Donald Trump has a border problem. The number of arrests of undocumented immigrants on the Souther border in March was 92,000, up from 37,390 in March last year, For a president who campaigned on closing the border he is not doing so well.
He recently took the extraordinary step of firing former Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen. Because he did not think she was being tough enough. This is hard to understand given some of the really evil policies she oversaw like splitting kids away from their parents, locking them in cages and not bothering to keep track of where their parents were.
As said by Richard Woolf in the Guardian:
Of all the charlatans, sycophants and moral sellouts surrounding Donald Trump, no one comes close to Kirstjen Nielsen.
Not Steve Bannon, the neo-fascist strategist who glued a thin veneer of ideology on top of the particle board flakes that fill the cranium of a bankrupt property developer.
Not Paul Manafort, the ostrich jacket-loving former campaign chairman now serving seven years for being a liar and fraud after servicing a motley crew of tyrants.
No, there is no one quite like the departing secretary of homeland security, who forced some of the world’s most vulnerable people to pay any price and bear any burden to assure the survival of her own career.
In Trump’s ninth circle of hell, there may be more ideological hardliners than Nielsen and there certainly are more wingnut sociopaths.
But Nielsen has deployed all the skills of a careerist technocrat to oversee the two greatest scandals of the entire human misfortune that is the Trump presidency: a death toll of more than 3,000 in the criminally negligent aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and tens of thousands of children illegally imprisoned and forcibly separated from their parents at the southern border.
Nielsen’s final sin appears to be opposing Trump’s crazy idea of closing the El Paso port as well as resuming family separation and denying entry to asylum seekers. From CNN:
Two Thursdays ago, in a meeting at the Oval Office with top officials — including Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, top aides Jared Kushner, Mercedes Schlapp and Dan Scavino, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and more — the President, according to one attendee, was “ranting and raving, saying border security was his issue.” Senior administration officials say that Trump then ordered Nielsen and Pompeo to shut down the port of El Paso the next day, Friday, March 22, at noon. The plan was that in subsequent days the Trump administration would shut down other ports.
Nielsen told Trump that would be a bad and even dangerous idea, and that the governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbott, has been very supportive of the President. She proposed an alternative plan that would slow down entries at legal ports. She argued that if you close all the ports of entry all you would be doing is ending legal trade and travel, but migrants will just go between ports. According to two people in the room, the President said: “I don’t care.”
Ultimately, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney seemed to have been able to talk the President out of closing the port of El Paso. Trump, however, was insistent that his administration begin taking another action — denying asylum seekers entry. Nielsen tried to explain to the President that the asylum laws allow migrants from Central America to come to the US and gain entry. She talked to the White House counsel to see if there were any exceptions, but he told her that her reading of the law was correct.
And lurking in the background is Stephen Miller. His uncle called him an immigration hypocrite and said this:
I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, an educated man who is well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.
I shudder at the thought of what would have become of [his ancestors] the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses— the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants — been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom. The Glossers came to the U.S. just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the “America first” nativists of the day closed U.S. borders to Jewish refugees. Had Wolf-Leib waited, his family likely would have been murdered by the Nazis along with all but seven of the 2,000 Jews who remained in Antopol. I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him.
Nielsen’s firing is part of a consolidation of power for Miller’s benefit. Which should fill us all full of dread. From Lawrence Douglas in the Guardian:
Miller has been able to consolidate and expand his power because he is at once an extremely accomplished operator, able to successfully negotiate a highly toxic environment, and an ingratiating sycophant, who has mastered the art of telling his master what he wants to hear. If the president describes himself in a tweet as a certifiable genius, Miller can be counted on to go on national television to offer vociferous support of the truth of the description. Like a minister of propaganda, he is skilled at repeating, distilling and amplifying his master’s messages.
Alas, there is no denying the crisis on the southern border. It is estimated that as many as a million people will try to enter the United States through that border this year, many fleeing conditions of extreme poverty and violence. But rather than address this humanitarian crisis, the president and his trusted satrap seek only to exacerbate it for political gain.
With Miller in charge expect even more inhumane treatment of desperate people and continuous legal challenges designed to sap challengers of the will to keep fighting for their rights. The basic problem is that Trump and his crew have neither the intellectual ability to work out how best to deal with the crisis nor the humanity to deal with the issue compassionately. And his continued political support amongst the Trump rump is at stake.