San Diego Border Rally Reflects Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

The image shows a speaker on stage in front of a "Take Our Border Back" sign

An event held on February 3 in San Ysidro, just a few hundred feet from the international border, was part of a larger “Take Our Border Back” trucker caravan that also held events in Texas and Arizona.

Just two weeks after a woman and two children drowned attempting to cross the Rio Grande, the Texas segment of the “Take Our Border Back” convoy had an event less than 20 miles from where they died. The event hosted numerous figures calling for varying levels of increased border security, often based on the claim that there is an “invasion” currently ongoing. At another Texas rally held two days earlier, on the first of February, a couple of recognizable right-wing figures appeared. In Dripping Springs, over 200 miles away from the border, Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent offered their relative recognizability to the rally.

No such national figures could be found in San Diego’s version of the event. The big draws were Kim Yeater, who helped organize the event, a few local Republican party bureaucrats, and a former candidate for the House of Representatives. Not to be confused with a British television presenter of the same name, Matt Baker also spoke. Baker has formed a minor online celebrity on the right through a series of outbursts during public hearings, at least including the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, the San Diego Board of Supervisors, and another instance at a San Diego Board of Supervisors Meeting.

Many of these figures have such controversial profiles that they are difficult to find on normal media platforms like YouTube. Baker can be found primarily on a website affiliated with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Yeater does many interviews and appearances on the video platform Rumble, which is often used by those banned from larger platforms.

The event in San Diego attracted a few hundred people, perhaps not an alarmingly large number, and there were no national Republican politicians, but regardless of who was there, most Republicans point to the same solution, re-electing Donald Trump as president. What most better-known Republican figures prefer to leave to their fringe base, Trump is willing to say explicitly, like his comments late last year about immigrants lacking permanent legal status “poisoning the blood of our country”.

All of this rhetoric is not only inflammatory but usually ignores the Joe Biden administration’s record on immigration. Take Title 42, a decades-old code that Trump invoked in March 2020 to expel migrants based on COVID-19 safety. Many immigration advocates hoped Biden’s promise of an end to Trump’s immigration policy would also mean an end to Title 42, but instead, the administration dragged its feet and contradicted itself on occasion.

Under that law alone, 2.8 million expulsions were done over just three years.

At the same time as this convoy, in early February, Biden was strongly pushing to restrict border crossings. The bill included money for further wall construction and was supported by the Border Patrol Union, but was blocked by House Republicans. Biden’s logic of attempting to outflank Republicans on the right and make them look hypocritical on the issue of border security may seem sound, but looking at Trump’s favorability numbers shows extremely consistent numbers for the entirety of Biden’s term.

Biden’s approval rating among Democrats has dropped 20 points over the same period. Though analyzing polling may well be more pointless than a circle, many of Biden’s decisions are likely influenced by polling. The problem for his team seems to be a question of which polls they are considering. Given Trump’s numerical stability, he will win or lose on what he has already done. He is not president and can not do anything world-changing, positively or negatively.

Particularly on the issue of immigration, Republican voters prioritize it much more than Democrat voters. Just three percent of Democrats ranked immigration as their most important issue, and this is not even mentioning the portion of those voters who likely want to loosen restrictions. But Biden’s critics cite immigration more than any other single factor, so how could he ignore it?

Probably because those criticizing Biden over immigration, statistically are a lot less likely to be in his party. So far, in this election, Trump has benefitted from a seemingly impossible bind for the current president. Biden can’t move right on immigration because he will never pick up Republican votes, but he can’t move left because Republicans will attack his administration. The strange thing about this bind is that it seems to ignore the people who will be expected to vote for Biden in the Fall, Democrats.

Biden is clear in his support for bipartisanship, but it seems relevant to observe the nearly 50-50 split current House of Representatives has done shockingly little actual legislating.

Putting aside the many strategic discussions surrounding the border, the question for many migrants who are here or may attempt to come here in the future is existential: How will I survive? Trump has floated the idea of using the National Guard to expel as many as 20 million people.

While it is likely that none of the attendees at the Take Our Border Back rally will vote for Biden, he is still considering executive action that would lean on the statutes that Trump’s most controversial immigration moves relied on, including the Muslim travel ban.

The small rally held in San Diego is an expression of the Trump phenomenon but also presents messaging problems for national Democrats. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law that intentionally break with federal policy, practically guaranteeing challenges that will be ongoing through the election. The bill provides a preview of how harsh some Republicans would like to make punishments for crossing the border, as the Texas bill allows for immigrants to be arrested on misdemeanor charges regardless of whether they are attempting to claim asylum.

This entire discussion also assumes that there is some merit to this level of concern over the border. Immigrants lacking permanent legal status work nearly nine million jobs and commit significantly fewer crimes than citizens or legal immigrants.

The Take Our Border Back Rally tied migration to multiple other issues, including transgender healthcare, somehow. Our country indeed has numerous and complicated problems. In uncertain times, it is easy to scapegoat a group that is a bit hard to define. Sometimes, the people coming across our southern border are from farther away than we might expect.

While this is all scary, how does militarizing the border function as a long-term solution to migration? Putting aside those who, without evidence, claim the US is being invaded from the south, the only way to lower how many people want to come into this country is for the rest of the world to be a safe and stable place. There are reasons for the recent surge, including wars and economic collapse all over the world.

While it may be a bit of a cop-out, the solutions to the “border crisis” likely lie in completely different political discussions.

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