One of the big pieces of “news” to come out of Thursday’s Republican Anti-Immigrant Antiques Roadshow was the fact that Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) wants the National Guard to “secure our border” from the 50,000 children who are streaming across it from Central America, but less reported is Perry’s complete faceplant when Democratic Congressman Filemon Vela (D-Texas) asked him the simplest of questions.
After an hour or so of testimony from Perry, Vela completely hobbled the Republicans’ main talking point on this immigration crisis by asking Perry “If we had a thousand National Guard at our borders, as you propose, how would that have prevented the influx of these unaccompanied children who, for all practical purposes, are surrendering themselves?”
Perry hesitated, then launched into a verbal dance-off with himself. “The power of boots on the ground cannot be overstated,” Perry began, then proceeded to demonstrate that it also can’t really be explained. Instead of describing how the National Guard could repel unaccompanied children from the border, Perry instead went off on several tangents about criminal activity, neighborhood watches, and concluded by saying there would be no influx of children because that’s what he thinks.
Later in the hearing, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) helped Perry further destroy the Republican narrative on the current immigration crisis when he asked Perry to recall the dates on which the DACA policy and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (which created special rules for unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries) were enacted, since these are the policies that are supposedly to blame for drawing these unaccompanied children to our borders, years after the fact. Perry interrupted Swalwell to again insist that the real problem, and the only solution, is National Guard troops on the border.
“During our briefing this morning, we were told that this is not a matter of catching them,” Swalwell said. “These children are running into open arms, so wouldn’t additional border patrol agents only increase the number of open arms that these children are running into?”
“I think I addressed that earlier when I said that when you have the National Guard, when you have a law enforcement effort,” Perry began, before abruptly remembering that he hadn’t actually addressed anything and darting over into a tangent about diplomacy, declaring that Mexico won’t secure its southern border because it doesn’t trust us?
“Border security” is the conservatives’ magical immigration amulet, the go-to demand they make whenever they need an excuse not to do anything, but it simply doesn’t apply in this case, as Perry’s response makes painfully, awkwardly clear. these kids aren’t slipping through, they are being apprehended. They aren’t being drawn here by policies that were enacted years ago, they are being driven from Central America by their desire not to be murdered.
Perry’s got an answer for that, too, though, because if we allow this to continue, maybe angry anti-immigrant Americans will start doing some murdering of their own, right? Is there some other way to interpret this?
“If we don’t do that, I will suggest to you that the American people will address this in a number of different ways, electorally and otherwise.”