George Boardman: Trump may be a clown, but he hit a nerve with many Americans
Observations from the center stripe: Prudence edition
IT’S A good thing our prudent supervisors established a healthy reserve fund in the budget. That’s gives them the fire power to spent $275,000 on an argument over a ridgeline… GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS like the idea of the Amgen Tour of California racing through western Nevada County, but apparently Nevada City Councilman Duane Strawser is the only one willing to pay for it… WHY IS the audio on NCTV so consistently bad? Some women appeared to be singing the other night, but the sound was so bad I couldn’t tell for sure… PROFESSIONAL CYCLING has developed such a bad reputation for cheating over the last 20 years that bikes at elite races like the Tour de France are being inspected for tiny motors that can give riders an extra edge… SOCCER BOOSTERS seem genuinely shocked that the U.S. lost to Jamaica (Jamaica!?) in the Gold Cup semi-finals, but it confirms what’s obvious to most people: Our men’s team is still a minor league operation when compared to the big boys of soccer… NOW WE learn that the computers in new cars can be hacked. Doesn’t anybody care about cyber security?…
Donald Trump, aka the clown with a comb over, has succeeded in exposing the angst of many Americans over our illegal immigration problem.
Of course, the man with the surprise hit summer TV series had to insult an entire race of people, alienate our neighbor to the south, and question the integrity of an American prisoner-of-war to make his point. But hey, anything’s fair in politics.
Then The Donald risked creating his own border incident last week by visiting Laredo, Texas, no doubt on the lookout for one of those people trying to sneak into the Lone Star State. It wasn’t exactly Horatio at the Bridge, but it got the kind of media coverage Trump craves. Lucky for him, Pancho Villa is long gone.
Practically every GOP Presidential candidate condemned Trump’s antics, including Jeb Bush, who had no problem with the Swift Boating of John Kerry when he opposed “W” in 2004. But the Republican base appears to be lapping it up, with various polls showing Trump with a substantial lead over the supposed front-runners, Bush and Gov. Scott Walker.
His poll numbers don’t appear to have suffered much after he insulted Sen. John McCain, a Navy pilot who endured five years of torture by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. (Trump dissed McCain before a group of conservative evangelical Christians, and it got a big laugh from the audience. Really?)
The people encouraging Trump are being dismissed as xenophobic and racist, and some of them are. But I suspect a lot of his supporters are just fed-up with the government’s unwillingness — or inability — to control access to our borders and do something about the illegal immigrants already in the county.
Officially, there are about 11.5 million people in this country illegally, an estimated 2.5 million in California alone. (Some people think the number’s much higher, but since few people are willing to admit they’re here illegally, it’s difficult to get an accurate count.)
Most of them come across the border from Mexico, a country that has had at best an ambivalent relationship with the U.S. Their attitude was probably summed up best by former President Porfirio Diaz: “Poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States.”
For many years, our foreign policy toward Mexico consisted of sending in the Marines (think “From the Halls of Montezuma”) and they probably still resent the fact they we forcibly ejected them from Texas and the rest of the Southwest. (Ejecting them from Texas was probably a mistake.)
More recently, Mexico has become the scene of a deadly guerilla war between drug cartels that want to sell illegal drugs to Americans with too much cash and not enough self-esteem. In that context, our lectures about getting serious about illegal immigrants tend to fall on deaf ears.
While we are a nation of immigrants, the U.S. has waffled over the years in its enthusiasm for more immigrants. The plaque at the Statue of Liberty may proclaim “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,” but we have been pretty selective about who we let in.
At various times in its history, the U.S. has excluded Filipinos, Chinese and Japanese from citizenship, and has imposed quotas to restrict immigration from southern and eastern Europe (the last quotas were abolished in 1965).
Immigration was virtually shut down during the years of the Great Depression. Instead, voluntary and involuntary repatriation to Europe and Mexico was encouraged. It is estimated that 500,000 to 2 million Mexicans, most of them citizens, were forcibly returned to Mexico. Then there was the scandal of barring the entry of European Jews fleeing the Nazis.
Despite our checkered history in this area, there is an important point to be made about controlling our national borders. But how do we do that and weed out illegal immigrants without creating a police state?
First, we should forget about building a fence at the Mexican border from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. The cost of building, maintaining and policing it would be very expensive, and probably no more effective than the Berlin Wall. Besides, it’s bad optics.
But we have Air Force drone pilots sitting at consoles in Nevada who can take out Islamic State operatives half way around the world. Why not use the same technology to police our borders, with Border Patrol agents organized into quick strike teams when groups of people are spotted trying to cross the border?
But there’s a limit to how many people we can stop coming over the border without Mexico’s assistance. To force them to get serious about the problem, the U.S. should threaten economic sanctions. That would create controversy and ill will, but it would get the attention of Mexico’s leaders.
To discourage those who actually make into the country, we should crack down hard on companies that routinely hire people here illegally. Impose a heavy fine the first time they’re caught, put the boss in jail the second time. While we’re at it, we should get rid of the H-1B visa program that lets companies import cheap high tech talent from places like India. Let U.S. companies retrain the computer programmers and engineers we already have.
The American people would never stand for the draconian police state we would need to find most of the illegals already here. Those who have been convicted of felonies should be deported; the rest should be offered a path to citizenship that is not easy but is doable.
None of this would be easy, and a lot of it would be very messy. But we created this problem, and we have to solve it eventually.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union.
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