Hide your valuables! Safeguard your women! Flee for the hills! The Visigoths are at the gates. We’re all doomed!
That, roughly, is the message that President Trump conveyed this week with his incessant tweeting — hysterical, cowardly, inhumane and deranged in equal parts — about the “caravan” of Central American migrants making their way through Mexico toward the United States.
Alerted by those crack intelligence analysts at “Fox & Friends,” Trump began hyperventilating on Easter Sunday. Showing no sign of Christian charity or brotherly love, he wrote: “Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”
On Monday he continued: “Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large ‘Caravans’ of people enter their country. They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws.....” Later that day: “Honduras, Mexico and many other countries that the U.S. is very generous to, sends many of their people to our country through our WEAK IMMIGRATION POLICIES. Caravans are heading here. Must pass tough laws and build the WALL. Democrats allow open borders, drugs and crime!”
On Tuesday: “The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border, had better be stopped before it gets there. Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!”
So what is this terrifying “caravan” that necessitates — gasp — tweeting in CAPITAL LETTERS? It turns out to consist of roughly 1,000 migrants, including 300 children and 400 women. They are primarily from Honduras, a tiny country that is afflicted by poverty, corruption, political violence and one of the world’s highest homicide rates. The reason the migrants are traveling together, a New York Times correspondent notes, is “in part for protection against the kidnappers, muggers and rapists that stalk the migrant trail, but also to draw more attention to their plight.”
They are not seeking protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which few of them have heard of and none of them are eligible for. (DACA covers only immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2007.) Far from allowing the caravan to simply go on its way, Mexico has already deported at least 400 of the participants but is negotiating to allow others to apply for asylum either in Mexico or the United States.
The U.S. Border Patrol has nearly 20,000 agents. Together, they apprehended more than 310,000 people trying to enter the United States last year. It seems safe to say that the Border Patrol will be able to defend American soil from some 1,000 bedraggled refugees even without the help of the armed forces or the erection of a border wall — steps that Trump claims are of urgent necessity.
And what horrors will be visited upon the United States if it were to act with a smidgen of kindness and allow a few of the Hondurans in? We would undoubtedly be getting hard-working newcomers who, like most immigrants, will make our country even greater than it is. Contrary to Trump’s fearmongering, we are not drowning in a sea of illegal immigrants; we are experiencing a net outflow of illegal immigrants from the United States back to Mexico. Trump’s threats — to tear up NAFTA and end aid to Honduras — would actually worsen the problem of illegal immigration by destabilizing Mexico and Honduras.
The president’s message — that just 1,000 refugees pose an existential threat to the world’s sole superpower — is yet another example of the xenophobia he uses to galvanize his white, working-class base. He is showing once again that he lacks both the humanity and perspective that we expect in a president.
Of all the threats in the world, Trump chooses to focus on a few migrants who are, in truth, no threat at all. What is he ignoring? Well, let’s see. A trade war with China that has rattled markets. Russia’s attempted assassinations in Britain. Russian and Iranian war crimes in Syria. The Saudi war in Yemen. The U.S. war in Afghanistan. The Russian invasion of Ukraine. An election in Iraq. Insurgencies in Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, Libya and other countries. Shouldn’t Trump be spending his time cramming for his summit with Kim Jong Un and figuring out what to do about the Iranian nuclear deal — rather than demonizing helpless refugees?
Like many a would-be authoritarian before him, Trump ignores the real threats that his country faces, preferring to manufacture nonexistent crises that enable him to play on popular prejudice to consolidate his own power.
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