For more than 30 minutes on Wednesday, President Trump, his face “reddened” (that’s the description in today’s Washington Post), “yelled” (that’s from today’s New York Times) at his cabinet in general, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in particular, about the number of immigrants still crossing the U.S.-Mexican border.
Trump’s tirade makes clear what’s behind our new Get-Tough (more precisely, Get-Sadistic) border apprehension policy, as announced Monday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Instead of simply busing undocumented border crossers who have no criminal records back to Mexico, our new policy is to incarcerate them all for the misdemeanor violation of crossing without papers, and to send children, no matter how young, to different detention facilities from their parents’.
What’s behind it is sheer rage, at once egomaniacal, xenophobic, and racist. Trump, the Times reports, claimed repeatedly during his first year in office that the 2017 drop in border crossings was entirely due to his tough stand. This year, however, as violence has grown unendurable in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, the number of crossings has risen, stripping him of a much-loved (by him) talking point at his rallies and press encounters. Since the decline in crossings testified to his manly resolve, the rise in crossings perforce undermines it.
Can’t have that!
A “person close to Nielsen,” the Times reports, describes her as “miserable in her job,” and the paper also reported that following the meeting, she drafted a resignation letter that she was persuaded not to submit. Miserable? Could that mean she has been troubled by having to defend the parent-child separations, which she has done repeatedly and vociferously since accounts of the policy began appearing in the press? Could it be that she secretly thinks that separating a two-year-old from her mother for many months might actually not be in that two-year-old’s best interest? Could she, in some nether region of her consciousness, harbor some instincts of a minimally decent human being?
Probably not. But if she does, the president wants to make damn sure they never surface. ~ HAROLD MEYERSON