I get the strong sense that although President Trump dislikes being briefed and doesn’t read much, he actually does pay close attention to the metrics at the southern border. He’s aware that his efforts to stem the tide of immigration from Latin America are failing in almost spectacular fashion, as our systems are being overwhelmed by an unstoppable flow of migrants and asylum seekers, especially from Central America.
The Central American migration boom that has swamped U.S. authorities grew even larger in May, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics released Wednesday that show more than 144,000 migrants were taken into custody, a 32 percent jump from April.
It was by far the largest one-month arrest total since President Trump took office, and it was the highest monthly figure in 13 years, CBP officials said Wednesday afternoon.
May was the third month in a row that border detentions topped 100,000, led by record-breaking levels of illegal crossings by Guatemalan and Honduran parents bringing children. CBP officials told reporters that agents and officers detained more than 100,000 family members and children, leaving holding cells “bursting at the seams.”
It seems that he’s desperate to fix this problem, probably because he believes lowering the level of immigration was his most important campaign promise, but also possibly due to his personal feelings on the matter. He’s daring the congressional Republicans to stop him from imposing escalating tariffs on Mexico, and it will be interesting to see what happens there. The Republican-controlled Senate might actually override a veto in an effort to prevent an economic catastrophe, but would House Republicans ever follow suit?
The tariffs are supposed to force Mexico to interdict more people before they cross the border into America, but that’s only the latest desperation move from the White House. So far, all efforts at deterring people from making the effort have had no effect. They’ve been such a failure that I almost wonder if people are more motivated to make the journey simply out of defiance.
Yet, that isn’t preventing Trump from looking for new and novel ways to make the border experience miserable.
The Trump administration is canceling English classes, recreational programs and legal aid for unaccompanied minors staying in federal migrant shelters nationwide, saying the immigration influx at the southern border has created critical budget pressures.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement has begun discontinuing the funding stream for activities — including soccer — that have been deemed “not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety, including education services, legal services, and recreation,” said U.S. Health and Human Services spokesman Mark Weber.
I don’t doubt that the spike in border-crossers with children is stressing the budget, but the overall plan is pretty clear. They continue to think that there is something they can do to convince people that coming to America is not preferable to staying in gang-invested neighborhoods in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. But they should have learned from the failure of the child separation policy that there is no chance that these folks will be dissuaded from seeking a more secure life in the north so long as life at home is intolerable.
This White House may never come to grips with the actual root of the problem, but a future White House will have to come up with some strategy to help these governments establish more law and order. If they don’t, we’ll continue to have an unmanageably large refugee problem with an accompanying white nationalist backlash.