Thursday, January 26, 2017

Impotent on immigration--for now

Image via Gizmodo Australia.

Listening to Brandon Judd, head of the National Border Patrol Council, which is the Trump-endorsing agents' union, on NPR this morning, I found myself more and more convinced that the Trumpian immigration policy, like everything else coming out of this White House, is more bullshit, from the governmental standpoint.

That is, yesterday's snowstorm of executive orders aren't going to execute anything. There's not going to be a wall, though there could be a good bit of reinforced fencing and bits of wall on the California and Arizona borders; Judd was pretty clear on that, and unapologetic. And of course Mexico is not going to pay for it. It'll be $15 billion of US taxpayer dollars wasted on a half-assed effort to achieve the "most expensive and least effective way to do border security" (Rep. Will Hurd, R-TX), and it won't achieve even that.

Nor will there be any massive deportation of the undocumented, in particular DACA participants and most likely their parents as well (thanks, Redhand), at least for the time being, fortunately. The Obama administration's emphasis on deporting immigrants with criminal convictions is going to continue to be policy, and the Trump administration will just pretend it's something new.

Nor is there going to be any new enforcement against so-called "sanctuary cities"; conservatives have been demagoguing on this issue for years, making it sound like some Democrats' conspiracy to create havens for criminals and gangsters, but it's never been that. Local authorities will continue, as ever, to respond to federal arrest warrants by arresting people, but they won't do ICE's work of seizing the undocumented, which isn't, legally, their job:

If Trump wants to try to cut funding he will be sued and he will lose.

(By the way, California attorney general Xavier Becerra (also on NPR) explained something I didn't get on states' rights. I've had this impression that there was something a little funny about progressives combating the federal government at the state-capital level, because it reminds me so much of the history of racist reactionary Southerners doing the same thing from the Nullification Crisis through Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt (Trump's incoming EPA head) trying to lay waste health care reform and environmental regulation by launching endless lawsuits against Washington. But it's not the same thing: the post-reconstruction Southern appeal to the Tenth Amendment is meant to help state governments undermine the Constitution (particularly Fourteenth Amendment), where progressive assertions of states' rights are about protecting constitutional provisions in the face of conservative (and now Trumpian) attacks.)

All this is not to say everything is fine or that immigrants and their friends have nothing to fear from a Trump administration; I think the situation is very bad and dangerous. It's just not government, for the time being, that is the threat.

Every word Trump utters painting that Fort Apache picture of American urban life (far from true 35 years ago, not at all true today, but believed in by those innocent rural voters glued in horror to their TV screens) is calculated to rouse hatred and rage in the population. The spike in hate crime after the election has eased off, but remains at historic levels; see Slate for an ongoing collection of incidents.

Trump's language is explicitly meant to divide the nation between urban and rural, multilingual and monolingual, multicolored and all-white, citizen and uninformed resident:
“Their victories have not been your victories,” he said. “Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s Capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.”
It's having its effect on the population, and it's ugly. And I can imagine that an administration that currently has no power to carry through on its threats against Sacramento and Albany and the other blue capitals might acquire it sometime, with help from the Republican Congress and the Supreme Court. It's so easy to see Trump telling his base why he couldn't keep his promises: cowardly politicians stabbing him in the back. It's worked before.

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