Migrants, Scale Fence, Eagle Pass, TX
A group of migrants from Colombia, Honduras, and Guatemala successfully scales a border fence into the United States south of Eagle Pass, TX, on January 22, 2024, after passing through the floating border barrier and several miles of razor wire strung along the Rio Grande River. Photo credit: © Bob Daemmrich/ZUMA Press Wire

The US-Mexico border is a political booby trap, which is why MAGA wants to keep it open.

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Recently, I read an article about a gang of foreign kids living in a NYC shelter who knocked down and beat up some city cops. 

I was initially struck by their fearlessness and moxie — kids vs. cops — but pretty quickly I focused on the audacity of some people who are not even here legally acting out violently. 

And then the other day I read about how the NYPD arrested seven members of a large gang that was terrorizing the city, snatching cell phones, hacking them to clean out their owners’ bank accounts, and buying things with their credit cards. They also grabbed wallets and handbags (in at least one instance dragging a female victim down the sidewalk). Five of the seven are what used to be called “illegal aliens.” Another seven remain at large.

My next thought was that all this was perfect fodder for Fox News, Newsmax, and all the rest of them — and likely to show up in Donald Trump’s next speech. 

And sure enough, soon after I had that thought, there it was on Fox News, and there was Elon Musk pushing the cop-beating story out to his own vast audience. 

And why not? 

Surely, Joe Biden and the Democrats do not want this stuff hanging around their necks. They do not in any way countenance this sort of violent behavior by people who have no legal right to be here. And Biden and his allies should say so loud and clear.

Get in Front of It

Indeed, it is imperative they find a way to get in front of this kind of thing without, as a migrant activist group warned, “victimizing” the vast majority of migrants (both those with papers and those without) who are not violent and commit no wrongdoing. (In fact, immigrants are 60 percent less likely to be incarcerated than US-born citizens. Latin American immigrants have a higher incarceration rate when immigration-related offenses are factored in.) 

The reality is that Trump and company have no viable solutions to any of this, or to practically anything else. But because they “do the easy” — raise the issues that trigger anxiety — they get credit with their base for at least acknowledging the fear and the concern. 

New York City’s Democratic mayor, Eric Adams, has acknowledged that fear and concern.  Adams, himself a former cop, has struggled with the immigration issue, especially since New York is more overwhelmed with immigrants than the rest of the country. So it was no surprise that he joined the NYPD during the raid in which many of the purse snatchers were arrested, and participated in the press conference afterwards. 

Many Democratic politicians run the risk of appearing weak or naive when it comes to issues of crime, especially immigrant crime. And, although there is a small but vocal movement that selectively protests certain things and stokes anger at Democratic politicians, that doesn’t mean that Democratic leaders should shy away from advocating practical measures for public safety, including where migrants are actually at fault. 

Bottom line: It’s best not to ignore or ridicule the Right when its issues have at least a grain of truth. But get in there and challenge them as the phonies they are — with no real, viable solutions. And ditto with the Left, increasingly joining with the Right on everything from Russia to vaccines. 

The border mess is actually horribly complicated, but right now it is on Biden’s watch, so he is in the unenviable position of trying to take at least symbolic steps without having the tools to really have a meaningful impact. And the MAGA-GOP’s Trump-driven strategy is to make damned sure he stays in that position.

We can see what an impossible quagmire it is to actually address the border crisis — including both its real and manufactured elements — from the day-to-day chaos over it in Congress. 

The recently blocked bipartisan border reform bill was made more unwieldy because of lumping in funding for Ukraine and Israel. But even putting that aside, the bigger issues around “securing the border” are vast, long-playing, ever-changing, and complex, and it will take actual grown-ups a very long time to fashion and implement a meaningful solution. 

Trump himself got elected in part by promising his “big beautiful wall” — and we all see how well that has gone. Now he’s calling on Republicans to block the bipartisan border bill simply because he knows that he cannot afford to have that issue disappear as a rallying cry against the opposition. 

No matter: As the late Saul Bellow said four decades ago, “People think they have facts… what they have is ‘crisis chatter’ — what the media have given them.” 

As previous presidents (Bill Clinton, for instance) have sometimes shown, you never give these guys on the Right an inch because they will take a mile. In the political arena, it is all about perceptions. 

The Minefield

Fighting back requires a very difficult balancing act. The second you chime in to support any of their exaggerated points — like migrants being more prone to criminal behavior than native-born people — you make things worse. You validate their cynical agenda and warped world view; you make them look right

On the other hand, because those incidents will become headline fodder, you have to find a way to acknowledge and address them. 

It’s always much harder to be the realistic one. 

So Biden must tip-toe through that minefield and find a way to make clear to those putative allies who press him on single issues (albeit legitimate issues) that he gets their point, but this isn’t the moment to tear him down when so very much essentially everything, everywhere is at stake. 

We know what the other issues are, too, and they’re also complex and misrepresented. Like the right policy for underage kids making life-changing gender-assignment choices

More and more, media organizations are seeing that being politically correct for this or that perceived constituency isn’t the way to go, either. 

Bottom line: It’s best not to ignore or ridicule the Right when its issues have at least a grain of truth. But get in there and challenge them as the phonies they are — with no real, viable solutions. And ditto with the far Left, increasingly joining with the MAGA Right on everything from Russia to vaccines. 

Because, it turns out, there are solutions to be found — and evidence that they work. Here’s one: 

The US is now importing more from Mexico than China for the first time in 20 years. That’s a good move in terms of national security, and it’s the right direction in terms of helping improve economic conditions south of the border — which in turn will begin to alleviate the pressure to migrate to the US. 

Biden and his team are getting better — a bit — at this game, but they’re late, very late, and the stakes are daunting, with the clock ticking down to November 5 

The true mark of leadership is doing the responsible thing, acknowledging problems, demonstrating compassion, and — not being a wimp. Do not let those who wield words and manipulate events in destructive ways get the upper hand. Ever. 


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  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

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