and the overall impact global warming has had on the weather, Central America has experienced a steady increase in the number of extreme weather events, including hurricanes, storms, and droughts.
Farmers in Central America have experienced multiple droughts since 2014, resulting in 70% or more crop losses during some harvests. As a result, from 2018 to 2021, Central America’s number of people going hungry nearly quadrupled, topping out at close to eight million.
The narrative surrounding immigration and border policies has been mired in misinformation, necessitating a strategic response from Democrats. To navigate and counteract the misinformation, there must be a concerted effort to embrace transparency, leverage factual data, and amplify the narratives that underscore the complexity and humanity of immigration issues.
We need a proactive strategy from our elected officials and trusted media involving engaging with communities through educational outreach to spread factual information. By putting forward the real stories of those impacted by border policies and highlighting the contributions of immigrants to American society, Democrats can challenge the GOP narratives that dehumanize and politicize this issue.
Policy must be rooted in evidence and empathy. This includes advocating for comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the root causes of migration, expands legal pathways for immigration, and ensures fair and humane treatment of all individuals.
In the face of so much misinformation, silence or passivity is not an option. Democrats, alongside activists, community leaders, and all stakeholders committed to an informed public discourse, must actively work to set the record straight. This is not a political imperative but a moral one, vital for the preservation of democratic values and the advancement of policies that uphold dignity, fairness, and opportunity for all.
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