The debate over President Joe Biden's immigration policies exploded again on Monday after news broke that more than forty migrants had been found dead in the back of a truck in Texas.

Texas governor Greg Abbott blamed the deaths on Biden, tweeting, "These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequence of his refusal to enforce the law."

https://twitter.com/GregAbbott_TX/status/1541596214705135617

Thousands of Twitter users piled on Governor Abbott's tweet, arguing that if the border is really "open," then why did these migrants need to be smuggled across the...

The debate over President Joe Biden’s immigration policies exploded again on Monday after news broke that more than forty migrants had been found dead in the back of a truck in Texas.

Texas governor Greg Abbott blamed the deaths on Biden, tweeting, “These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequence of his refusal to enforce the law.”

Thousands of Twitter users piled on Governor Abbott’s tweet, arguing that if the border is really “open,” then why did these migrants need to be smuggled across the border in the back of a truck? Liz Mair, a GOP communications strategist wrote, “My dude, if it were actually an open border, these people would have walked across, not had to smuggle themselves across and die in the process.”

Social media isn’t exactly known for promoting nuance, but the Abbott detractors really put on a masterclass in being deliberately obtuse.

In the American immigration debate, “open borders” usually refers to relatively weak border enforcement policies, which lead to a de facto open border — meaning migrants can get in one way or another. The best scenario is they get across the border without getting caught (usually thanks to the help of paid “coyotes,” or smugglers). If they do get caught, they claim asylum or refugee status and are released into the US pending a court date — for which many do not bother to show up.

Catch and release and other “open borders policies” thus incentivize illegal crossings, which are often incredibly dangerous for migrants, because there are few serious legal consequences. Many have drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande river or roasted to death in the back of tractor-trailers like the forty-plus discovered on Monday. About a third of women who attempt the crossing report being the victims of sexual assault.

Compare this to stricter border enforcement policies that were put in place during the Trump administration, particularly post-2017. Migrant apprehensions fell sharply because there were fewer attempted illegal crossings. Why? Migrants who were caught could not longer rely on a free pass into the United States. Instead, they were either held in detention indefinitely, removed or deported, or sent to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims were adjudicated in court.

Will strict border enforcement cause some smugglers to come up with sneakier — and probably more dangerous — methods of getting across the southern border? Possibly. But the data overwhelmingly tell us that far fewer will attempt to cross in the first place, saving migrant lives and protecting American sovereignty.