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The Dynamics of US Immigration Crisis and Secession Debates: Analyzing the Current State and Historical Context

If you’re following the ‘Turkish Media’ and trolls/accounts affiliated with the government as news sources, you might think ‘a civil war has broken out in the USA, and the country is about to split up.’ You might even say, like Nedim Şener, “serve them right,” and, along with the AKtrolls, hope for ‘hopefully, Inshallah.’

However, the reality is quite different.

Yes, there is a ‘border crisis’ in the USA, and this situation is causing tension between the states and the White House. But neither the crisis is new nor the states’ resistance to the Federal Government.

Let me start with the latest crisis to explain the issue and its historical process…

The USA is an immigrant country, and immigration is its most fundamental agenda. However, in recent years, especially the influx of immigrants from Mexico, has now turned into a crisis. This week, the said debate evolved into a new phase.

The Supreme Court, composed mostly of judges appointed by the former president Donald Trump, decided that the barbed wire fences erected by Texas Governor Gregg Abbott to prevent illegal immigration at the Mexican border could be removed by federal officials.

However, Texas Governor Abbott said he would reinstall the barbed and razor wires even if the federal government removed them. After the Supreme Court’s decision, a total of 25 states opposed the decision to remove the fences at the Mexican border.

Governors pledged to send money and National Guards to Texas. Donald Trump, trying to be the Republican Party’s candidate, also stepped in and called for sending troops to Texas.

Trump said, “All Americans should support sensible measures to protect the safety, survival, and sovereignty of the people. We encourage all states to deploy their National Guards to Texas to prevent and repatriate illegal entries across the border.”

President Biden’s giving the Texas governor 24 hours to implement the Supreme Court’s decision also heightened the tension.

Indeed, last month, the US Department of Justice threatened to sue Texas state officials if they enacted a new law allowing the arrest, imprisonment, and deportation of immigrants entering the country illegally.

Now, all eyes are on the steps to be taken by the Texas Governor. The Turkish media portrays the deployment of the National Guard as a confrontation between federal and local security forces, but the reality is different. National Guards are being deployed to establish order.

The immigration issue has now turned into a serious crisis Migration from Latin America to the USA is not a new discussion. However, in recent years, it has reached crisis dimensions. In 2023 alone, more than 2 million 240 thousand people tried to migrate to the USA from Mexico.

According to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), between January and November 2023, 2 million 240 thousand people tried to cross the US border. This figure was 2 million 324 thousand in 2022 and 1 million 856 thousand in 2021.

So much so that the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California have become unable to cope with the refugee influx. For instance, just this past August, this number was approximately 180,000.

This means an average of 7,000 immigrants entering the US border daily. There are also unregistered crossings, and only estimates can be made about their number.

The Biden administration made a regulation last May to reduce illegal crossings, which envisaged the deportation of illegal immigrants and their inability to enter the USA again for 5 years. However, these measures have not worked in practice.

The wall construction had begun during the Trump era, but it was highly criticized by the Democrats due to its high cost.

Meanwhile, there is a dimension of migration from the southern border to the USA that closely concerns Turkey. In the last three years, thousands of Turkish citizens have been flocking across the Mexican border into America. Especially those from Ağrı are leading this mass migration. According to official figures, the number of Turks coming to the USA via Mexico in the last three years exceeded 50,000.

According to data from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency, 1,944 Turks came as refugees from the Mexican border to the USA in 2020, 4,989 in 2021, and 24,362 in 2022.

Although the 2023 figures have not been published yet, it is certain that the total number exceeds 50,000. Indeed, social media platforms are full of posts of Turks crossing the Mexican border with backpacks.

Election year, the Trump factor As I said, immigration to the USA is not a new crisis. However, as can be clearly seen from the figures, it has now reached unmanageable proportions. Especially some cities in Texas had to declare a state of emergency.

Imagine an average of 7,000 people entering your border daily. Naturally, this situation has become the main topic of political debate. There is an atmosphere that strengthens nationalist movements.

One of the main factors in Trump’s first term election was this wave of immigration. When elected, Trump promised to build a wall at the border, impose visa restrictions, and carry out deportations. Indeed, he managed to do some of these during his tenure.

These debates have reignited because we are in an election year. Trump is about to run again and is coming strong in the primaries, so to speak. The wave of immigration will form the main agenda of his election campaign. Republican states are also on the same page with Trump on this issue.

The myth of secession… Especially in countries like Turkey, following the recent Supreme Court decision, there has been an increase in news and comments like ‘the USA is splitting up, Texas is seceding.’ It should be noted that these news and comments are more based on the wishful thinking of the opinion holders rather than real data. Because the current immigration crisis and the intentions of states like California, Texas, or Florida to secede are different matters.

Even when it comes to secession, other states join the bandwagon. For instance, after England’s referendum to leave the European Union, discussions of secession were reignited in the USA.

For example, whenever the topic of ‘secession’ comes up, the first state that comes to mind is Texas. This has been a debate throughout US history. Indeed, there was an independent Republic of Texas from 1836 to 1845. Texas joined the union and then seceded with ten other states to become part of the Southern Confederacy during the Civil War. Texas rejoined the USA after the Civil War ended in 1865.

However, the debates never ended. Even in 2013, a petition for Texas’s secession garnered signatures from over 125,000 people. ‘Texit’ campaigns were conducted following Brexit. Texas is big, rich, and culturally very different from states like California and New York. Therefore, the discussion of Texas seceding from the USA seems unlikely to end.

When it comes to secession from the USA, another state that comes to mind is California. California alone is one of the world’s largest economies. It was once part of Mexico and became the 31st state of the USA after the US-Mexico war in 1847. Currently, the state flag reads ‘California Republic.’ Although this discussion flares up from time to time, ‘Calexit’ does not go beyond being a popular topic of discussion.

They can’t separate because… Even though not like Texas and California, states like New Hampshire, North Carolina, Hawaii, and Vermont occasionally come up with secession rhetoric. However, the chances of these secessionist rhetorics being successful are very slim for two reasons. The first is the experience of the North-South Civil War.

Also, the US Supreme Court’s 1869 ‘Texas v. White’ decision made it legally impossible for states to secede from the union.

The second reason is related to money. The US economy is very strong, and it doesn’t make sense for states to leave this profitable structure. For instance, nine of the world’s ten most valuable companies are American.

The market value of the top ten US technology companies is more valuable than the total of the stock markets of Canada, France, Germany, and the UK. The US’s annual military budget is $750 billion. It’s the world’s largest producer of oil and gas. 90% of international financial transactions are conducted in US dollars.

The list can be extended with countless examples. It’s not very likely that a country economically and militarily as powerful as the USA will experience a civil war or split up, or relinquish its world leadership.

Therefore, the “the USA is on the verge of civil war, splitting up” rhetoric of the government and its affiliates has no basis in reality. We are in an election year, and the immigration crisis has reached a critical level. That’s the essence and summary of the matter.

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Adem Yavuz Arslan
Adem Yavuz Arslan
Adem Yavuz Aslan is a leading Turkish investigative journalist in exile based in Washington, D.C.
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