No, There's No Border Crisis. Republicans Are Perpetuating Another Big Lie | Opinion

Republicans are outraged—outraged!—at the surge of migrants at the southern border.

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy has declared it a crisis, "created by the presidential policies of this new administration." Arizona congressman Andy Biggs has claimed that "right now is probably the most dramatic [surge] I've seen at the border in my lifetime." In a statement released last Tuesday, Former President Donald Trump was outraged. "Our country is being destroyed!" he proclaimed, blaming the Biden administration for "causing death and human tragedy."

But in fact, despite the surging hysteria from Republican ranks, there is no surge of migrants at the border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended 28 percent more migrants from January to February this year than in previous months. But this was largely seasonal. Two years ago, apprehensions increased 31 percent during the same period. Three years ago, it was about 25 percent from February to March.

Migrants start coming when winter ends and the weather gets a bit warmer, then stop coming in the hotter summer months when the desert is deadly.

To be sure, there is a humanitarian crisis of children detained in overcrowded border facilities. And an even worse humanitarian tragedy in the violence and political oppression in Central America, worsened by U.S. policies over the years, that's driving migration in the first place.

But the "surge" has been fabricated by Republicans in order to stoke fear—and, not incidentally, to justify changes in laws they say are necessary to prevent non-citizens from voting.

Republicans continue to allege—without proof—that the 2020 election was rife with fraudulent ballots, many from undocumented immigrants. Over the past six weeks, they've introduced 250 bills in 43 states designed to make it harder for people to vote— especially the young, the poor, Black people, and Hispanic-Americans, all of whom are likely to vote for Democrats—by eliminating mail-in ballots, reducing times for voting, decreasing the number of drop-off boxes, demanding proof of citizenship, and even making it a crime to give water to people waiting in line to vote.

To stop this, Democrats are trying to enact a sweeping voting rights bill called the For the People Act, which protects voting, ends partisan gerrymandering, and keeps dark money out of elections. It already passed the House, but Republicans in the Senate are fighting it with more lies.

On Wednesday, the Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz falsely claimed the new bill would register millions of undocumented immigrants to vote and accused Democrats of wanting the most violent criminals to cast ballots, too.

Border crisis
Border Patrol agents apprehend a group of migrants near downtown El Paso, Texas following the congressional border delegation visit on March 15, 2021. - President Joe Biden faced mounting pressure Monday from Republicans over his handling of a surge in migrants -- including thousands of unaccompanied children -- arriving at the US-Mexican border. Justin Hamel / AFP/Getty Images

The core message of the Republican party now consists of lies about a "crisis" of violent immigrants crossing the border, lies that they're voting illegally, and blatantly anti-democratic restrictions on voting to counter these trumped-up crises.

What has happened to the party that once championed lower taxes, smaller government, states' rights and a strong national defense? Donald Trump isn't single-handedly responsible for this transformation, but he demonstrated to the GOP the political potency of bigotry.

This transformation in one of America's two eminent political parties has shocking implications, not just for the future of American democracy but for the future of democracy everywhere. And it's something President Biden and his cabinet are keenly aware of. "I predict to you, your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded: autocracy or democracy?" Joe Biden opined at his news conference on Thursday. It was a sentiment that echoed Antony Blinken's maiden speech at the State Department on March 4, when he conceded that the erosion of democracy around the world is "also happening here in the United States."

The secretary of state didn't explicitly talk about the Republican Party. But there was no mistaking his subject. "When democracies are weak... they become more vulnerable to extremist movements from the inside and to interference from the outside," Blinken warned. People around the world witnessing the fragility of American democracy "want to see whether our democracy is resilient, whether we can rise to the challenge here at home. That will be the foundation for our legitimacy in defending democracy around the world for years to come."

That resilience and legitimacy will depend in large part on whether Republicans or Democrats prevail on voting rights. Not since the years leading up to the Civil War has the clash between the nation's two major parties so clearly defined the core challenge facing American democracy.

Robert B. Reich is an American political commentator, professor and author. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Reich's latest book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now.

The views in this article are the writer's own.