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Port: Wouldn't it be nice if political leaders respected both immigrants and the need for border security?

Believe it or not, it's possible to acknowledge that migrants crossing our borders illegally are engaged in a proud American tradition — how many of our ancestors were immigrants seeking safety and prosperity for their families? — while simultaneously believing that immigration ought to be regulated and orderly.

Migrants cross the border in Yuma, Arizona
Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S., mostly from Venezuela, stand near the border fence while waiting to be processed by the U.S. border patrol after crossing the border from Mexico at Yuma, Arizona, on Jan. 23, 2022.
Go Nakamura / Reuters
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MINOT, N.D. — The largely unserious demagogues who, at least nominally, are our leaders at the national level have been locked in a bit of political theater over illegal immigration.

Border states with Republican leadership like Texas, Arizona, and Florida, the loci of our struggles with illegal immigration, have begun ostentatiously shipping illegal immigrants from their communities to liberal enclaves like New York and Martha's Vineyard.

In doing so, these Republican leaders have been calling the liberals on their "sanctuary cities" bluff. Turns out, when illegal immigrants turn up en masse, as they do in communities along the border, our liberal friends are less sanguine about the situation.

There was a big show of volunteerism in the liberal communities, but that's an easy thing to do when the crisis has lasted merely days, as opposed to the decades citizens in places like El Paso and Yuma have had to deal with the fallout from lax border enforcement.

In making this point this way, the Republican leaders have resorted to using the immigrants — human beings who are just looking for a better lot to live — like theater puppets, and that's not great. We also have reports that some of the immigrants were perhaps tricked into getting on buses, or boarding flights, and that's even worse.

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Though, to be fair, it's not just Republican governors doing this.

The mayor of El Paso, a Democrat, and his city council, which is controlled by Democrats, have also been putting illegal immigrants on buses . Apparently, their partisan affiliation has inoculated them against accusations of cruelty from their fellow Democrats.

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Also, the federal government has been engaged in a de facto busing scheme, too. In a phenomenon called "catch-and-bus," migrants detained at the border often get a permission slip to travel into the country, at which point they hook up with a volunteer organization that gets them bus tickets where they want to go.

Nobody really had a problem with this until Republicans started doing it to make a point that was inconvenient for Democrats.

But as the politicians act out their soap opera, those of us more concerned with solving problems than dunking on the political opposition might be wondering why our leaders can't treat illegal immigrants with kindness and dignity while also pursuing strong border policies.

Believe it or not, it's possible to acknowledge that migrants crossing our borders illegally are engaged in a proud American tradition — how many of our ancestors were immigrants seeking safety and prosperity for their families? — while simultaneously believing that immigration ought to be regulated and orderly.

We've been duped by the politicians and the cable news shouters and the professional activists into believing our choices, when it comes to the illegal immigration problem, are either a nativist opposition to immigration or completely open borders.

This is absurd.

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There is a way to humanely secure our borders. What we need are political leaders who prioritize that goal over the sort of dramatic political combat that makes good fodder for Twitter posts and cable news segments.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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