‘You don’t have to hit us in the head with a baseball bat too many times,” says Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, “before we start to think you’re doing it on purpose.” And so Governor Perry has a question for the Obama administration: Why ship thousands and thousands of illegal aliens from places as far away as San Diego, Calif., and Nogales, Ariz., all the way down to the tiny little village of Presidio, Tex. — population 4,167 — to deport them?
The Obama administration says the answer to that question, or at least part of the answer, is the Chihuahuan Desert. Send illegals across the border at San Diego, immigration authorities have argued, and they’ll just hit a couple of happy hours in Tijuana before coming right back across to the United States. But get them on the other side of a vast and inhospitable desert, and the heat and the cactuses and the coachwhip snakes will do what the U.S. Border Patrol cannot: Keep Mexicans in Mexico.
It’s a great theory, with one glaring flaw: It assumes that the Mexican authorities are going to transport deportees across the desert and back to their hometowns in the interior. Mexico is not going to do that. Mexico is a corrupt and oligarchic backwater, and illegal immigration is its main anti-poverty program. Anybody who has even a passing familiarity with the Mexican federal law-enforcement authorities knows better than to expect them to behave responsibly. And it’s not just negligence — Mexico actively encourages its poorest citizens to break north and send remittances (about $25 billion last year) south. Mexico exports its poor to the United States because it’s a lot cheaper than trying to care for them itself and, while the Mexican government has a woefully inadequate infrastructure for providing basic social services, it has a pretty good infrastructure, both formal and informal, for shunting its unwanted poor into the United States. It even issues its own identification card to illegals, the matricula consular, which is accepted as valid ID by some U.S. government agencies. The idea that deportees are going to get out of those Wackenhut buses convoying them down to Presidio and be taken inland by some putative El Wackenhut is preposterous.
“They’re going to walk them halfway across the bridge and say, ‘Good luck,’” Governor Perry says. “On the one side, they’re going to be facing the desert. On the other side is Texas. Which way would you go?”
The Border Patrol is going to be shipping nearly 100 illegals a day through Presidio. That means that every six weeks or so a quantity of illegals equal to the entire population of Presidio is going to pass over that bridge, all of them adult, male Mexican nationals. If even 10 percent of them turn around and reenter the United States — and it’s probably going to be more than that, if history is any indicator — this little town is going to be overwhelmed, and it doesn’t have anything like the resources to cope with those numbers. And the feds didn’t even let Texas know this was coming, Governor Perry says: Neither he nor anybody in his administration was informed of the decision.
Governor Perry, who does not hesitate to characterize the Obama administration’s ambitions as socialist, thinks the administration is setting out to punish Texas. “You look at this, you look at cap-and-trade, which absolutely would punish the Texas economy — we get it.”
Perry has repeatedly sought additional measures, including the activation of 1,000 National Guardsmen, to alleviate the border crisis. So far, the feds have been sitting on their hands. The Border Patrol says they have enough agents; 12 million illegal aliens say they don’t. “We have a good history with the Border Patrol, and I don’t blame the Border Patrol for this,” Governor Perry says. “This is coming from higher up, and they work for Janet Napolitano.” Secretary Napolitano recently told the liberal Center for American Progress that new immigration legislation is likely in 2010, and that the reforms will include an amnesty for illegals. That’s the sort of reform that makes the Chihuahuan Desert even less attractive.
– Kevin D. Williamson is deputy managing editor of National Review.