The Wall

Wall National Post

The wall. We all spend way too much time thinking about the wall. I wish we never heard about the wall. I hate the idea of the wall. I hate the cost of the wall. But what I hate most about the wall is that we are expected to build something this expensive that most of us do not want because of one old coot who can never admit that he might be wrong. He can lie about things we heard him say and tell us that he never said those things, but for some reason, he cannot employ the old switcheroo about building the wall. The meaningless mantra keeps repeating like a bad refrain, or a bad taco (if there is such a thing).

First of all the numbers of migrants seeking asylum is not big enough to warrant spending 5 billion dollars, which will easily turn into 30 or 40 billion dollars. We are a big country populated by only about 350 million people. Even if 300,000 people wanted to come in, as they did in a recent year, that is a tiny percentage of our overall population and we still have plenty of room for more people. Building a wall is overkill. It is a solution requiring no imagination or knowledge or creative thought. It’s using a sledgehammer on a tack.

We have immigration laws, but we also have a bottle neck at the border which creates chaos. We can’t process more than a few immigrants at a time. No one qualifies for instant asylum. There are courts and paperwork and waiting periods. Why isn’t there a bigger processing center at our southern border if people need such detailed processing. Instead our southern border looks very much like our northern border with Canada, but it doesn’t function like it. We don’t have caravans of anxious people presenting themselves at our border with Canada because Canada has a stable government and a healthy economy. People who come from South American countries are also our neighbors, but we treat them like invaders. Why? White supremacy? Racism? Our inability to sort true asylum seekers from criminals, or predict who will be criminalized once they are here?

The problem with a wall is that, although it is built to keep people out, it can also be used to keep people in. The Great Wall of China is so ancient that we can romanticize it. It’s a wonder of the ancient world built so wide that there is a road along the top. I’m guessing lots of poor people were enslaved to build that wall. It was designed to keep out the Mongol hordes or something, which I think it didn’t even do, but now it delineates a northern border in China that you can see from space. It has most likely been used to keep people from leaving China for longer than it was ever used to keep people out of China. Castle walls were built to keep out invaders but there are many stories of people who died of starvation while waiting out a siege inside a walled city or town. Three words: the Berlin Wall. The very idea of a wall makes me claustrophobic, although not as much as it would have before there were airplanes, which laugh at walls.

Back to our old man, Trump, who knows that America needs to shore up Social Security. Here is a man so selfish that he wants to take health care away from people who need it because he supposedly believes that it should be turning over profits for private business. He is one businessman trying to make nice with other businessmen because he would like to be in their good graces, or something, I guess. Assigning motives to this man is not usually very difficult. You only have to look for what benefits he will get from a particular decision.

We all suspect he is putting the funds for the wall over the funds to save programs like the ACA that benefit the American people in order to wreak Republican vengeance on behalf of the GOP, who have screamed bloody murder about Obamacare ever since it was enacted (in a non-bipartisan way, because that was the only chance Obama had). We all also suspect he is doing this to stick it to Obama, because it rankles that he is admired by so many. But excuse me, doesn’t that just make we the people pawns in a ludicrous power game that one person seems to be playing all alone.

Politicians used to think twice before ending a program as successful as the Affordable Care Act, but Trump keeps taking it apart piece-by-piece and he is quite willing for us to see that we have no value in the grand scheme of things. This ability to focus like a laser on his own personal interests allows him to insist that we take 5 billion dollars that could be better spent to stop children and seniors from dropping off a humanitarian cliff and spend it to build a wall that will not solve our immigration problems.

As for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, they have constituents to answer to. They know what Democrats want them to do. They are not authorized by the people who elect them to say yes to money for a wall. I am proud of the way they have supported their constituents, which I see as all Democrats, and that they are not talking about compromise. There are times when compromise is the correct path, but with a egomaniacal president and a rabid, off-the-rails Republican party this is definitely not the time to deal. This is the time to form a really effective wall of our own; a wall of no. We cannot afford to compromise with a party that has the very worst set of policy ideas and has been stubbornly clinging to those same terrible policies for decades. If we come up against a reformed Republican Party that will be open to change the Democrats can find their flexibility once again. As for me I think, just as the wall is not worth building, the Republican party is not worth saving.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – National Post

Lawlessness of Trump’s Immigration Actions

wall with immigrants MSNBC.com

Clearly immigration actions under Donald Trump were going to make most of us cringe. We began with the wall that Mexico was going to pay for, for which (surprise, surprise) they refused to pay. Then some prototypes appeared along a section of the border which we were supposed to be inspired by, but they all looked alike and none of them looked like the “beautiful wall” that Trump extolled while campaigning. Since then we the people have pretty much been threatened with government shutdowns to extort payment for Trump’s wall on and off since the inauguration.

Early on, we had that overnight immigration ban cancelling the arrival of refugees who had completed our complex vetting process and sending the Resistance to airports with signs. Bans were signed into law and declared unacceptable almost in the same week. I.C.E. began arresting undocumented immigrants or refugees as they left work, or even while they were working. They began profiling passengers on trains and buses and asking to see ID’s. Asking we the people to show our papers is so “gestapo”, not at all what we have usually done in our democracy, besides being a violation of our civil rights.

Then we had immigrant children separated from their parents while seeking asylum at the border with Mexico. We had the image burned onto our brains of children in cages on mats with thin metallic space blankets for cold comfort. Some were as young as two years old. We were shocked (although I can’t think why) to learn that no one saved the names and contact information that could reconnect children and parents, probably because such reunions were not expected to ever take place. It is even more startling to conclude that 45 was not expecting we the people to express any negative reactions to child separation. He seemed to believe that all Americans either hate immigrants, or that we all fall for his fear-mongering.

Now we have a couple thousand young people who came to America unaccompanied by a parent living in air-conditioned tent barracks in Texas, living regimented lives and looking forward to what (being deported after talking to a judge) (lifetime imprisonment)? What must daily life be like for those children? Who could possibly think that things could get worse?

Immigrant train New York Post

However things can always get worse and as soon as we saw the newest group of migrants walking from Honduras and Guatemala and saw the reactions of our President, we knew that there would be some kind of conflict at the border. He was never going to let those desperate travelers into America. He began the fear-mongering in earnest claiming ISIS fighters were hiding in the center of this chain of people, that people walking hundreds of miles with their children were actually gang members come to kill Americans in the streets, that they were “grabbers” who were not related to the children who seemed to be with them.

We heard his order to deploy American troops to the Mexican border, but we were told that because of posse comitatuslaws the troops could not use military tactics, because the states had the power in these matters. When some of the immigrants got angry and stormed the border, which was being barricaded by troops and border agents with riot gear, troops (because policing in any form cannot stand for insurrection or disobedience) had to escalate. So then we had the newest abomination of mothers and children running from tear gas lobbed into their midst by American soldiers. It is very fortunate that Tijuana has been forthcoming with housing and food for these people who came seeking a better life. But it doesn’t soften the fact that we tear-gassed babies.

tear gas at children WaPO

There are pockets of people throughout the US who are opposed to immigration. Some are convinced that immigrants are taking jobs that should be filled by Americans. Others object to making our benefits available to people who are granted asylum or refugee status; benefits that are supposed to only be temporary until immigrants are self-sufficient. Some refugees have been so victimized in their country of origin that they may require disability supports for life. We are not feeling very flush ourselves these days, and with government threatening to cut our benefits, we are in no mood to share, even sometimes with our fellow Americans.

But don’t you sometimes feel a bit helpless to effect any change in Trump’s immigration ban and sometimes feel some pity for these parents and children seeking a better life? Doesn’t it strike you as un-American to lob tear gas at unarmed families even if they are being a bit demanding about being allowed into the country. They did walk an awfully long way and I doubt they had daily news flashes about what was waiting at the end of their journey. Doesn’t it make you start to thinks that there have to be better ways than this to make sure people only enter America legally. If we had a bit more flexibility we might not have to charge them with a crime for entering at an unprotected spot on the border when they can’t get in at a legal entry point. The use of force often escalates into the use of more force until mayhem occurs and guilt and regrets follow.

Many experts on immigration claim that immigrants do not take American jobs; rather they fill positions that Americans do not wish to fill. It is perhaps true that some immigrants do take desirable jobs and some do not, but since we are supposedly at full employment and, since there are many jobs that are unfilled, I think we can spare a few jobs for people who find the quality of life in the nation they are willing to leave unbearable.

I heard people interviewed at the border saying that they came to America seeking work. The optics would certainly improve if we stopped treating immigrants at the Mexican border as enemy combatants who must be tracked until they can come before a judge to decide their status. Instead immigrants could be issued a work visa and paired with an employer who will agree to sponsor them. It is demoralizing to we the people to experience this constant cruelty and conflict at a border we have shared with Mexico for several centuries. It is equally difficult to believe that the only method for keeping radicalized immigrants out of America is to keep all immigrants out of America. This is so clearly connected to white supremacy and nationalism that it brings us right back to the goose bumps that signal the “gestapo” tactics we hoped to never see again.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – MSNBC.com, New York Post, Washington Post