The Mexico border has been, and will continue to be, the number one policy issue facing Texas – and America. Security is the safeguard of freedom, and there can be no serious discussion of the everyday things like marginal tax rates, education enrichment, or highway beautification projects if there is instability across our 1,254-mile-long southern perimeter.
Amazingly, no-one in the Lone Star State disagrees that we have sleepwalked into a protracted border crisis. In fact this may be our one truly non-partisan issue. Differences set in only when we begin discussion of solutions. Some believe an adamantine wall, beefed-up border surveillance, and economic sanctions will do the trick. Others prefer blanket amnesty, a streamlined immigration process, and foreign aid. Not a single Texan, and very few Americans, however, believe we should simply do nothing. That the Mexican government is partly responsible for the border crisis is another non-partisan position. But whether this is on account of a deeply corrupt and compromised narco-regime or general ineptitude we cannot seem to settle. We harbour similar feelings for our own federal government, whose involvement in helping Texas “fix” the issue is too often counterproductive.
Having served on the Texas Senate Committee on Border Security, I am convinced that America must fix her own problems at the border. By America I mean, of course, Texas. And we have tried. But – and this is the sticking point – we have hitherto only attempted half-way measures. We have not, in living memory, attempted anything close to implementing a robust “no excuses” border security policy. This is the greatest failure of our current governor and representatives in Austin. The latest border “solution” was Gov. Abbott’s 1,000-foot floating buoy barrier in the Rio Grande. It’s a nice idea and one I have praised publicly, insofar as something is better than nothing. But, as usual, he is treating the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself.
By and large, Gov. Abbott’s Operation Lone Star has been both costly and ineffective. With billions of dollars spent (and projected to rise to close to $10B by 2025) it is unclear that the initiative has provided anything other than a band aid-solution to a perennial problem. Moreover, in the places along the border where targeted emphasis has been placed, we have seen – paradoxically – the most rapid increases in illegal border crossings. Clearly something is not working. One of the primary reasons for Gov. Abbott’s (to say nothing of President Biden) lack of success is his unwillingness to deal with the primary issue: the Mexican government. Anything short of applying the pressure of the purse directly to Mexico is reactionary and keeps us forever on the backfoot. Optically, and in very real terms, such a shift in policy takes incredible political and moral courage. It is not easy to enter a kind of cold war with one’s immediate neighbour, but if Abbott (and others) hope for real change, that’s what it’s going to take.
Practically, severe economic sanctions and a host of other solutions would become immediately available if Gov. Abbott took the righteous step of invoking Article IV, Section 4, and Article I, Section 10 of the US Constitution, and declared our border crisis an invasion. Once declared, a host of economic and law enforcement options become immediately available to Texas. Our ability to mobilise resources to secure and deport anyone illegally crossing the border is of crucial importance. There can be no doubt that serious financial pressure on Mexico will hurt Texas and American business. But not to the extent that it will hurt their counterparts on the other side of the border. This is a war of economic attrition and we are losing. Winning is neither hard nor complicated if our leaders could learn not to swerve in the face of political headwinds.
This is an idea, radical as it may seem to some detractors, that has the broad support of law enforcement and the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing US Border Patrol. It is also an idea that has been untested constitutionally and would meet with legal opposition. But it has in its favour something that current attempts at security lack: teeth. I’ve said in the past that we should never ask the federal government permission to secure the Texas border. And I have lately begun to think that we should never bother to ask the Texas government, either.