Asa Hutchinson doesn't appear to be the kind of governor who'd sign off on something for partisan reasons only. He doesn't give that impression either in word or deed. As even his detractors in the Arkansas press might admit. He's no Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott. Which commends him greatly.
Doubtless he also spoke for most of his constituents when he told the press that he was one of 26 Republican governors to sign that letter to the president of the United States last week. After the images this past week at the Mexico- United States border, a letter from governors requesting an audience with the chief executive might be the least that should be done.
The southern border has been all commotion for a number of months now, but this past week it became more than just commotion. It became madness. ("Poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States."--Porfirio Diaz.)
We saw the pictures of men on horseback turning back people trying to get into the United States. One report said the migrants were trying to bring food to their families already across the border, but we haven't seen that confirmed.
But either way, this was a poor image for the United States. And a lot of it was brought on by the mixed messages coming from the current American administration. In the first few months of this presidency, officials--and even the president--all but invited illegal aliens to storm the border.
How else describe it when the president goes to a press conference to brag about how wonderful his policies were treating men, women and children at the southern border? It was an invitation he had to revise later, so he sent his vice president to Latin America to say the opposite for the media there. But people were already on their way at that point.
The latest group to flood across the border have been Haitian migrants fleeing not just poverty, but crime and awful weather and political strife. The Western Hemisphere's poorest nation just saw its president assassinated, on top of an earthquake and this pandemic. Can things get any worse for Haitians? The answer can be found in those pictures of American border officials chasing them off with horses.
The papers say "resources" are limited in Haiti. But aren't resources limited everywhere? We're not insensitive to Haiti's problems, but the United States can't have thousands of people (or more) flooding across the southern border illegally. There are legal ways to immigrate. A nation must uphold its laws. Which should have been the messaging from the White House for the last six months.
Which brings us to the letter. Michael Wickline's article said Republican governors sent a letter asking to meet with the president at his convenience, but preferably soon.
"We have got to change the policies, so we are not simply catching and releasing those into our society because that simply incentivizes everybody to come," Gov. Hutchinson told a Rotary Club Tuesday--using "incentivize" which drives us crazier, but everybody got the point.
And how smart is it to catch and release illegal immigrants during a pandemic, anyway? President Biden has no problem criticizing those who don't get the vaccine and their Southern governors, so why would his administration allow so many untested people to walk free into the country?
Asa Hutchinson--who served as an undersecretary for border and transportation security with the feds under President George W. Bush--also knows a border doesn't necessarily have to be a wall. It can be drones and cameras and other ways to alert authorities to illegal passage.
And he knows from messaging: "We have to send a clear message and the administration is trying to pivot towards a clearer message, but it is challenging because we started out basically saying, 'Come on,' and now we're saying, 'Don't come illegally to the United States,' and we are hopefully starting to sent them back."
But sending them back to Haiti via airplane at 1,000 a day, which the papers reported last week, only begins to put a dent in the number of people stacking up at the border. We're not sure that would even lower the number of people lining up, as more and more show up each day.
These governors have reason to be concerned. Arkansas, for example, has watched the number of covid patients drop in the last two weeks. The graphics are trending in the right direction. That is, down. And this state is already taking in refugees from Afghanistan who helped the country during the war there.
The best plan of action is to stem the flow from Haiti by improving conditions in Haiti, which a couple of administrations have pledged to do after various hurricanes, tropical storms and earthquakes. That would be more help than even better messaging.
But better messaging can't hurt. What hurts are the photographs coming over the wires.