Tancredo Territory

While the emergency dispersal–often handled poorly–of border refugees has aroused the predictable NIMBYist opposition, and provided footage for multiple local news shows, the big picture hasn’t changed: the Obama administration is asking for the resources to staunch the wound as a preliminary to any long-range solution, while Republicans are digging into a position of making the whole situation the consequences of an immigration policy that is not 100% committed to the immediate deportation of anyone in the country without documentation.

This has to delight hard-core nativists who have long sought a definition of “amnesty”–which in theory most conservatives oppose–to include anything other than unconditional deportation. Republican politicians have often tried to have it both ways with a narrower definition of “amnesty” that allows them to support guest-worker programs, special treatment of DREAMers, or even a “path to citizenship” that’s meant to be rugged. That was, in fact, where House Republicans seemed ultimately (though not immeditately) headed–if headed anywhere–up until now.

What the border refugee crisis has done is to draw Republicans as a party right into Tancredo territory, using terms like “invaders” for kids and projecting a quasi-military response to a humanitarian tragedy. I half-expect to hear some GOP pol suddenly start citing the famous racist fantasy of the 1970s, The Camp of the Saints, which posits a supine Europe succumbing to a wave of immigrants from India (Steve Sailer has already gone there). However this works out for them in November, there’s going to be hell to pay down the road.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.