Trump orders the Guard to the border
Frustrated by his inability to get funding for his border wall, President Trump threatened this week to take tough action against illegal immigration, directing states to put National Guard troops on the southwestern border and declaring efforts to protect young undocumented immigrants “dead.” Trump vented his anger on Twitter over the course of three days, with a series of tweets blaming Democrats and the Mexican government for a “massive inflow of drugs and people” into the U.S. In particular, the president pointed to the threat posed by a “caravan” of about 1,200 Central Americans headed north through Mexico, who Trump claimed want to take advantage of DACA protections, even though the program is in limbo and new migrants wouldn’t qualify anyway. “Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws,” Trump tweeted. “NO MORE DACA DEAL!”
Trump later told reporters that he wanted the U.S. military to guard the U.S. border until the massive wall he promised during the presidential campaign could be built. The Posse Comitatus Act bars the military from civil law enforcement on U.S. soil without approval from Congress, but the National Guard can provide support services. The White House says Guard units will conduct air and camera surveillance of the border but will not have direct contact with migrants. “Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” Trump said. “That’s a big step.”
What the editorials said
Trump’s unhinged immigration tweetstorm is “fact-free fearmongering,” said The Washington Post. Illegal immigration at the southwestern border is the lowest it’s been since 1971, and has been falling for years thanks to an improved Mexican economy and beefed-up U.S. security. Border Patrol arrests—the best measure of illegal immigration flows—fell from 700,000 to 409,000 a year under President Obama and have already dropped to 304,000 under President Trump. Trump’s fever dream of a “porous border overrun with drug runners and criminals” simply doesn’t exist.
Trump’s dreaded “caravan” is also an invented crisis, said the Los Angeles Times. It’s an annual protest staged by the activist group People Without Borders to draw attention to people fleeing violence in countries like Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Some of the 1,200 people involved will attempt to seek asylum in the U.S.—which the U.S. government can deny—but many have already been given visas to stay in Mexico. The Border Patrol apprehended 37,000 people at the border in February, so the numbers involved aren’t frightening. That’s still way too many people, said WashingtonExaminer.com. “A country without borders, Trump repeatedly says, is no country at all.” That’s true, and we should do what it takes to enforce our laws.
What the columnists said
Looks like “President Fox News Grandpa saw something on television again,” said Jack Holmes in Esquire.com. Trump’s favorite cable news network has been running frantic coverage of the immigrant “caravan,” triggering his tweetstorm. But Trump isn’t totally addled. He knows his most ardent supporters feel let down by his inability to get funding for his “Big, Beautiful Wall” in the recent budget bill, so he’s trying to reassure them he still hates immigrants.
That caravan of migrants marching toward the U.S. border is not imaginary, said John Daniel Davidson in TheFederalist.com, and Trump is smart to seize on it. Even if these people are denied asylum, the law requires them to be detained while their requests are considered, and many will eventually be released into the U.S. When will Democrats opposed to real immigration reform admit they want “open borders, mass immigration, and amnesty?”
If Trump were serious about border security, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, he would have taken Democrats’ offer to fund his wall in exchange for enshrining DACA protections in law. But Trump couldn’t take yes for an answer, and piled on deal-breaker demands like major cuts to legal immigration. As long as there’s no wall, he can rail against brown invaders to rile up his white base. “His antipathy toward Latinos and non-whites is genuine, I trust,” but his wall “is pure counterfeit.”
Illustration by Howard McWilliam.
On the cover: Roseanne Barr.
Cover photos from Newscom, Reuters, Newscom