Donald Trump Takes a Hard Turn on Immigration

A FEW days into 2018, President Donald Trump pondered a recorded fall in the number of people apprehended on the border with Mexico and liked what he saw. Attempted border crossings are “way, way down” because migrants know they will fail, he told a bipartisan delegation from Congress. As if torn between claiming credit for intimidating toughness and promoting his signature promise to fortify the border with Mexico, he mused that migrants were being stopped by land, air and sea: “But we do need the wall, and we need more border security anyway.”

That was then. Less than three months later Mr Trump sees a very different border. On the defensive after some bad headlines, a jump in border crossings and agitated by Fox News TV reports of a “caravan” of Central American asylum-seekers and activists making its way through Mexico towards America, the president fired off several dawn choruses of tweets, denouncing “our “Weak Laws” Border”. In Twitter messages that in some cases cited ideas just voiced on Fox News, Mr Trump threatened to tear up the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if Mexico did not stop the migrant caravan, and to cut foreign aid to Honduras. He accused the migrants of seeking to “take advantage of DACA”, an Obama-era scheme to shield from deportation migrants who came to America illegally as minors. “Congress MUST ACT NOW!” he declared, and made a by-now-familiar demand for Republicans to eliminate the rule that most new laws can pass the Senate only with a 60-vote supermajority.

On April 3rd Mr Trump startled aides by calling for troops at the frontier. “We have horrible, horrible and very unsafe laws in the United States,” Mr Trump said. “We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States.” The next day he signed a proclamation to deploy the National Guard.

By THE ECONOMIST
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