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Leading observers add some powerful new commentary to the points we’ve been making about the Trump administration’s immigration and border failures and motivations:
Trump’s deterrence-only policies have failed and he has no idea what to do: “He literally doesn’t know what to do” … “You can almost see the flop sweat on Trump’s tweets.”
Reacting to the Trump plan to transport and release detained immigrants into “sanctuary cities,” center-right columnist Max Boot of the Washington Post makes the case that the news is the latest reminder that President Trump has zero actual idea how to govern effectively and respond in a sane and effective way to the policy challenges at hand. In a column titled, “Guess what? Trump has no clue how to stop undocumented immigrants,” Boot writes:
“This isn’t governing. It’s trolling. After more than two years in office, Trump still doesn’t get that he’s not just some guy on the barstool yelling at the TV … That Trump is even talking about this shows the White House’s intellectual bankruptcy on the president’s No. 1 political issue. Trump promised to stop undocumented immigration. Instead it has hit the highest level in a decade … Trump’s signature idea for combating this problem — build a wall and make Mexico pay for it — remains a fantasy … it won’t make any difference for asylum seekers who are presenting themselves at ports of entry.
Why would Trump act in such a desperate and reckless fashion? Because he doesn’t have any better ideas. He literally doesn’t know what to do. It is why he is accusing Democrats of being “TREASONOUS” for supposedly advocating an “Open Border mindset” in the hopes that this will distract from his own failure. You can almost see the flop sweat on Trump’s tweets. He is learning the hard way that there is no easy or obvious solution to the problem of undocumented immigration — and he is deathly afraid that his voters will conclude that he conned them by telling them that there was.”
There are practical solutions that a mature and sane administration would pursue: “This is a simple matter of resources … President Trump, however, treats the migrant surge like an existential threat.”
Washington Post syndicated columnist Eugene Robinson phrased it well in his latest column:
migrants have severely taxed and at times overwhelmed the systems at the border that must process and adjudicate their claims for refuge, but this is a simple matter of resources. We need more border agents, more immigration judges, more housing. President Trump, however, treats the migrant surge like an existential threat.
And in a joint USA Today op-ed, former George W. Bush DHS leaders Michael Chertoff (former DHS Secretary) and Jayson Ahearn (former acting head of CBP) recognize that deterrence-only approaches are mismatched to the current moment and are doomed to fail and that root causes must be part of the answer:
we should use resources more effectively — and increase resources as necessary — to efficiently and humanely manage the flow of migrants. This is not a challenge for DHS to solve alone, it calls for a whole of government response
… Central Americans will continue to flee to the U.S. if they do not have another viable alternative. While deterrence is important, a far more holistic strategy that addresses issues at every stage of the migration route will have a more permanent impact. Through creating stability regionally, increased security in Mexico, and enhanced processing capacity in the U.S., we can move toward solving this crisis.
For a more in-depth read on both short-and-longer term policy approaches that would be more effective, read our piece yesterday on the four elements of a multi-pronged strategy that a more sane administration would pursue; and read Doris Meissner and Sarah Pierce from the Migration Policy Institute (here) and a five-point plan endorsed by scores of pro-immigrant, faith and policy groups.
Despite xenophobia backfiring in 2018, Trump’s ugly and divisive 2020 re-election plan is driving the hardline policy agenda and previewing what’s to come: “confrontational messages that may appeal to the base but potentially turn off swing voters” … “in swing districts in Texas, Florida and California, that debate hurt us” in 2018.
A front-page Washington Post story by Seung Min Kim and Toluse Olorunnipa, “Trump focuses on divisive messages as 2020 reelection bid takes shape” underscores how Trump’s ongoing anti-immigrant policy agenda and related rhetoric fits neatly alongside his efforts to stoke Islamophobia and is a disturbing preview of what’s to come in an ugly and divisive re-election campaign. The piece also includes reminders from Republican strategists that xenophobia backfired on the GOP in 2018 after Trump made “migrant caravans” and related immigrant fear mongering the dominant issue in the campaign homestretch:
While the broader GOP apparatus is attempting to focus on the economy, the campaigner in chief is seizing on more confrontational messages that may appeal to the base but potentially turn off swing voters.
‘If they’re focused on expanding his popularity and the party’s popularity, they should be talking about the economy, and they should be talking about tax cuts,’ said Tony Fratto, a former White House and Treasury Department spokesman during the George W. Bush administration. ‘Every time they choose to double down and talk about immigration, they lose an opportunity.’
… ‘As we saw in 2018, immigration will inflame both sides. Those folks will never be moved,’ said Matt Gorman, who served as communications director for the House GOP campaign arm in the 2018 cycle. ‘However, in swing districts in Texas, Florida and California, that debate hurt us.’
As Post syndicated columnist Eugene Robinson reminds us, Trump’s “antipathy toward nonwhite immigration” has “never wavered,” promising an incredibly ugly 2020 campaign:
On almost any issue you can think of, Trump is all over the map. But there is one position on which he has never wavered: antipathy toward nonwhite immigration. From his campaign charge that Mexican immigrants are ‘rapists,’ to his fruitless quest to get funding for a border wall, to his gratuitously cruel policy of family separations, to his declaration of a national emergency, Trump has left not an iota of doubt about how he feels.
To be sure, sometimes the president uses anti-immigration rhetoric to inflame his base. But unlike with other issues, Trump seems actually to believe his demagoguery about would-be Latino migrants.