At the border, a chance to lead

Published 8:50 am Monday, April 9, 2018


As threats to public safety go, Texans historically have seen much worse than the Pueblo Sin Fronteras-aided refugee caravan stumbling toward the U.S.-Mexican border.

A century ago, we dealt with murderous raids in what was open border warfare with Mexico. This is not that.

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The caravan includes about 1,200 miserable Central American people, many of them from Honduras, who fear life there and what they say is a repressive government that may have stolen the last election.

President Trump has become alarmed at the prospects of a ragtag group arriving at our southern doorstep, but the truth is, they come every year in some form. Many of those in this year’s caravan carry Christian crosses and seek asylum.

Some profess to want jobs to support their families. That doesn’t mean the U.S. should grant them entrance, but their looming presence should not raise undue alarm.

Our president is to some degree working with the Mexican government to slow or halt the caravan before it reaches our border. Mexico, too, realizes the caravan challenges its own borders and they know some of the visitors want to stay in Mexico rather than advance to Texas. The president would do well to work with our Mexican neighbors to the degree that Mexico’s efforts are genuine.

The Trump administration suggests it will send some 2,000 to 4,000 troops to the border, ostensibly to back up the border patrol and to protect U.S. sovereignty. His action is not unprecedented — Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both sent troops to the border during their respective administrations.

The National Guard troops will be largely under the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott who is committed to protecting Texas’ southern border from any illegal breach. Abbott says he appreciates the federal support and so should we, to the extent it is needed.

What the president’s long-term intentions are seem uncertain. Does the caravan worry him unnecessarily? Is this a political gambit to push for funds to build his promised border wall? On such matters, the president usually seems to keep his own counsel.

All Texans should value a secure border. All Americans should value our national sovereignty and seek to protect it.

That said, the U.S. has a leadership role in this hemisphere and must view the misery of our North American neighbors as worthy of our interest and compassion. If Hondurans were happier and more secure in Honduras — the U.S. has great influence in that Central American country — they’d be less inclined to risk their safety crossing Mexico to knock on the door to Texas.

The president has the chance to exercise regional diplomacy, as important as flexing muscles. Let’s hope he seizes this opportunity, for our good and the good of our whole North American neighborhood.