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Living the DREAM

As if they didn’t have enough messy business to deal with this month, the congressional Republicans are now obliged to decide the fate of some 800,000 “dreamers.” The issue involves complicated policy questions, the political considerations are trickier yet, and given the way everything else has been going lately it could well end badly for the Grand Old Party.
President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he would phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed youths whose foreign parents had illegally brought them to America as children to avoid deportation for several years and be granted work permits and permission to apply for citizenship, and because the policy had been instituted by an executive order of President Barack Obama he’s constitutionally entitled to do so.
There are strong arguments for doing so, as well, starting with the idea that the constitution requires legislative approval, and that six state attorneys general threatened to file a very promising suit about it today. There are also all those oft-made arguments about the economic and social costs of failing to enforce immigration, and if there wasn’t a widespread public sentiment for stricter enforcement Trump probably wouldn’t be president. There’s also a theoretical possibility, at least, that the deliberations of a duly-elected House and Senate might come up with some wiser than the current or previous president could think of, and if they can’t, well, that’s a pretty sad state of affairs for everybody.
There are plenty of arguments being made all over the press that Trump shouldn’t have done it, however, and our guess is that a sentimental public will now find many of them persuasive. The arguments for Trump’s order are legalistic, involve abstract analysis of the very mixed social and economic costs and benefits that any intellectually honest person will acknowledge, and must be so carefully phrased as so to leave no suspicion that any unpleasant racial motivations are involved, all of which leave Trump at a rhetorical disadvantage. The arguments against Trump’s action come with true stories about the plucky offspring of illegal immigrants who have contributed to their schools and workplaces and the American military, the video footage will show many of them to be darned cute, and Trump’s antagonists in the press are very effective at that kind of rhetoric. There’s a valid argument to be made even without the sentimentality, too, as those true stories do demonstrate the social and economic benefits that immigration bring and which any intellectually honest person must acknowledge, and even Trump concedes that the 800,000 people who suddenly find themselves facing deportation to lands they’ve never known are entirely blameless for being here.
There’s surely some wise solution to the problem, but it’s proved elusive to both Democratic and Republican congresses for several decades now, so it’s hard to see how the Republicans of the moment are going solve everything in the six months Trump’s phase-out gives them. Even when Obama was getting great press and polling well and had huge Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress they couldn’t pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, an ugly formulation that yielded the acronym DREAM and that touching “dreamers” description of the children of illegal immigrants, and when Obama decided to enact the same policy by executive order he had to admit it would have been better if Congress had acted. Now that there’s a tough-on-illegal-immigraton Republican majority in Congress and a Republican president who prides himself on being tougher on illegal immigration than anybody, we wouldn’t be much surprised if the Democrats’ DREAM at long last comes true.
Polling shows that cute kids who have contributed to their communities and are here through no fault of their own enjoy considerable public support, far more than for the president and far, far more than the Congress, and the numbers are almost as bad as the ones that sunk their long-promised plan to repeal and replace the Obamacare law. The Republican majorities in Congress don’t march in the same ideological lockstep as that Democratic majority used to, with many taking a more business-minded approach to illegal immigration and appealing to districts that won’t tolerate any suspicion of racial intolerance, and a lot of Republicans these days feel free to clash with the low-polling Trump in ways that no Democrat would have ever dared with Obama. There are enough Democrats still left in Congress that it won’t take too many Republicans in Congress who don’t want to explain to their voters why they’re kicking out that cute and blameless A student who didn’t chose to be here to get some sort of permanent residency for most of the “dreamers” passed, and a lot of the usual arguments about illegal immigration doesn’t apply to a law that deports criminals and requires tax payments and expects social and economic contributions. We can even see Trump signing it.
Our guess is that Trump signed the order in an attempt to further rouse his most hard-core supporters, most of whom are willing to be far tougher on illegal immigration than Trump really is, and even less concerned than he is if you suspect racial motivations, but he also framed the decision as a constitutional matter and hoped that Congress would come up with something that had “heart,” and that sounds suspiciously tolerant. The decision follows Trump’s pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was so famously tough on illegal immigration he was convicted of routinely violating the Fourth Amendment rights of natural-born citizens who looked like they might be illegal immigrants, and a now downplayed threat to force a government shutdown to get funding for a border wall that only the most hard-core supporters seem to want, and Trump does so love those who so love him, so it’s also possible that he’ll wind up vetoing all those cute blameless kids out of the country.
There’s an opportunity to craft some piece of legislation that doesn’t kick those cute blameless kids out of the country but also includes some bipartisan-supported measures that would more strictly enforce the border and mitigate some of the economic and social costs that any intellectually honest person would acknowledge, and for now we dare to dream. The law surely wouldn’t include enough money to build a wall along the entire border of Mexico, but Trump might well sign it anyway. His political strategy of rousing his base might bring out the crowds at his ongoing campaign rallies, but what most seems to please them is anything Trump says or does to outrage all the snowflake liberals in the rest of the country, which by now includes a lot of Republicans and the vast majority of everyone else, but if he gets some extra border agents and an E-Verify requirement that should make up for the cute blameless kids who get to stay in the country.
That’s what we’re hoping for, at any rate, and there’s six whole months to get it done. This month will mostly be about keeping the government open and the Treasury from defaulting and fending off a nuclear war with the nutcase dictatorship in North Korea, as well as the cost of a recent hurricane in Texas and maybe one that seems to be heading for Florida, but after that we expect it will be clear sailing.

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A Buenos Dias for Trump

Much of our Wednesday was spent waiting in line to get another one of those expensive little stickers that affix annually to the license plate of our rapidly aging vehicle from the Department of Motor Vehicle’s tag office, which turns out to have been relocated in the past year or so  far west of the location we’d been long accustomed to, and which was our own damn fault for waiting until the last minute of the final day of the month rather than handling it by mail a month ago, but things seem to have gone better on Wednesday for Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.
The day began with some fresh polling showing that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is now about as widely reviled as Trump, following another round of stories about the e-mail scandal that was supposed to have been done with when she wasn’t indicted, and yet more polling showing Trump was chipping away at Clinton’s persistent lead and into margin-of-error territory, after a week that didn’t quite include enough of his characteristic craziness. Then he had a meeting in Mexico City with Mexican President Pena Nieto that included all the pomp and circumstance and press conferences and photo ops that usually attend the visit of somebody to be taken seriously, and Trump didn’t mention Mexican rapists or enthuse about “Operation WetbacK” or tout the Trump Tower’s best-in-he-world taco bowls or break into Bill Dana’s old “Jose Jimenez” comedy routine or otherwise embarrass himself. Even the most polite press seemed to glumly acknowledge that he’d done pretty well with the old diplomatic shtick, and then he gave a big speech in Phoenix that plausibly positioned him as the voice of reason on the illegal immigration issue.
Clinton’s suddenly sliding campaign couldn’t come up with any pithy riposte worth linking to, even her friends in the more polite press seemed equally unready for these developments, and more objective sorts such as our pox-on-both-their-houses selves have to score it as a good day for Trump. There are a lot of days left in this crazy election year, though, that there have already been a lot of them that can’t be undone, so it remains to be seen how even this day plays out.BuB
For more than a year now, and for what surely seems an eternity to most of the country by now, Trump has been running as the proudly politically incorrect scourge of illegal Mexican immigrants and lopsided trade deals with the wilier-than-us Mexican government and all other manner of Mexican perfidy, who was going to round up all the illegals already here and send them back home and build a huge Gulf-of-Mexico-to-the-Pacific-Ocean wall to keep the rest out and then make them pay for it. Even a relatively gaffe-free day in Mexico City is unlikely to undo that public perception, and there was plenty for the Democrat and her friends in the more polite media to work with after they regain composure. Trump insisted that there was no discussion of who would pay for his still-planned wall, while Nieto “tweeted” that he’d made clear Mexico wouldn’t be paying for it. The anti-Trump demonstrations were more restrained than at recent rallies in the southwestern United States, but the reaction in both the Mexican and American press suggests that Nieto did not help his own perilous political fortunes by acting so politely to an American presidential candidate that is by all accounts widely despited in Mexico. The impolitely pro-Trump press is making much of Nieto’s apparent concession that America can build a wall, but that was never in dispute, and if Canada were to now decide that it wanted one of its own along the norther border we could hardly blame it, and their glee that Nieto had said that the North American Free Trade Agreement is up for negotiation ignores the Trumpian axiom that everything is always up for negotiation.
That unfortunate fact of life has been demonstrated by Trump’s straight-talking but ever-shifting stands on almost all of the issues. Even on his signature issue of illegal immigrants he’s gone from “they’ve all gotta go” and horror stories about the open borders of the Bush and Obama years to “we’ll work with them” and talk of doing the criminal deportations that Bush and Obama had apparently been doing but “perhaps with more energy,” so Wednesday night’s big speech in Phoenix was the long-awaited and oft-delayed clarification of whatever it was he’d been talking about all along. So far as can tell there was nothing in it about deportation forces rounding up however many millions of illegal immigrants reside in the country, nor immediately letting the “good ones” right back in, which had so long been the stated policy, and there was the usual talk about the wall but none of the usual talk about making Mexico pay for it, and the rest of it seemed sensible enough. He would end the “catch and release policy” for illegal immigrants, have zero tolerance for illegal immigrants with a criminal record, repeal several of President Barack Obama’s more inane executive actions on the matter, restrict visas from the more terrorism-prone parts of the world, for deported illegal immigrants even to the countries most reluctant to take them back, and a plain opposition to a “path to citizenship” via illegal entry to the country.
Except for that stupid but ever-popular wall it all seems sensible enough to us, but we can’t help recalling several more qualified Republican candidates who had reached the same general conclusions without wandering through all that crazy talk about rounding rounding ’em up and letting the good ones back in and all that blather about rapists and taco bowls, and we can’t help thinking that almost any of them would be polling better against such an understandably unpopular candidate as Hillary Clinton. The latest iteration of the Trump illegal immigration stand is so mainstream that except for that “path to citizenship” and some number of refugees from those terrorism-prone parts of the world that  Clinton could easily co-opt it, or perhaps “Triangulate” it, as they used to say back in the first Clinton era, and she’ll have Trump’s videotaped admission that even Obama has indeed been deporting illegal aliens with criminal records at her disposal. We expect she’ll wind up with the lion’s share of the Latino vote in any case, and Trump won’t lose any of his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters by abandoning that “round ’em pledge,” and by election day the economy might be so crummy that there aren’t illegal immigrants trying to get in anyway.
We’ll see how this day works out in the long run, and in the meantime at least our license plates are up to date.

— Bud Norman

An Inconvenient Invasion

Lately the Russian army has invaded Ukraine, an Islamist terrorist group has invaded Iraq, and there’s been an invasion of unaccompanied minors into the United States. The first of these has largely been forgotten by America media too busy downplaying all the domestic scandals they’re hoping you’ll forget, the second is a popular topic in the press becomes it allows them recall the good old days of Bush-bashing, and the third is being treated with a suspicious restraint.
Perhaps it’s because an invasion of unaccompanied minors sounds relatively harmless, as if they’re unlikely to do any more than the rest of the unsupervised kiddos running around everywhere, but it has already proved a noteworthy problem. The self-proclaimed Most Transparent Administration in History has been characteristically opaque about the number of youthful invaders and what exactly has become of them, but by all accounts there are already tens of thousands of them with more on the way and they’ve either been released into the country or housed in makeshift detention camps at military bases or state facilities where diseases are flourishing and such basic necessities as underwear are lacking. Such dire circumstances for so many unaccompanied minors would ordinarily warrant hours of outraged air time and pages full of sob stories, with plenty of heartbreaking pictures of sad-eyed waifs huddled in the corner of an Army gymnasium, so the relatively restrained nature of the coverage is striking.
Too many years of toiling in the newspaper business lead us to several cynical theories.
One is that the pictures aren’t quite right. Most of the sad-eyed waifs being stuffed into those Army gymnasiums are 16 or older, which is a rather ripe old age when you’re coming out of the crime-ravaged slums of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador by way of hopped freight trains through Mexico, and thus far the most memorable photographs show some very fearsome young men decorated with gang tattoos brandishing obscene hand gestures and striking crotch-crabbing poses. Most people confronted with such a picture would be more inclined to send the young hoodlums back home rather than write a check to ensure their care, which is not at all what the press would prefer.
Much of the press has long been devoted to the cause of unrestricted immigration to the United States, and the recent invasion of unaccompanied minors is not proving helpful. A more manageable and photogenic number might have appealed to America’s generous nature, but the current invasion is so large that even The New York Times has been forced to report that the social service agencies are being overwhelmed in such a far-flung location as The Big Apple, and a nation already overwhelmed by $17 trillion of debt and a government that cannot provide promised medical care for its veterans might well decide it can only be so generous. All those gang-sign flashing minors in the current invasion were lured here by rampant rumors throughout Central America that any minors who could somehow get into the United States would not only be welcomed but treated to government largesse, and if that were to become an actual policy as so many wish it could entice the entire Third World.
The story is also unhelpful to the Obama administration, which is another cause to which the much of the press is devoted. Those rampant rumors about kids getting in free began when the president signed one of his frequent executive orders to defer deportation of minor illegal immigrants for two years, were likely further fueled by the president’s promise to deliver even more concessions, and somehow went unnoticed by the administration-appointed ambassadors of those Central American countries as well as the intelligence agencies that were apparently too busy keeping track of your internet browsing. After another executive order adding another two years of deferred deportation, as well as a promise to provide all the invaders with legal representation, the administration is now advertising a get-tough policy in Central America and threatening to eventually send the invaders home, but it remains to be seen if this is another of the administration’s meaningless “red line” threats. The president will have a hard enough time selling his “comprehensive immigration reform” bill with the more rock-ribbed Republicans that are coming out of the primaries, and making his tear-jerking speeches about those noble folks who only want to come here to make a living for their sad-eyed waifs will be especially difficult while shipping off planeloads of young Central Americans.
The story will continue to be reported, and in most cases accurately and with less than the usual amount of spin, but don’t expect it for the generate the same sort of breathless excitement that the press once had for George W. Bush’s decades-old Air National Guard records or what’s in Sarah Palin’s garbage cans. Some stories just aren’t as much fun, and sometimes the pictures just don’t work.

— Bud Norman