Flunk­ing on im­mi­gra­tion

Trump fear­mon­gers in­stead of learn­ing

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Perspectives - Ruben Navar­rette Jr. Ruben Navar­rette Jr. is a syn­di­cated colum­nist for The Washington Post.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is per­fectly suited to drive this chap­ter of the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate be­cause he ably rep­re­sents the mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who love talk­ing about a sub­ject they don’t un­der­stand in the least.

Knowl­edge, ex­pe­ri­ence and com­mon­sense are over­rated. Anger, fear and racism work just as well.

Mr. Trump proved that again in his State of the Union ad­dress, much of which he de­voted to his hack­neyed scare tac­tics about how im­mi­grants are sup­pos­edly in­vad­ing the United States through the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.

For the Car­ni­val Barker of 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Ave., all those years spent hock­ing ev­ery­thing from apart­ments to steaks to vodka taught him two things: First, give peo­ple what they want. Sec­ond, if you can’t do that, try to con­vince them that what they re­ally want is what you have to give.

What Trump sup­port­ers want is blis­ter­ing talk on bor­der se­cu­rity, threats to crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­grants and re­as­sur­ances that the bal­ly­hooed “big beau­ti­ful wall” on the bor­der will one day ma­te­ri­al­ize.

Don’t hold your breath. What­ever struc­ture fi­nally emerges from all the horse-trad­ing will be nei­ther big nor beau­ti­ful.

In a po­lit­i­cal bait and switch, Mr. Trump’s sup­port­ers were promised an im­pos­ing struc­ture made of con­crete, some­thing scary enough to de­ter the des­per­ate peo­ple of Mex­ico and Cen­tral Amer­ica from trav­el­ing north. Now, the best they can hope for is a mix­ture of steel slats com­bined with a “vir­tual wall” of elec­tronic sen­sors.

That’s fine with Democrats, who sup­ported phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers on the bor­der long be­fore they op­posed them. The par­ties are much closer to each other than you might think from all the heated rhetoric. Democrats have sig­naled they’ll sup­port at least some length of wall as long as they can call it a fence. Repub­li­cans will sup­port a glo­ri­fied fence if they can call it a wall.

Call it what you like, just don’t call it a sil­ver bul­let that solves our bor­der-en­force­ment prob­lems. The only way to stop il­le­gal im­mi­grants is for Amer­i­cans to do some­thing they don’t want to do — stop hir­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Yet show me a tough-talk­ing mem­ber of Congress who barks like a junk­yard dog about how we have to end il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, and I’ll show you a trained poo­dle when it comes to butting heads with em­ploy­ers.

Mean­while, Mr. Trump’s re­marks about im­mi­grants, refugees and bor­der se­cu­rity dur­ing the State of the Union speech were a hodge­podge of lies, half-truths and fear­mon­ger­ing — a poi­sonous brew in­tended to hyp­no­tize the ill-in­formed and the small­minded.

Mr. Trump talked about “putting the ruth­less coy­otes, car­tels, drug deal­ers and hu­man traf­fick­ers out of busi­ness.” But ev­ery time we for­tify the bor­der, those bad hom­bres see a surge in prof­its as they raise their prices.

He warned of “large, or­ga­nized car­a­vans ... on the march to the United States” from Cen­tral Amer­ica. But we’ve heard from Chicken Lit­tle be­fore, and the flood was more like a trickle, with many peo­ple opt­ing to stay in Mex­ico.

Mr. Trump said that “Mex­i­can cities ... are getting trucks and buses” to bring refugees to the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der. But of­fi­cials in the Mex­i­can city of Ti­juana are re­cruit­ing Cen­tral Amer­i­cans to take jobs in Ti­juana that other­wise would go un­filled.

Mr. Trump said he wants peo­ple to “come in legally.” But he cham­pi­oned the RAISE Act, which would have cre­ated a merit-based point sys­tem and all but elim­i­nated le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

He claimed that El Paso, Tex., used to be one of the na­tion’s most dan­ger­ous cities and that “now, with a pow­er­ful bar­rier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.” But the sher­iff in El Paso quickly re­futed that, point­ing out that his city was never among the na­tion’s most dan­ger­ous. The other half of that claim was de­mol­ished by The El Paso Times, which took a look at vi­o­lent crime in the city start­ing from two years be­fore the bar­rier was built un­til two years af­ter. In that time pe­riod, vi­o­lent crime spiked 17 per­cent.

Fi­nally, Mr. Trump said, we have a “very dan­ger­ous south­ern bor­der.” But that will come as news to the es­ti­mated 100,000 peo­ple who ev­ery day cross just that tiny por­tion of that bor­der south of San Diego, usu­ally with­out in­ci­dent.

To think, this is the same pres­i­dent who likes to brag about his in­tel­li­gence. Yet, when­ever im­mi­gra­tion is on the exam, he fails with fly­ing col­ors.

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