Don't Call it a Crisis
What's going on at the border?
Happy Monday to all my beautiful babies. I really want you guys to say it to yourselves right now, “Today I am going to live for God’s glory, flex on my haters, and get that paper.” The first day of the week is really just the beginning of your greatness (Yes, I am auditioning to become a Peloton instructor next week, thank you for asking).
Last week felt longer than others, but in my mind there were two major, major stories that dominated the news cycles: The report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) on Russian interference in the 2020 election, and the influx of migrants at the southern border. In order to ease the transition into the heavy immigration topic, I will give you a picture of Doris, who is actually a shelter pup from the border State of New Mexico!
I should say off the bat, I think the media has done a very poor job of covering the current-situation-on-the-border-that-the-Biden-Administration-refuses-to-call-a-crisis (but we will). Case in point is this piece from the Washington Post, which goes into Biden’s “failures” at the border:
The situation at the border — which Biden and his advisers steadfastly refuse to call a crisis [see? I told you.] — is the result of an administration that was forewarned of the coming surge, yet still ill-prepared and lacking the capacity to deal with it. Administration officials have been plagued by muddled messaging, sometimes making appeals that seem directed more at liberal activists than the migrants they need to dissuade from coming to the country.
I think this entire framing of the current issue is wrong. The real question isn’t whether or not we were (or even could be) prepared; the question is what could we have done about it anyway? The reality here is that migrants often do show up at the southern border in huge numbers, and have done so for the past 30+ years. In fact, we saw a bigger surge at one point under Trump:
It’s also important to note that while the numbers reached a low point in April of 2020, they have been inching up ever since then. There are a number of different reasons for this, and not all of them are related to Joe Biden. However, some definitely are:
Are migrants showing up at the border because they believe Biden will be better for immigrants than Trump? Of course.
Are they also showing up at the border because the Biden Administration made some changes to immigration policy from the Trump Administration? Yes.
Is it almost Spring and the weather is improving, which drives migration in Central America? Yes.
Is COVID-19 declining in the U.S. and increasing in parts of Central and South America? Yes.
Are there long-standing issues that drive people to our southern border (threats from cartels, government, and family members) and are those always going to be a factor? Yes.
What makes this current surge of migrants a “crisis” is that there is a large number of unaccompanied minors approaching the border. But even that isn’t something new:
This is where the policy change from Trump to Biden could come into play, but once you hear the full explanation, I doubt anyone will be Team Trump Administration™.
During COVID-19, Trump utilized a broad federal public health law called Title 42 (which has 161 chapters, if you need some material for the guest bathroom) to ship anyone who attempted to cross the border back to their country of origin. This included minor, unaccompanied children. Yes, the Trump Administration actually paid to fly children back to their home countries during COVID-19 (and, if you want to lose your mind even more, most evidence shows that a lot of migrants who are expelled via this method end up just trying to come back).
The Biden Administration has kept Title 42 in place for adults only and has begun processing minors at the border. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of D.C. (you might remember him from the Michael Flynn case) issued a decision in November that barred the Trump Administration’s from expelling minors, while another judge later halted the implementation of that decision in January. The Biden Administration ultimately decided it didn’t matter, since they were not going to use Title 42 to send children back anyway.
Is this legal back-and-forth the reason why so many unaccompanied minors are showing up to the border? While it’s possible, I have my doubts. I don’t think the family at the border who is sending their child alone in an attempt to get them out of a terrible situation is actually paying attention to the legal interpretations of Title 42. Instead, I think it is much more likely that this is pent-up demand after the most anti-immigrant Administration in the past 50 years left office in January. Biden’s policies are not some radical departure from American immigration law (he’s even keeping some Trump policies in place!); he is just returning to the norm:
However, even the narrative that migrants are coming here because they see Biden as more “friendly” is tenuous, since migrants have been showing up to the border in increasing numbers since the summer of 2020, while Trump was still President. And I honestly think that some of the bizarre media coverage of this issue is because they have been successfully trolled by conservatives into thinking that the “kids in cages” crisis is the same as Trump’s family separation policy, when we all know they are different.
I want to talk about the DNI report briefly, mostly because it touches on issues that we’ve been discussing here for a long time. The key findings:
The Russians tried to help Trump win the election again, and this was directed by Vladimir Putin himself.
They used Rudy Giuliani as a conduit for false information.
The Trump Administration exaggerated (or at the very worst, lied about) the threat from Chinese election interference. The DNI report actually says the Chinese sniffed around but thought the risk of being caught overshadowed any potential benefit of interference.
First off, RUDY. What the heck happened? Phillip Bump has a good summary of the whole DNI report, but he also has this great little nugget about Giuliani:
By early May 2019, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani must have looked like the international espionage equivalent of a wide-eyed tourist walking around with his wallet hanging out his back pocket. He’d announcedhis intention to travel to Ukraine to seek out derogatory information about Joe Biden, then a newly announced presidential candidate and someone well positioned to face President Donald Trump, then Giuliani’s boss, in the 2020 election. For any Russian officials interested in finding a conduit for misinformation that both cast their geopolitical rival Ukraine as corrupt and bolstered Trump’s chances of reelection, Giuliani must have been an irresistible target.
I mean, yikes. While the overall headline is bad for Rudy, it’s important to note that the DNI report does not touch on Hunter Biden’s laptop, which Giuliani supposedly found behind a dumpster outside of a 711, being pushed by a guy named “Fast Eddie.” (I’m not even sure what the original story is anymore.)
But here’s the thing: If you are still writing pieces arguing that journalists were wrong not to amplify the Hunter Biden Laptop Story in 2020, you have worms in your brain. Giuliani was in direct communication with Russian agents who were using him to disseminate misinformation to the American public. The idea that journalists should have written up a story about a laptop they were not allowed to examine or look at despite multiple requests to Rudy, while the guy behind the entire narrative was open-mouth kissing Russian agents (when he didn’t have his hand down his pants in a Borat movie) is straight-up nuts.
Who wants to do should-reads? You do. I did pick up new subscribers this week, so I should explain that I do not give you “must-reads” because that is too bossy.
Related to the Giuliani story, this explainer from Michael Weiss about how you do not have to be a Russian “agent” to be Russian “asset” is really interesting.
The Washington Post had a great summary of all Trump’s looming legal problems.
This piece on construction site deaths is really upsetting and tragic, and it relates to our big topic about the migrant crisis, since most of the construction workers are immigrants themselves.
I have written a long piece on how QAnon is connected to The Rapture, which I may even eventually discuss on a podcast. It is in its final editing and will probably go live at some point today or tomorrow. I’ll send an updated Jackal with the link. Have a great week everyone. Doris says she loves you.