The Borders Flare as the Center Collapses

The politics of illegal immigration has long been thorny, and a solution has eluded the past several presidents and congresses, but it suddenly seems even thornier in the age of President Donald and his Republican party’s slim and fissiparous majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives.
All of the usual tricky questions about how to properly enforce current immigration laws in an effective yet humane and constitutional way, and what to do about the illegal immigrants who are already here, are still awaiting an definitive answer, and there’s still a wide chasm between the most welcoming Democrats and the most exclusionary Republicans. Trump’s longtime rhetoric and recent policies, of course, are making some sort of compromise solution all the more difficult.
Trump’s executive order to rescind President Barack Obama’s executive order for Delayed Action on Childhood Arrivals has made a pressing issue about the fate of the so-called “dreamers,” who were brought here as children and have since lived provably productive and tax-paying lives that have little troubled the American populace, which raises complicated political as well as policy and legal questions. Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy has resulted in a couple thousand children separated from their parents and held in circumstances that administration can’t fully account for, and which the Trump administration has denied and blamed on Democrats and insisted is necessary to save the country from imminent invasion, and although he’s since signed an executive order to undo his policy that’s further complicated the debate. His rhetoric about “animals” “infesting” the country and warning of an “invasion” by “millions” of raping and drug-dealing types has brought a long-heated debate to a boiling point.
Trump and his spokespeople have lately taken a dizzying number of stands on these issues — we can’t resist re-telling our joke that he’s got more positions than Stormy Daniels — but he’s always consistently made it clear that he’s not at all fond of those brown-skinned people from “shit-hole countries” who keep showing up at the southern border seeking asylum. He’s spoken sympathetically of a “loving bill” for the “dreamers,” revved up his rallies with talk about the Democrats don’t think a Trump voter’s children are also dreamers, and he made a big show of reversing his family separation policy but not the the “zero tolerance” that he admits will continue to separate families. All those photos and video and audio of crying children and their unaccounted-for whereabouts might have cowed Trump into reversing the policy that 58 percent of Republicans supported, but now Trump is calling it all “phony stories” by the “open-borders” Democrats and their allies in the “fake news” media, who of course are enthralled by the murderous MS-13 street gang and want only the very worst for America.
To show that Trump is very, very strong on border enforcement, and perhaps to demonstrate that they’re not all racist about it, the Border Patrol recently caught a French woman who was visiting her mother in southern Canada and inadvertently jogged a bit out south of the American border, and was detained for two weeks.
There’s at least a kernel of truth to most of it, we must admit. A large influx of human beings from anywhere on the earth will inevitably include some highly undesirable people, and that MS-13 gang from El Salvador truly is a particularly gruesome example, and that suspiciously French 19-year-old did indeed jog into American territory. There are indeed some “open borders” Democrats out there, and we’ve read enough of Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” that we don’t need Trump to tell us how it would work out for America if they somehow got their way. A certain strictness of border enforcement will always be necessary for every country, but it remains if Trump’s will prevail as politics or policy or a legal matter.
Trump is clearly cocky that he will prevail on all three fronts, or at least the all-important political one. Even as he accused the Democrats of using the immigration issue for political advantage he told a group of Nevada Republicans that “Our issue is strong borders, no crime. Their issue is open borders, get MS-13 all over the country.” The Republicans in the House were scheduled to vote on a couple of hard-line and compromise bills, but Trump “tweeted” his advice they “stop wasting their time” and await his predicted “red wave” that would give the Republicans’ true one-party rule. He also “tweeted” that America was no longer obligated to fulfill its duly passed and signed treaty obligations regarding asylum-seekers or comply with the legal precedents that had followed, which is a bit more hard-line than even our rock-ribbed but tender-hearted and constitutionally conservative Republican selves can go along with.
The damned Democrats have all that undeniably heart-breaking photography and video and audio from the southern border, where the Trump administration is having a hard time getting its story straight on what’s happening there, although we’re assured it’s tougher but more tender than anybody has ever seen, so it might take more than a kernel of truth for Trump and his Republican loyalists to triumph. We begrudgingly acknowledge that most Democrats don’t believe in “open borders,” and that includes President Barack Obama, who made a priority of deporting MS-13 gang members and other felonious illegal immigrants rather than breaking up the families of possibly legal asylum-seekers, and even that horrible Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. They’re all far more lax about these matters than even our pre-Trump Republican selves, but for the moment they seem closer to the political center than all thousands at the on-going campaign rallies still chanting “Build that wall!”
By now even the faithful at the rallies don’t expect that Mexico will pay for the wall, and Trump is expecting the Democrats to pay it for as ransom for all the “dreamers” and the kids he got placed God knows where. Which further complicates matters. Pretty much no one but Trump and the faithful at the rallies believe the solution to the thorny illegal immigration problem is a “big, beautiful” and translucent and solar-generating wall across the entirety of the Mexican border, and all the Republican congressional districts along the proposed route think it’s a horrible idea and are threatening all sorts of eminent domain court challenges, and despite the chants at the rallies we don’t think Trump should be cocky about it.
Even at the Nevada rally Trump shared the stage with a far more moderate-on-immigration incumbent who’s facing a tough reelection race, and in Nevada as most of the country the Democrats are nominating candidates who aren’t “open borders” but advocate a more legal and humane means of border enforcement. Trump’s bet that he’ll get an end to some stupid immigration as well as his equally stupid border after a “red wave” might prove as disastrous as his bet on the Atlantic City Trump Taj Mahal.
Nor do we expect that good policy will somehow result. The border must be enforced, international treaty obligations and constitutional law and basic human decency must be respected, and at this point in this long and drawn-out game that seems a long shot.

— 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┬átreated 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