Election politics impact border policy as Texas combats border crisis

By Esther Fultz

In recent years, controversy has raged over the United States’ southern border. A variety of opinions exist regarding the best policies and practices, and the debate is significant because border policy impacts the lives of migrants and their families as well as U.S. citizens.

Since President Biden took office in 2021, the federal government’s approach to the border has relaxed. As a result, the number of immigrants lacking permanent legal status in the United States has dramatically increased, and interactions between the federal government and immigrants have also increased. According to Dr. Mark Caleb Smith, Professor of Political Science at Cedarville University, there are over 2 million interactions between the Border Patrol and immigrants a year. Of this number, 60% occur in Texas.

“Texas is bearing a significant burden because of this, and has started to redistribute some of their own resources like their own police officers and public safety officers to go down to the border and start to enforce it,” Smith said. “They began to use razor wire to enforce the border and when they started to use the wire we started to see this kind of conflict develop between the Border Patrol and the Texas authorities.”

Two factors making the situation more complex include Texas authorities closing off a boat ramp that had been used by the Border Patrol to patrol part of the Rio Grande River, and the fact that the razor wire used makes it more difficult for intervention when migrants are in distress.

“If there’s razor wire present, it has to be cut or removed somehow,” Smith said. “To do that, it might take so much time it could be too late to help someone. A woman and her two children drowned in the Rio Grande River and Border Patrol was unable to get to them in time because of the razor wire. [The federal government] said you’re really making it harder for us to even help people safely in these situations and whether they’re here illegally or not is irrelevant, people are still struggling and some are going to die.”

According to Dr. Kevin Sims, Senior Professor of Political Science at Cedarville University, Texas authorities and the federal government are currently at a standstill. The federal government is always allowed to cut razor wire down but Texas putting it back up is not illegal.

“Texas will put up more razor wire and then three days later, the federal government will cut it down,” Sims said. “They’re both trying to outdo each other.”

While Texas has gained the support of 25 Republican governors, Sims anticipates that the standstill will continue. Sims expects little progress prior to the election and post-election progress ultimately depends on election results.

“The administration is in a situation where the border has gotten so bad everyone acknowledges it, even mainstream media,” Sims said. “So I think what’s going to happen is we’re gonna have an escalation in rhetoric from the House of Representatives which is controlled by the Republicans on border control but there won’t be much progress made.”

According to Smith, stronger legislation is necessary for any meaningful kind of border improvement to occur. However, remaining in this standstill and not acting could be more politically advantageous for Republicans.

“There’s a bipartisan group of senators who arrived at a compromise bill and there was pretty broad support for this bill until the last several weeks,” Smith said. “What changed, frankly, is President Trump. Word says he’s opposed to the bill. If the border is a problem and if Americans continue to think of it as a problem and they blame Joe Biden for that problem that increases Trump’s chances of winning the election in November. If the bill is passed and the problem is improved, that’ll make Biden a stronger candidate in November.”

Regardless of whether and how the issue ends up being resolved, Sims maintains that the border crisis is significant and far-reaching and points out that important issues are being overlooked, including that of unaccompanied minors immigrating into America. 

“Large numbers of undocumented children are coming to America by themselves and being put on buses and moved all across the country,” Sims said. “We don’t know where they are coming from or if they’re being trafficked, we don’t know what the answers to those questions are. We need to start asking the hard questions and creating policies that protect everyone involved.”

Esther Fultz is a senior Social Work major and the Off Campus Editor for Cedars. When she’s not writing or editing for Cedars she enjoys thrifting, making coffee, exploring new places, and spending time with friends.

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