Border Communities Respond to Obama With Wonder and Sadness


Some residents of Arizona – people who actually live on the border between the United States and Mexico – were not much impressed by President Obama’s recent immigration speech in El Paso, Texas.  They’ve taken to circulating a petition to ask the President to try again, this time taking the subject seriously.

As quoted by Fox News, the signatories to the letter listened to Obama’s Tuesday speech with “great wonderment and sadness.”  They were especially dismayed by “all of the joking about moats and alligators,” which “cut residents of Portal, Arizona to the core, as we sheltered with friends or at a Red Cross evacuation site, to survive a terrible fire that still threatens our lives and property, as well as our ecotourism-based economy.” 

Nice touch trying to get the President’s attention by talking about “ecotourism.”  It won’t work, though.  This President is less fond of some states than others.  He’ll worry about fires in Arizona right after he starts worrying about those in Texas.

The fire in question tore out of Horseshoe Canyon, fifty miles north of the border, and was believed to have been started by criminal illegal aliens.  The petition describes the grim situation: “Local residents were roused after midnight, and some slept fitfully in cars after fleeing with family photos and any valuables that could be quickly assembled. Elderly retirees left with medical supplies, including oxygen tanks on which some depend.”

One of the people fighting the fire, Jeff Gee, said he was “insulted” by Obama’s El Paso speech.  He told Fox, “I’m really disappointed at current border security, I’m really disappointed at the president’s speech saying that people like me wants moats with alligators, but moats with alligators might work, nothing else.”  Gee joins an unexpectedly strong and growing chorus of border residents who responded to Obama’s “alligator moat” sneer by wondering where they can get their hands on a few thousand alligators in a hurry.

The citizens of Arizona can’t help but notice this Administration has a habit of suing them for taking border security seriously.  “It makes me wonder if the lawyers, judges, and politicians involved grasp what it is like to be a law enforcement officer on the Mexican border,” said Cochise County Sherriff Larry Dever in a New York Times editorial.  

He notes that he’s got 86 deputies to patrol an area “more than four times the size of Long Island,” where “at best, illegal aliens and smugglers trespass, damage ranchers’ land, steal water and food and start fires.  At worst, people who have come here hoping for freedom and opportunity are raped or abandoned by smugglers and left to die in the desert.”

Speaking of the controversial Arizona immigration law that Governor Jan Brewer is taking to the Supreme Court, Dever says, “Whether illegal aliens committed a crime to enter this country, or a civil offense to remain unlawfully, they are still breaking the law, and S.B. 1070 is Arizona’s solution to help the federal government hold them accountable without becoming embroiled in confusion that enables individuals to fall through the cracks. At the same time, it assures the standards of probable cause and reasonable suspicion are applied throughout the process.”

His mention of “accountability” really hits the nail on the head.  The whole problem with the border mess is that Americans who live along the border are being asked to take responsibility without being given authority.  They have no control over the factors within Mexico that send so many people fleeing north, but they’re expected to take responsibility for the Mexican government’s failures by absorbing its unhappy population.  They’re given thin resources to maintain border security, and treated like outcasts and xenophobes when they give it their best shot.

The larger American system is expected to take care of the illegal population and grant it the vast benefits of citizenship, without the corresponding accountability expected of a true citizen.  We are told we must deal with the results of a problem, but it’s wrong to even talk about solving it.  People like Sheriff Dever are treated like moral, and sometimes literal, criminals for detecting the crime they’re supposed to prevent.

Immigration is a difficult subject, because so many human lives are on the line.  Far too many people die on both sides of the border.  Far too many die in the middle.  It’s not too much to ask the President to put away his alligator jokes, straw men, and daydreams of importing a more tractable American electorate, and take the matter seriously for a change.