It’s sometimes hard to know just how worked up to get over the torrent of tone-deaf ideas coming out of the White House. But for Californians, Donald Trump’s latest plan to “protect” the U.S.-Mexico border with the National Guard is obviously offensive.
The president's war on immigrants and this state has been escalating for weeks, and this is just the latest nonsensical salvo. As it is, his administration is suing California over its sanctuary laws. Last week, Trump's people pushed to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census, knowing it will deter immigrant participation and lead to an undercount of the state's population, costing us billions of dollars in federal funding.
Now, the president has ordered the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to push California and other states to send troops to the nation’s southwest border, ostensibly to help U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
California doesn't need National Guard troops doing the job of Border Patrol agents anymore than we need our police officers to do the job of Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents. Plus, it's wholly unnecessary.
The number of apprehensions and illegal border crossings — including in California — has been dropping steadily for more than a decade, down from about 1.8 million in 2005 to less than 304,000 in 2017, the lowest number in 37 years. Illegal immigration from Mexico —Trump’s favorite target — also is at the lowest it has been in 50 years.
But according to the manufactured logic of the Trump administration, whipped up by news reports of a “caravan” of Honduran asylum-seekers making their way through Mexico to the U.S. border, we've reached a “point of crisis.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tried to justify the presidents' decision on Wednesday, telling reporters that deploying the troops to help Border Patrol agents is necessary to prevent “unacceptable levels of illegal drugs, dangerous gang activity, transnational criminal organizations and illegal immigration” from entering the United States.
The good news is that, to activate the National Guard, the Trump administration will need the help of governors. Not surprisingly, the response from Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has been lukewarm, appropriately.
Brown should do what he did in 2014, and refuse, unlike Texas, to send hundreds of National Guard troops to patrol the border.
Those might sound like fighting words, and Trump might find himself with an itchier-than-usual Twitter finger. But the president would be wise to remember that even Republicans couldn’t justify dedicating more agents and resources to harassing immigrants along the border.
In the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill passed last month, Trump had asked for $25 billion to build his border wall and hire more personnel, but Congress only gave him $1.6 billion. It was a rebuke for sure, and it likely means a pair of executive orders to hire 10,000 new ICE agents and 5,000 Customs and Border Patrol agents will continue to go nowhere.
This is one fight Trump won't win in California.