Let's Fix This Country

Trump Says Border Is “Single Greatest Threat”, so Keep It Open

Highly conservative Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma stepped forward on "Fox News Sunday" to list the features of the bill a bipartisan group of senators has been working on for months with Lankford as lead negotiator:

"This bill focuses on getting us to zero illegal crossings today. There's no amnesty. It increases the number of border patrol agents. It increases asylum officers. Increased detention beds so we can quickly detain and then deport individuals. It ends catch and release. It focuses on additional deportation flights out. It changes our asylum process so people get a fast asylum screening at a higher standard and then get returned back to their own country."

Also conservative commentator Charlie Sykes, editor-in-chief at online publication The Bulwark, calls Lankford's provisions "a conservative Republican's dream."

And yet, House Speaker Mike Johnson, showing himself ever more to be Trump's bootlick, issued a statement criticizing Biden's support of the bill, saying the President already has the power to act. This is the same political class that, to deflect the Democrats' sounding alarm at Trump's dictatorial tendencies, asserts it is Biden who is the autocrat for conducting government by executive order, now urging Biden to do just what they fault, to autocratically issue a border edict in obeisance to Trump who has commanded Republicans in Congress to do nothing.

Over the weekend, Trump told an audience:

"In the House, as you know, the Speaker...who, by the way, I think he's going to prove to be a very good Speaker...he just said it's dead on arrival. We want either a strong bill or no bill and whatever happens happens, but this is the single greatest threat to our country right now".

The single greatest threat, but do nothing. Keep the border open for another full year until he is back in the White House, a nakedly cynical injury to the country with nothing in mind other than his own political benefit.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says now is the "ideal time" to get a deal on border security, what he calls "the most substantial border security policy in 30 years. This agreement would come not a moment too soon". Sykes said further that the Senate bill gives conservatives "one of the biggest wins they've ever had, and they're about to tank their own agenda".

While at it, Trump and the rightwing cabal in the House will abandon Ukraine — a megaphone to our allies that America cannot be trusted and to our adversaries that the time is ripe for aggressive moves against the U.S. and its interests abroad. article illustration
Migrant caravan in Mexico in October makes its way to the U.S. border.

Joe Biden has said he's ready to sign such a bill, much as he dislikes much of it, but provided that it be coupled with further aid to Ukraine.

Republicans have been clamoring for border security for years. What's new is that they are finally lining up to do something about it. A number of Senate Republicans have spoken out. South Dakota's John Thune, the second ranking leader under Mitch McConnell says, “There are a number of pieces in there that are good, conservative border policies that we’ve been trying to get done.”

Democrats are traditionally more lenient and even welcoming to immigrants, but know that action must be taken to stem the deluge. They realize that the border tsunami is a major negative for Biden going into the election, that strong legal reforms before then will give him a badly needed boost.

house deniers

But then we get to the House where there are a number of holdouts who will not vote for anything short of their extreme immigration policies which they will have in the Senate bill yet still reject. Freedom Caucus Republicans don’t seem to care how many Ukrainians die as a result of their political priorities. Representative Jim Himes (D-CT) says,

"Here's the problem: In the House of Representatives there is probably no border and immigration deal short of building a high wall and never letting an immigrant into this country again that will satisfy, let's call it, 20 or 30 Republican members".

Dan Crenshaw, a Navy SEAL officer representing Texas, said in an impromptu answer to a reporter,

"If we get meaningful border policy and for whatever reason people come up with, they don't want it anymore, that's going to be a pretty tough position to stand by…We'll never vote for it if it's attached to Ukraine. Really?...You want Russia to win more than you want border policy?"

article illustration

Republicans don't want a fix. They want the chaos to continue, to keep the gates open for illegal immigrants to stream into this country for another nine months, so they can rail against Biden's lack of immigration reform, border reform that they themselves obstruct. Here's Congressman Troy Nehls (R-Tx) on CNN in early January:

"Let me tell you, I'm not willing to do too damn much right now to help a Democrat and to help Joe Biden's approval rating... I'm not going to do it. Why would I?"

squeeze play

Nehls and his sort have an ally in Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson. In a press conference days ago Johnson said about border policy reform,

"It’s a complex issue. I don’t think now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform, because we know how complicated that is.”

Not enough of a crisis? There's a better time? When would that be?

Johnson, who rose in an instant from obscurity to second in line to the presidency, must want desperately to keep his job, so doing nothing is the safest course and the nation be damned. He dares not pull the pin of the grenade adopted by House Republicans that a single member can file a "motion to vacate", triggering a vote to relieve the Speaker of his job, a weapon that the Freedom Caucus threatens to deploy if any bill is introduced that doesn't contain their every wish. Himes says, "Three quarters of the House, in my mind, is totally ready to do a Ukraine deal and immigration deal", but they will get neither because "each one of those 20 or 30 members" he spoke of above "has the right to go to the floor and offer to vacate".

calling the shots

But all that is noise. The one who is deciding there will be no border deal is private citizen Trump. Not even in government, technically still not even the nominee, he is controlling the House by telling Johnson what not to do. Johnson drew stunned criticism when he let out to Laura Ingraham on her Fox News show that he has been talking to Trump about border legislation “pretty frequently”. Ingraham told Johnson that Trump,

"just got off the phone with me right before the show…and he urged you to be against this deal. He was extremely — President Trump was extremely adamant about that."

You need know no more than that to see that Fox is again Trump's puppet and that he can dial in to direct what is to be said in their interviews.

Trump has been busy on "truthing" on Truth Social to make his preference known:

"I have no doubt that our wonderful Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, will only make a deal that is PERFECT ON THE BORDER."

Trump — who wants his followers to believe that migrants are all "from prisons", "mental institutions", "insane asylums", are "terrorists" (yet somehow "nobody has any idea where these people are coming from") and are "poisoning the blood of our country" — in fact contradicts with:

"I do not think we should do a Border Deal, at all, unless we get EVERYTHING needed to shut down the INVASION of Millions & Millions of people many from parts unknown, into our once great, but soon to be great again, Country!”

That all or nothing plan leaves the door open for his undesired millions to keep coming because he wants to make it Biden's failure when in fact it will be his.

another American betrayal

Johnson, from Louisiana and with no apparent sense of America's priorities in the world, doesn't care a damn for Ukraine. He has voted against every tranche of aid. He nudges Ukraine into the background:

" We understand that there's concern about the safety, security, sovereignty of Ukraine, but the American people have those same concerns about our own domestic sovereignty."

That's as good as saying, let's for now set aside the crucially needed Ukraine package, which is in turn as good as saying let's schedule it for never.

To fortify what he believes is actually a friendship with Vladimir Putin, Trump wants to bestow the gift of ending aid to Ukraine, clearing a path for the Russian dictator to roll up the entire country.

Thom Tillis, Republican senator from North Carolina, says about Trump's subversion of immigration reform. that "to lose this opportunity to get it passed into law, I think is malpractice". About Trump and the far-right Republicans who will vote again Ukraine aid, Tillis is particularly angered:

"We have to get money for Ukraine, or the same people [who oppose it] need to own this historically. I’m going to be somebody that does everything I can to get Ukraine funded. If we fail, I want every single [opponent] to go on record as owning what I think will be one of the worst strategic decisions members of Congress will make in their careers."

Yale Professor Timothy Snyder, an authoritative scholar on the region, underscores the stupidity of Republicans who will vote to abandon Ukraine:

"Frankly, no one in the government will put it like this, but this has been a national security bonanza for us. The Ukrainians have fulfilled the entire NATO mission as a non-NATO country with 3% of our military budget. They have absorbed and repulsed a full-scale Russian attack on their own."

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