Fairly Alarmed Here

Jennifer Graham
3 min readJan 26, 2024


Photo by Ed Hinchliffe on Unsplash

This week, my 18-year-old son asked me this question, “how concerned should we be with what’s happening at the Texas border?”. Well, it’s complicated, but my first thought was Jeff Goldblum’s reaction when he hears the T-Rex in the distance in Jurassic Park: “I’m fairly alarmed here”. I had just been reading the letter that Governor Greg Abbott released that sounded fully cribbed from South Carolina’s 1860 secession declaration. This, of course, is not the first time Texas has threatened this. It’s practically written into the Texas fabric to talk about seceding every few years. Many a political cartoon has gotten a laugh from playing on this stereotype. However, fully dismissing this as buffoonery or posturing would be a mistake.

I told my son that the situation isn’t that serious until it is. Federal border agents and the Texas National Guard seem to be in a game of chicken to see who will flinch first. That’s dangerous when people are holding weapons. The Supreme Court weighed in this week to say that the federal government was sovereign in terms of the border, but Governor Abbott disagrees. It’s a ridiculous notion to think he can simply “disagree” with Supreme Court precedent, but that seems to be what he’s doing. He certainly isn’t the first governor to do this, and he doesn’t look any smarter than those in the dustbin. The Constitution is pretty clear regarding matters of national security and borders; the federal government is in charge.

To provide a little refresher, the reason we are in this situation is that our immigration system is not functioning well. That’s really putting it mildly, but it’s important to recognize that fact. Democrats and Republicans agree there is a problem; they simply can’t find common ground to solve it. Even when they do, there is not much heart in fixing the system. After all, immigration is red meat for the GOP base. Nothing motivates voters quite like a border crisis. The system is in desperate need of an overhaul after years of neglect, but Congress just kicks the can down the road. They were spurred on this week by the presumptive GOP nominee for President who declared that Texas should simply ignore the federal government and other states who agreed should send troops to support them. Hmmm, where have we heard this before? History simply echoes.

As more and more people head toward our Southern border, Abbott glibly says that he is a little sad that he can’t just order those people to be shot. The federal government would never allow that! *wink, wink*. He is fighting tooth and nail to keep his razor wire and buoys in the river because they have drowned several people. Combine that with Trump calling immigrants “vermin” with “poisoned blood”, and there’s a real theme emerging of dehumanization. Our history illustrates the perils of dehumanizing people and likening them to animals.

This is a dangerous undertaking, and to return to my initial thought, it’s alarming. 25 GOP governors joined to support Abbott, and several of them pledged to send their own state’s National Guard to help Texas. There’s something deeply troubling about a state sending its “national guard” to oppose the federal government. It is almost as if they have forgotten the word “national”. We are a nation. One nation. We are not simply a “compact” of states, as Abbott alluded to in his letter.

So, to answer my son’s question: I think we should be alarmed. It could be posturing and peacocking by a governor who is prone to histrionics; it is an absurd impulse to defy the Supreme Court and the federal government. But one wrong move by one trigger-happy individual, and we could have a real problem on our hands. This is a critical problem that needs to be solved, but standoffs and militias are not the way to do it. At the center of this problem are people. Humans. Shooting them or drowning them with sharp buoys is not the answer. We would be wise to remember our history and vow not to repeat it.