WASHINGTON, D.C. - They are calling it “Operation Normandy.” It’s a campaign to organize 3,500 volunteers to patrol and protect the United States’ southern border from the influx of migrant women and children. A group called the Minuteman Project is running the project.
Does that name ring a bell?
From 2005-2010, the Minutemen Project organized a similar effort, organizing posses to patrol the Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants. The vigilante border patrol was hugely controversial; it attracted many volunteers and copycats and had a high profile role in ginning up anti-immigration fever. Their activities were closely monitored by outfits such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League and the ACLU, which considered them to be akin to hate groups.
The Minuteman Project almost disappeared after about 2010 amidst infighting, legal charges against some its leaders and a changed political climate.
They’re trying for a comeback. Jim Gilchrist, the group’s leader, posted a call to action last week:
The Minuteman Project’s “Operation Normandy” has been launched as of 1200 hours today (Monday, July 7). This event will dwarf the original Minuteman Project of 2005. I expect at least 3,500 non-militia volunteers to participate, plus uncounted groups of militias from all over the country.
If you are familiar with the Normandy invasion of France in 1944, then you have an idea how large and logistically complicated this event will be. However, there is one difference. We are not going to the border to invade anyone. We are going there to stop an invasion.
Our federal, state, and community governments have failed to address and fix this calamity. In the spirit of our nation’s Founding Fathers, it is once again time to bring unprecedented national awareness to the decades-long illegal alien crisis jeopardizing the United States.
Participation is open to everyone and there is only one rule: whatever you do, stay within the rule of law.
It will take 10 months to recruit, organize, and launch this event, and it will cover the porous areas of the 2,000-mile border from San Diego, Ca. to Brownsville, Texas.
The Minutemen’s Operation Normandy is another sign that the latest situation on the border has been politicized to poisonous levels. Two months ago, maybe even a month ago, it seemed like the fresh flow of migrants was going to be treated practically as a humanitarian and logistical crisis with a bare modicum of partisan grandstanding and the ugliness that accompanies so much arguing about immigration. Never mind.
The battle lines have hardened.
Operation Normandy would be the right-wing extreme position. The left-wing extreme, I suppose, would take the view the minors coming into the country from Central America should be treated as refugees from violence and given safe haven, be it with family in the United States or not.
The mainstream debate is more about blame.
Everyone agrees there are three main reasons why so many young people from Central America are arriving at the U.S. border: 1) they are fleeing violence and poverty; 2) they are trying to join family members; 3) they believe they will be able to stay in this country.
Conservatives polemicists like Michael Barone and Charles Krauthammer would have you believe that only 3) is relevant and that is Obama’s fault entirely. Obama proved he was soft on illegal immigration by announcing in 2012 that we would no longer deport grown children who came to the United States illegally years earlier and by enforcing a 2008 law that demands minors from countries that don’t border the United States be given temporary refuge and due process before any deportation.
The solution, according to Krauthammer, is a “no-brainer”: deport them and change whatever laws are necessary to get it done. “One thing is certain. When the first convoys begin rolling from town to town across Central America, the influx will stop,” he writes, sharing a sentiment you hear a lot from congressional Republicans.
Liberal polemicists like E.J. Dionne and Clarence Page see this first as a humanitarian crisis. They don’t think that kids in Tegucigalpa have made a study of Obama’s immigration policy but are taking a shot at getting away from gangs or poverty or looking for family. They point out that kids are going to plenty of other countries bedsides ours. They think that the fact that so many of these migrants are being picked up is a sign that our border protection is pretty good. They want these minors to be treated well. “Not everyone deserves to stay, but every case deserves due process,” Page writes.
If you take the blame game, the revisionist history and debating maneuvers out of the picture, there seems to be a grudging consensus about what to do next – change some law so that the legal processing can be streamlined, shepherd more funds so that there are more officials to do the processing, lean on the relevant Central American countries to convince their people that the United States is not a reliable haven.
Getting there will have been a typically undistinguished process. It is certainly possible that House Republicans will block Obama’s $3.7 billion budget request; they might well prefer an issue to a solution.
It would have been nice if our humanitarian impulses hadn’t been shouted down quite so quickly and loudly. But so far at least, the worst instincts that come out in reactionary spasms like “Operation Normandy” have stayed on the fringes. It would be helpful if Washington could pull off a rare grudging compromise before that changes.