THE BATTLE OF THE BORDER
Tens of thousand children have walked across our border.
An alien invasion undermining law and order.
Send the army! Send the air force! Let no show of force be lacking.
Our culture will be undermined unless we send them packing.
The interminable, still fruitless debate over immigration took on a new dimension in 2014. The impetus was a large increase in the number of unaccompanied children and teen-agers, predominately from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, crossing the border into the U.S. But the new context did little to change the main contours of the debate and its accompanying satire.
For conservative cartoonists the issue was clear. The immigration laws were being flouted with encouragement from the Obama administration. Pat Bagley shows Obama standing before a tiny fence labeled “Immigration Policy” while immigrant children swarm round him. Ramirez, answering the question: “I don’t know why they’re flooding the borders?” offers a huge neon sign announcing “Open Border: Limited Time Only.” Branco has a border control officer asking a crowd of children wearing Obama tee-shirts: “Who gave you this crazy idea”? As for Obama’s motive, Rick McGee depicts him offering the children free ice cream with his version of the Statue of Liberty welcome: “ Give me your tired, your poor, your future Democratic party voters yearning to strain our system…”
A harsher view came from columnist Doug Giles on the Town Hall website. Mocking the liberals he declaimed: “If you aren’t cool with their tsunami of illegals then you must hate babies and Latinos… I might feel a little weird about wanting to send them back to their dreaded casa in their suck-ass country…But what I keep seeing is not a bunch of babies. That is unless, of course, the definition of a “baby” has changed to include scruffy gangbangers….who have committed 8000 rapes and 3000 murders in the last five years in Texas alone…strange behaviors for infants and their nursing moms.”
This is precisely the kind of tirade that Stephen Colbert imitates in his perennial right-wing pundit role. Drawing on Fox News coverage he pictured the border children being provided with facilities matching “a multi-million dollar resort hotel” with wi-fi, tennis courts and all the amenities. “These kids”, he says, could be gang members! Criminals! But even if they’re not all vicious killers, they could be carrying disease.” Hence they should all be sent back without delay. Not out of hate, but out of love, albeit “tough love.”
To liberal satirists in general the conservative reaction is xenophobic and cruel.They see children, refugees from lawless Central American countries, herded into overcrowded camps while waiting for reviews of their asylum claims which, in many cases, would reunite them with their families already in the U.S. So Daryl Cagle has the GOP elephant shouting “Send Them Back!” as the children flee the world on fire behind them. Bennett draws the Senate building a path to citizenship, while the feckless House constructs a fence across it. Nor is Obama spared from being an accomplice to cruelty: cartoonist Pat Bagley shows Obama in a deadly game of shuffle-board with the forces of War, Murder, Poverty and Exploitation with the children hurled back and forth across the border.
Among the print satirists Andy Borowitz mocks Texas Governor Rick Perry for sending the National Guard to protect the border. Borowitz has Perry dispatching the Dallas Cowboys to do the job: “Those who would cross our borders illegally will have to contend with the power and fury of America’s Team.” Gail Collins in the New York Times comments on the demand for ever stronger border controls. “We have more than 650 miles of fencing along the Mexican border. Plus don’t forget all the drones. And 21,391 border control agents….Sooner or later we will eliminate illegal crossing completely, thank to the six million agents we will employ to stand holding hands across the length of the border, around the clock.” The Onion asks what the U.S, should do about illegal immigration and suggests that “we’re a nation of immigrants, so we should be open. But on the other hand, frantically and vigorously defending the last dwindling threats of my demographic’s hold on power is extremely satisfying.” Also we should “continue efforts to make the U.S. the least appealing country on the continent.”
Clearly we are far from the least appealing country, given the scale of the attempts to cross our borders. Even so, the satire on this issue makes it clear that our political institutions are in a sad state of disfunction, and are likely to remain so at least through 2016.