National Opinions

“Is Trump right to block Honduran immigrants from crossing U.S. border?”

Yes: Caravan is a concerted effort by Honduran leftists to bypass U.S. immigration laws

President Donald Trump is sending federal troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and taking other steps to stop the Honduran migrant caravan headed for the United States.

It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this, but it’s the right thing to do.

Millions of foreigners dream of coming to the U.S. because of the three pillars of our society: freedom, economic opportunity and the rule of law.

And for most of its history the U.S. has been a welcoming country. The Department of Homeland Security says the U.S. granted 1.18 million people lawful permanent residence status or green cards in 2016. The average annual green-card rate for the past 30 years has hovered around 1 million.

But those in the caravan seek to force their way into the country — legally or otherwise — just as they bulldozed past the barricades set up by Mexican officials.

While the number of migrants entering illegally is down from two decades ago — there are an estimated 11 million here now — illegal entries are growing again.

Reuters claims border officials arrested nearly 400,000 people at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018, up from 304,000 the previous year. That influx is complicating officials’ ability to manage and process the immigrants, especially those with children.

However, those were mostly individuals and smaller groups; this caravan was organized before it left Honduras.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Honduran congressman Bartolo Fuentes of the left-wing Libre Party” claims credit for organizing it, and numerous immigrant organizations financially support such efforts. The question is why now?

One reason is foreigners see our immigration system is overwhelmed and seek to take advantage of it.

Syracuse University’s TRAC system cites 765,000 pending immigration court cases nationwide, up from 629,000 last year and 200,000 a decade ago. The average wait for a court appearance is 717 days.

That backlog allows immigrants to start their new life here, and many will choose to fade into the background rather than face an immigration judge. According to the Justice Department, 39 percent of immigrants who applied for asylum in 2016 failed to show up for their court hearing; it was 43 percent in 2015.

It’s also possible that caravan instigators wanted to influence the midterm elections by trying to embarrass the Trump administration — perhaps hoping for a repeat of the public-relations beating the administration took because of family separations. If so, it appears likely to backfire.

A Rasmussen poll found that 51 percent of voters believe Trump should stop the caravan from entering the U.S. illegally; 38 percent disagree.

Democrats recognize the bad optics of what some are calling an “invasion” storming our southern border.

Those who are defending the caravan claim the migrants are poor and looking for safety, good jobs and a better life at a time when the booming U.S. economy needs workers.

And that’s likely true for the large majority. But it would be naive to think that some freeloaders, criminals and people who wish us harm won’t see this as an opportunity to slip in undetected.

Actually, immigrant advocates should be rebuking the caravan rather than defending it, because it will almost certainly anger the public and make immigration reform more difficult.

Those who don’t want a wall on our southern border will come closer to seeing one built if the marchers force their way in. And if the caravan is successful we can expect more to follow.

Ironically, the immigrants are coming to the U.S. decrying the lawlessness in their home countries. Yet many of them are willing to break our laws to enter or remain.

Addressing border security is one of Trump’s biggest concerns. And the caravan is making his case for him.

Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation. He holds a PhD in the Humanities from the University of Texas. Readers may write him at IPI, Suite 820, 1320 Greenway Drive, Irving, TX, 75038.

No: Traditional American compassion trumps troops on border

President Donald Trump sending U.S. military troops to the border is a political ploy and would be way off base even if its intentions were pure.

With his presidency and his party’s prospects looking bleak for the midterm elections, Trump launched into a calculated campaign of misinformation and division.

The goal is obvious. Distract, divide and at least slow the political momentum building against his presidency.

By stoking fear and dividing Americans in an effort to hold onto to power, Trump is playing a treacherous game with our democratic society.

In the past several weeks the president has repeatedly attempted to fuel division on a range of topics but the central target is immigrants, refugees and people of color.

Whether in tweets or at unruly rallies in key election districts, Trump repeated hateful and dishonest statements about immigrants and the traveling group of Honduran refugees seeking asylum.

Do our immigration laws need improvement? Of course. Do we want our country to be safe? Without a doubt.

However, Trump’s hardline methods are cruel and ineffective. Separating families is a horrible, inhumane idea and is not slowing the flow of immigrants or refugees.

The wall is a financial and policy joke. The recently reported attempt to reverse birthright citizenship for children born in the United States is simply un-American.

And…the foolish and likely ineffective use of U.S. military troops as a purported deterrent at the border is just another politically (not policy) motivated action that experts even in his own administration believe to be unwise.

This distract-and-divide tactic may be working, at least with certain populations who are part of Trump’s base or live along the border.

Sadly the president’s demonization of the press and news agencies has created a buffer against criticism and fact checking of his rhetoric.

I recently engaged, quite carefully, in a conversation about the refugee caravan with a relative in my home state of Texas.

While I know this person to be fairly open in their thinking and voting, it was clear that the misinformation campaign was taking hold in a region that sees an outsized impact from migration.

Talk of danger, gangs, drugs and other favorite fearful and misinformed talking points being pushed by Trump and his allies quickly came up.

However, when I explained that the people traveling north were seeking asylum from the very things being used to make Americans fearful the tone changed. I also noted that the number of people involved is roughly the size of a small Texas town and not some massive “invasion”.

Thinking about women and children fleeing for their lives, seeking safety, seeking a better life we agreed in the end that while challenges do exist, the humanity of being more understanding wins out.

Through this, my conversational companion was reminded of the inhumanity of family separations. They were then reminding themselves of the hateful and misguided policies that Trump promotes. We also recalled how erratic and unprofessional his presidency has been.

What we engaged in over the short but useful 15 minutes was dialogue that gave respectful space for conflicting opinions and experiences.

While they were able to share some of the unique challenges of living in a border state, I was able to appeal to the human element so often minimized in all the heated rhetoric and we both went on our way better informed even if we may still not see the issue the same way.

We need to throw a wet blanket on the heated, divisive language and policies stemming from Trump’s political schemes. Stoking fears by talking about or enacting policies like family separation, ending birthright citizenship and sending troops to the border are not the way forward.

Don Kusler is national director of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), the nation’s most experienced progressive advocacy organization. A native of Texas, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Sam Houston State University. Readers may write to him at ADA, 1629 K St NW #300, Washington, DC 20006.