Hide the women and children! Lock the doors! Unleash the hounds! Grab your gun! Get to the border!
The caravan is coming!
Fearmonger-in-Chief Donald Trump used caravan hysteria to rile up his xenophobic base with the specter of terrorists and criminals from Central American about to invade the United States. These scare tactics worked in some places, but not in Maine. The good people of the Pine Tree State resoundingly rejected the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Trump and Gov. Paul LePage, taking power away from Republicans and handing it back to Democrats, who will care for people, rather than punish them.
Those who embraced Trumpism – Shawn Moody, Eric Brakey, Mark Holbrook, assistant Republican House leader Ellie Espling, assistant Republican Senate leader Amy Volk, and 11 of the 16 Republicans in the Legislature who signed Rep. Larry Lockman’s anti-immigrant Maine First Pledge – were defeated. Unfortunately, Lockman was not among them. (And we can only hope at this point that Bruce Poliquin will be.)
Trump, of course, knows his caravan story is a lie. He knows those walking thousands of miles to seek safety and freedom are mostly women and children, not terrorists. And he knows the caravan was still hundreds of miles away in Mexico when he tried to maintain that it had invaded the United States.
That’s why he went ballistic when CNN reporter Jim Acosta confronted him about “demonizing immigrants.” Trump then had Sarah Huckabee Sanders supply a doctored video to make it look like Acosta had gotten physical with a White House intern and used the fake footage to justify pulling Acosta’s White House press credentials.
Most Americans understand that the Trumpian caravan craze is a big lie, just one of the 32 lies a day Trump has been averaging lately. Americans also understand that caravans are us. The Mayflower pilgrims were refugees fleeing religious persecution. Wagon trains filled with refugees seeking a better life settled the West. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees, for heaven’s sake. And Israel, a country conservatives and Christers seem to revere, is an entire nation of refugees.
We like to think of America as the Promised Land, Emma Lazarus’s New Colossus. “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.” But, of course, the reality is somewhat less than the ideal. In 1939, for instance, American isolationism led the United States to refuse to admit thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis.
Still, between World War II and 1980, the U.S. resettled something like 1.5 million refugees, first from Europe and then from Southeast Asia. Since 2008, the U.S. had been admitting between 70,000 and 80,000 refugees a year. But then Trump came along and slammed the door on hope as well as the truth. Fewer than 30,000 refugees were admitted this year.
Just how shameful this nationalistic indifference to human suffering is is made clear when you consider that, per 1 million residents, Canada (725), Australia (618) and Norway (528) all resettled far more refugees than the U.S. (102).
But it isn’t just the closed-door policy that is inhumane and ethically troubling. It’s the viciousness of the way the Trump administration is pursuing its anti-immigrant policy. All decent Americans recoiled in horror when Trump and his henchmen started separating children from their parents at the border. Now he is calling for the U.S. military to join the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and right-wing militias to guard the southern border against an influx of women and children from Central America.
In just two short years, Trump has turned ICE and the Border Patrol from public servants working to ensure the safety of the American people into a private police force akin to the secret police of the totalitarian regimes Trump admires so very much.
Trump supporters keep saying they are not opposed to immigrants as long as they enter the country legally. Well, folks, there is nothing illegal about entering the United States to seek asylum from political and criminal violence. Trump, of course, is trying to make it so.
America does not need a 30-foot wall, immigration police in riot gear and combat troops at its borders. This is not East Berlin, North Korea, China or Russia. This is not a police state. This is the United States of America. What we need are refugee resettlement officials and humanitarian relief agencies.
This country once processed 5,000 immigrants a day at Ellis Island. Now Trump thinks he needs 15,000 troops to stop 5,000 weary women and children. Caravans of refugees should be welcomed to America. And all Americans should apologize to the rest of the world for the behavior of Donald J. Trump.
Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.