The Mass Deportation

Well, we had to wait a month into his term for President Trump to do something really outlandish, and he finally has. He has issued deportation orders that could affect a majority of the eleven million or so illegal aliens in our midst because it seems that he is willing to deport even those who have engaged in such minor infractions as lying to an employer about their immigration status, and so the President is going far beyond the deportation of serious felons that was government policy when Obama was President. Trump also wants to scale up the number of agents available to do the job so that it can indeed be done. So much for those who said it would be impossible to deport all those people. It can be done. If you want to do something terrible, you can find a way, and also believe them when they say they are going to do it. Millions and millions of people are going to have their lives disrupted, perhaps irreparably, by being dumped into Mexico, even if they originally come from nations in Central America, Mexico not wanting them and perhaps not providing them with resettlement services unless the United States pays for those. Fat chance. So we are facing a major catastrophe. Rescinding the Obama doctrine on people using the bathroom of the sex with which they identify is a bad and inhumane policy, but it affects very few people while the deportation orders affect, as I say, up to ten million people.


The only ones spared by the Trump deportation orders are the DACA children, though they might lose their parents to deportation. In retrospect, which means a few years time, this entire episode will be seen as inhumane as Andrew Jackson moving the Cherokees west, but in the meantime, arguments are made that Trump is, after all, just keeping a campaign promise, and that nations, after all, have to defend their borders. Well, he also promised to move the capital of Israel to Jerusalem but better judgment prevailed. Why create problems where there are none? And the idea of carefully protecting our borders against immigrants is less than a century old. Immigrants entering through Castle Garden, which was the entry point to New York before Ellis Island was established, just signed in and went on their way to local hotels and rooming houses. And at Ellis Island the main concern was communicable disease. Vetting of immigrants did not start until after the First World War. Americans should be proud of their tradition of open borders even if we do need to vet against Islamic terrorists, but we already do that, so what is the problem?


So far, the President has been bluster without consequence and I had hoped but not really thought that he would content himself with that. Even the order halting immigration from seven mostly Moslem countries made a certain amount of sense. A President has a great deal of leeway in determining what is and what is not a threat to the country. He can include in his calculations a hunch about where or from where an attack might take place. So it was not unreasonable to think that the seven unstable countries might be the source of attacks even if they had not been so until now, and it was reasonable to exclude Egypt and Saudi Arabia from the ban because those are erstwhile allies, whatever their histories. Consistency in principle is not the most important thing in foreign policy. We enlisted Vichy generals and admirals and made supposed common cause with Stalin all in order to win the Second World War. So why pick an additional fight with Pakistan when we don’t have to. Yes, the ban on immigrants may have made life inconvenient for some people, delaying them in their travels, but not for all that many, and virtually any act of foreign policy is going to inconvenience some people, and that is not enough reason to not go ahead with it. Yes, it was bad policy because some people were indeed inconvenienced and, more than that, frightened that they would never get to this country, but the new version of that travel ban should get rid of the obvious clinkers, like keeping out people who were already holders of green cards. So, all in all, the real problem with the ban was that there was no real point to it, no real danger that it avoided, all of it just the product of Trump’s simplistic imagination to do something no matter how irrelevant it is to the problem at hand so long as it suits his sense of what is right, which means find a way to punish people for what he takes to be the bad behavior of the world.

But this deportation edict is worse than that. It not only addresses a problem that doesn’t exist, which is that illegal immigrants bring crime with them, when in fact they commit crimes less frequently than American citizens, but instead provide workers necessary to the country because they fill jobs American citizens are unwilling to fill, but because the orders bring with them a great deal of real suffering to a great number of real people, all to salve Trump’s conscience that it is just not right for illegals to be here at all. The infliction of gratuitous suffering would seem to be the opposite of justice but it is in fact the substance of justice. Think of the Salem Witch Trials and the Holocaust, both launched in the name of solemn principles and undertaken with the sense of more in sorrow than in anger (look at the Nazi propaganda of the time), but really undertaken to alleviate in draconian manner a problem that did not exist.