Describing himself as, the Democrat who the Republicans hate to love and the Democrat, Democrats love to hate, former Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, Alan Bersin, talked recently at PLNU about developments along the U.S.-Mexico border. He was on campus as part of the City Club of San Diego’s effort to sponsor a non-partisan conversation about democracy through events in the community.
After years of working in Washington D.C. and the U.S.-Mexico border, he offered the audience his perspective on today’s politics in the Trump era. Here are a few of Bersin’s thoughts on topics that were discussed in the open forum and afterwards in an interview with The Point on Saturday, Sept. 23:
California’s Lawsuit against President Trump’s Border Wall
On Wednesday Sept. 20 California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against the construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border citing environmental law violations.
“An environmental lawsuit would not prevent the building of the wall in its entirety,” Bersin said. “It would prevent various areas in the Big Bend area, or certain areas on the Rio Grande Valley, or certain areas in the Arizona desert would be barred from the fence [wall] if those lawsuits were successful.”
State of the Border between U.S. and Mexico
In January, President Trump signed an executive order which called for the construction of the border wall, the addition of 5,000 Border Patrol agents and increased deportations of undocumented people.
“During the years that I was involved with border security, the physical barriers have a definite place in producing the situation today in which a number of people try to enter the country illegally and people entering the country illegally is at a 30 year low,” Bersin said. “The 22,000 [border patrol agents] are actually enough for the jobs that they are called on to do. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t work that needs to be done to improve border security, there is. But additional manpower or woman-power is not what would be required.”
“We have this duality in our history,” Bersin said. “We are a nation of immigrants and yet there is always a sensitivity under a lot of politics of uncertainty and anxiety, blaming newcomers; pulling up the ladder after you get on board. That’s never been a good solution in American history and it’s a tension in American society that we need to resolve, but typically we resolve it in favor of recognizing that immigration is the source of our strength, it’s the source of our innovation, it’s the source of our courage, it’s the source of our diversity that is an extraordinary asset in a world that is diverse.”
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) Program
On Sept. 5, the Trump Administration announced it would rescind the Obama-era DACA program.
“I was very proud to be involved in [DACA] when I was Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection,” Bersin said. “The president [Trump] himself has been ambivalent about it and he’s been faced with the Justice Department’s Attorney General Sessions, who, in good faith, believes that it was an illegal executive action by Secretary Napolitano and President Obama. It’s not that they are malicious toward the young people; they really believe as a matter of law, that this was an illegal action. All of us are the children of immigrants brought here legally or illegally, voluntarily or not, and this whole country depends on that quality of infusion of these DACA children and young people, they are precisely apart of that story.”
Current state of American Politics
“The biggest threat I see is that our politics have eroded,” Bersin said. “It’s a function of ideology, but it’s a function of the human glue that held congress and members of congress together doesn’t exist anymore. So you wonder, what is it that will regenerate the capacity in American history to work together. I don’t know, but I think that one of the real desperate needs of our history now is to reclaim the center of our politics. The silver lining that I see is that this current situation—which I believe is far more serious than Watergate—is actually energizing millennials and politicizing Gen Xers.”