Every time I cross the border into Mexico, drive along the Tijuana river and head west up the hill toward the ocean, I feel a little bit sick.
Believe me, it’s not the water.
It’s the wall.
Undulating gently over hilly terrain from the San Ysidro border before it drops into the Pacific at Imperial Beach, the double barrier, complete with stadium lights, is an infuriating symbol of our hypocritical relationship with Mexico and the impoverished souls who steal across the border to pick our strawberries, clean our toilets, mow our lawns.
The wall says: We don’t want you here, keep out!
But the real message is: Well, OK, come on in — if you can get here without dying! — and do our dirtiest work for lousy wages.
I’m happy the Senate passed an immigration bill that offers a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million, mostly Mexicans, who crossed into this country illegally or overstayed visas in order to work, to raise families, to be productive. I don’t have high hopes for the House, however.
The most avid opponents of the landmark bill, as Times reporters Lisa Mascaro and Brian Bennett pointed out, are legislators from districts with few minority voters, and who have “little familiarity with the complexities of immigration law.”
Indeed, the two Republican senators who proposed devoting $40 billion of our taxes to more border militarization, Bob Corker and John Hoeven, come from Tennessee and North Dakota respectively, two states with negligible numbers of foreign-born residents who arrived by illegal means.
The “Southern Border Security Strategy” calls for adding 20,000 border agents, essentially doubling a number that has already doubled since 2004, and extending the border wall an additional 700 miles. The wall is a disgraceful monument to the failure of our leaders to create a human solution to a complex and long-standing ecological abomination.
The most disturbing aspect of the security strategy is the way this plan is being described as a “surge.” A surge. As if folks trying to feed their families and make a better life are the same as Taliban insurgents hellbent on destroying American values.
The very same reform opponents who scream about the drain that illegal immigration puts on our economy joyfully embrace the idea of spending $40 billion to militarize a border that already looks like pre-1989 Berlin.
As the GOP tears itself apart over the immigration issue, as right-wingers accuse immigration reform-minded Republicans of selling out to the growing number of Latino voters (who generally vote for Democrats) or of offering amnesty to lawbreakers, the many energized minority voters who pushed President Obama to his reelection victory last November will be watching with interest.
And they will remember this debate come 2016.
Sarah Palin, whose transformation from Republican standard bearer to flame-thrower is now complete, denounced her party Friday, intimating that she is considering leaving the GOP. She urged Florida voters to “primary” Sen. Marco Rubio, a once-shining presidential prospect, when he comes up for re-election in 2016.
“Great job, GOP establishment,” she wrote in a message that was emailed to reporters, and appeared in an abridged form on her Facebook page. “You’ve just abandoned the Reagan Democrats with this amnesty bill, and we needed them to ‘enlarge that tent’ of which you so often speak.”
She’s alluding to the disaffected working class whites who left the Democratic Party in droves to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980.
But those voters haven’t been Democrats of any sort for decades, and she conveniently fails to mention, as do so many conservatives who lionize our 40th president, that it was Reagan who created the amnesty in 1986 that brought an estimated three million immigrants out of the shadows and into the light.
“I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here,” Reagan said, even though some time back they may have entered illegally.”
I don’t have a lot in common politically with Ronald Reagan, but I think he would have found the Great Wall of Hypocrisy, and the militarization of the border between America and our huge trading partner to the south as disturbing as I do.
[For the Record, 11:55 a.m. PDT July 2: An earlier version of this online post did not identify John Hoeven's home state as North Dakota.]
Twitter: @robinabcarianCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times