An Open Letter to the Biden Administration: It’s Time to Lean In to the “Open Borders” Accusations
C’mon President Biden, let’s stare down the real crisis on the border, the crisis of imagination. It is possible to do things another way.
I know everyone is accusing you of maintaining open borders. Many of the accusers are the usual suspects: Texas governor Greg Abbott, The Federalist, Fox News. Senator Ron Johnson got more dramatic and said you are “throwing open” the U.S. borders. Fox News reporter Bill Melugin recently tweeted a video of a small group of men struggling along the edge of the Rio Grande with some coiling razor wire.
Stephen Miller, immigration adviser to Donald Trump, quoted the tweet and shouted (as you only can on Twitter) that this is an example of “completely open borders.”
Thread documenting our completely open borders. https://t.co/hDWZBVoT7x
Bill Melugin @BillFOXLA
Constant illegal crossings in Eagle Pass, TX right now. This group of men just swam across. One was yelling “ayuda” (help) then he realized he was in waist deep water. These men say they are from Colombia, and one other is from Cuba. @FoxNews https://t.co/Q2ReXIbO94
April 23rd 2022
150 Retweets342 Likes
They're Ganging Up on You, Joe. I Feel Ya'
Even Democrats are accusing you of opening the borders. South Texas representative Henry Cuellar declared that borders would be “wide open” when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy, Title 42, phased out.
And Democrat and former presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard called you out in a tweet for having an “open-borders policy” after lamenting the death of a Texas National Guardsman after he attempted to save two people in the Rio Grande.* Arizona senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema joined up with Republicans and have called to keep Title 42 in place. And I have a feeling that this might be swaying you.
* Ed. note. The National Guardsman was part of Texas Governor Greg Abbott's $2.5 million deployment of state forces on the border. Running for president, Greg? (Asking for a friend.)
Out of compassion, a National Guardsman heroically dove into the Rio Grande River to save two illegal immigrants on the verge of drowning. They lived—he didn’t. Those who are trying to protect our borders are the real humanitarians, not those who advocate for open borders…
April 24th 2022
699 Retweets6,915 Likes
A Modest Proposal
So I have a new suggestion.
Embrace it! Just lean in! Just truly open up the border. Why not? You are already being accused of doing just that. Honestly, hasn’t the time come to try something new? I swear, it might even get you some votes, if you are worried about the midterm elections.
My first suggestion is to free up the money. I know the Heritage Foundation accused you of using a “blank check” to fund open-border immigration policies. I admit I did laugh out loud when I saw that headline. Really, how could that be possible when the president’s budget request for Custom and Border Protection was $17.5 billion (which would be the highest amount ever received by CBP)? I know you plan to maintain and expand the border machine, which has eaten up more than $358 billion since the Department of Homeland Security was founded in 2003.
Just ditch that budget. Free up that $17.5 billion. Imagine, sir, the possibilities! You could forgive student loans, for example, or make sure everyone has affordable health care and housing. That would get you some votes. Trust me, the border’s not going to get you anything.
And what the hell, throw ICE in there too. For 2023, that would give you an extra $8.5 billion. Sure, the more than 200 detention centers would fall, and so would the deportation infrastructure, like ICE AIR, and they might have to get rid of the Wrap, a device that puts people in stress positions for hours while they are deported on airplanes.
Think about it: we could quit torturing people, incarcerating people, and deporting people and free up $8.5 billion. I know private industry—prison companies, surveillance technology companies, etc.—might be pissed, but they’d get over it.
And if you really wanted to come across as a visionary, you could then invest that money in climate action, helping people in the United States and across the world who are facing climate catastrophes and are forced to move. I mean, not a bad look in an election year.
International Peace Garden, Dunseith, North Dakota
And speaking of environmental disasters, you could turn the Border Patrol into gardeners. After all, people think you’re looney tunes anyhow (Pat Buchanan calls you “Open Borders Biden”). Have you ever seen the International Peace Garden on the Canadian border between North Dakota and Manitoba? Do that! Everywhere! Embrace your accusers. Become what they accuse you of! Nobody laughs at the garden on the Canadian border, why not have one on the Mexican divide?
Imagine a borderlands of beautiful gardens matching the ecosystems from the Sonoran Desert to subtropical south Texas. I’d personally much rather see that instead of more rusty, razor-wired walls and gaudy invasive camera systems. I know in southern Arizona there are plenty of organizations that would gladly accept funding to coordinate that.
The International Peace Garden on the U.S.-Canada border (via Wikimedia Commons)
For that matter, while you’re at it, why don’t you follow Ronald Reagan’s advice to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 and “Tear Down This Wall.” For four years, Democrats criticized “Trump’s wall,” called it racist, xenophobic, made it clear that they would do something different when in office. And yet this thing we were told didn’t represent “our values” is still here! The racist wall is still here! The xenophobic wall is still here! I can go down and see it whenever I want. The very thing that didn’t represent “our values” is very much there representing “our values.”
Tear it down, crush it, and think of what you could do with those tons upon tons of steel and metal. You could turn it into bikes, you could turn it into a transit system, you could turn it into light rail, you can turn it into Amtrak rails and expand the trains, just like you promised. The fact that this metal is a wall is an offense to its potential, to what it could be.
If you think this is outlandish, fine, but I ask you to consider the current state of our border and immigration policing apparatus. Outlandish is the current rut of thinking on border and immigration, on the same status quo of more money, more surveillance, more walls, more guns, more agents. You want outlandish? Year after year, budgets go up, and the GOP accuses the Democrats of promoting open borders (because there is, of course, a crisis), which they don’t, and they never have. Then the Dems respond by making border policy ever more heavy-handed—more walls, more surveillance, more incarceration, more family separation, more suffering, more death. The budgets keep going up, and every year a growing border industry profits more. Meanwhile, we are told that it is impractical to think about the border anyway else.
It is a crisis of imagination.
This is why I say you need to embrace your accusers. Like a martial artist, you could use that aggressive energy to your advantage.
As author and artist Jenny Odell writes, when a person refuses or subverts an “unspoken custom”—which in this case is the complete lack of imagination on the border that produces the same results year after year—it reveals “its often-fragile contours. For a moment, the custom is shown to be not the horizon of possibility, but rather a tiny island in a sea of unexamined alternatives.”
Lean in to your accusers, President Biden. Doing so will, at the very least, reveal that there are actually potentially vibrant alternatives. We don’t have to keep doing the same thing year after year.
Todd Miller is a journalist based in Tucson, Arizona. He is the author of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security, Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security, and Empire of Borders: The Expansion of the U.S. Border Around the World. With Melissa del Bosque, he publishes The Border Chronicle on Substack.
Two gals climbed the fence in 17 seconds.
Brian's Don't Fence Us In Playlist
Don’t Fence Me In ::: Willie Nelson & Leon Russell
Let Me In ::: Bonnie Raitt
Clandestino ::: Manu Chao & Calypso Rose
Open The Door, Richard ::: Louis Jordan
Open These Bars ::: Otis Taylor
Keep A - Knockin’ But You Can’t Come In ::: Little Richard
I Hear You Knocking’ ::: Smiley Lewis
Refugee ::: U2
Pa’l Norte ::: Calle 13
Don’t Fence Me In ::: David Byrne
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