Saturday, April 13, 2019

Immigration Diversion

First out of the gate with what was at that moment the latest Trump iteration of disturbing immigration policies was The Washington Post, which reported very late Thursday

White House officials have tried to pressure U.S. immigration authorities to release detainees onto the streets of “sanctuary cities” to retaliate against President Trump’s political adversaries, according to Department of Homeland Security officials and email messages reviewed by The Washington Post.

Trump administration officials have proposed transporting detained immigrants to sanctuary cities at least twice in the past six months — once in November, as a migrant caravan approached the U.S. southern border, and again in February, amid a standoff with Democrats over funding for Trump’s border wall.

If you instinctively recognized that President Trump intended to punish his enemies, you win a prize because

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco was among those the White House wanted to target, according to DHS officials. The administration also considered releasing detainees in other Democratic strongholds.

White House officials first broached the plan in a Nov. 16 email, asking officials at several agencies whether members of the caravan could be arrested at the border and then bused “to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities,” places where local authorities have refused to hand over illegal immigrants for deportation.

At least four Democratic Representatives- Mark Pocan (Wisconsin), Earl C. Blumenauer (Oregon), and Nydia Velazques and Alexandria (Sandy) Ocasio-Cortez of New York- have called for the abolition ofImmigration and Customs Enforcement, and at least two Democratic senators have strongly implied it should be dismantled. It seems, however, that it took that most evil of agencies to shoot down the President's brainstorm, for

The White House told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the plan was intended to alleviate a shortage of detention space but also served to send a message to Democrats. The attempt at political retribution raised alarm within ICE, with a top official responding that it was rife with budgetary and liability concerns, and noting that “there are PR risks as well.”

After the White House pressed again in February, ICE’s legal department rejected the idea as inappropriate and rebuffed the administration.

As so few have, someone from within the federal government has stood up to Donald Trump, and it turns out he or she is from ICE.

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, demonstrating an impressive depth of dexterity with adjectives, called the President's idea "ludicrous," "petulant," "insulting," "un-American," "illegal," "immoral," "pathetic," and- most impressively- "the sophistry of adolescence." He did, however, omit one critical adjective: revealing.

Suppose you are an unauthorized immigrant caught at the border or in the nation's interior. You may be returned to the host country, given a court date and then released, or (if arrested for an offense), jailed and then released.

But Donald Trump reportedly wanted to deport (at government expense) some detained immigrants to sanctuary cities.  There is no legal or official definition of "sanctuary city," rather a general concept. Still, we know that if an individual were taken to what the Administration considers a "sanctuary city," he or she could simply relocate if wished.

Presumably, however, the immigrant would not want to move. He/she has been given free passage to a jurisdiction which treats illegal immigrants rather kindly. Moreover, most of these are municipalities in which already reside a large number of the foreign-born, thereby making it easier for the individual to adjust.

Were this policy to have taken effect, President Trump would have been giving the illegal immigrant a huge break and belated Christmas gift. This would not be an unforced error; it would be precisely what Donald Trump intends.

This is revealing, and even a little obvious, if unremarked upon by virtually everyone. Of course, Donald Trump's immigration policies are intended to be cruel; that's Donald Trump. And they are intended to promote "liberal tears," to sadden and/or anger liberals, minorities, and the other folks his base dislikes; that's Republican.

But they are a fraud. President Trump may be mean and heartless. However, contrary to the assumption of both supporters and opponents, his intent is not to limit the number of foreigners in this country. If it were, he probably wouldn't be expanding the H-2B visa program, nor slashing aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, thereby offering residents of those countries incentive to travel north.

ICE may understand what so many on the left, the right, and the center do not.  Trump is motivated less by ethnic animus or a desire to make America great again than he is simultaneously to welcome cheap labor and to signal to his supporters that he's standing up for "us," not "them." It's a cynical game he's playing, using race and pseudo-patriotism as a diversionary tactic. But his strategy has worked before, and he plans to make it work again.

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