OPINION: Much ado about nothing: Dan Sullivan and cruelty toward immigrants

To lie or not to lie, that is the question.

On May 12, the controversial immigration policy Title 42 expired. Title 42 allowed the U.S. government, under the guise of preventing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, to turn away asylum seekers at the border, stopping them seeking refuge from persecution.

Interestingly, despite Title 42 being ostensibly for public health reasons, it wasn’t too effective. Worldwide, the U.S. was only behind Peru in per-capita coronavirus deaths. In addition, the border was not similarly closed to people immigrating legally or traveling temporarily. Looks like our astute government officials believed that only asylum seekers carry coronavirus. But I digress.

As has become typical for politicians regarding immigration, Alaska’s U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan put out several inflammatory statements regarding Title 42 in the days leading up to its demise. He blamed President Joe Biden for the crisis at the southern border, including human trafficking and the spread of fentanyl across America. In a second statement, Sullivan called statements that the southern border was secure “The Big Lie of 2023.”

William Shakespeare put this best: “The empty vessel makes the loudest sound.” Sullivan’s statements aren’t just disagreeable — they’re grossly inaccurate and promote a cruel, dangerous attitude toward immigrants.

Plainly, this prideful politician is pandering.

Sullivan’s first lie: “President Biden has created a tragedy of immense proportions.”


Although it would be awfully convenient to find a single scapegoat for the crisis at the border, our current migrant woes have been years in the making. For example, Venezuela has been in the throes of a socialist dictatorship for almost as long as I’ve been alive, now resulting in the displacement of more than 7 million people. Thousands of them have come to the U.S. seeking refuge. As I’ve implored readers of this paper to consider, can we claim to be the land of the free if we turn away people fleeing socialism and authoritarianism? Furthermore, it’s hard to blame Biden as the “creator” of this humanitarian tragedy — not to mention the situations in other countries causing people to flee.

Our senator’s next mistruth is a two-for-one special: “Joe Biden stopped construction of the border wall, halted deportations and suspended the successful ‘remain in Mexico’ policy.”

When it comes to deportations, I would love to see what the senator’s definition of “halt” is — it certainly wouldn’t align with Shakespeare’s. In 2021, Biden’s ICE deported 59,000 people. To the dismay of many immigrants’ rights advocates, the administration has also announced new rules that would streamline deportations for asylum seekers who crossed the border illegally.

In a similar vein, regarding “Remain in Mexico,” what is Sen. Sullivan’s definition of “successful?” This policy could not be more misguided and inhumane. Forcing asylum seekers to wait for their hearings in Mexico has resulted in deplorable human rights violations and continued victimization of these vulnerable people. The U.S. government even acknowledges that the border regions of Mexico are extremely unsafe, urging people to reconsider or completely avoid travel to them. I’d like to think that Sullivan doesn’t actually consider forcing people to remain in a dangerous country, waiting months for a court date, a success story.

Sadly, Sen. Sullivan misses the mark on immigration. His suggested policies mislead the public and make illegal avenues to immigration more, not less, attractive.

Title 42 had to go, and so does our leaders’ incendiary rhetoric toward issues of immigration. It is possible to both secure our border and promote a humanitarian immigration policy. Doing so will require collaboration and creativity — not bombastic inaccuracies — from our elected representatives.

Claudia Tio-Cartagena is a master of public administration student at the University of Alaska Anchorage and a paralegal at an immigration law firm in Anchorage.

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