Truth in the city of lies: President confronts nation on illegal immigration

by WorldTribune Staff, January 15, 2019

The United States has “long tolerated illegal immigration by those who survive the rigors of people-smuggling or exploit loopholes by towing small children along,” but President Donald Trump’s blunt approach to the crisis at the border is making it harder for Congress to, as it has for years, look the other way, a columnist wrote.

“Lying is the other mother’s milk of politics,” Holman Jenkins wrote for the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 11.

George Murphy holds a rifle in a scene from the film ‘Border Incident,’ 1949. / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / Getty Images

“All political speech is a means to an end. Getting their priorities enacted is more important to politicians than telling the truth about them.”

Jenkins cited an aide to President Barack Obama who had “boasted to The New York Times about lying and manipulating the media to sell the administration’s Iran policy. Obama himself proselytized for his health-care plan by saying that, despite mandatory requirements that outlawed millions of individual health plans, you’d be able to keep your existing plan. Nor is there the slightest ambiguity now: His administration deliberately lied to the American people about the origins of the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya.”

But, Jenkins noted, “smart pols know which fibs the media will applaud.”

Enter Trump and “as with just about everything” he does, “his blunt and often grossly hyperbolic statements and gestures are in the service of deeply conventional policy,” Jenkins wrote.

Jeh Johnson, Obama’s homeland security chief, “frankly acknowledged last year, when the child detention furor was getting started, that in such circumstances ‘deterrence’ is the only realistic strategy – that is, unless and until the U.S. wants to fix the domestic problems of every country that refugees and migrants are fleeing,” Jenkins wrote.

“Deterrence is the symbolic function of the Trump wall. Deterrence has been the formal U.S. game plan since ‘Bill Clinton’s presidency,’ goes a long, accusatory wail in New York magazine, which dwells on the suffering of migrants. Except that it extends much further back.

“See the 1949 film noir ‘Border Incident’ about people-smuggling: ‘It is this problem of human suffering and injustice about which you should know,’ intones the narrator.”

Jenkins continued: “The deterrent effect comes not from the risk of apprehension by U.S. border agents but from the risk of dying in the desert or being robbed, exploited or murdered by trafficker gangs.”

Unfortunately, Jenkins noted, “the world also hears our ambivalence. As the 1949 film dramatized, smugglers peddle their services based on their knowledge of the modes and moods of U.S. border security. Trump quickly learned what Presidents Obama and Bush knew: Our legal and humanitarian inhibitions about the handling of small children are a particular lacuna. Since a 2003 immigration reshuffle, the processing of minors has been dumped in the lap of the Health and Human Services Department. It soon developed a reputation for handing children back to traffickers and sweatshop operators purporting to be their legal guardians. Happily, Sens. Rob Portman and Tom Carper, leaders of a Homeland Security investigative subcommittee, have been trying to right the mess since before Donald Trump took office.”

Jenkins continued: “But everything Mr. Trump does and says must now be attacked by the media in a way that didn’t apply to the lies and evasions of his predecessors.”

Photos of immigrant children locked in caged that were taken during the Obama administration must now “be attributed to Trump policy. Mr. Trump must be shown to be illegitimate,” Jenkins wrote.

Still, Jenkins concluded, “give Mr. Trump and his voters credit: Our screwed-up immigration system has become harder for Congress and the public to ignore. Who knows? This might even be leading to a productive moment.”


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