For far longer than the 2½ years President Donald Trump has been in office, he has tried to whip the nation into a frenzy over immigration. Starting in 2015, he warned repeatedly of a crisis at the border — long before any actual crisis existed. Immigrants hearing his constant crackdown threats have flooded northward, fearing their window of opportunity was closing.
Trump had plenty of time to prepare by securing adequate housing options and ensuring the federal government had the resources to provide decent living conditions for hundreds of children in detention. Instead, Trump has only added to the chaos. Even after the House approved $4.5 billion in emergency funding, Trump can’t make up his mind on next steps.
A heartbreaking photo of a drowned Salvadoran man and his toddler daughter floating on the banks of the Rio Grande underscores the desperation that so many migrants and asylum seekers must feel — risking their own and their children’s lives to escape dire circumstances in their home countries. The bodies of a woman and another child were discovered Sunday on the Texas side of the river.
The finger of blame points everywhere, but no one accepts responsibility. In an ideal world, Republicans and Democrats in Congress would sit down to hammer out a comprehensive immigration reform package allowing for expanded legal pathways to migration so that thousands aren’t forced by desperation to choose such risky crossings.
When Republicans have controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, they have failed to agree on immigration solutions. When Democrats have been in control, they’ve also kicked this immigration can down the road. Trump hardly holds exclusive rights to failed presidential leadership, considering the dismal immigration-reform record of his Democratic and Republican predecessors.
Still, Tuesday’s abrupt departure of Customs and Border Protection chief John Sanders underscores how Trump’s improvised approach to immigration enforcement, like his trade policies and confrontation with Iran, are yielding more chaos than clarity.
Trump can threaten Mexico with trade sanctions and curtail development aid to Central America, but the result would be the exact opposite of a solution. The greater the economic hardship he imposes on those countries, the heavier will be the migratory flow.
Besides, the most urgent problems are right here on U.S. territory. Sanders quit amid revelations of squalid and overcrowded conditions at a children’s detention facility in Clint, Texas, forcing the back-and-forth shuffle of 249 children. Immigration authorities clearly are overwhelmed and at a loss about how to cope.
Trump seems to have no answers other than to shift personnel and blame others. Americans should not confuse this with leadership. If the president can’t deliver solutions to a problem he helped create, then why should voters consider returning him for more failure in 2020?