Immigration occupied plenty of headlines in the run-up to Tuesday's general election.
Problem is, the dialogue in the news cycle was inspired by a pair of topics – one locally, one nationally – that were wildly distorted to score political points. They also demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of federal immigration law.
And we wonder why immigration is the third rail of politics. Stunts of this nature demean the people seeking entry to the United States and further entrench the divides that have prevented comprehensive reform from occurring.
Starting in Lincoln, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced four days before the election that he was ready to deploy additional Nebraska National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. Border security is an important mission, one that 50 Nebraska Guard members are currently performing.
However, the governor explicitly linked his offering of state resources to the so-called "migrant caravan," saying that we "will not tolerate illegal immigration." He then doubled down on his message in a campaign release, urging support "to enact smart reforms and tough immigration measures at the state level and stand 100 percent with President Trump for The Wall and real border security!"
Yet he omitted that the caravan was more than 1,000 miles away from the U.S. border at the time of his writing and that its members are presumed to be seeking asylum, a defined legal process, from violence in their homeland. Furthermore, deploying additional troops would disrupt Nebraska families and workplaces.
Whether the migrants reach the U.S. or are granted asylum here is immaterial. Attempting to score political points from this misunderstanding, driving a deeper wedge between Americans on the topic, disappoints and discourages.
Ricketts' remarks followed on the heels on President Donald Trump's abrupt announcement that he'd end the birthright citizenship guaranteed in the 14th Amendment – which guarantees citizenship to those born on U.S. soil – by way of executive order, a claim he reiterated Wednesday.
The president displayed a laughable lack of knowledge of the U.S. Constitution with his remarks. The amendment approved after the Civil War is in no immediate jeopardy of being changed, and Trump has no power to do so, despite his office’s authority.
But that, too, is beside the point. Trump has repeatedly demonized immigrants for bringing crime – a claim that’s been proved statistically untrue time and again – across the border. His outlandish, impossible proposal coincided with his rather successful 11th-hour push to elect Senate Republicans in tough races.
Americans legitimately gripe about the lack of solutions surrounding our broken immigration policy – and the human and economic costs worsened by continued impasse. Elected officials must be above exploiting the divides on this topic for their own political gain.