There is a crisis at America’s Southern border — a crisis of conscience. While the President of the U.S. cynically and wrongly claims America faces an “invasion,” there is a challenge to rise to.

While the past 19 years have seen a steady decrease in border crossings, they have also seen an increase of nearly 37,000 more individuals seeking asylum. An increasingly large percentage of these people come from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and face danger and deprivation as they journey to the U.S. in search of opportunity and safety.

In 2017 alone, 68% of migrants who were provided with services by Doctors Without Borders were victims of crime. As climate change stands slated to displace 2 million more people out of Central America, its ecological impact falling hardest on those already surviving poverty and violence, the Western hemisphere faces a humanitarian disaster — and the U.S. faces a major challenge.

Under President Trump, we have seen the face of the Republican response to this crisis: unimaginable cruelty. Children, taken from their families under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, are still held in overcrowded facilities, sick and unwashed while the administration shamefully argues in court that they can go without soap and toothpaste.

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A toxic culture has festered at our border patrol agency, with guards on the job dumping out jugs of water left to save people from dying of thirst in the desert, circulating images photoshopped to depict Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., being violently assaulted in their free time. 

While Wisconsin was governed by Republican Scott Walker, we saw our national guard sent to aid Trump’s human rights violations, men and women who signed up to provide our state with safety and security instead dispatched to Arizona to protect us from the poor and desperate. Wherever they are elected, around the country, Republican officials rush to make themselves complicit and waste time and taxpayer money in a war on the vulnerable. 

In the face of these challenges, the Democratic Party has different answers, because we ask the right questions. Not how we’ll fund a wall to keep away former business owners who didn’t want to pay a gang’s protection racket, but how to open the door of opportunity. Not how to send back women fleeing partner violence, but how to offer safety. Not how many aspiring Americans we can reject, but how best to live up to our own ideals, and keep alive what President Barack Obama called “a faith in simple dreams.” 

Once, the Republican party might have understood this. Ronald Reagan, perhaps the most iconic Republican of the pre-Trump era — in spite of his private racism — would speak about America as a shining city, “teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace … and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

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Not just rhetoric, Reagan extended amnesty to 3 million immigrants living in America — the largest amnesty of its kind. It’s hard to imagine a party falling so far in the span of just 30 years. 

While the Republican Party has forgotten, Democrats haven’t. The Wisconsin Democrats we’ve seen already in office have been leading the charge in realizing this vision. Gov. Tony Evers ended Walker’s unjustifiable policy and brought our National Guard home where it belongs.

In the House, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., made visits to where children were and are being imprisoned, bringing to light the Trump administration’s institutional child abuse. He introduced a bill to abolish ICE and transfer its critical functions to other agencies, with the goal of disbanding the deportation force preying on those who cross the border.

When we vote for Democrats, we vote to not deny ourselves the economic benefits of immigration. We vote to keep true to the original promise inscribed under the Statue of Liberty, not to erase the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We vote to end the unconstitutional and unconscionable insanity unfolding daily at our border, and replace it with common-sense solutions that respect human rights. So come 2020, vote with us, and celebrate what makes America truly great.

Ethan Carpenter ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science. He is the press secretary for the College Democrats of UW-Madison.

Editor’s note: Ethan is a columnist for The Badger Herald. Here, his views strictly represent those of the College Democrats and do not represent The Badger Herald.

Read about the College Republicans’ position on immigration here.