“…Para Formar Todo Un Hogar…”
October 07, 2014
By Griffin Rubin, CAS’17
While buzzwords have been continuously thrown around, there seems to be a lack of definition of these critical words used on both sides of the aisle in reference to the border crisis. Of the many phrases used in the discourse on the subject, the way the terms “undocumented immigrants” and “border security” are used by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, respectively, necessitates further examination and insight.
Democrats use the term “undocumented immigrants” instead of the GOP word choice of “illegal immigrants.” Whether this term is used by Democrats to be “politically correct,” to make their party’s position on this class of immigrants more politically viable, or (as only a handful of Republicans are willing to admit publicly) to secure the votes of the Hispanic and immigrant communities, the point that Democrats and the media seem to miss is the illegal part. Republicans tend to be more blunt about terminology, with terms such as the “death tax” and “entitlements.” These phrases are named in such a way as to attract political support in the same way Democrats name large, bureaucratic social programs in political ways, such as “Social Security” and the “safety net.” However, the term “illegal immigrant,” while certainly more of a Republican term, does call a spade a spade: the immigrants coming across the border at a more accelerated pace than any time in recent memory are crossing the border illegally. The Democrats refuse to call them “illegal immigrants” for two reasons: the vast majority of the immigrants are under the age of 18 and they are claiming political asylum, stating their declared escape from horrid conditions in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. As it so happens, these are good reasons to treat them humanely. Non-radical members of the GOP have been calling the border situation a “humanitarian crisis” for as long if not longer than the Democrats have. The biggest issue of the illegality of the immigrants to the GOP is that there is no deterrence for the immigrants to stop coming to the U.S. If no measures of deterrence are put in place, Republican lawmakers contend that the life threatening and extremely dangerous mass exodus from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border will only get worse and increase in volume. Trying to secure the border with these measures of deterrence could be easier to implement if the Obama Administration had an established method of determining border security. My boss, Chairman Michael McCaul of the House Committee on Homeland Security, proposed a bill that would require DHS to provide a system of metrics to determine a sufficient level of border security (the importance of such legislation was unfortunately drowned out by the House border supplemental). For Democrats to avoid the debate on deterring illegal immigration through shifting attention to other facets of the issue and using language such as “undocumented immigrants” is irresponsible to the rule of law of the country, sends a terrible message to the international community, and threatens the sovereignty of our nation by ignoring the issue of border security.
On the other side of the aisle, it seems like the only words Republicans would use to describe the border situation would 99.99% of the time include the phrase “border security.” While responsible Republicans in Congress (like Congressman McCaul) legislatively attempted to define what a secure border is, taking a metaphorical step back to examine the whole playing field here makes a great difference. Even if McCaul’s bill defining border security would have been enacted, what on earth does “border security” actually entail? The GOP legislators are seemingly all over the spectrum when it comes to this question. On the more extreme side, far right lawmakers such as Steve King, John Fleming, Louie Gohmert, and Michelle Bachmann seem to think the bigger the electrified wall that can be built, the bigger the presence law enforcement officers can be, the greater speed of deportation, the better. In addition, these very conservative members also want to strip any and all power President Obama has over the situation, including repealing DACA and preventing the president from granting amnesty unilaterally. More moderate members of the GOP House caucus, while sharing similar sentiments, think lesser yet nevertheless significant changes are necessary. These members, led by House GOP leadership such as John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and Hal Rogers, proposed a plan of greater compassion, increasing funding to care for the children coming across the border while imposing a message of deterrence through legislation. Needless to say, these two factions within the same party are undoubtedly split, only attempting to collaborate as to publicly display some sort of party unity. Still, while the GOP legislators in the House of Representatives have repeated the phrases “border security” and “secure the border” on the floor and in interviews an infinite number of times, the phrase is just an undefined (or poorly defined) phrase with little specific meaning and clearly open to a wide range of interpretations. For Republicans to remain utterly vocal about the issue at hand and continue to use the phrase “border security” as though that is a clear and defined solution to the problem is irresponsible and further adds to the public image of the Republican Party being divided, toothless, and without answers.
While the border situation has proved to be the political issue of the summer, little to nothing has actually been achieved by either party to address the problem. It’s just another example of serious policy matters in drastic need of legislative action being neglected due to the legislators and their parties in Congress engaging in yet another political media war at the expense of these immigrants and the American people.
The views and sentiments expressed in this piece are not representative of the views and sentiments held by Congressman Michael T. McCaul or his staff.
Additional Blog Posts
Student Blog Disclaimer
The views expressed on the Student Blog are the author’s opinions and don’t necessarily represent the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative’s strategies, recommendations, or opinions.