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Immigration Conflagration: Unspinning Trump’s Latest Spin on Congress’ Stalemate

Donald Trump

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to blame others for his administration’s family separation policy and crackdown on immigrant communities. He continued his rage-tweeting this morning, this time targeting a foreign head of state with a familiar message of identity politics. What’s actually happening to immigrants, what might Congress do about it, and how may Trump blow it all up? Here’s the rundown on Trump’s latest push against immigrants.  

Setting the record straight on immigration reform

As we explained last month, it’s no accident that immigrant children are being separated from their parents. And in the past three weeks, it’s become clearer to members of Congress and the general public that it’s never really been an issue of “missing children”, but rather one of a White House that’s decided to use children as political pawns.

With former First Lady Laura Bush, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), and even Trump ally and Christian Fundamentalist leader Franklin Graham criticizing the Trump administration’s family separation policy and placing the blame on the White House for instituting it in the first place, Trump is yet again deflecting by taking to Twitter and blaming others for his own government’s actions. He even upped the ante this morning by pointing fingers at a foreign government’s immigration policy… And this time, it’s not Mexico.

So now, it’s Germany’s fault?
Photo by Sandro Halank, licensed under Creative Commons, and made available by Wikimedia

In 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to accept over 1 million Syrian refugees who had escaped their native country’s brutal civil war. Ever since then, she and her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party have faced harsh blowback from far-right, anti-immigrant groups. This blowback culminated in a shocking setback for Merkel’s party in last September’s federal election, as the CDU’s ranks in the Bundestag (German parliament) dwindled and the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) became the first far-right party to win seats in the Bundestag since the Nazi era.

Merkel ultimately had to reach out to the center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) to form another “grand coalition” government in March, but this young government is already on the brink of collapse thanks to Merkel’s own interior minister demanding a hard cap on refugees admitted and a border security force to turn away undocumented migrants. Despite warnings from Merkel that such actions would violate European Union laws on open borders and admittance of refugees, her Christian Social Union (CSU) sister party pushed to the eleventh hour and only agreed to give her two more weeks to negotiate a broader agreement with other EU member states on how to handle refugees entering Europe going forward.

So what do German politics and EU intergovernmental affairs have to do with American immigration policy? Once again, we have Trump to thank, as he added fuel to Merkel’s fire on Twitter this morning and taunted the German Chancellor over the right-wing rebellion that’s jeopardizing her government. Not only did Trump make false claims about German crime rates, but he echoed the lines of attack AfD has used against Merkel while praising the far-right government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a Trump-like European leader who’s vigorously opposed Merkel’s more moderate approach to immigration while pushing his own country to the brink of totalitarianism.  If AfD’s and Viktor Orban’s anti-immigration rhetoric sounds eerily familiar, it may be due to Trump’s drive to import Europe’s far-right, anti-immigrant movement into America. 

From chaos to deadlock, the American immigration stalemate explained
Photo by Andrew Davey

As Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron hustle to reach a Europe-wide solution for their migrant crisis, Trump continues to scuttle any chance of accord here at home. Not only is he falsely accusing Democrats for the family separation policy that he has full discretion over, but he initially signaled opposition to House Republicans’ new immigration bill late last week before deciding to support it after all.

However, Trump’s support comes at an incredibly steep price. Since the House Republicans’ “compromise bill” is merely a compromise between some moderate Republicans who want to claim they’re doing something about family separation and anti-immigrant hard-liners who want to add new legal burdens to refugees seeking asylum and families seeking reunification, immigrant rights activists are demanding Democrats oppose it, and thus far nearly all House Democrats have signaled their opposition. As such, it’s incredibly unlikely the House Republican immigration bill wins enough support in the closely divided Senate, assuming it even passes the House this week.

How Trump’s immigration fight hits home
Photo by Andrew Davey

Even as Trump’s meddling kills any chance of Congress reaching agreement on immigration reform any time soon, Republicans continue to rally around Trump. Why? Though his policy hasn’t netted any success in reducing crime or border crossings, Trump has succeeded in remaking the Republican Party in his own image of “white identity”. And with Republicans fearing a “Blue Wave” that might cost them control of one of both houses of Congress, they’re mostly casting their lots with Trump in hopes to animate his base and repeat the success they enjoyed in 2016.

We’re seeing this right here in Nevada, as U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) and Republican Gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt continue to embrace Trumpism in full, including the White House’s lines of attack against immigrant communities. Trump is rewarding them with a visit to the Nevada Republican Party Convention in Las Vegas this Saturday, followed by an appearance at a private fundraiser for Heller’s campaign.

Though Heller hasn’t specifically commented on the House Republican bill, he has previously stated he only supports immigration legislation that Trump supports. He’s also thus far declined to cosponsor the Keep Families Together Act that Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) is cosponsoring and all other Senate Democrats have endorsed. And so long as Heller and a critical mass of his Republican Congressional colleagues continue to oppose any bipartisan agreement, this immigration conflagration will likely continue to rage on, at least until voters weigh in this fall’s election.

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