If not an emergency, what is it?

Cal Thomas

The flood tide of illegal immigrants crossing our southern border cannot and must not continue. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has said of it, “The system is broken and overwhelmed. It is a national emergency.”

The definition of emergency might help focus attention:

“A sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence or occasion requiring immediate action.”

This is an issue that should command immediate congressional action. Graham told The Washington Times that virtually every immigrant entering the country illegally over the last six months has ignored deportation orders and failed to appear at court hearings. Graham said he got his information from Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Ron Vitiello.

The Department of Homeland Security issued a press release last month warning that the situation at the border had reached a “breaking point.” DHS reported that illegal immigration just hit a 12-year high, with more than 76,000 immigrants illegally crossing the border in February. Agents are overwhelmed, and no one in Congress seems concerned about the cost to local services and American citizens who are footing the bill.

More migrants are on the way. According to the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph, Mexico’s interior secretary, Olga Sanchez Cordero, has warned “the mother of all migrant caravans” is forming in Honduras. Sanchez Cordero said that the caravan includes about 20,000 migrants, and that another caravan of 2,500 migrants is currently heading north.”

If these were members of a military force it would be called an invasion.

President Trump has threatened to close the border “or large sections of the border” if nothing is done to stem the tide. He should.

Recently, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen visited Honduras, where she met with ministers representing that country, Guatemala and El Salvador. A memorandum of cooperation on border security was signed. A DHS press release said the agreement “aims to better synchronize cooperation between the countries in order to bolster border security, prevent the formation of new migrant caravans, and address the root causes of the migration crisis through better synchronized efforts.”

But over the weekend, the Trump administration cut off aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. That’s a good first step. Closing the border would be the logical next and essential step.

Congress under both party majorities could and should have fixed this problem long ago. Both parties share equal blame for failing to reform our immigration laws. Democrats see the potential for future votes for their candidates. Republicans and their campaign contributors want cheap labor.

History is a great teacher. In 1921, during the Warren Harding administration, Congress decided the massive immigration that had occurred in the previous decade should be limited so that newcomers to America could be properly assimilated.

During the Calvin Coolidge administration, Congress toughened that law, capping immigration at 2 percent of a country’s residents living in the United States. This lasted until the 1960s, when immigration laws became more liberal.

According to the website u-s-history.com, “After July 1, 1927, the two percent rule was to be replaced by an overall cap of 150,000 immigrants annually …

“College students, professors and ministers were exempted from the quotas. Initially immigration from the other Americas was allowed, but measures were quickly developed to deny legal entry to Mexican laborers. The clear aim of this law was to restrict the entry of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, while welcoming relatively large numbers of newcomers from Britain (and) Ireland.”

Try this experiment to help focus on what America will become without proper border control. Take a glass of milk and begin pouring water into it. At first, the milk is diluted. If the pouring continues, the water will replace the milk.

This is what is taking place along the border. It must be stopped or the America we have known and loved will be no more.

[This year marks Cal Thomas’ 35th year as a syndicated columnist. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.] ©2019 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


  1. Dear Joannetk.


    You hit all the talking points and ignore the base issue. There is a mechanism for seeking asylum and it does not entail paying human traffickers and sneaking into another country in the middle of the night in the middle of the desert.

    My predecessors also came here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. BUT, they came here legally, came through the system and were sponsored by family until they could support themselves.

    I have no problem with immigrants or people felling legitimate persecution.

    I do have a problem with criminals.

    • Dear PTC Bernie,
      My first letter addressed Mr. Thomas’ views on the effect of immigration on our country. This IS the base issue when talking about immigration. How we think about immigrants and what they bring to America, influences our public policy towards them. Stoking fear causes people to look at that population without sympathy and empathy for what they are going through. Stoking fear can cause Americans to think of immigrants as dangerous, or criminal and not worthy of the same protection and respect as others.

      You criticize immigrants who cross the border illegally and I ask you to consider the reason they do it. As you stated, there is a mechanism in place to address asylum seekers. Americans should be concerned that that system has failed. It has failed because of the failed response of this administration to the upsurge of immigrants at the border. That failure is evident at the borders where you can see long lines of tents housing families just waiting to speak to a border agent or in the shelters in Mexico full of homeless asylum seekers. A proper response would have been to increase personnel to handle asylum claims in a timely manner. Instead, just the opposite has happened. Very few asylum seekers are being processed. Families are being herded like cattle and made to sleep under bridges in inhumane and dangerous conditions. Most egregious of all, thousands of children have been separated from their parents with no plan to reunite them.

      As an American, I expect my government to follow the laws of the land and to have regard for the dignity of all people. We have a law about asylum and it is the duty of the executive branch to implement that law. It is our responsibility as citizens to demand no less. Additionally, I hope that Americans can feel some compassion for the men, women and children who will make America their new home.

  2. Dear Mr. Thomas,
    Your editorial regarding our border reads like a run-of-the-mill rant against our southern neighbors confusing illegal immigrants with asylum seekers, and families running for their lives with invading armies. Your intentional mischaracterization of the problem did not go unnoticed, but what prompts me to write is your view on what immigration does to the United States.
    You describe an experiment that you say demonstrates the effect of immigrants on the U.S. You start with a glass of milky-white milk (representing today’s Americans), then you pour water (representing immigrants) into that milk. You describe how the milk is first diluted and then replaced by the water. Leaving no doubt as to your meaning you continue, “It must be stopped or the America we have known and loved will be no more.”
    You sound afraid of changes that immigration could bring. It’s not new, we have a long history of being hostile to immigrants. My own family’s immigration story from the early 1900’s includes true stories of prejudice and discrimination against the Irish. Don’t be fooled into the binary model that suggests our choice is between open borders or thirty-foot walls. Don’t be afraid, we are a land of immigrants and today’s new immigrants will raise families here who will become Americans and we will be stronger and better for it.