Trump scores points threatening to ship off asylum seekers to sanctuary cities. Not so much, we don’t think, if he actually tries to do it.
Look, Trump’s capable of anything, so we’re not going to sit here and say he’s not going to follow through on his threat. Only that if we were him, we wouldn’t want to risk calling their bluff, and seeing such a move actually going well, or even relatively well, within a city like Seattle, say, if it comes together in a community-wide effort to take people in. Because even though that might be a naive, fairy-tale notion, it also might happen. Because what Trump’s talking about is putting the onus on local, mostly Democratic mayors and governors to find temporary beds for thousands of families in some of the highest-cost cities in the country. But a lot of them might wind up in these cities anyway, because refugees usually go to places where they already have relatives, and these tend to be the cities with the most diverse populations, and highest percentage of immigrants.
And Trump’s keeping that threat alive on Twitter, even as his Attorney General Bill Barr in parallel, is drafting new rules that wouldn’t allow asylum seekers into the U.S. at all to wait for court dates, except in detention; no bail.
As we’ve noted before, one of the biggest ironies, or the biggest evidence of Trump’s brilliance—depending on how you want to look at it—is that he’s been able to convince people in areas that don’t come into contact with a large number of immigrants on a daily basis that they’re coming to kill them, while most communities that actually have a lot of immigrants don’t overall tend to feel this way. Which is kinda why we have sanctuary cities in the first place. (Similarly, Trump has been able to convince communities that are among the least at real threat of a terrorist attack, to be most afraid of one.)
Just talking about shipping immigrants in however, is making liberals squirm. And their response so far hasn’t exactly been stellar. And that may be the point unto itself.
Trump’s (and now the White House’s) idea, (which the White House initially denied, until Trump confirmed it in a series of Tweets, is predicated on 2 big lies, 1 smaller lie, and one 1/2 truth.
The 2 big lies:
1) “Democrats say they want open borders and more illegal immigrants”. So by sending thousands, or tens of thousands of asylum seekers to sanctuary cities they’re just giving Dems more of what they’re asking for anyway.
Except Democrats are not for open borders. That’s a tag Trump’s trying to put on them, and he’s done so somewhat successfully.
And sanctuary cities are not about accepting busloads of undocumented immigrants into those cities, it’s about cities saying they’re gonna stand by everybody who contributes to their community, and take care of their own.
Which is actually not too far from what Trump’s advocating for the country as a whole: guess just depends on what you count as “your own”.
2) “Democrats don’t want comprehensive immigration legislation.” Yes they do. We’ve said this a million times, but the counter-narrative is so strong that it tends to quickly get drowned out: Democrats were set to pass a bill 5 years ago that included exactly most of what Trump is now demanding: an end to the visa lottery, an end to chain migration, many more border patrol agents, and even a wall. And it was co-sponsored by several leading Republicans including Trump buddy Lindsey Graham.
That bill flew through the Senate, and was not killed by Democrats, rather Republicans mostly from the Freedom Caucus, who are now among Trump’s closest allies, because the bill also gave a 13-year path to citizenship to some undocumented workers already in the country, and greatly expanded legal immigration (which Trump said during his State of the Union he also wants to do “in the largest numbers ever.”) So when Trump says he “can’t blame Republicans” for failing to pass immigration legislation, that’s exactly whom he should be blaming.
Bottom line: with a Democrat controlled House, and a similar level of support from Republicans in the Senate, that bill could pass now. But it won’t. Because when Trump talks about “unity”, what he really means is Democrats unified in going along with passing only the parts he wants.
The smaller lie:
• “It’s not punitive”. This is something we’ve been hearing repeatedly from White House spokespeople, who insist this policy, if implemented, wouldn’t put an undue burden on sanctuary cities, but rather would spread the responsibility for addressing the crisis at the border more evenly (especially since these largely Democrat-led cities say they “want” more illegal immigrants—see “big lie #1” above).
And as we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this is an argument we’ve been hearing from many of our more Conservative readers, suggesting if we are not willing to personally take in a Central American migrant family, we should “get out of the way and let the President resolve the crisis…” And that was long before the specific Trump sanctuary cities proposal was uncovered by the Washington Post.
It’s also belied by the fact that almost everything Trump does is meant to punish somebody who doesn’t support what he does.
And also that he himself strongly confirms that it is punitive on Twitter:
Trump has also taken to continually pointing out that Central Americans making their way to the U.S. are often waving the flag of their home country. And cites that as evidence they’re all frauds and their asylum claims are a scam, as he did recently in comments to local businesses in Minnesota. (Click on the photo to watch).
But really, would Trump see them in any better light if they were carrying U.S. flags?
The 1/2 truth:
• When Trump Tweeted:
He wasn’t exactly accurate. What the Mayor, in an interview with NPR, actually said:
“It’s our job to not build walls but build bridges and welcome all people and celebrate the richness that diverse cultures bring to our city….I always say, welcome to Oakland. But this is much less about immigration or sanctuary. This is about an outrageous abuse of power.”
But that’s still different than saying “Sure! Send them! We’d be happy to have them!”
And we can understand this view and predicament to some extent: why should sanctuary city mayors shoulder the burden—even partly—of a crisis that’s entirely of Trump’s own making? (No, Trump didn’t invent illegal Immigration, but the surge at the border in the last few months, past the “breaking point” is the result of the President saying he’s going to shut it down, and people trying to get in before he does.) And especially—one would think—Trump’s not going to send those cities his “best”. In other words, all the beefy, face-tattooed guys Trump keeps talking about (should they actually exist in as great number as Trump avers), will be the first onto those buses headed North and to California.
At the same time, as we said at the top, they’re squirming, and that doesn’t make them look that great either. Of all the mayors’ statements we’ve come across, we’ve seen a lot of criticism of Trump’s unfair policies, and lots of defense and support of all the cities’ population, but not one mayor who’s said “Go ahead and send them. Make my day.” Sure, saying that runs the risk of making it happen, and it would create challenges they’re not immediately prepared for. On the other hand, since they’re not saying that, it makes them look duplicitous, and pandering to a liberal base, without willingness to put those values and money into action.
The closest we’ve seen is Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, saying his city “would be prepared to welcome these immigrants just as we have embraced our immigrant communities for decades.” But much more typical is something along the lines of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan: “Here’s a message to President Trump: Seattle is not afraid of immigrants and refugees.” But that stops way short of “we’ll take ’em”. Similarly with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: “New York City will always be the ultimate city of immigrants – the President’s empty threats won’t change that.”
That doesn’t quite address the President’s threat head on. Which, in turn, kind of makes Trump look right.