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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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Compassion and Its Consequences

Compassion is an admirable quality, most of the time, but should always be administered with a commensurate amount of common sense and a careful calculation of the possible consequences. Otherwise, you wind up with something like the humanitarian crisis now unfolding on the southwest border of the United States.
A recent surge of illegal immigration in that region has left more than 47,000 unaccompanied children in federal custody since October, with another 60,000  expected to arrive within a year, and most are currently being held among thousands more adults of all sorts in overcrowded and under-supplied make-shift facilities in Texas and Arizona. The White House acknowledges this is a humanitarian crisis, calling for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to take charge and asking Congress for $1.4 billion to pay for it, but insists that that it has nothing to do with the executive order issued in 2012 that allowed minor illegal aliens to delay deportation for two years. Two weeks ago the administration the rolled out guidelines allowing an extra two years, which was also explained in terms of compassion for those unfortunate children who happen to find themselves illegally in the United States of America.
That those unfortunate children who happened to find themselves illegally in the United States were there because their parents thought it would put them at the front of the line for citizenship after word got out about the executive order is not at all a compassionate theory, but it’s hard to think of a more plausible explanation. The administration is claiming the influx is due to the recent unrest in Central America, but the unrest there is not recent. American media are notoriously indifferent to Central America and might well have have ignored the social upheaval there until tens of thousands of refugee child wound up in over-crowded and under-supplied make-shift detention accounts in the southwestern United States, but even the administration’s State Department has failed to issue any alarmed statements about the developments there. Press accounts suggest that most of the recent arrivals have come from Guatemala and Honduras, and the only recent advisories to be found at the State Department’s web site warn that Honduras has had the world’s highest murder rate since 2010. Life is tough all over Latin America, and in rain-soaked and strife-torn Venezuela the celebrated compassion of the socialist government has even resulted in a shortage of drinking water, but it’s odd that those make-shift camps in the southwestern United States didn’t start filling up with children until after the executive orders had been made to give them at least four years in the government’s care.
Perhaps the recent influx is due to word getting out across Central America that the United States economy is chugging along so well that a record number of people have stopped looking for work, and the ambitious parents figured that their children could snatch up all the jobs that are being created, but not even the White House seems willing to venture this theory.
Even with the handy and ever-present excuse of Latin American political and economic dysfunction, the White House is likely to have yet another public relations problem with situation. The state of Arizona, which was blocked by the federal courts from enforcing the federal laws that White House had decided the federal government would not enforce, is complaining loudly about the “dumping” of thousands of illegals in their state and in conditions they cannot condone. The city of El Paso, Texas, will likely be none too pleased that thousands of other illegal immigrants are being released on the their own recognizance in that city. In Tennessee, the destination for at least one of the illegals being released in El Paso, according to an interview with the local newspaper, might also find fault in the administration policy. Republicans everywhere who have become convinced that no immigration reform should be negotiated with this president because he cannot be trusted to enforce any law passed will likely become more resolute in the conviction, more compassionate Republicans who bought into this nonsense, such as House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor will find themselves all the more vulnerable in their already-close primary races against more rock-ribbed challengers, and Democrats will have to explain what they’re going to do about tens of thousands illegal urchins without being so heartless as to send them back to their parents and home.
Yet another executive order has now been issued requiring that all of the children be appointed legal representation, which seems not only a compassionate but probably necessary thing to do, and when word gets out in Central America that the four free years in the United States come with a lawyer we’ll deal with the increased arrivals. It’s more work for those unemployed law school grads, and more government will be required, so at least for the Democrats there is some upside. Still, the White House has been sending out word that it will be willing to work with such compassionate Republicans as Cantor on some sort of compromise, which should be annoying to the likes of White House domestic policy director Cecilia Munoz, who was previously the the head of the Latino rights organization La Raza, which for the remaining majority of Americans who don’t habla Espanol translates as “The Race,” which basically sums up its racialist ideology. It is not clear what sort of compromise these two sides of the compassionate coin will arrive at, but we expect it will sound very compassionate.
The idea of telling desperate Central American families that they could give their children a shot at the American dream by dumping in the harsh deserts along the borders of Texas and Arizona sounded very compassionate, too, and has created a humanitarian crisis. There are still political pressures being exerted on an already sympathetic administration to end all deportations, with arguments even more compassionate about the poor souls merely seeking a better life in the land of opportunity, and when the word gets out and the make-shift camps proliferate even more compassionate remedies will be required. A better policy would be to tell those desperate Central American families that their children are best of at home, and they should force their own governments to address the socialistic causes of their poverty rather than exporting the human misery to a United States that is now reeling from its own socialistic policies and cannot competently manage the problems its indebted government faces, but that won’t sound very compassionate in the inevitable attack ads against any candidate who takes such a stand. The results that have followed those executive aren’t at all humane, as the administration is forced to acknowledge, yet to argue against these policies is thought heartless.

— Bud Norman

Affairs of State

Sooner or later the political conversation will have to get back around to the lousy economy, or that awful immigration bill, or any of the many other stories of more lasting importance, but for now it’s hard to avert one’s eyes from all the scandals. The latest one involves hookers, underage girls, drugs, and the State Department, so it’s especially distracting.
According to a soon-to-be-released, already-leaked report from a yet another Inspector General — and where would our country get its news if not from those ubiquitous Inspectors General? — the U.S. ambassador to Belgium stands accused of soliciting sexual favors from prostitutes and minor children, a security official in Beirut allegedly engaged in sexual assaults on foreign nationals working at the embassy, members of the Secretary of State’s security detail routinely employed prostitutes, and a criminal organization is said to have supplied drugs to security contractors at the United States embassy in Baghdad. As with all the other scandals, there are also allegations that high ranking officials attempted to cover it all up.
Aside from the undeniable salaciousness of it all, the allegations have serious political implications that even the most administration-friendly media will be hard pressed to ignore. The misbehavior was widespread enough that the Inspector General’s report describes it as “endemic,” and among those who stand accused of interfering with the investigations into these matters is under secretary of state Patrick Kennedy, who has recently been served with a subpoena by the House investigators looking into the lies that the administration told about the four deaths in a terror attack on the Benghazi, Libya, consulate. Thus the latest scandal merges into past ones, and recalls other past scandals involving Secret Service agents and prostitutes, adds yet another reason for people to suspect that their government is not up to the ever-expanding job it has set for itself.
Heading up the State Department during all these shenanigans was Hillary Clinton, usually described in the press was the greatest Secretary of State ever, the most popular person in American politics, and the presumptive next President of the United States, and it will be interesting to see how her adoring fan club of reporters manage to insulate her from the scandal. Clinton’s tolerance for boorish sexual behavior by the men in her life is legendary, but this time around it might not seem such a saintly virtue. She could reprise her famous line that “What difference, at this point does it make,” which won rave reviews from the left when she used it slough off the four deaths that occurred as a result of her failure to provide adequate security to a consulate that had been pleading for protection, but even the most faddish catch-phrases eventually become tiresome.
The ambassador accused of sexual misbehavior adamantly denies the allegations, and thus far the Inspector General’s report is the only evidence of any improprieties, and a press that is currently overworked by scandals that it has been forced to reluctantly cover might not find time to uncover any further dirt. Still, it’s yet another slew of unsavory news for the administration to deal with and more reason to hope that the president’s transformative agenda will be at least temporarily stalled.

— Bud Norman