US Mexico border fence

The border bill circus is the latest demonstration of a bedrock reality of today's Republican Party: It does not exist to achieve political outcomes. Its chief function is fan service.

The overriding concern of GOP voters, according to polls and to elected Republicans, is immigration. In the ranty precincts of the right, they believe that the southern border is open; that criminals, terrorists and drug dealers are crossing en masse. Among less febrile Republicans, the argument is that while legal immigration is good for the nation, we are swamped by illegal border crossers and must get control of a border that is out of hand.

Whichever version of the immigration argument they favor, every Republican who truly cared about solving the "crisis at the border" would presumably favor a bill that would have tackled — or at least ameliorated — the problem right now. In October, a group of senators including Shelley Moore Capito and Todd Young sent a letter to the president warning that 169 people on the terrorism watch list had been apprehended in the preceding 10 months. In early January, a 60-member delegation of House Republicans traveled to Eagle Pass, Texas. They were enraged, they said, by the fentanyl coming across the border.

In reality, fentanyl is mostly smuggled by American citizens, not would-be asylum seekers. Ninety percent of seizures occur at legal border crossings and interior vehicle checkpoints. In recent years, just 0.02 percent of people arrested for crossing the border illegally had any fentanyl in their possession.

Speaker Mike Johnson thundered that "One thing is absolutely clear: America is at a breaking point with record levels of illegal immigration." Rep. Mark Green, who yesterday announced his retirement from Congress, claimed that the FBI director had testified that members of Hamas can "just walk right in." But as The New York Times clarifies, Christopher Wray said no such thing. Rather, he explained in response to a tendentious question, that he could not 100 percent guarantee that none of those who evaded the border patrol ("get-aways") were members of Hamas.

While the risk of terrorists crossing the southern border is not zero, the Cato Institute's Alex Nowrasteh has shown that the southern border is not a common vector for terrorists attempting to enter the United States.

But let's assume for the sake of argument that most Republicans are unfamiliar with Nowrasteh's research and fully believe the Mark Greens and Mike Johnsons of their party who claim that we are being overrun by terrorists and foreign drug smugglers, to say nothing of immigrants "poisoning the blood" of real Americans.

Would they not be outraged by their elected officials' decision to tank a border bill that would achieve many of their objectives? The base has not been shy about accusing Republican leaders of cowardice and betrayal over much less. Yet on this issue, supposedly the one they feel most passionate about, they are tamely accepting that GOP congressmen and senators passed up a unique opportunity to get much tougher enforcement just in order to give Trump a campaign issue?

Well, some might explain, the average Republican voter thinks that if Trump is reelected, they will get even better (i.e., harsher) measures to keep immigrants out. But that is false.

The only reason the Democrats are willing to agree to a lopsided border deal that gives Republicans 80 percent of what they demanded and get nothing in return (like a path to citizenship for Dreamers) is because Democrats are worried that the issue hurts them with voters — and since Republicans linked support for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan to border security, Democrats would have to bend.

But that political calculation goes out the window if Trump is reelected. Democrats would not have any incentive to compromise.

So if GOP voters believe that illegals are flooding into the country to our sorrow and that we are in danger daily from infiltration by terrorists, how can they accept that Republicans would choose to continue this "unconscionable" status quo a day longer than necessary — much less the years it will likely take before another deal is possible? And if the Republican Party is a political entity, don't voters have a duty to understand political realities, including that this was a unique moment to achieve their cherished objective?

But if the party doesn't exist to solve political problems, if instead it exists only to "fight," then the voters' passivity makes sense. The GOP doesn't need to get control of the border, merely to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas. Lauren Boebert released a triumphant video after the (second) impeachment vote boasting that "Just now we impeached Secretary Mayorkas who has endangered our country by deliberately handing over control of our southern border to the cartel. Now that's delivering for the American people!"

No, that was a gross misuse of government power against an official that even the GOP's favorite legal advisers had said did nothing to merit impeachment. Besides, it was a pointless, empty gesture since the Democrats control the Senate and will certainly acquit him (as he deserves).

The show is everything. Results don't count, only the fight.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

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Pro-Trump Border Patrol Union Urges Congress To Pass Senate Bill He Opposes

Former President Donald Trump, left, and Brandon Judd at the White House

In a major blow to House Republicans, some far-right Senate Republicans, and Donald Trump, the labor union representing U.S. Border Patrol agents and staff on Monday endorsed the Senate border bill, saying it “will drop illegal border crossings nationwide.”

The entire House Republican leadership team in a statement Monday called the Senate bill “DEAD on arrival.” The legislation, seen as the “harshest” immigration bill in decades, also provides billions for defense in Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

Just last week Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, appeared before a GOP-controlled House committee, testifying, “I can honestly say border patrol agents want him impeached,” referring to Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

But on Monday, Judd and the NBPC broke from House Republicans.

“Since Joe Biden has been in office, CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] has averaged over 8,000 apprehensions per day and the vast majority of these illegal immigrants have been released under a policy known as catch-and-release,” he said in a statement. In another version that number read “6,700.”

“Approximately 60% of all border apprehensions are single adults, a good number of whom are military age men,” he added, echoing GOP talking points.

“Approximately 60% of all border apprehensions are single adults, a good number of whom are military age men,” he added, echoing GOP talking points.

But then Judd added:

“The Border Act of 2024 will give U.S. Border Patrol agents authorities codified, in law, that we have not had in the past. This will allow us to remove single adults expeditiously and without a lengthy judicial review which historically has required the release of these individuals into the interior of the United States. This alone will drop illegal border crossings nationwide and will allow our agents to get back to detecting and apprehending those who want to cross our borders illegally and evade apprehension. While not perfect, the Border Act of 2024 is a step in the right direction and is far better than the current status quo. This is why the National Border Patrol Council endorses this bill and hopes for its quick passage.”

Fox News’ Bill Melugin adds, ” Like every union, this doesn’t represent the views of every Border Patrol agent, but the union is vehemently anti-Biden & pro-border security, just look at their X posts, and the union president is a supporter of former President Trump – who said he is against the deal.”

Indeed, the National Border Patrol Council endorsed Donald Trump for president in 2016 and 2020.

Trump strongly opposes the legislation, and has warned all Republicans against voting for it, instead demanding a “perfect” bill that allows zero undocumented immigrants to cross the border.

“Only a fool, or a Radical Left Democrat, would vote for this horrendous Border Bill,” Trump said on Truth Social, while calling it a “great gift to the Democrats, and a Death Wish for The Republican Party,” according to Politico.

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet