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Trump’s Immigration Deflection

by D.J. McGuire

Donald Trump recognized his response to coronavirus was a disaster both nationally and politically. He won’t tell you that; nor will his die-hard supporters. He knows it all the same. Otherwise, he would never have bothered trying to distract everyone – especially said die-hard supporters – with an irrelevant but damaging executive order halting all immigration to the United States.

Trump’s entire response to coronavirus has been a slow-motion version of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.” First, he insisted it wasn’t a big deal (Tim Miller, Bulwark). When that didn’t work, he tried convincing Americans that this was a surprise to everyone (Miller has the receipts showing otherwise). Then he tried blaming “China” – by which I presume he meant the Chinese Communist Party. That might have gotten him somewhere had he not tried to rope Joe Biden in via guilt by association (Biden promptly pulled out his own receipts on Trump’s obsequious praise for Xi Jinping). So he pivoted to spouting off about the need to remove restrictions imposed by the states (insisting governors should “LIBERATE” them). Pew Research found that most Americans would prefer they didn’t.

At long last, with each narrative collapsing under the weight of reality, Trump shifted gears and went to his standby: irrelevant nativism.

The idea that an immigration pause would do anything against the “invisible enemy” is laughable. The nation with the largest caseload and body count from the virus is … the United States. Even on a per capita basis, we are in the top ten, with the only nations ahead of us from Europe (which was already under a partial travel ban). We have ten times as many cases and deaths as mainland China, a disparity no amount of (certainly happening) Communist cover-up could erase.

Then there is the question of how America is in such good shape that the economy can reopen while also being so bad that immigrants have to be barred for two months.

Of course, Trump probably knows this too – otherwise he wouldn’t have added boilerplate nonsense about “protecting jobs.” The idea that a two-month pause in immigration would have any visible effect on a labor force where 22 million (at least) have been forced into unemployment is nonsensical.

Not only is there no short-term gain, but lots of long-term pain, as Linda Chavez noted (Bulwark):

While most immigrants work in the service economy, a 2018 study by the Brookings Institution indicates that nearly a third of our STEM workers and students are also immigrants or the children of immigrants. When researchers find a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, we shouldn’t be surprised that an immigrant or first generation American will be on the team, or even leading it.

In the meantime, the orderlies, nurses, and doctors caring for patients in hospitals around the country are increasingly likely to be foreign born, with immigrants accounting for almost a third of physicians and nearly 40 percent of health aid workers, according to a study by the Migration Policy Institute.

Note how Trump didn’t couch his order as “Fewer engineers and health care workers” – but those are the effect regardless. Unintended consequences don’t care about anyone’s feelings.

The reality is this: Donald Trump needed a distraction. He needed something to rile up his base. Bashing immigrants has always been his break-glass-in-case-of-emergency move.

There is one silver lining to this, however. We have yet more proof that for Trump and his supporters, it was never really about “illegal” immigration. It was about immigration, period. We should not forget this.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Buying Greenland (Ep. 219)

This week the MPU gang takes on the idea of buying Greenland, Ken Cuccinelli’s idea of what the Statue of Liberty means, and Stephen Miller’s idea of what being ruthlessly Machiavellian means.

Whole Lotta Shakin’ (Ep. 213)

This week, the MPU gang discusses the California earthquakes, Trump’s rain-soaked military parade, and the latest developments in the 2020 presidential race.

Border Disorder (Ep. 183)

This episode looks at the tragic chaos at the southern border, the comical chaos of the Trump administration, and the looming chaos of the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.

Real debate without the hate!

“Zero Tolerance” on the Border: Not Just Heartless, but Also Thoughtless

by D.J. McGuire

So much ink has been spilled and bandwith used on the “zero tolerance” policy initiated at the border with Mexico that I wondered if I really could add anything of significance. It turns out I can, for there is so much (understandable) outrage at the utter heartlessness of family separation and industrial-building-size holding pens for children that very little attention has been paid to just how stupid this policy is – and how anything requiring an actual, long-term solution will require America to ditch her present isolationist funk and return to the robust interventions of her past.

First up, though, is the initial stupidity. One can only assume that those still clinging to a defense of “zero tolerance” without resorting to outright racism are concerned about security and crime. I would humbly submit that these issue (rather than racism) are likely the most pertinent and powerful reasons for people to become immigration restrictionists in the first place (after 9/11, these reasons pushed me into restrictionism for roughly a decade). Yet it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes of thought to recognize that (1) asylum seekers and those escaping violence in their homelands are hardly security threats to the nation, and (2) that splitting families apart and keeping children in holding pens is a near-perfect way to encourage anger at America and her laws. If there is a better way to prime young people for MS-13, I honestly can’t come up with one at the moment.

Ending “zero tolerance” is merely a short-term answer. In the long run, the dissolution of order and peace in Central America needs to be addressed. For too long, Americans have been taught and told, repeatedly, that our historical interventions in region have caused more trouble than they were worth. To be fair, not every action America took was in the best interest of the people there (or even here). However, we are now seeing one our border (and one could argue have been seeing since 2014 at least) the effect of a quarter-century of not playing a role in the region: Guatemala and Honduras in chaos, El Salvador suffering under a left-wing ex-Communist government (where the opposition is a party whose founder is best known as a death-squad leader), and Nicaragua back under Sandinista control – and suffering under violent tyranny once more.

This is a far cry from the situation in the early 1990s, after three Administrations (Carter, Reagan, and Bush the Elder) that understood the importance of building and supporting stable, democratic governments in Central America. They also saw those who did reach our shores (or the Rio Grande) from that region as victims – and potential allies in our efforts to help those left behind.

There is no such fore-sighted vision in the current Administration, but the opposition (yes, fellow Democrats, I’m talking to you) seems to share this myopia. However much Democrats are willing to fight “zero tolerance” (and they deserve credit and support for that), they need to recognize that people don’t just start suffering when they are within reach of an American border official. Central America needs our help, and it needs our help now.

What we are seeing at the border is the wage of isolationism. Our growing refusal to engage with the rest of the world does not allow us to ignore their suffering. It simply comes to our doorstep.

The Trump Administration is doubling down on keeping its head in the sand with “zero tolerance” – and if polling is any indication, most Republicans are following suit. The Democrats need to do more than just try to reverse this policy, they need to attack the isolationism that led to it.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described “progressive conservative” – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015.

All About the Base…No Treble (Ep. 112)

Episode 112 of The More Perfect Union podcast touches on the final days of The Mooch and who might replace him, the Trump immigration bill and his battle with sanctuary cities, and the Russia probe’s new grand jury. Then the gang must make some faustian choices between hypothetical 2020 presidential opponents.

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