PRESIDENT TRUMP has based his midterm election campaign on the specter of an “invasion” by immigrants marching from Central America to the southern border. His demagoguery is disgusting and irresponsible. But there is a real problem of migrants — one that his administration is failing to address.
Many people are crossing the border with their children and applying for asylum, overwhelming existing mechanisms for dealing with asylum seekers. They are feeding what the president calls a “catch-and-release” revolving door for migrants freed as they await hearings to adjudicate their cases, and contributing to a backlog of some 750,000 cases in immigration courts.
A rational response would be to add substantially to the approximately 350 immigration judges, who cannot handle the tens of thousands of asylum claims flooding the immigration courts annually. The administration this year hired a few dozen new judges, a fraction of what is required. As the caseload has more than quadrupled since 2006, the number of judges has not even doubled, according to congressional testimony in April by Judge A. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.
Despite that, Mr. Trump has sneered at the idea of hiring more, even after aides pressed him to do so. “Who are these people?” he raged, before suggesting darkly that adding many new judges would somehow corrupt the system. “Now can you imagine the graft that must take place?” he said.
Granted, the hiring could be challenging, in vetting and cost. But any major challenge involves scaling up resources and personnel, and it’s hard to see why that’s beyond the government’s capabilities.
On the other hand, maybe Mr. Trump prefers having an issue to a solution. He has made it clear he believes the immigration question propelled him into the White House. Now, by ramping up his inflammatory rhetoric, and by advancing over-the-top measures such as sending thousands of troops to the border to fulfill a mission for which they are not trained — Congress has barred troops from law enforcement duties — it seems apparent Mr. Trump has opted for crisis instead of constructive improvements to what he rightly calls a broken system. Instead of deploying thousands of troops, why not hire hundreds of judges?