Category Archives: Trump

Is Donald Trump a King?

Recently, I learned some astonishing things about the United States. One of my legal heroes, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, made astounding statements in the U.S. Senate in defence of President Donald J. Trump from impeachment charges launched in the House of Representatives.

Susan Glasser a reporter with the New Yorker interpreted what he said as follows:

Donald Trump’s lawyer said that the President can do just about anything he wants.” This is an astonishing claim. It amounts to saying the United States is not a democracy. Dershowitz was asked by Senator Ted Cruz, during the question and answer phase of the Senate Impeachment Trial of Trump whether or not the President’s motivations mattered when he imposed a condition on the release of hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid for the Ukraine’s defence against Russian aggression. If the President insisted on a quid pro quo that Ukraine investigate Trump’s leading Democratic Party rival before getting the military aid was that permitted?

Dershowitz, one of Trump’s lawyers, went beyond saying what he needed to say to answer that question. Dershowitz said, Donald Trump has the power to do just about anything he wants to do, and there’s nothing that the U.S. Senate can or should do about it. There are no limits on what the President can do. Dershowitz in effect suggested.

 I was stunned to hear this. Democracy is more than counting ballots. Counting ballots is important. It is a vital part of democracy, but it is not all of democracy. A democracy must be a country that permits all citizens to vote and for all their votes to count equally. But there are many forms of democracy. Democracy is more than that.

The majority must be constrained by civil liberties or human rights. In other words, we must have a liberal or constitutional democracy. Even majorities in a genuine democracy cannot impose their will on the minorities in all cases. There must be reasonable limits on what the majority can do. For example, the majority cannot be allowed to ban freedom of religion or freedom of speech.  Another example: the majority cannot be permitted to ban free speech, or the free press, or the freedom to assemble.

In Canada such limitations on democracy are contained in the Charter of Rights and Liberties. Added to that, to have a democracy we must have a society in which the rule of law is respected. We do not elect dictators or kings. Our elected representatives, even our top leaders, must govern by law. Political leaders must be governed by law like everyone else. They cannot do anything they want. This is the flaw in Dershowitz’s argument. Saying the President can do “anything he wants,” amounts to saying the President can be an absolute dictator. That is contrary to democracy.

I am no expert on the American constitution so don’t want to comment on it. But a democratic society cannot be led by a dictator or king, even if the term of the leader is limited for specific years, such as 4 years in the case of the United States.

Dershowitz had something larger and more profound to say, however: Donald Trump has the power to do just about anything he wants to do, and there’s nothing that the U.S. Senate can or should do about it.

Dershowitz argued,

“If a President does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” he argued. Dershowitz was offering Trump—and all future Presidents—a free pass. His argument seemed unbelievable: as long as the President thinks his reëlection will benefit the country, he can do anything in pursuit of it without fear of impeachment.”

Really?

Of course, earlier Trump himself made it clear that this was his position. No surprise there. He said “I can do whatever I want.” Trump’s actions and statements, ever since he got elected, make it clear that is precisely what Trump believed. If Trump is right, America is not a democracy! If Trump is right the US has elected a King!

In the impeachment trial in the Senate the House managers who acted as prosecutors, played the video of Trump making this statement over and over again. It was no surprise that Trump believed this. All of his actions and statements since being elected in 2016 made it clear that this was his belief.  Few others have expressed similar views. Therefore is it was shocking to see this position supported by Alan Dershowitz a respected Harvard Law Professor emeritus.

As shocking as all of this is, and it is shocking, what is even more shocking is that millions of Americans agree with this!  Millions don’t challenge his statement. Whatever Trump says or does, he must be right. We will soon see how many Republican Senators agree with this. I suspect almost all of them agree. In my view this means all of these people do not think it is important that the country is democratic! That is shocking!

I wonder how many Americans think Trump is a king?

USA: Is this a country without Honour?

 

I love America; I love Americans. They are a wonderful people, but they have gone seriously awry. But sometimes they are seriously misguided. And when that happens a friend should be able to say that to the friend. This is one of those times. It is not enough to claim that you are honorable—you have to walk the walk and talk the talk.

Honor used to be an important value among Conservatives—genuine conservatives I mean. But increasingly among modern conservatives at least, honor is no longer important.

When Donald Trump realized what he had done in letting loose the Turks on his allies the Kurds, and realized that to some of his supporters, honor still meant something, this is what he announced, by tweet of course:

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I in my great and unmatched wisdom consider off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey (I’ve done before)”

Stephen Colbert described this as Trump going “full God Emperor.”  This is on a level with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.  But ignore the incoherence of this quote. Ignore the corrupt and idle boasting. Just look for the honor. You won’t find it. This is what America elected as their President. A man without honor! And 63 million Americans seem to like it. Does that mean American without honor too?

I don’t accept that Americans can blame it all on an ill chosen President. 63 million people voted for this one and I have been told most of those who did, still support him.  This is not an issue about Trump. He is too easy a target. But what about the country? It is not as if Donald Trump ever concealed his lack of honor. He boasted about. He said that in the Vietnam War he served by managing to avoid getting a venereal disease. Then he dismissed John McCain as a poor war hero because he got caught. Trump escaped the Vietnam War the way many rich boys did, by getting dubious health deferments as a result of alleged bone spurs, so that he could stay behind and chase models and starlets, while other young men and women, usually poor men and women, risked their lives and fought the war. Americans knew exactly what they were getting, and although 66 million voted for Hillary Clinton, 63 million voted for him. That is no aberrant number. That is a lot of support. This is where the problem lies. Trump himself is easy prey, but not 66 million Americans. Is the country without honor? I think it is time for Americans to step up and be counted. I think it is time for Americans to think about this.

These Colors Run

 

Have you seen that bumper sticker with an image of the American flag—Old Glory—with the caption, “These Colors Won’t run?” I have. The problem is it ain’t true. They do.

America used to be a proud country. And for good reason. There was  a lot that was good about it. Sometimes I wonder what happened?

Recently the American military, under the command of their  Commander-in Chief –Donald Trump–abandoned a long-standing ally—the Kurds.  At the same time, in tweet, Trump made it clear that Turkey a long time foe of the Kurds, could have their way with them. And very few Americans have grumbled about it. Most have accepted the lame attempts by that Commander-in-Chief to dismiss the shabby, dishonorable treatment of an ally with a shrug of the shoulders.

That Commander-in-Chief poured scorn on the Kurds saying they did not help much. They didn’t even help in World War II. As is so often the case with this leader, the truth is different. Trump and the truth keep little company. The Kurds have been America’s chief ally in the fight against Syria and ISIS. The Kurdish forces are called the Syrian Defence Forces (‘SDF’).

Dr. Kori Schake put this in perspective: “They have been the ground forces doing the fighting for the defeat of ISIS and you can see it in the casualty figures.  The U.S. suffered only 5 casualties in the Anti-ISIS campaign. The SDF suffered over 11,000! They have been doing the hard dangerous work and we have just abandoned them!

And the Americans through their chosen President mock the efforts of their closest ally and prepared to abandon them. It did not take the Turks, who have it in for the Kurds, to take advantage. This then allowed the Syrians, who used poison gas on their own people, to win the Civil War that has cost so many lives and resulted in so many refugees and asylum seekers around the world. Of course, the Americans refused to accept them, even though they were so instrumental in creating their problems. First the Americans abandoned the Syrian rebels, then they also abandoned the Kurds.

So the Kurds made a deal with the Syrian leader Assad rather than face the brutality of the Turks. As Schake said, “which tells you a lot too.”

Where has all the honor gone? Whose colors don’t run?

 

The Monarchy of Fear

 

When I saw the title of a book, The Monarchy of Fear, I was immediately attracted to it. Then when I saw who wrote it, I had no choice; I had to buy it. The author is Martha Nussbaum, considered by some, to be the finest philosopher in the United States. I had read an article about her in the New Yorker, but had not read any of her books. In that article I learned that she liked to write about emotions. To me, a graduate in Philosophy some 5 decades ago, this seemed unlikely. I was wrong. Emotions are important in so many ways and it is good that philosophers opine on them.

For quite some time I have thought fear is an emotion that can have extraordinary consequences, particularly in the modern political context. Fear is a natural product of the age of anxiety or the age of anger. What could be more important than that?

Nussbaum had important things to say in the very first paragraph of the book. Here is what she said,

 

“There’s a lot of fear around in the U.S. today, and this fear is often mingled with anger, blame, and envy. Fear all too often blocks rational deliberation, poisons hope, and impedes constructive cooperation for a better future.”

This struck exactly the right note from my perspective. The real problem with fear is that it interferes with rational decision-making. And we see it everywhere. In Canada just like the United States, but I think it is particularly prevalent in the United States. That country is the richest in the world, has the best armed forces that money can buy, spends more on prisons and police than any other nation by a long-shot.  Yet it seems to me to be a country infused, no saturated, with fear. Americans like to call themselves the ‘land of the brave,’ but over and over again, from gated communities, to elaborate armies, the country is hobbled by fear to such an extent and with such intensity that it constantly surprises. And as Nussbaum suggests, such fear often “blocks rational deliberation.” Nowhere is the effect of this powerful more evident than in the election of Donald Trump. What rational deliberation could have ushered in his presidency?

Nussbaum boldly asserted the following:

“What is today’s fear about?  Many Americans, themselves powerless, out of control of their own lives. They fear for their own future and that of loved ones. They fear that the American Dream–that hope that your children will flourish and do even better than you have done–has died, and everything has slipped away from them. These feelings have their basis in real problems: among others, income stagnation in the lower middle class, alarming declines in the health and longevity of members of this group, especially men, and the escalating costs of higher education at the very time that a college degree is increasingly required for employment. But real problems are difficult to solve, and their solution takes long, hard study and cooperative work toward an uncertain future. It can consequently seem all to attractive to convert that sense of panic and impotence into blame and the “othering” of outsider groups such as immigrants, racial minorities, and women.  “They” have taken our jobs. Or: wealthy elites have stolen our country.”

How many of the important social problems of the day are encapsulated in that paragraph? There is a lot to chew over in that paragraph.

And of course with such fears rational deliberation is unlikely! It is hardly surprising as a result that the United States, in its moment of fear, has turned to a man who is probably more unlikely to solve its problems than anyone else we could consider. As a result of fear they made the worst possible decision imaginable. That is the monarchy of fear!

G7 and Climate Change

As we drove towards B.C.  we heard on the radio that at the recent G7 talks when the subject of climate change came up on the last day, President Donald Trump left the room and the meetings.  There was nothing he felt he had to learn on the subject. He knew it all. The country that has emitted more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other country in the world is now led by a simpleton who does not understand the significant dangers of failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As the actions of the G7 countries are currently on track to lead to increased average global temperatures of 4°C rather than the agreed upon maximum of 2°C, with likely catastrophic results, the failure of the American President to take the issue seriously is profoundly unsettling. But no one should be surprised.

The Ungrateful Refugee

 

 

 

I listened to an interesting interview with Dina Nayeri the author of the book The Ungrateful Refugee. I have not read her book.  I hope to. She is a refugee from Iran who came to the United States at the age of 10 with her mother and a sister. Her father stayed behind and her mother supported the two girls on her own as  he rarely sent money to help.

She asked an important question: Just because she is a refugee who became a naturalized American citizen does that mean she has to give up the right to criticize her country? Other Americans are allowed to do that? Why not her?

Recently Donald Trump criticized 4 American Congress women of colour all of whom are  American citizens. In fact 3 of them were born in the US.  After he made comments suggesting that they go back to where they came from, he said what he really meant was that if they did not like it here they should go back. “If you re not happy here you can leave,” he said.  I suspect that many people agree with that. But are they right?

As Nayeri said, by such actions, Trump, and those who agree with him, are trying to separate immigrants from US born citizens. Lets call them native citizens. He is really saying these citizens who criticize their adopted country are second-class citizens. No one denies that native citizens have the right to criticize their country. Free speech is fundamental to being an American (or Canadian) citizen. Why not citizens who were born elsewhere?

We have to remember as well that the old refrain, “Go back to where you came,” is a common racist trope used since time immemorial as a way to tamp  down the immigrants, or refugees, or anyone who is “other,” or anyone who is unlike us. Particularly this has been used against people of a different color. It is a racist trope. Do we really want to endorse such?

When Nayeri escaped Iran with her mother and sister they fled first of all to Dubai, then to Italy, from where they became asylum seekers in the United States. Eventually they were allowed to get asylum in the United States and in time became American citizens. She was grateful for the help she got.

However, Nayeri was signaled as a very young child that she was different. She was an outsider. She did not belong there. Other kids called her mean names.

She reacted by trying to be the perfect immigrant. She had to be “the best refugee possible.”  She felt she had to over achieve in order to belong. As Nayeri said in an article in the Guardian, “We were never comfortable. We kept squirming inside our own skin, trying to find a way to be ourselves while satisfying all the people who wanted us to transform instantly into them.”

She responded to these pressures  by getting tough. She became a “kick ass” martial arts athlete.  It was hard. She had to put up with a lot. As she said, “I loved winning at a male sport. I was still angry about so many things – hijab, the Islamic Republic, the fat old church men who made high-school football players feel like gods while they shamed women who dared to want too much. I survived on egg whites and water-packed tuna doused in vinegar and mustard, salted baked potatoes and watery fruit.” In time she got straight A’s in school and became a national Tae Kwon Do competitor all in an effort to get accepted into Harvard University. She did not quite make it. But she got into another Ivy League school—Princeton. Not a bad second choice.

In my opinion any citizen should be free to criticize her country. After all that is the only way countries get better. They are never perfect. Even if we love them and love the way things are now, we should be able to criticize them and hope to improve them. No country is perfect. Every country should welcome criticism. Every country should welcome refugees and that means giving them the right to speak up.

The US coughs and Canada catches cold

 

Some ask why I talk so much about the United States. “What about Canada?” The fact is that the United States is a very important country. It is not just in economics that the claim “The United States coughs and Canada catches a cold,” is true. It is also, sadly, often true in social matters too. So I will continue to comment on what happens there, but never forgetting that usually Canada is in the same position, though as a junior partner.

Recently, on the August long weekend, 2 mass killings occurred in the United States. One in Dayton Ohio and the other in El Paso Texas. After the killings, Donald Trump uttered some fine words, clearly saying that racism and hatred were unacceptable. His words could not be faulted as in other cases, but were his words adequate for the moment? Democratic rival Cory Booker called them “bullshit soup.”

As Alexander Burns pointed out in the New York Times, “President Trump faced intense new criticism and scrutiny for the plain echoes of his rhetoric in the El Paso gunman’s anti-immigrant manifesto.” According to Burns, “Democratic challengers blamed him explicitly for giving succor to extremists.” The leading Democratic contender at the time, Joe Biden, said Trump was guilty of trying “to encourage and embolden white supremacy.” Another contender, Elizabeth Warren, captured the situation well when she said that Trump had repeatedly been “amplifying these deadly ideologies.

What is clear is that Trump is no innocent bystander here. In recent weeks he has been loudly speaking out at rallies about 4 American Congresswomen of colour that they should go back to the rat infested countries from which they came. This was so even though 3 of them were born in the United States. I am not sure what a trope is or a dog whistle, but it is clear that such statement have made over and over again by blatant racists in the past.  Then at rallies he basked in the glow of hearing his audience loudly chant “Send them back; send them back.” In such circumstances “amplifying these deadly ideologies” is hardly an exaggeration. That is exactly what he has been doing.

In contrast to that, President Obama has been the voice of empathy and dignity. This is what he said, as quoted in the New York Times,  former President Obama wrote, “We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments, leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as subhuman, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.” That is exactly what we should do–reject them.

The fact is that Donald Trump is not really the issue. The real issue, I submit, is that the United States, with Canada following right behind, is a country deeply infused with violence. It takes very little to light that fuse. Almost any crackpot can do it. I believe this is the legacy of a racial bias that runs so deep and came so early to that country and to Canada that it  led to genocide against the original inhabitants of this hemisphere and the subsequent enslavement of African people numbering in the millions in the US and less in Canada. Then we added male supremacy and visions of human superiority over all of nature to that already toxic stew is. It is hardly surprising that we are in a lethal mess. It is probably inevitable.

Not an Immigration Crisis

 

Because it is well known that border stations are so filthy and unsanitary, children are not supposed to stay in them for more than 72 hours.  That is official American government policy. Yet, despite that, many children are staying there for a month or more.

Many of those crossing the border without permission do so with accompanying relatives  and then report to the border officials. They are then turned over to family detention centres. After that they are often separate from their kin, merely to put pressure on them to leave.  Many of these facilities are now run by private companies who do so, of course, to make a profit. Many of them are making huge profits. In some cases even non-profits companies are making huge profits. That is what happens wherever privatization happens.

It must also be remembered that 86% of these family claimants seeking asylum have families in the US that could take care of them. Yet many young children are nonetheless detained in these detention centres that some lawyers have called “worse than prisons.”        Many of the families cross the border with relatives and then promptly report to border officials as they are supposed to do.  Many of those border officials respond by separating the children from their relatives. Then they are effectively abandoned in border facilities that are not designed for children in the first place. Border patrol people know they are not set up to take these children.

All of this is the direct result of Trump administration policies designed to separate children from their families in order to put pressure on them to go back “home.’–a home that is often overrun by dangerous gangs encouraged by American policies of the past and present.

Customs and Border Patrol (‘CBP’) recently made a statement: “We completely agree with some of the reporting that has gone out in that unaccompanied young children should not be held in our custody. Our facilities are not designed for that.”

Things are so bad that local people have become embarrassed. Some of the locals have dropped off diapers, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, toys, and other things to help out the asylum seekers and restore a little of the reputation of America. These people are acting in the best spirit of America. They are the generous Americans that Marilynne Robinson believed were out there. Sadly, that generous spirit is not displayed by the President. For some reason some of the local people who wanted to help were turned away by CBP.

All of this is really mad. Many of the children of asylum seekers have homes to go to, but CBP does not let them go there. Instead they are poorly housed at the expense of American taxpayers many of whom seem to think this makes sense because they mistakenly believe they are keeping out illegal immigrants. People are wrongly conflating children in care with immigration. These people are seeking refuge/asylum. Many want to go home when it is safe to do so. Many will never seek to immigrate. They are not eligible to immigrate when they come. One would have thought Democrats and Republicans would get over the bickering and just help these desperate people out. These children should not be the responsibility of the government and the American taxpayers at all! Warren Binford an American civil rights lawyer and Professor of Law put it succinctly: “All we need to do is for the people to stop politicizing the children.” This is a child welfare issue and should not be part of the immigration debate at all. This is folly on steroids.

Really it is worse than that.  I think this points to the moral bankruptcy of the United States and the sterile polarization of American politics. And I don’t just mean the President. Everyone knows he is morally empty. But what about the American people? Millions of people continue to support him. Often these policies are fuelled by unacknowledged  racism.

Most of the very young children in family detention centres were with child mothers. Such mothers need support to care for their children. They don’t need harassment.  Yet sometimes those child mothers get sick and were quarantined and then given to other children as young as 7 or 8 years old. The BCP is unable to take care of all the infants in their custody so they asked 7 and 8 year old children to do it! Of course very few 7 or 8 year old children know much about taking care of infants. These children should be with their parents, not arbitrarily and irrationally separated from them in order to pressure their parents.

People around the world are seeing that moral emptiness in American and they are amazed and disgusted. This is not the America they admired.

Here are some comments from journalists who have been held as political prisoners around the world:

David Rhode of the New York Timeswho was held prisoner by the Taliban: “The Taliban gave me toothpaste and soap!”

James Regalan “I was given toothpaste and allowed to shower every couple of days.”

On the Christian Amanpour show,  Warren Binford reminded that “currently 1,000 children are in the these facilities in the US” This is a crisis she said and “its not an immigration crisis!”

The Wall Hoax

My son Stef made a very interesting comment about immigration. He pointed out that the UK had a big illegal immigration problem, at least according to the people who voted for Brexit. They believe it is THE problem. Yet, England is an island surrounded by ocean.  No immigrants swim across those cold waters.   A moat is much more effective than a wall. How is a wall on the southern US border going to be more effective than a moat? The answer of course is it won’t. It will be ineffective. The border wall, not climate change, is an expensive hoax.

When it comes to immigrants and refugees we really can do better

 

I have been spending a lot of time on immigration and refugee issues. I am doing that because I believe it is one of the defining issues of our time. All over the world there seems to be a sharp turn towards anti-immigrant and anti-refugees sentiments. I wonder why that is the case. I think it might be because there is a lot of misunderstanding about the issues. As comedian Jim Jefferies keeps saying, “I think we can do better.” Maybe we have something to learn from the comics.

The American Department of Homeland Security which is responsible for border security, claims it is not turning away asylum seekers and the only purpose of the metering process it has started recently is to ensure that the ports of entry facilities are not swamped. It is also true that the Border authorities are also facing an unprecedented rise in asylum requests. The total number of credible-fear referrals for interviews — or migrants seeking asylum — skyrocketed from about 5,000 a year in fiscal year 2008 to about 97,000 in 2018. At the same time, the number of total apprehensions along the Southwest border dropped in the same period, from 705,005 in 2008 to 396,579 last fiscal year, according to Homeland Security and Border Patrol statistics.” That is a lot of people. But Americans have handled more in the past. the numbers are not unprecedented.

However Trump’s policies are making things seriously worse and dangerous for asylum claimants. As Katie Waldman a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security (‘DHS’) said, “The bottom line is that we have a deeply flawed immigration system, smugglers and traffickers know the flaws well, and they seek to exploit these vulnerabilities in the law, as well as physical vulnerabilities to enter and remain in the country illegally.”

It is interesting that DHS border officials know there is problem and they know that their own policies are making things worse. This is what DHS’s own Inspector General found,  ““while the government encouraged all asylum seekers to come to ports of entry to make their asylum claims, CBP managed the flow of people who could enter at those ports of entry through metering, which may have led to additionalillegal border crossings.”Metering was intended to slow down asylum seekers and it has had the opposite effect. The thing everyone has to remember is that asylum seekers are desperate. Many believe they have not other choice to protect their families,

I am not obsessed with Trump either. He is part of a general movement to oppose immigrants and refugees and the one we hear most about here in Canada. His policies just like policies in many other countries, are designed to slow down asylum claims. He, like so many people around the world, think “their country is full.”

Reporters Jervis and Carranza reported as follows about the border procedures:

“Investigators interviewed one woman who said she was turned away three times by a border agent before deciding to take her chances with illegal entry, according to the report. Two other migrants told them they crossed over illegally after being turned away at the bridge.

A Border Patrol supervisor told the investigation team the sector sees an increase in illegal entries when migrants are metered at ports of entry. “While the stated intentions behind metering may be reasonable, the practice may have unintended consequences,” the report said.”

          Hector Silva, the pastor who runs the shelter, near the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge, described the plight of asylum seekers this way,

 “Very few migrants are being allowed to cross over the nearby McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge…Those turned away from the bridge — either by border patrol agents or Mexican immigration officials — are susceptible to criminal gangs that roam the area….

The gangs have kidnapped migrants and held them for thousands of dollars in ransom, beat them up or swindled them out of money, Silva said. Instead of exposing themselves to those gangs, some migrants are looking into illegal crossings.

The entrance they had hoped for doesn’t present itself, so they risk other ways in: over the river, over mountains, with smugglers…it becomes very difficult for them. ”

Two of the asylum seekers inside the center checked their cell phones every day for news from their relatives Street gangs in their home towns made them pay a weekly “war tax” on their businesses left behind and threatened to kill family members back home if payments were not made. They left behind 2 daughters aged 9 and 17 because of the dangers of the journey. They had hoped to get them as soon as their claim for asylum was made. They had to make some very difficult decisions. What is very clear is that they have not been coming to the US just because they think it is a better place to live, as some critics have claimed. These are desperate people.

Another asylum seeker, Maria Alfaro, aged 51, from Honduras, said she was afraid to cross the international border because she had been warned about the lengthy backlog and because she did not want to be turned away and then snatched by the cartels at the border. As Jervis and Carranza reported,

“She was kidnapped in Chiapas, Mexico, during her journey to the U.S.-Mexico border last year, a harrowing ordeal she said she doesn’t want to go through again. She escaped after a shootout broke out between her captors and Mexican authorities. Afterwards, she headed toward Reynosa for U.S. protection.

“I came here to seek asylum,” Alfaro said. “But there’s no where to go.”

Migrants waiting for asylum across the U.S.-Mexican border expressed similar fears and complaints about their state of limbo. For many, waiting in line to request in asylum didn’t seem like the wisest long-term strategy. ”

As a result Trump’s policies cause the asylum seekers to cross the border without permission to avoid the predators at the border.

It is certainly true that Trump’s policies are forcing many asylum seekers to wait it out in Mexico notwithstanding the dangers. That is usually because of the cost. Smugglers can charge as much as $7,500 per person to help cross the border and many of them just can’t afford to pay. So they take their chances with the local criminal gangs instead. They are truly caught between the devil and deep blue sea.

Marlin Martinez has showed up to the camp every day for the past three weeks with her three children, ages 9 to 12, hoping to apply for asylum in the U.S. Each day, Mexican immigration officials have told her to come back the next day, she said.

Martinez, who was fleeing a violent ex-partner and street gangs in Honduras, said she will hire a smuggler to get them across, as soon as she raises enough money to pay them.

“We didn’t come here to violate any laws,” she said. “We came to seek asylum. It’s in God’s hands now.”

It is true that some claimants are paying smugglers to cross while others just can’t afford it so they stick it out in Mexico as long as they can. But the longer they wait the more dangerous it is. And we always have to remember that people fleeing a country on account of violence are lawfully allowed to enter the country and make their claims for asylum in the United States just as they are in Canada. That is not illegal. That is legally permitted.

As if all of that is not bad enough, some asylum seekers pay the money to smugglers who cheerfully take their money and then bolt without giving any help at all. The life of asylum seeker is not an easy one.

A lot of people in “host” countries like the US wonder why so many asylum seekers and immigrants come to the USA when it is obvious to them that they are just not welcome in the US.  It is not quite as clear and obvious to asylum seekers. First they are often fleeing severe violence, along the way they are constantly harassed and victimized by criminal gangs, and many people along the way give them false information. How rational would ourdecision making be under such circumstances?  As reporter Ed Lavandera said, “the people who recently arrived at the border were often directly threatened by gangs and as result believe that the onlything they can do is to drop everything and run north.” The people are desperate, not just for themselves but their families as well. Many of them are travelling with young children. Many of them have left relatives behind that might be attacked by the criminals in order to extort money from the asylum seekers.

As Lavandera reminded, “these are the people that Trump has painted as criminals, rapists, murderers, and “very bad hombres.”  Trump says that of course not because it is true. He really does not care about the truth. Trump says that to scare American voters so that they will turn to him as their savior. That is what populists and demagogues do. They try to scare people so they will turn to a strong man.  When you look at the millions of people in America who support him you have to conclude he pretty good at fear mongering.

Mary Bauer a lawyer who advocates for asylum seekers holds no punches in her criticism of the President and his followers. She has met many of them. Her organization has helped many of them. As she said,

“They are not the people that Trump describes. They are not murderers and rapists. The people we are seeing on the border are desperate people who are terrified. They want to present to the US authorities at border entry points. They would like to apply for asylum but cannot because of administration policies. The majority of undocumented people now in the US are coming through airports, people who are overstaying their Visas. All of the rhetoric from Trump about who those immigrants are and why they are coming and what they are seeking is just wrong. It’s just damned wrong! Immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes in the US”

When Donald Trump says he just wants people to come into the country legally he is not telling the truth (again). He is not allowing people to come and make asylum claims. His policies bar the way for people. He is actively trying to keep out asylum seekers. As Bauer said, “He (Trump) has tried to attack the system of legal administration at its root to make it unavailable for people to come here legally.” Added to that, when he says the country is full he is clearly saying he is opposed to all immigration.

I remember an odd argument I had with an elderly woman in the hot tub in Arizona.  I made some intemperate sarcastic remark about Trump’s proposed wall and she slid over to get right in front of me, pointed her finger up against my face, wagon it vigorously as she spoke. She said, she was not opposed to immigrants. She just did not want then to come in through the back door. She wanted them to come through the front door or not at all. That seems reasonable. At least it seems reasonable until you learn how difficult Americans have made it for people to come in through the front door. When the front door is barred, and people are desperate for survival, when wolves are circling the house keeping a close eye out for vulnerable people, and when their desperation is often partly caused by the owner of the house, it is hardly surprising that some people want to come in through the back door. Desperate circumstances create desperate people.

Christiane Amanpour recently interviewed Michael Chertoff, former US Secretary of Homeland Security. He admitted that a barrier on the southern border was of little importance. It was a part of what is needed, but only a small part. Technology is what American border authorities can use more of, not walls. As Chertoff said, “It is certainly not worth shutting down the government for.” Chertoff added that the only intelligent way to deal with this problem is to let the experts say what tis needed to boost security. Bigger and better walls, let alone beautiful walls, are not what are needed. He pointed out as so many have pointed out, that drug dealers want volume and to do that they must use the entry points and transportation systems. The rational way to deal with too many refugees is to ease the pressure on them back home. We in the west, not just Americans either, should be investing in a return to the rule of law and should be helping to create economic opportunities back in their home countries where most of them want to stay so that they won’t want to come our countries to stay.

Walls? We really can do better.