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Sending Troops to Texas, Republicans Escalate the Bipartisan War on Migrants

Republican governors are sending their states’ soldiers and police to the already heavily militarized southern border to escalate their war on migrants.

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US troops at a southern border wall, setting up barbed wire.
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS -- TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2018: U.S. Army troops install coils of concertina wire near the banks of the Rio Grande along the U.S. border with Mexico in Brownsville, Texas, on Nov. 13, 2018. More than 5,000 U.S. military troops are in the southwest border region to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents as they prepare for the expected arrival of thousands of Central American immigrants. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Even though President Biden has positioned himself as more tough on immigration than MAGA Republicans — even claiming that “MAGA House Republican proposals would slash funding for border security” — several GOP governors have found a new way to escalate their war on migrants. Over 13 Republican governors have sent or are planning to send National Guard forces and state troopers to the southern border, at the request of Texas governor Greg Abbott.

The U.S.-Mexico border is already militarized with walls, surveillance towers, the Border Patrol, and thousands of National Guard troops deployed by Biden. Abbott, however, has sought to depict the existing anti-migrant infrastructure as insufficient and has challenged this supposed insufficiency with Operation Lone Star, a policy in which the state of Texas has expanded the role of the state’s National Guard to police the border.

Abbott’s deployment of the Texas National Guard to the border was initially scrutinized as an unprecedented use of the state’s troops. But the National Guard has long been used to enforce capitalist stability, and both parties favor militarizing the border, even if they disagree over which forces should be used. For these reasons, scrutiny of Operation Lone Star never turned into meaningful opposition, and the policy has now become a common way for Republicans to fearmonger over immigration.

Florida governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis was the first to add his own state’s forces to Operation Lone Star. Last month, he sent 1,100 state law enforcement agents and Florida National Guard Troops to Texas. Since then, several other governors, including Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt, and South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, among others, have sent hundreds of their own forces. Some states sending forces are so far from Texas that they directly border Canada, such as North Dakota and Idaho.

Marguerite Coffinet, a public school teacher in North Dakota, spoke about the absurdity of this.

“How dare Abbott ask for support from other states for his barbaric wishes,” Coffinet said. “Nobody fusses about the Canadian border. People go across. We go back and forth.”

In fact, the U.S. and Canada recently passed measures to limit the free movement of thousands of asylum seekers. But these policies do not extend to people lucky enough to be born citizens of the two imperialist countries, such as residents of North Dakota or the other states waging war on migrants.

Even as liberal leaders around the world, including Biden, Trudeau, and EU leaders, increasingly tighten their countries’ borders, far-right figures are going to even greater extremes and using fearmongering over the massive number of refugees migrating from the Global South. The Far Right is doing this to increase the repressive power of the state to target migrants.

Ahead of the 2024 election, the Far Right’s representatives in the Republican Party are working together to portray the Democrats as “weak” on immigration and to suggest that Biden has “open border” policies — a ridiculous claim, given the increasingly authoritarian position Biden has taken on immigration. In particular, the Republicans are spreading the idea that migrants are bringing fentanyl and that militarization is necessary to prevent drug trafficking.

This can be seen in many of these governors’ statements, such as that of Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin, who recently proclaimed: “The ongoing border crisis facing our nation has turned every state into a border state. As leadership solutions at the federal level fall short, states are answering the call to secure our southern border, reduce the flow of fentanyl, combat human trafficking and address the humanitarian crisis.”

Youngkin is sending 100 Virginia National Guard troops to Texas.

Virginia resident Kathryn Laskey is concerned about the addiction crisis in the United States and opposes her governor’s use of the issue to militarize the border:

“It’s a medical situation,” Laskey said. “You’re not going to stop fentanyl addiction by putting people in prison and apprehending stuff coming over the border. You’re going to solve the addiction crisis by addressing the mental health issues that feed addiction.”

Laskey also talked about how the deployments to the border take resources away from addressing mental health and other community needs.

“It’s my Virginia tax dollars going to this, and that means that it’s not doing things in Virginia,” Laskey said. “I would like to see it go towards things like affordable housing and feeding the hungry. There are better places to put that money. You could put it into education, you could put it into health care.”

The expected cost of Virginia’s deployment of National Guard troops to Texas is $3.1 million.

These Republicans talk about Biden’s “weakness” at the border, even though Biden himself has bragged about how he “secured more resources for border security than any of the presidents who preceded him” in his budget proposal. Biden has also joined the fentanyl scare.

“Biden’s not giving real solutions either,” Coffinet said. “He’s trying to appear like the better guy out of this, but he’s not.”

In May, the government phased out Title 42, which was used during the coronavirus pandemic to quickly turn back migrants at the border on the grounds of “public health.” So Biden put in place an asylum ban, under which migrants who are not from Mexico will generally be ineligible for asylum unless they first wait to apply for asylum in Mexico or another country they passed through. The Biden administration has deported more migrants than Trump and created harsher consequences for migrants crossing the border “illegally.” Furthermore, a top Biden administration official recently stated that Biden’s asylum restrictions are justified given the “sheer number of people” seeking asylum.

As Left Voice highlighted in a joint statement published with our sister groups in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Venezuela, there is an increase in refugees from Latin America, due to the anti-worker policies of governments throughout the region, as well as the history of imperialist intervention, sanctions, and a worsening climate crisis.

The imperialist countries in the Global North have the resources to accommodate mass migration. But without a party by and for the working class, including migrant workers, the upcoming presidential election will be one in which both parties of capital fight over who can take a more authoritarian approach to keeping migrants out.

Migrants and people who support migrant rights deserve a class-independent party by and for workers — including migrant workers. Such a party would organize in the streets, in immigrant communities, and in workplaces for a socialist program that would accommodate mass migration, which we will continue to see in the coming decades.

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Sam Carliner

Sam Carliner is a socialist with a background in journalism. He mainly writes for Left Voice about US imperialism. He also tweets about imperialism as @saminthecan.

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