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Republicans said they wanted more border agents and a way for the president to shut down the border when crossings spike. They said they wanted to make it harder to qualify for asylum and easier to remove from the country people who don鈥檛.

They said the flow of drugs and migrants over an open border was killing our citizens and altering the fabric of the nation, and it demanded harsh, resolute and immediate action, lest we lose control of our country altogether.

Republicans got all these things from the border bill negotiated last week in the Senate 鈥 and they still said no, torpedoing their own deal under pressure from former President Trump.

Those at the top of the party don鈥檛 believe their own rhetoric around the border and immigrations. No one else should either.

The border bill itself is a mixed bag. Hiring thousands of Border Patrol agents and asylum officers would help speed the process for people arriving at the border, getting at the backlog that keeps people stranded in limbo for years.

Changes to the asylum program could help the process move faster, too, allowing officers to separate legitimate claims from those that don鈥檛 fit the criteria. Such a policy would greatly benefit Maine by making sure that most people seeking asylum would ultimately get it, and that they would be able to work sooner, lifting themselves and helping our economy in the process.

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Funding was earmarked for scanners to detect fentanyl, the drug driving Maine鈥檚 deadly overdose crisis. Mostly, fentanyl is smuggled over the border not by mules through the desert but by pedestrians and vehicles through legitimate points of entry. Scanners are needed to check on entrants without disrupting the everyday movement of commerce across the border.

Shutting down the border if migrant crossings reach a certain level, as the bill would have allowed, would be a harsh and inexact way to enforce our laws. The only distinction between those it lets in and those it kicks out would be when they arrive.

However, the bill also would provide more legal pathways to immigration 鈥 pathways that have been mostly blocked in recent years 鈥 which would have likely cut down on the bottlenecks at the border as people find other avenues to enter.

It鈥檚 not a perfect bill. But it is a compromise that seemingly had a chance to pass the divided Congress. Republicans got the best of the negotiations, and many believe they鈥檒l never get an immigration deal out of Democrats that is tougher.

Still, Republicans walked away, leaving the problems at the border alone in the hope that it helps reelect Trump, who despite his harsh talk could not stop problems at the border while president.

That鈥檚 not what you do if you truly believe that the people crossing the border are 鈥渧ermin鈥 or 鈥減oisoning our blood,鈥 as Trump has said.

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That鈥檚 not what you do if you believe President Biden鈥檚 policies amount to an 鈥渙pen border鈥 or an 鈥渋nvasion,鈥 as Republican members of Congress say regularly.

But if you want to use the dysfunction at the border as a way to rile up your supporters, making it seem far worse than it is, that is exactly what you do. That鈥檚 what happened in 2007 and 2014, when Republicans in Congress both times scuttled deals that would have made necessary changes to the immigration system. If those pieces of legislation had passed, we鈥檇 be looking at a different situation at the border today.

But then maybe the border issues wouldn鈥檛 be there when they needed to scare and shock voters.

Conservative media and politicians regularly rail against the 鈥渃onvoys鈥 of migrants coming north, making it seem as if a foreign army or a terrorist cell is coming across the border. They misrepresent people seeking asylum as 鈥渋llegal aliens鈥 and portray the asylum system as easy to manipulate.

Yet when they had the chance to do something about it, they passed it up 鈥 at least three times in the past 17 years.

There is no doubt the immigration system needs reform. Its deficiencies cause humanitarian problems at the border and keep the U.S. from benefitting from robust, orderly immigration.

Those deficiencies could be solved by good immigration policy, and without demonizing the people who arrive at our border.

But to Republicans, from Trump on down, demonizing is the point.

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