The Oklahoman

Stitt’s visit was purely political theatrics

- Nick Alexandrov The Oklahoman USA TODAY NETWORK Nick Alexandrov works as a reporter and educator in Tulsa.

Someone should adapt Gov. Kevin Stitt’s U.S.-Mexico border trip for the stage — a comedy that could start with a three-night run at the Civic Center Music Hall. It was pure political theater.

After Texas and Border Patrol officials briefed him and eight other Republican governors last Wednesday, he deemed the region in “crisis” — one “that President (Joe) Biden created.” Stitt cited, as evidence, the million border-crossers apprehende­d this past year, plus the methamphet­amine-fentanyl surge from Mexico into Oklahoma.

Take the million border-crossers. Stitt called the number “a record,” but “the norm” is a better label. There were over 1 million apprehensi­ons as far back as 1983 — and for most of the following years until 2007, when the Great Recession hit. But Stitt still believes in the wisdom of massing troops along the Mexican line.

The DEA traces methamphet­amine’s spread to 2014, and border seizures of the drug went up 74% from 2018 to 2019. Border Patrol confiscations of fentanyl climbed 62% that same year — under President Donald Trump, the man Stitt praised for promoting “strong border security.”

The policy dates to 1994, when the Border Patrol, under President Bill Clinton, launched Prevention Through Deterrence.

PTD had three aims. First: expand the Border Patrol’s presence in establishe­d entry points, forcing migrants into the desert if they wished to cross undetected. Second: let the desert claim its victims. Third: witness fear of apprehensi­on deter future migrants. PTD failed in this respect.

If the “strategy is successful,” the U.S. General Accounting Office wrote in 1997, “deaths may increase.” And they did.

That’s one crisis Stitt won’t acknowledg­e. Another has killed as many as 10,616 Oklahomans — nearly 56 times the state’s 2019-2020 fentanyl toll — since last year. These deaths were preventabl­e, but Stitt won’t acknowledg­e COVID-19 either.

Now would be the perfect time for him to adopt that “personal responsibi­lity” he champions.

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