Is Trump right to block Hon­duran im­mi­grants from cross­ing U.S. bor­der?

Tri-City Herald - - Opinion - BY MER­RILL MATTHEWS Tri­bune News Ser­vice BY DON KUSLER Tri­bune New Ser­vice

YES: CAR­A­VAN IS A CON­CERTED EF­FORT BY HON­DURAN LEFT­ISTS TO BY­PASS U.S. IM­MI­GRA­TION LAWS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is send­ing fed­eral troops to the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der and tak­ing other steps to stop the Hon­duran mi­grant car­a­van headed for the United States.

It’s un­for­tu­nate that it’s come to this, but it’s the right thing to do.

Mil­lions of for­eign­ers dream of com­ing to the U.S. be­cause of the three pil­lars of our so­ci­ety: free­dom, eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity and the rule of law.

And for most of its his­tory the U.S. has been a wel­com­ing coun­try. The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity says the U.S. granted 1.18 mil­lion peo­ple law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dence sta­tus or green cards in 2016. The aver­age an­nual green-card rate for the past 30 years has hov­ered around 1 mil­lion.

But those in the car­a­van seek to force their way into the coun­try — legally or oth­er­wise — just as they bull­dozed past the bar­ri­cades set up by Mex­i­can of­fi­cials.

While the num­ber of mi­grants en­ter­ing il­le­gally is down from two decades ago — there are an es­ti­mated 11 mil­lion here now — il­le­gal en­tries are grow­ing again.

Reuters claims bor­der of­fi­cials ar­rested nearly

400,000 peo­ple at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der in

2018, up from 304,000 the pre­vi­ous year. That in­flux is com­pli­cat­ing of­fi­cials’ abil­ity to man­age and process the im­mi­grants, es­pe­cially those with chil­dren.

How­ever, those were mostly in­di­vid­u­als and smaller groups; this car­a­van was or­ga­nized be­fore it left Hon­duras.

Ac­cord­ing to The Wall Street Jour­nal, “Hon­duran con­gress­man Bar­tolo Fuentes of the left-wing Li­bre Party” claims credit for or­ga­niz­ing it, and numer­ous im­mi­grant or­ga­ni­za­tions fi­nan­cially sup­port such ef­forts. The ques­tion is why now?

One rea­son is for­eign­ers see our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem is over­whelmed and seek to take ad­van­tage of it.

Syra­cuse Uni­ver­sity’s TRAC sys­tem cites

765,000 pend­ing im­mi­gra­tion court cases na­tion­wide, up from

629,000 last year and

200,000 a decade ago. The aver­age wait for a court ap­pear­ance is 717 days.

That back­log al­lows im­mi­grants to start their new life here, and many will choose to fade into the back­ground rather than face an im­mi­gra­tion judge. Ac­cord­ing to the Jus­tice Depart­ment, 39 per­cent of im­mi­grants who ap­plied for asy­lum in

2016 failed to show up for their court hear­ing; it was

43 per­cent in 2015.

It’s also pos­si­ble that car­a­van in­sti­ga­tors wanted to in­flu­ence the midterm elec­tions by try­ing to em­bar­rass the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion — per­haps hop­ing for a re­peat of the pub­lic-re­la­tions beat­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion took be­cause of fam­ily sep­a­ra­tions. If so, it ap­pears likely to back­fire.

A Ras­mussen poll found that 51 per­cent of vot­ers be­lieve Trump should stop the car­a­van from en­ter­ing the U.S. il­le­gally; 38 per­cent dis­agree.

Democrats rec­og­nize the bad op­tics of what some are call­ing an “in­va­sion” storm­ing our south­ern bor­der.

Those who are de­fend­ing the car­a­van claim the mi­grants are poor and look­ing for safety, good jobs and a bet­ter life at a time when the boom­ing U.S. econ­omy needs work­ers.

And that’s likely true for the large ma­jor­ity. But it would be naive to think that some free­loaders, crim­i­nals and peo­ple who wish us harm won’t see this as an op­por­tu­nity to slip in un­de­tected.

Ac­tu­ally, im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates should be re­buk­ing the car­a­van rather than de­fend­ing it, be­cause it will al­most cer­tainly anger the pub­lic and make im­mi­gra­tion re­form more dif­fi­cult.

Those who don’t want a wall on our south­ern bor­der will come closer to see­ing one built if the marchers force their way in. And if the car­a­van is suc­cess­ful we can ex­pect more to fol­low.

Iron­i­cally, the im­mi­grants are com­ing to the U.S. de­cry­ing the law­less­ness in their home coun­tries. Yet many of them are will­ing to break our laws to en­ter or re­main.

Ad­dress­ing bor­der se­cu­rity is one of Trump’s big­gest con­cerns. And the car­a­van is mak­ing his case for him.

Mer­rill Matthews is a res­i­dent scholar with the In­sti­tute for Pol­icy In­no­va­tion. He holds a PhD in the Hu­man­i­ties from the Uni­ver­sity of Texas. Read­ers may write him at IPI, Suite 820, 1320 Green­way Drive, Irv­ing, TX, 75038.

NO: TRA­DI­TIONAL AMER­I­CAN COM­PAS­SION TRUMPS TROOPS ON BOR­DER BY DON KUSLER

Tri­bune News Ser­vice Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump send­ing U.S. mil­i­tary troops to the bor­der is a po­lit­i­cal ploy and would be way off base even if its in­ten­tions were pure.

With his pres­i­dency and his party’s prospects look­ing bleak for the midterm elec­tions, Trump launched into a cal­cu­lated cam­paign of mis­in­for­ma­tion and divi­sion.

The goal is ob­vi­ous. Dis­tract, di­vide and at least slow the po­lit­i­cal mo­men­tum build­ing against his pres­i­dency.

By stok­ing fear and di­vid­ing Amer­i­cans in an ef­fort to hold onto to power, Trump is play­ing a treach­er­ous game with our demo­cratic so­ci­ety.

In the past sev­eral weeks the pres­i­dent has re­peat­edly at­tempted to fuel divi­sion on a range of top­ics but the cen­tral tar­get is im­mi­grants, refugees and peo­ple of color.

Whether in tweets or at un­ruly ral­lies in key elec­tion districts, Trump re­peated hate­ful and dis­hon­est state­ments about im­mi­grants and the trav­el­ing group of Hon­duran refugees seek­ing asy­lum.

Do our im­mi­gra­tion laws need im­prove­ment? Of course. Do we want our coun­try to be safe? With­out a doubt.

How­ever, Trump’s hard­line meth­ods are cruel and in­ef­fec­tive. Separat­ing fam­i­lies is a hor­ri­ble, in­hu­mane idea and is not slow­ing the flow of im­mi­grants or refugees.

The wall is a fi­nan­cial and pol­icy joke. The re­cently re­ported at­tempt to re­verse birthright cit­i­zen­ship for chil­dren born in the United States is sim­ply un-Amer­i­can.

And…the fool­ish and likely in­ef­fec­tive use of U.S. mil­i­tary troops as a pur­ported de­ter­rent at the bor­der is just an­other po­lit­i­cally (not pol­icy) mo­ti­vated ac­tion that ex­perts even in his own ad­min­is­tra­tion be­lieve to be un­wise.

This dis­tract-and-di­vide tac­tic may be work­ing, at least with cer­tain pop­u­la­tions who are part of Trump’s base or live along the bor­der.

Sadly the pres­i­dent’s de­mo­niza­tion of the press and news agen­cies has cre­ated a buf­fer against crit­i­cism and fact check­ing of his rhetoric.

I re­cently en­gaged, quite care­fully, in a con­ver­sa­tion about the refugee car­a­van with a rel­a­tive in my home state of Texas.

While I know this per­son to be fairly open in their think­ing and vot­ing, it was clear that the mis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign was tak­ing hold in a re­gion that sees an out­sized im­pact from mi­gra­tion.

Talk of dan­ger, gangs, drugs and other fa­vorite fear­ful and mis­in­formed talk­ing points be­ing pushed by Trump and his al­lies quickly came up.

How­ever, when I ex­plained that the peo­ple trav­el­ing north were seek­ing asy­lum from the very things be­ing used to make Amer­i­cans fear­ful the tone changed. I also noted that the num­ber of peo­ple in­volved is roughly the size of a small Texas town and not some mas­sive “in­va­sion”.

Think­ing about women and chil­dren flee­ing for their lives, seek­ing safety, seek­ing a bet­ter life we agreed in the end that while chal­lenges do ex­ist, the hu­man­ity of be­ing more un­der­stand­ing wins out.

Through this, my con­ver­sa­tional com­pan­ion was re­minded of the in­hu­man­ity of fam­ily sep­a­ra­tions. They were then re­mind­ing them­selves of the hate­ful and mis­guided poli­cies that Trump pro­motes. We also re­called how er­ratic and un­pro­fes­sional his pres­i­dency has been.

What we en­gaged in over the short but use­ful 15 min­utes was di­a­logue that gave re­spect­ful space for con­flict­ing opin­ions and ex­pe­ri­ences.

While they were able to share some of the unique chal­lenges of liv­ing in a bor­der state, I was able to ap­peal to the hu­man el­e­ment so of­ten min­i­mized in all the heated rhetoric and we both went on our way bet­ter in­formed even if we may still not see the is­sue the same way.

We need to throw a wet blan­ket on the heated, divisive lan­guage and poli­cies stem­ming from Trump’s po­lit­i­cal schemes. Stok­ing fears by talk­ing about or en­act­ing poli­cies like fam­ily sep­a­ra­tion, end­ing birthright cit­i­zen­ship and send­ing troops to the bor­der are not the way for­ward.

Don Kusler is na­tional di­rec­tor of Amer­i­cans for Demo­cratic Ac­tion (ADA), the na­tion’s most ex­pe­ri­enced pro­gres­sive ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion. A na­tive of Texas, he earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in his­tory from Sam Hous­ton State Uni­ver­sity. Read­ers may write to him at ADA, 1629 K St NW #300, Wash­ing­ton, DC 20006.

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