The politics of fear

An emergency in the border with Mexico, like the arrival of minors, provides an opportunity to gain political brownie points by exploiting fear with absurd speculation that defies all logic.

The threat is now the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and not long ago it was Ebola. In both cases, elected politicians attempted to link events in Africa and the Middle East to the border with Mexico. They pointed out that the vulnerability that the arrival of the minors demonstrated threatens Americans with the virus and terrorism.

In the case of Ebola, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) demonstrated his ignorance when he told federal health officials about reports of minors carrying “deadly diseases” like Ebola. Not even being a doctor saved the lawmaker from this nonsense—which, unlike the virus, is more contagious.

Regarding ISIS, the execution of journalist James Foley brought home to Americans the cruelty of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and its caliphate.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas took the opportunity to include in a speech—eyeing a potential presidential candidacy—the real possibility that ISIS could enter through the border with Mexico.

There is concern about open borders regarding ISIS, but it involves Europe. The concern is the return of foreign combatants to their countries, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, pointed out.

The danger is for members of ISIS to enter the U.S. with a passport and visa. No one seriously thinks that a terrorist operation will depend on the unpredictable border crossing of undocumented workers. Likewise, it is impossible for someone with Ebola—because of the time involved—to complete a journey across the border to enter the United States.

This political strategy is about creating fear and scaring the electorate with a foreign threat. Then, this danger is placed at the Mexican border so that it becomes an immigration problem, in which reality is mixed with lies, stereotypes are combined with anecdotes and the numbers get jumbled up. Unfortunately, inside this malicious confusion, immigration reform drowns and political careers like Perry’s advance.