Speaking in Mexico City this week, Gov. Jerry Brown set a vastly different tone on immigration from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who uses the U.S.-Mexico border as a wedge to divide people.
“These are children, and many of them have relatives that are in California and other parts of the United States who are working, contributing to the well-being of people in the United States,” Brown said of the thousands of Central American kids flocking to the U.S. Many are unaccompanied minors traveling the length of Mexico from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to escape violence.
Once here, the refugees have become pawns in a cynical game of American politics. In contrast to Brown, who governs the U.S. state with the highest number of immigrants, Perry wants to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border at a cost of $12 million a month.
Why? According to many published accounts, U.S. communities along the border are not in an uproar.
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“The myth of a ‘crisis’ is being used by politicians to justify ever-tighter restrictions on immigration, play to anti-immigrant voters in the fall elections and ignore the reasons so many children are coming here in the first place,” wrote Veronica Escobar, a county judge from El Paso, in The New York Times. “In the last month, about 2,500 refugees have been brought to El Paso after crossing the border elsewhere. The community quickly came together to support the women and children. … Contrary to the heated pronouncements, this is nothing we haven’t seen before.”
Why even send the National Guard when the refugees from Central America are running toward American authorities for help instead of running away from them? Perry knows – or should know – that immigration from Mexico has come to a standstill in large part because the U.S.-Mexico border has been militarized already. What we’re currently seeing at the border is a humanitarian crisis being treated like a threat to national security.
Sadly, too many GOP leaders see an advantage in playing the fear card on immigration. This wasn’t always the case. In 1980, George Bush Sr. and Ronald Reagan set a completely different tone when debating each other for the GOP presidential nomination. Check out the YouTube video at bit.ly/1uFalmR.
“I would like to see something done about the (illegal immigration) problem that would be sensitive to labor needs and human needs … ,” Bush said. “I don’t want to see 6- or 8-year-old kids made to feel they are living outside the law.” Reagan then said: “Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some mutual recognition of our problems?”
How curious that Jerry Brown sounds more like Ronald Reagan than Rick Perry or others giving the GOP a bad name.