The political maneuvering surrounding the border crisis feels like a high stakes game of Texas Hold’em. Republicans and Democrats, including the President, are cautiously playing their cards; placing their bets then waiting to see who raises.
Texas Governor Rick Perry declines to meet President Obama on the airport tarmac when he arrives for brief visit. He holds out for a longer meeting to talk about the immigration problem.
The President makes a trip to Texas, but primarily to raise campaign funds. He agrees to meet with Perry, but won’t go to the border to witness the humanitarian crisis first hand.
We debate the optics. MSNBC’s Hardball asks, “Is this Obama’s Katrina?” Did it look bad that Obama had a photo op playing pool at a Colorado bar, while overwhelmed relief agencies cared for the thousands of border crossers? If Obama went to the border and met with some of the illegals would the mess then be his?
The game goes on. Meanwhile every day illegal immigrants from Central America cross the Rio Grande and, according to an Associated Press reporter at the border, “walk up to agents, wave to their remote cameras or simply wait to be picked up on the side of the road.”
We have a serious disconnect here. Somewhere, not so long ago, politics transitioned from the art of the possible to the craft of getting elected and re-elected. Problems are not solved, but rather managed politically until the press tires of the subject and something else comes along.
Many of these border crossers are risking their lives to come here. Yes, some are miscreants or worse and it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, but for those who are desperate and scared, just the idea of America offers them hope. They are real people, not cards in this high-stakes game.
The long and dangerous journey of these folks should be meaningful to any of us who have been told and retold the family stories of how ancestors came here with the clothes on their backs, a few dollars in their pockets, an address of a relative and a dream.
Still, there is something fundamentally wrong with two sets of rules for immigrants—one for people who follow the law and wait their turn and another for those who overwhelm the border and, once released pending a hearing date, disappear among the estimated 11-12 million people who are here illegally.
Even if the President did go to the border the photo op, while satisfying the insatiable news cycle, would be irrelevant. It would only create the perception of doing something. “The president demonstrated concern for the illegal immigrant situation today…”
Instead, how about solving the problem? I don’t have the answer, but that’s why we elect our representatives. Figure it out and give it to us straight. We can handle the truth and can appreciate when leaders are trying to fix something that’s broken. At least give us that much credit.
What we don’t need is gamesmanship for the fleeting upper hand in the constant political cycle.