Trump’s plan to ‘dump’ migrants
President Trump said last week that he is “strongly looking” at a plan to transport immigrant detainees from the southern border to sanctuary cities as retribution for Democrats’ refusal to support his border policies, as his administration ratcheted up efforts to stem the influx of Central American migrants. The proposal to bus migrants to Democratic-controlled “sanctuary cities” like New York and San Francisco was championed by White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, The Washington Post reported, but was shot down as inappropriate and expensive by officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). One day after the story was published, Trump tweeted the plan remains under “strong consideration.” It’s “retaliation to show them, ‘Your lack of cooperation has impacts,’” a Department of Homeland Security official told the Post. Trump taunted sanctuary cities, saying, “They’re always saying they have open arms. Let’s see if they have open arms.”
Attorney General William Barr ruled this week the government can hold adult asylum seekers indefinitely if they entered the country illegally—even if it takes years until their court date. Trump’s frustration also led him to suggest illegal means of blocking the migrants, according to several news reports. During a visit to Calexico, Calif., CNN reported, Trump told border agents to simply refuse to let migrants reaching U.S. soil apply for asylum, and to reply if a judge questioned them, “Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.” CNN also quoted administration officials as saying Trump told acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan he “would pardon him if he ever went to jail for denying U.S. entry to migrants.” The White House denied this.
Border authorities are grappling with the biggest migrant surge in 12 years, as families flee poverty and violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The number of families crossing the border is up 300 percent over 2018, and the average tally of immigrants in ICE custody, including both families and single adults, swelled to more than 50,000—an all-time high. Since Dec. 21, ICE said, it has released 125,000 migrants into the U.S. who arrived as families.
What the editorials said
Let’s hope Trump is just trolling Democrats, said The Wall Street Journal. Flooding sanctuary cities will only “increase the likelihood these migrants will remain in the U.S. for years under city and state protection.” And since most sanctuary cities are in Democratic strongholds, swelling their populations with new non-citizens will only “add to their strength in reapportionment for Congress after the 2020 Census.” Yes, the Supreme Court will soon hear a case about whether the Commerce Department can include a citizenship question in the Census, but a legal victory is far from certain.
If America is full, as Trump claims, asked The San Diego Union-Tribune, why are employers desperate for seasonal employment visas for foreign workers? Employers are facing such a profound labor shortage amid record-low unemployment that they crashed the Labor Department’s electronic system with nearly 100,000 requests for these visas within the first five minutes. And, by definition, these visas can be granted only when “there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work.” Indeed, employers report 7 million unfilled jobs.
What the columnists said
Trump is not only urging officials to break the law to stop immigration—he’s openly musing about using violence, said Alex Ward in Vox.com. After telling reporters he wanted more troops at the border, the president bemoaned how if the military “got a little rough” with asylum seekers, “everybody would go crazy.” We shouldn’t dismiss this as just more Trump tough talk. Our commander in chief is saying he wishes American troops “could have more freedom to hurt men, women, and children.”
It’s time for Trump to admit the obvious, said David French in NationalReview.com. Despite his tough talk and empty threats, he’s “failing on his signature issue.” He needs a course change—one that recognizes the reality that Congress sets America’s immigration and border-enforcement policies. “That means dealmaking. That means compromise.” The alternative is “more flailing” and more chaos. Yes, but Democrats don’t want to negotiate, said Brett Velicovich in FoxNews.com. By offering nothing other than saying “no” to Trump, they are essentially advocating “open borders.” Democrats refuse to change the asylum law because they actually welcome the “unbridled flood of humanity” now pouring into our country.
Since the sinister Stephen Miller is “the chief architect” of Trump’s immigration agenda, said Greg Sargent in The Washington Post, Democrats should summon him to testify before a congressional committee. Though Miller largely operates behind the scenes, he is playing a major role “in so much of the chaos, incompetence, and increasingly malevolent extremism gripping the Trump administration right now.” Hearing from him could “shed light on Trump’s efforts to flout the law” and the colossal mess he’s making of border policy.
The American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to go to court to block Barr’s ruling on the indefinite detention of asylum seekers who enter the U.S. illegally, said Dara Lind in Vox.com. But regardless of how the case is decided, Barr’s directive won’t make much difference: It doesn’t apply to most asylum seekers who legally apply at border checkpoints, or those entering the country as family units, who “are supposed to be released after about 20 days.” As ICE runs out of space to house detainees, it faces “a coming confrontation with Congress.” Current funding allows ICE to keep an average of 45,274 migrants in custody through the end of September, but ICE has already exceeded that number. Barr said he’s delaying his new policy by 90 days to give DHS time to erect “additional detention” facilities. But at some point, Democrats may refuse to provide additional funding for detentions—setting up yet another court battle.
Cover illustration by Howard McWilliam.
On the cover: Senior adviser Stephen Miller.
Cover photos from Reuters, AP, Newscom ■