Donald Trump managed to find a way to combine two of his favorite obsessions yesterday, announcing he would send US troops to guard the US-Mexico border until he gets that great big beautiful wall built. Which, according to the schedule, will be never, meaning that the troops will be along the border until Trump leaves office. As you’d expect, Trump made the announcement during a brief Q and A session after meeting with the leaders of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, who were no doubt impressed by Trump’s resolve to keep them safe from Mexico.
WE WILL PROTECT OUR SOUTHERN BORDER! pic.twitter.com/Z7fqQKcnez
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2018
The Mexican border is very unprotected by our laws, we have horrible, horrible, very unsafe laws in the United States […] We don’t have laws, we have Catch and Release, you catch and then you immediately release, and people come back years later for a court case, except they virtually never come back. So we are preparing for the military to secure our border.
A bunch of egghead liberals immediately pointed out that under the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, the military is forbidden from being used for law enforcement. (For footnote purposes, it’s a strange example of an okay law with evil roots: It was enacted to forbid the federal government from protecting Southern blacks after the end of Reconstruction.) But Trump certainly could direct governors to call up their National Guard units for border duty — which states would then have to pay for out of their own budgets — or nationalize Guard units, in which case they would only be able to be deployed as observers who could coordinate with the Border Patrol, which would handle any arrests. That’s more or less what happened when George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent Guard troops to the border in 2006 and 2010, respectively.
Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who’s running for the Senate against ambulatory fart bag Ted Cruz, wasn’t a fan of Trump’s neat idea:
Sending U.S. service members to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border is wrong. It’s dangerous to service members, to U.S. citizens, and to the people of the border. https://t.co/dwtY0xiyan
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) April 3, 2018
And as the Washington Post pointed out in 2011, Obama’s use of Guard units at the border didn’t exactly provide a lot of migrant-catching bang for the politically expedient buck:
The 1,200 National Guard troops have helped Border Patrol agents apprehend 25,514 illegal immigrants at a cost of $160 million — or $6,271 for each person caught.
But of course, if Trump ends up spending far more to beef up an already expanded Border Patrol — 16,000 agents along the border — it will be entirely worth it, because that means he’ll be Getting Tough. Also, please ignore inconvenient details about who’s actually coming to the border, and how they’re crossing, OK? As WaPo notes, recent trends in undocumented migration have shifted from the stereotypical Mexicans coming to take our jobs. Instead, more and more are
unaccompanied minors and “family units” consisting of a child with an adult relative. The vast majority are from Central America. Rather than sneaking across, those border crossers typically turn themselves in to U.S. agents to request asylum protections, citing the lethal threats of gang violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, nations with some of the highest homicide rates in the world.
So we totally need a military buildup on the border to watch those folks walk up the road to official ports of entry to ask for asylum. Not that Trump has any sympathy for people fleeing for their lives, either; Bloomberg reports that among the rest of the recent immigration fuckery in the works:
A senior White House official also said the Trump administration is crafting legislation to make it harder for refugees to gain asylum in the U.S. and loosen restrictions on undocumented immigrants apprehended near the border.
We’ll assume that means loosening restrictions on immediately deporting them, not loosening restrictions on the immigrants themselves.
And for a genuinely heartbreaking look at how the New Cruelty is turning the USA into a Kafkaesque police state, please see this Pro Publica/New York magazine story on “Henry,” a teenager who had been recruited into the MS-13 gang in El Salvador, then came to the USA to escape a death threat. After a year of living in peace on Long Island, a gang member found him and told him to rejoin or die. Henry initially rejoined, but decided to escape by informing on MS-13 to the FBI.
Ah, but instead of putting him in witness relocation like we’d do for a respectable Mafia hitman, the geniuses at ICE instead ordered Henry deported, and took him to a detention center full of MS-13 members who know he ratted on them. If he isn’t murdered in jail, and if he doesn’t convince an immigration judge that he should be rewarded, not deported, for helping law enforcement against MS-13, he’ll be sent back to El Salvador. That’s a death sentence. You’d think ICE might want to encourage people to come forward to help with Trump’s war on MS-13, but “thinking” doesn’t enter into the New Cruelty — here’s one more we can deport, hooray. Please read the whole thing. It matters.
Yes, this is the America we live in now. A “president” who wants to call up the troops for domestic use (and no quaint teabagger qualms that this portends martial law, because Trump was definitely not born in Kenya), and our very own secret police agency acting like the Stasi. Perhaps we can hope Trump will get distracted by some other shiny object before he decides to pave the entire border so it can host daily military parades.