President Donald Trump continues to relentlessly pound the pavement in support of his harsh antagonism towards immigrants. This weekend, an interview aired he did with Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo in which he had a disturbing meltdown over undocumented immigration into the United States, claiming the current immigration situation is “like Disneyland.” To address that, he indicated that he believes asylum seeking families should again be separated. In other words, in his mind he’s some kind of ludicrous storybook villain sweeping into a metaphorical Disneyland and taking kids away from their parents. That’s not a stretch; that’s literally what he said and what he’s basing national policy on.
He told Bartiromo:
‘People are pouring up because our economy is so good… Everybody wants a piece of it and they’re willing to come up and take the risk of this tremendous danger. And our laws are so bad… When they used to separate children, which was done during the Obama administration, with Bush, with us, with everybody, far fewer people would come… It’s like Disneyland now… Now, you don’t get separated, and while that sounds nice and all, what happens is you have ten times as many people coming up because they know they’re not going to be separated from their children… It’s a disaster.’
To be clear, Trump’s characterization of the size of the currently unfolding surge in asylum seekers at the southern U.S. border is false. In March of this year, Customs and Border Protection reported apprehensions of some 103,492 people across the southern border. At the same time the previous year, the number was some 50,347. That’s not a tenfold increase; it’s about a doubling.
There are broader issues with Trump’s rhetoric, although it’s certainly unsettling to base an an entire argument on a lie about the number of immigrants who are really arriving. His team has already implemented harsh policy against asylum seekers before — during a few months in early 2018, as he indicated, they separated asylum seeking families, processing the adults through criminal prosecution and deportation. There was no significant lasting decrease on the number of people arriving to the United States under or in the wake of that policy. The overall rates of undocumented immigrants arriving at the U.S. border in 2018 track roughly with that of prior years.
In other words, Trump is completely and totally off in his characterization of the situation, which does not constitute “Disneyland” even in the absence of family separations. Large numbers of asylum seekers arriving at the southern border have faced treacherous conditions once in the U.S. exemplified by the viral imagery of immigrants held in a chain-link enclosure under a highway overpass in El Paso.
Immigration officials have asserted the system is at a “breaking point” with the surges in early 2019, but immigrants continue to arrive, fleeing violence and other issues in their Central American homes that neither soldiers, a wall, nor family separations are going to address, despite Trump’s insistence on throwing his favorite sticks of dynamite on the situation.
The New York Times summarizes the issue:
‘The main problem is not one of uncontrolled masses scaling the fences, but a humanitarian challenge created as thousands of migrant families surge into remote areas where the administration has so far failed to devote sufficient resources to care for them, as is required under the law.’
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