Why Americans Can’t Agree on How to Handle the Migrant Crisis

The flight of about 50 migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard last week, orchestrated by Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, was a ruthless stunt.

It’s unlikely to have ruined any lives, as the migrants are already filing a lawsuit against DeSantis, and media attention to their plight is likely to bring them further support that most newcomers don’t get. Still, by all accounts, the scheme was deceptive, hateful, and trolling.

At least that’s how it looks to those who, like me, prefer a much looser immigration policy than we currently have.

A widespread one Washington Examiner In contrast, the editorial argued that the flight was absolutely necessary, a desperate plea for national attention to a national crisis disproportionately suffering a few border states. I can’t find them testers case compelling, particularly in his claim that the media simply ignores an important story “to protect” President Joe Biden. But if the article’s claim of urgency seems as unbelievable to you — as literally unbelievable as any sincere argument a real person could make — that might be because you have a higher tolerance for clutter.

We usually think of clutter tolerance in much more domestic terms, like, “Do you like keeping a tidy house?”

Tolerance of disorder is not relevant to every policy issue, but it certainly has been relevant to immigration over the past half decade.

That makes sense because it’s a pre-political impulse, partly personal, but also heavily influenced by culture. And on a cultural level, particularly when we look outside the box at public policy issues, Americans’ tolerance for disorder varies widely and often runs along well-known political lines. Conservatives and others on the right tend to be less tolerant of clutter; Progressives and leftists generally have a higher tolerance.

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This is not a comprehensive theory of American society. Order is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, and “order” in political parlance has often been misused. However, I think that, with all due limitations, we recognize this spectrum at a fundamental level.

That’s how big the distinction is in landscaping New Yorker Cover from last summer, in which the “Republican’s” terraced home has neat boxwood hedges, strict mulch lines and a close-cropped lawn, while the “Democrat’s” pollinator garden — duly marked with a yard sign adorned with bees — is a tangle of thistles and dandelions. This is not just an expression of different environmental views or aesthetics. It’s also about order, decency, and assumptions about what a public space should be like and what encourages orderly behavior in others.

Tolerance of disorder is not relevant to every policy issue, but it certainly has been relevant to immigration over the past half decade. Migrant arrivals along the southern border are at a record high. Cities like Yuma, Arizona and El Paso, San Antonio, and Brownsville, Texas receive hundreds or even thousands of migrants weekly. Thousands more have set up camps on either side of the border — or directly on bridges over the Rio Grande — and images from these makeshift sites show crowds and chaos.

There’s a reason former President Donald Trump and his supporters like DeSantis believe that playing up this mess, sensationalizing and hyperventilating about an “invasion” is an effective policy. That’s because these images already evoke an instinctive uneasiness in many Americans, an anxious sense that this is indeed a crisis, that order needs to be restored. This momentum is not only leading to calls for tougher laws or tougher enforcement; It’s also one of the reasons border states have a number of charities and social services dedicated to helping migrants settle into the United States.

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But it says loud and clear something must be done about it now.

This instinct is not universal, at least not to the same extent. (The most vivid contrast might be San Francisco, with its long-standing reputation for accepting public disorder, ranging from the benevolently odd to the deeply disturbing.) And if we don’t recognize our divergence here, immigration reform will only become more difficult, because disorder is uncomfortably difficult to quell and cannot be abolished by law.

This is where pro-immigration arguments that focus on justice, cultural diversity, freedom of movement, the American dream, reducing bureaucracy, or economic gains won’t do much good. They’re important, and they’re the kind of argument I like to make when I talk about immigration. But they can’t alleviate the automatic uneasiness many people feel when confronted with disorder at the border — and the more perceived disorderly the border, the more Americans will make restoring order their priority in immigration reform.

And if that priority is not addressed, if Congress spends another 36 years without passing a major immigration bill, we will continue to have both a crisis at the border and a heartfelt need in American politics that politicians will exploit can use sensational rhetoric and unscrupulous stunts.

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