Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Sept. 11, 2023, in Anchorage. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Sept. 11, 2023, in Anchorage. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Opinion: Dunleavy’s immigration duplicity

“People will go where they believe they have a future. That should be obvious” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in his State of the State speech on Tuesday. Alluding to legal immigration, he added “People are flooding into our country from around the world because of opportunity, and always have.”

But he thinks the migrants streaming across the southern border are invaders, not people seeking an opportunity for a better life. And he’s aligned himself with a band of duplicitous Republicans to accuse President Joe Biden of not “upholding the rule of law and securing the border.”

It’s impossible to deny there’s a crisis at the border. Under Biden, the Department of Homeland Security has made over 5 million arrests and removed nearly 2.6 million offenders. But illegal border crossings have increased 250% from 2019 to 2023.

Because so many are entering in Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott decided to install razor wire along the border. Arguing that it impedes Border Patrol agent access and thus violates federal law, the Biden administration sued. The U.S. Supreme Court put a hold on a Court of Appeals ruling that prohibited federal officials from removing the wire.

Abbott stated he’ll continue “to deploy this razor wire to repel illegal immigration.” He may not be overtly defying the Supreme Court, but he’s laying the groundwork for possibly doing just that.

Dunleavy and 24 other Republican governors defended Abbott’s actions by citing the federal government’s responsibility under the U.S. Constitution to protect the states “against Invasion.” That’s an ironically poor argument from the party that preaches constitutional originalism.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party circus did a complete backflip on legislation to reform immigration.

In November, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) proposed tying it with aid to Ukraine. Biden was receptive to the idea. A bipartisan group led by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) drafted a bill which he claims is far superior to past compromises Republicans made to address the problem.

Then last week, Trump said Republicans would be “better off” not making the deal because it “would be another Gift to the Radical Left Democrats. They need it politically.” What he’s really concerned about is passing a bill that will take away the biggest advantage he has over Biden in the race for the White House.

The Oklahoma Republican Party understood. They followed by censuring Lankford for “playing fast and loose with Democrats on our border policy.”

Johnson got the message too and declared the bill would be “dead on arrival.” Now he’s arguing Biden doesn’t need “Congress to pass a new law to allow him to close the southern border.” But he believed the opposite in November and in 2019 when he introduced the Fix Immigration Loopholes Act.

Like every Republican, Dunleavy was singing the same tune in 2019. In an October commentary, he wrote “only Congress can truly cure our border crisis by partnering with President Trump to secure the southern border and reform our broken immigration system.”

But Trump had already proven he wasn’t a trusted partner.

In 2018, Sen. Lisa Murkowski was part of a different bipartisan group that took a shot at solving the problem. One of the negotiators was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who said “President Trump’s support for a pathway to citizenship will help us get strong border security measures as we work to modernize a broken immigration system.”

A few months later, however, Trump told Republicans to “stop wasting their time on Immigration” until “after the Red Wave” in the November midterms. Immigration reform died when that didn’t materialize.

That wasn’t the first time Republicans rejected a bipartisan deal. In 2013, the “gang of eight” proposed a comprehensive bill that included funding for 700 miles of border fence and a multi-year path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who continually held jobs and passed criminal background checks. It easily passed the Senate, but House Republicans shot it down.

Dunleavy seemed oblivious to that history when he called on Democrats to stand up their party’s leaders in 2019. “Tackling our immigration crisis isn’t about politics” he concluded, “it’s about willing to put their country first.

But for Republicans like him, whatever Trump wants for himself comes before the country. And they’ve been coddling him so long they’ve become blind to their naked hypocrisies.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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