Finding Time for Politics
Terry H. Schwadron
April 22, 2020
Once again, Donald Trump is scoring political points on building disdain for immigrants — and strewing confusion in his wake.
Forget the fact that most borders are directly or effectively closed right now because people are not moving, and certainly not planning to come to the United States where Trump policies are allowing coronavirus containment to slip through our stay-at-home fingers.
Also forget that Trump already has suspended legal asylum processes and has threatened a closure of the Canadian border as well.
Or that by last night, Trump had folded on keeping farmworkers out of the country because Big Agriculture reminded him they are needed.
Even set aside the idea that we have no idea whether a temporary, near-total shutdown for two months minimum of borders to immigration, legit or not, may not be supported by law, or that no one in the White House can really explain how this planned executive order will work.
Let’s just remember that once again, in the midst of a medical emergency and an economic tsumani, Donald Trump has the time, focus and chutzpah to use his office for an outwardly partisan political attack anew on his perceived hatred for immigrants.
You know, these arethe workers at Mar-a-Lago, the workers at the Trump Organization’s golf property and Virginia vineyard. These are the same immigrants who may be involved in the manufacture of exactly the chemicals and pharmaceuticals we need in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, or the 800,000 DACA immigrants brought here as children who are now working overtime in our hospitals and as emergency workers on the front lines of disease.
These are the immigrants whose cardboard symbolism is a standing target for the Trump reelection campaign, and so they need to be knocked down.
A friend’s sister is here on a green card working along with her teenaged children who also have been working while her husband remains waiting for a visa in Kenya. Apparently he’ll be waiting a long time. Policies like the executive order are not about keeping families intact, or addressing work that many Americans have refused to do, or that reflects even a scintilla of caring about the myriad reasons for legal migration to the United States.
No, America should be for Americans, as if those of us who already arrived had not come from families who, in turn, had migrated.
But I have to love the reasoning. This is Trump caring about the health of Americans again.
That’s rich, after seeing him repeatedly support those unmasked, non-social distancing Americans prancing about state capitals to demand an end to stay-at-home rules that Trump himself previously had advocated.
Trump is happy to talk of “cabin fever” and impatience as pandemics equal to an actual pandemic in the same way that he talks about leadership in the same breadth that he boasts of his television ratings for the daily press briefing on the status of virus spread.
Stopping immigration altogether takes no vision, no leadership at all. All it takes is a bald recognition that his most fervent supporters have labeled The Other in society as a target that translates at the ballot box. By contrast, leadership would require understanding the complexities involved and laying out an intelligent program that meets most of the needs, whether for immigration change or control of contagion or addressing a dead economy.
If Trump cares about the health of Americans, he would insist on more time among the states to lift stay-at-home orders, to allow a confirmed lessening of the outbreak numbers — to meet his own government’s guidelines that he pushed last week. If he cared about public health, there is a long list of coordinating activities that he gladly would take on to ensure that the nation’s emergency medical workers have protection they need, and patients have sufficient testing, contact tracing and quarantine space. If Trump cared about health care, he would not be spending his day time fighting Obamacare in court as 22 million workers lose their jobs and their health insurance.
No. Trump, as we know, cares about Trump.
We await details about an immigration shutdown, even as the White House wants everything else that should be shut down turned on again, and quickly.
Maybe Trump wants to reduce competition for jobs as states re-open. Maybe he intends to exempt various classes of workers, including farm workers, health care workers or people who work on possible vaccines.
Trump also owes us explanation of what legal authority he has to stop immigration. Previously he had claimed health emergency powers to restrict asylum at the southern border. But White House has repeatedly invoked broad executive powers in immigration law to impose travel bans.
In addition to all his other presidential charms, Donald Trump is a poor manager. He hires poorly, he leaves wide holes in announced policies, and he loses interest quickly in getting his directives followed by an effective government.
If he can shut down immigration by his total authority, why should we not expect him to call off the November elections just to keep him in office?