July 12, 2015

Trump on the Stump: Immigration

If he's learned nothing else from threatening to run for office over the years, Donald Trump has mastered one thing: find a person who personifies your issue of the day, and bring them along for the ride.

Trump is selling his candidacy on two things, so far: his personal wealth, which he estimated at his announcement to be north of $8.7B ("going to be over $10B with the increase"), and his statement about the Mexican government sending us their rapists and criminals and drug dealers.

On the wealth thing, he doesn't need any props or people to help him out - there's no one better at horn-tooting than His Hairness. His name is plastered all over the place, albeit fewer places than before his announcement that blatantly antagonized some, and scared others, in his sponsor pool.

On the immigration thing, Trump has found a living, breathing personification of the illegal immigration/crime issue, and it's a horrible situation to be sure.

Yesterday, at a speech in Las Vegas, Trump appeared with Jamiel Shaw Sr. Shaw's son, Jamiel II, was killed in 2008 by an illegal immigrant while walking in his own neighborhood. Pedro Espinoza, who was convicted and ultimately sentenced to death in 2012, had just been released from a four-month stint in jail, and was visiting someone in Shaw's neighborhood.

According to reports, Shaw's backpack was red and that might have been the trigger. We've seen stories over the years about innocent kids, good kids, kids just like Jamiel Shaw, getting hurt or killed for wearing the 'wrong' color, usually red or blue, because of the connection to gangs. There was also some suggestion that the murder was an 'initiation rite' for Espinoza into a Hispanic gang. Making it even worse, if that's possible, is that fact that Shaw's mom was on her second tour of duty in the Gulf when he was killed.

It is impossible for me to even begin to imagine the pain and loss the Shaw family, or any family who loses a loved one to a crime, must feel. I can, however, imagine that pain and loss being magnified by the knowledge that the person who murdered their son shouldn't have had the chance to, because he shouldn't have been in our country in the first place.

We do have an illegal immigration problem here in America - Trump is absolutely right on that. We do have porous borders - ranchers from all across the Mexican border have cameras showing the migration of people cutting fences, climbing them or going under them, wading the rivers, and simply walking across into America.

We don't have the right resources, or the right tools, to stop this from happening, or if we do, they're not being deployed correctly.

In addition to not being able to physically stop illegal immigrants from making it into America, we don't have the right resources to deal with sending them home, either. According to TRAC data, for the current federal fiscal year, there's a backlog of 449,001 cases in the immigration courts (through May of this year). Of those, 131,349 are Mexicans; 9,619 are for criminal cases of some sort, the rest are immigration cases. These are the people in the system; the number who are not in system is any one's guess.

Trump's solution?
I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I'll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. 
It's a great sound bite, and a great boost to his campaign - frankly, there are lots of people in America who think that's exactly the kind of thing we need to do.

A 'great wall' stops illegals from walking, swimming and climbing over, but it doesn't help us get rid of the ones who are here, even the ones we know about. It doesn't address how we'll go about getting the rest of the illegals rounded up and sent home.

And, it doesn't address our passion, or our history, of taking these folks in in the first place, something that's been going on for years; as we know, this is not an Obama thing, it's an America thing.

Is that the larger conversation we should be having?