Why Trump’s New Immigration Plan Won’t Be Enough

Four heavily armed men stand watch around a pickup truck. The point man is wearing a balaclava and what appears to be a vest loaded with spare magazines for the AK-47 slung across his chest. Chambered in 7.62×39mm, AK-pattern rifles are generally more powerful than anything law enforcement carries on the beat.

Border Patrol’s FLIR thermal imaging cameras show the point man signaling to someone off-screen. Then a woman and a boy appear. Perhaps a mother and son, or just another fake family unit.

The two are escorted to the border fence by the point man and another, heavily armed individual. The woman and boy slip through the fence with ease while the men with rifles provide cover.

As the two trek along our side of the border, the men with rifles shadow them on the Mexican side. The point man can be see communicating with them, gesturing to them, perhaps giving them directions or wishing them well on their journey to a sanctuary city.

This nature show could only be possible with the tacit approval, or, at least, indifference of the Mexican government. Remember that the Mexican government once was revealed to have published pamphlets with instructions for migrants on how to enter the United States illegally and live here without being detected.

Mass, especially illegal, immigration is profitable for Latin American governments as much as it is for cartels. But “government” and “cartel” really amount to a distinction without a difference in a place like Mexico.

Around $148 billion flowed out of the United States in remittances from legal immigrants and illegal aliens in 2017 alone. At $30 billion, Mexico received the lion’s share—but billions also flowed to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is just another crook in the castle at Los Pinos.

Immigration agents aren’t just dealing with a massive influx of foreign nationals and heavily armed smugglers; they are essentially up against the de facto foreign policy of Third World governments.

Illegal immigration has reached “apocalypse lite” numbers. No fewer than 168,000 illegal aliens have been released by ICE into the country this fiscal year, to make room for all of the new arrivals, who will themselves eventually be released at this rate. Around 87 percent of all those released do not appear at their immigration court hearings.

According to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, 1 percent of the populations of Guatemala and Honduras have entered the United States since September.

Thomas Fleming, the former editor of Chronicles, once wrote that the “time has come to face the unpleasant reality that—politically, at least—we have lost the immigration battle.” In his response to Fleming, Peter Brimelow got it right.

Fleming’s “broader point,” wrote Brimelow, “is the ultimate limits of the political.”

Mass immigration is the symptom, not the cause, of a fundamental problem in our culture. Build the wall tomorrow or, as do-nothing Republicans like to say, “overhaul the immigration system,” and the problem still wouldn’t be solved. America would still be “a nation of immigrants.” America would still be only as good as it treats strange people, rather than its own citizens. It would still be a “city upon a hill” beckoning all the world to come, rather than a home for its own people.

Trump instinctively but accurately tapped into a deeper antagonism, between the nationalist and the cosmopolitan, on the 2016 campaign trail. “America First” transcended the political and gave populist form to nationalist sentiment. With two words, the antagonism between the nationalist and the cosmopolitan was made manifest, and our politics became a vehicle for this higher conflict.

But even with the president’s announcement Thursday of his plans to overhaul our legal immigration system, he is only delaying the inevitable if he proceeds by conventional means. The populist prevails, as Darren J. Beattie observes, but the nationalist relents.

No president could make a meaningful difference over the course of four, or even eight years by conventional means. At first, Trump the populist nationalist seemed aware of this fact. He even teased ending birthright citizenship by executive order, supported by a whole host of Claremont Institute fellows. And yet he stayed his hand. Why?

Once a conduit for nationalist resurgence, Trump provided a platform on which Middle America could stand and yell “stop.” Now, he wants immigration “in the largest numbers ever,” so long as it’s legal.

What has changed? I’m not sure. But I do know that, whether Trump is fully and lucidly aware of it, the nationalist movement that he rode to the White House is now in the midst of a desert. Whether it survives to make America great again is largely dependent on him.

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Photo Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

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