Nov. 26, 2018 – President Trump and his advisors see fear-mongering over the caravan and border security as a way to change the news cycle, benefit politically, and to justify even more sweeping and radical policy changes. But there’s no escaping the fact that his hardline deterrence approach has failed and is doomed to keep failing.
His manufactured crisis and the pressure cooker they’ve created by dismantling existing laws and processes has made the existing situation worse, leaving Central Americans fleeing violence and destitution with few options for seeking asylum besides coming to the U.S.-Mexico border. Now, Trump is determined to make it virtually impossible to apply for asylum at the border. In addition, he has dismantled other proven approaches that are humane, orderly, and sensible. The result is we now have an approach doomed to failure, wholly reliant on the blunt instrument of hardline deterrence, wholly intending for the situation to escalate and wholly misunderstanding the complexity of the challenge and the need for a multi pronged strategy.
Trump’s hardline deterrence policy has failed and will keep failing. Deterrence won’t stop parents from fleeing to save the lives of their children. Tear gassing women and children won’t make America great again. Closing off legal immigration options won’t make refugees come legally. Gutting asylum rules won’t protect those deserving of asylum. Browbeating allies won’t make them cooperate fully. Whipping up fears and lies to escalate the situation won’t solve the challenge.
America wants leaders who bring us together to address challenges in a pragmatic and humane fashion. Trump seeks to politicize issues, divide our country and feed his need to look tough. He’s interested in his brand and the news cycle. Being effective is beyond the point.
A smart multipronged approach to Central Americans fleeing instability and violence would combine 1) serious and sustained investments in sending countries to alleviate the root causes of out-migration; 2) a regional approach that pairs refugee protection and international resettlement; 3) a robust and fair asylum determination process in the United States that protects those needing it and relies on proven case management practices to ensure the integrity of our asylum system.