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Speaking out: Border crisis is about ‘failed government’

Speaking out: Border crisis is about ‘failed government’

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Steve Andrist

Steve Andrist

The “coyotes,” depraved low-lifes who care far more for money than for human life as they smuggle desperate human beings across the Mexican border into Texas, have become emboldened.

As Border Patrol agents have become preoccupied with a humanitarian crisis and less available to patrol the border, there are an estimated 1,000 “gotaways” a day on the southern border. That’s illegal migrants who make it safely into the United States.

And yet in the four months of 2021, authorities in Brookes County, Texas, have recovered 22 human remains, each representing people with names and families. That’s almost as many as were recovered all of last year, and it’s just one county in one massive state.

Simultaneously, the United States is spending $60 million a week to shelter unaccompanied minors whose desperate parents point them north and tell them to run. You know they’re desperate. Would you take your 10-year-old or your teenager to the border of a strange country where people speak a different language and bid the child farewell and good luck?

At any given time, the Department of Health and Human Services reports that there are 16,000 children in shelters, some of them temporary facilities that have been thrown up because of a surge in undocumented children.

According to the New York Times, “Roughly 350 teens and children have been crossing the U.S. border without their parents each day in recent weeks, four times as many as last fall, and many are stuck for days in dour detention cells waiting for shelter openings.”

And this is political how?

The border crisis is a political Achilles’ heel for President Joe Biden, whose Republican opponents already hope it’s the issue that will return them to power next year in the midterm elections.

It’s an issue that bedeviled President Donald Trump, to the political delight of his opponents, and President Barack Obama before him, and President George W. Bush before him, and on and on.

While politicians fiddle, the border burns.

For all his myriad presidential shortcomings, George W. Bush, he of water boarding and weapons of mass destruction, can be credited with the most sincere effort to convert the issue from political to humanitarian. His human compassion, in this case, weighed more heavily than gaining political advantage, and he nearly was able to bring Congress, kicking and screaming, along with him.


Three presidents later, the United States, Mexico and Central America are still suffering tragic consequences as politicians continue to avoid finding a comprehensive solution.

Twelve years after leaving the White House, immigration remains on Bush’s mind.

In an interview last week on National Public Radio, Bush said, “The whole issue is one of failed government. And the reason why it’s failed is because the issue is too political.”

He said the issue should not be about scoring political points but about fixing a broken system, and “Congress needs to fix it.”

Full disclosure: The reason Bush is speaking out now is that he’s promoting his new book, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants.” The book was the premise for his NPR interview.

Still, in that interview, he expressed hope that the book will get Americans to look at the issue in a different way, and his portraits featured in the book describe immigrants who are now making notable contributions in our country.

Because of nativist political sentiment, he’s not optimistic that comprehensive reform is possible at this point in our history, so he hopes instead to reverse government failures one piece at a time, perhaps starting with DACA -- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

While understanding the distasteful political realities, many see the role of government as fixers of problems to be more important than the role of government officials to score political points.

Immigration is a perfect example.

It’s wrong to make it a “gotcha” for one side to curry votes. It’s right to find a way to salve human fear, pain and suffering.

Steve Andrist, Bismarck, is former executive director of the North Dakota Newspaper Association.


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