SAN DIEGO – President Donald Trump is perfectly suited to be driving this chapter of the immigration debate. That’s because he very ably represents the millions of Americans who love most talking about a subject they don’t understand in the least.
Knowledge, experience and common sense are overrated. Anger, fear and racism work just as well.
Trump proved that again during the State of the Union address, much of which he devoted to his hackneyed scare tactics about how immigrants are supposedly invading the United States through the U.S.-Mexico border.
For the Carnival Barker of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., all those years spent hocking everything from apartments to steaks to vodka taught him two things: First, give people what they want. And second, if you can’t do that, try to convince them that what they really want is what you have to give.
What Trump’s supporters want is blistering talk on border security, threats to crack down on illegal immigrants and reassurances that the much ballyhooed “big beautiful wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border will one day materialize.
Don’t hold your breath. Whatever structure finally emerges from all the horse-trading will be neither big nor beautiful.
In a political bait and switch, Trump’s supporters were promised an imposing structure made of concrete, something scary enough to deter the desperate people of Mexico and Central America from traveling north.
Now those plans have been scaled back. The best we can hope for is a mixture of steel slats combined with a “virtual wall” of electronic sensors.
That’s fine with Democrats, who supported physical barriers on the border long before they opposed them. The parties are actually much closer to each other than you might think from all the heated rhetoric. Democrats have signaled they’ll support a wall as long as they can call it a fence. Meanwhile, Republicans will support a glorified fence if they can describe it as a wall.
Call it what you like, just don’t call it a silver bullet that solves our border-enforcement woes. The only way to stop illegal immigrants is for Americans to do something they don’t want to do – stop hiring illegal immigrants.
Yet show me a tough-talking member of Congress who barks like a junkyard dog about how we have to end illegal immigration, and I’ll show you a trained poodle when it comes to butting heads with employers.
Meanwhile, Trump’s remarks about immigrants, refugees and border security during the State of the Union speech were a hodgepodge of lies, half-truths and fearmongering – a poisonous brew intended to hypnotize the ill-informed and the small-minded.
Trump talked about “putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers and human traffickers out of business.” But every time we fortify the border, those bad hombres see a surge in profits as they raise their prices.
He warned of “large, organized caravans … on the march to the United States” from Central America. But we’ve heard from Chicken Little before, and the flood was more like a trickle with many people opting to stay in Mexico.
Trump said that “Mexican cities … are getting trucks and buses” to bring refugees to the U.S.-Mexico border. But officials in the Mexican city of Tijuana are recruiting Central Americans to take jobs that would otherwise go unfilled.
Trump said he wants people to “come in legally.” But he championed the RAISE Act, which would have created a merit-based point system and all but eliminated legal immigration.
He claimed that El Paso used to be one of the nation’s most dangerous cities and that “now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.” But the sheriff in El Paso quickly refuted that, pointing out his city was never among the nation’s most dangerous. The other half of that claim was demolished by The El Paso Times. The newspaper took a look at violent crime in the city starting from two years before the barrier was built until two years after. In that time period, violent crime spiked up 17 percent.
Finally, Trump said, we have a “very dangerous southern border.” But that will come as news to the estimated 100,000 people who every day cross just that tiny portion of that border south of San Diego, usually without incident.
To think, this is the same president who likes to brag about his intelligence. Yet, whenever immigration is on the exam, he fails with flying colors.
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