From the day Donald Trump descended his golden escalator to announce for president, he has been obsessed with the notion that immigrants are a threat to our nation's safety: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. . . . They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Subsequently, he has expanded his vilification net to include ever more people from south of our border. Late last week, Mr. Trump declared he will cut off all foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and is likely to close our southern border, purportedly to deter migrants lawfully seeking asylum in the United States. Under both U.S. and international law, we must offer individuals a fair opportunity to seek asylum.
Since last week's announcement, pundit after pundit has opined that, if Trump wants to stop migration from Central America, cutting off foreign aid and closing the southern border are the last things he should do. Indeed, the talking heads observe, such actions will almost certainly have a devastating effect on the economies and social structure of these countries, increasing -- not decreasing -- the numbers of people desperately seeking asylum.
They shake their heads and comment that Mr. Trump’s actions will result in “unintended consequences.” To these pundits I reply, “Nonsense! Further chaos and stress at the border are not unintended consequences; rather these are precisely the tensions the president very purposefully wants to exacerbate.” If his national security advisors and the Congress refuse to recognize a national emergency, he’ll see to it there is one. The man is so hell bent on being proven right that he’ll create the emergency himself.
The term “unintended consequences” usually refers to outcomes that are not the ones sought by someone who takes a given action. Here, Trump claims he wants to improve the situation at the border; in fact, he will make things much worse. But the "making it worse" outcome will come as no surprise to the president. Mr. Trump’s cruel actions won’t “backfire,” they will ignite a fire. And that is precisely what he intends to do.