Recently, Texas Republicans have taken every opportunity to to use the humanitarian crisis of undocumented and unaccompanied children fleeing to the United States to escape violence in their home countries as fodder for their anti-Obama campaign platform. It's no secret – Abbott campaigns against President Obama instead of Wendy Davis. When Dan Patrick was campaigning against three other Republicans to be the GOP's nominee for Lieutenant Governor, his campaign ad was focused on Obama, not his opponents.
It is easy to look at the fear mongering around the crisis at the border as the same old story – except in this case, it isn't just an election that is at stake. These Republican lawmakers are placing concern on border security instead of the safety of thousands of children, and they are doing it using the same rhetoric that allows them to deny undocumented immigrants their humanity and treat an entire group of people with disdain and hatred. And, of course, Jonathan Stickland is in the thick of it.
More on Rep. Stickland's exploitation of the unaccompanied minors crisis below the jump.In a post detailing his trip to the border with State Representatives Jeff Leach, Scott Sanford, Bryan Hughes, Steve Toth, Brandon Creighton, Debbie Riddle, State Represntative Elect Matt Rinaldi, and US Congressman Louie Gohmert to “see firsthand what is going on,” Stickland places blame on both the federal government and Mexican drug cartels for the current crisis all while pitting “each illegal” against “our children.”
Stickland's trip to the border to learn about Governor Perry's authorized surge is presented as an attempt to understand how state money can be used to stem the tide of undocumented minors coming into the country. Because of the federal government's failings, he and the other Texas legislators must take matters into their “own hands.”
The influx of unaccompanied minors has two sources, according to Stickland: the federal government's refusal to “secure the border” combining with an insidious plan by Mexican cartels to overwhelm border security with women and children so as to allow criminals to slip through undetected. Perhaps Stickland doesn't read the news. (He wouldn't want to risk accidental exposure to the liberal media.) Otherwise, there is no explanation for a dialogue about the humanitarian border crisis that fails to mention the horrific levels of violence taking place across Central America that are contributing to this mass migration of minors from their homes.
Undeterred by his complete misunderstanding of the cause of the current crisis, Stickland offers a few policy initiatives to help solve the problem, including:
All the magnets attracting folks here must be turned off. No more benefits or special perks for illegal immigrants. We must secure the border immediately and make sure not one more makes it past us without being captured.A message must be sent to the countries and families of these unaccompanied children. We will no longer pay for the transportation of their children, wherever they wish, in America… The federal government must be held accountable for the havoc it's policies and lack of enforcement are causing our state.
Perhaps by “special perks” granted to undocumented people Stickland is referring to higher rates of children separated from parents as child protective services intersects with ICE deportation protocol, or maybe it's the “special” treatment of minor infractions (including having police enter your home to address domestic violence) that places undocumented persons at risk for deportation thanks to the Secure Communities program, which turns any interaction with law enforcement into an opportunity for deportation.
Either way, Stickland and Republicans like him are more than happy to use disgusting and dehumanizing language to describe children who are desperate to escape violence in their home countries, and the families that make the harrowing choice to send them here in hope of a safer future. This kind of rhetoric doesn't help us address the crisis, and instead misdirects concern for crisis at the border into anger at the federal government and “Austin establishment” for failing to protect “our children.”
And here is the most dangerous part of their discourse: even as children, undocumented immigrants are not safe from dehumanization at the hands of the Republican party. They are political pawns perfectly positioned to stoke fear and xenophobia in the extreme voting blocks in our state and across the country. Their age and vulnerability does not protect them from the ire of the GOP, who may make sure they are housed and fed, but are intent upon returning them to the same horror from which they came.