June 18, 2018 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Save the Children, Deregulate the Border
Trump's baby snatching is sadistic. The more he digs in, the more voters will be open to alternatives.
President Donald Trump appears to believe that making children suffer at the hands of a barbarous government gives him leverage over the Congressional Democrats.But there’s something else at work here. The president seems to believe a cartoon image is real, that the caricature of a “bleeding-heart liberal” invented by conservatives over 50 years ago actually represents reality, and that the Democrats will do whatever it takes to prevent the president from making more children suffer.
Trump underestimates his political weakness. He also underestimates the Democrats’ willingness to permit suffering if suffering leads to significant policy gains in the future. Recall that President Barack Obama deported more people than all past presidents combined in the hope that the Republicans would comprise on immigration reform. He reversed course, after 2012, on realizing they wouldn’t.
Trump is wrong. The leverage belongs to the Democrats. Let’s hope they use it to offer something more than “Don’t Be Evil.” They have the opportunity to offer the American people an alternative to sadism, which is this: open the border.
First, some facts. Trump’s zero-tolerance policy is his and his alone. Separating children from mothers, or other responsible grownups, is not necessary. It is not a law. It is not a judge’s ruling. It does not have anything to do with Democrats. Yes, Obama did face the 2014 controversy of unaccompanied minors crossing the border. Some of those minors were indeed placed in cages until the government found sponsors. But such measures resulted from an unexpected crisis, not presidential policy.
Another fact: sadism is part of Trump’s DNA. It animated his decision to end Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). He thought the Democrats would cave to demands for a border wall, stricter enforcement of immigration law, and extreme changes to current law. It didn’t work. Sadism was also evident in 2016 with respect to the Islamic State. Trump’s remedy: To beat ISIS, we’ve got to go after (i.e., kill) their families. He was reminded that that would be a war crime.
For many years now, the Democrats have been stuck between two poles. On the one hand, they didn’t want to appear weak on national security, so they have largely been supportive of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on militarizing the Southern border. On the other hand, the Democrats took a hard line against a border wall and limiting legal immigration, and for establishing a pathway to citizenship.
Three ways Trump provides them a way out. First, by taking an extreme position recalling the internment of Japanese-Americans and Nazi concentration camps. Two, by digging in, so much so that his own administration do not appear to know what is true, what is false, or what will get them in trouble with the boss. Finally, it’s an election year. Congressional Republicans are almost totally silent on the issue.
The more Trump and his lackeys insist that baby snatching is required by law, the more intractable baby snatching will appear to be to voting Americans. And the more intractable baby snatching appears to be, the more voters may be open to policy alternatives. That’s the reason Democrats should be talking about open borders.
Remember the US has an “immigration problem,” because the George W. Bush administration militarized the border after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. At that point, immigrants accustomed to coming and going, according to labor needs, were suddenly trapped inside the country. Our problem is largely self-made.
Open borders does not mean free of security measures, nor does it means surrendering our sovereignty. That’s claptrap. But it does mean demilitarizing the border, allowing people to flow as freely as capital and freight. Freeing up the border would obliterate false arguments in favor of baby snatching. It would also appeal to libertarian types, agribusinesses in need of farm labor and rural towns in need of new revenues.
The Democrats will need another term, though. “Open borders” has been turned into something it is not. The president uses the phrase to smash Democrats who don’t give in to his demands. So let’s use a word free-market conservatives would appreciate.
Call it deregulating the border.
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John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.