Terry H. Schwadron
Oct. 3, 2019
The New York Timespublished an extraordinary account this week about Donald Trump fuming last spring about the rising number of immigrant crossings and just how far Trump was willing to go to stop them.
“Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That’s not allowed either, they told him.”
Shooting migrants in the legs? Alligators? Electric eels? Piercing human flesh? Has this guy no heart?
This is policy-making in the White House? This reflects logical government approach to resolving a real problem? How is this not representative of what any other country would face accusation of human rights abuses, to say nothing of border violence and plain old criminal behavior?
To whom have Americans handed the keys to our government? How is Donald Trump qualified to be president of the United States?
Indeed, as the Times article outlined — It was anexcerpt from an upcoming bookby the Times’s Michael Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis — these ideas from Trump were the result of frustration with laws and protocols running smack into Trump’s personal desires to fulfill bad campaign promises. And, within a short time, Trump’s anger resulted in the replacement of a number of the officials in the room who had tried to temper his thinking.
Yesterday, Trump said he never proposed moats with alligators, as if that would eliminate the craziness of the report. He didn’t mention shooting people in the legs.
Trump’s threats to stop all traffic along the southern border remains a possibility still, though lots of financial and immigration folks all see severe economic set-backs for doing so. In the meantime, the perceived threats of a massive immigration problem have receded as the government has proceeded with policies to force Mexico to hold migrants and agreements have been reached with three Central American governments to return migrants directly to those nations.
In interviews that The Times said involved more than a dozen White House and administration officials involved in the events last March, the extremes of presidential seat-of-the-pants policy-making became clear.
Apparently, those in the room at the time included Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary who was dumped in the following days, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Kevin K. McAleenan, the Customs and Border Protection chief who replaced Nielsen, Stephen Miller, the White House immigration whisperer, Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, among others.
In succeeding days, those advisers steered Trump towards more efforts by Mexico to stop immigration efforts, and an overhaul of personnel in Homeland Security.
In one telling anecdote, Trump apparently told a follow-up meeting in front of border agents that they should turning away migrants at the border. Reported The Times: Trump said ,y message to you is, keep them all out, Every single one of them. The country is full. And yet, after the president left the room, McAleenan told the agents to ignore the president. You absolutely do not have the authority to stop processing migrants altogether, he warned.
Since then, of course, the government has decided to deny green cards for immigrants deemed likely to become “public charges,” and announced plans to allow immigrant families to be detained indefinitely. Those actions have been challenged in court. Trump has also threatened tariffs on Mexico unless immigrant efforts are contained, and Homeland Security has moved to restrict legal asylum and refugees numbers. In addition, Trump took $3.6 billion from military construction accounts to start building his proposed Wall.
One thing never discussed in all of this, of course, is American values inviting and thriving from immigration.
At least there is no moat with alligators.