It seems as though Donald Trump has built his entire platform around fear-mongering on the topic of immigration. In the years leading up to Trump’s election, there were several instances of sweeping immigration reform that failed due to (mostly) conservative opposition.
This created the perfect breeding ground for Trump’s election campaign, where he pandered to bigotry and intended to sell himself to anti-immigration voters as someone who wouldn’t sell them, the constituents, out. That he was better for them than the Rubios and the Bushes because he was willing to go up against the political elites, the “swamp”, if you will. “It’s either him or a future full of politically correct yuppies!”, voters told themselves, justifying their votes for incompetence.
For those immigration hawks, the irony is that the populist resistance has already been effective in implementing some of their desired ideas in the past. Years of a desire for bipartisan reform has led to compromises on various things, such as increased spending on border security. Border crossings have already dropped by two-thirds since the second Bush administration, according to the New York Times.
Regarding border security, Trump has been a lagging, not leading indicator. The changes he is campaigning for have already been put in place over the last 15 years, albeit unintentionally. His border wall would have just been a literal extension of existing policies, not some radical proposal like he wants you to believe.
The irony in all of this is that Trump inherited a border situation that was nothing like he emphasized in his campaign, and he arguably coasted through his first year while still arguing for a border wall, regardless of the fact that illegal crossings had been on a steady decrease. Now we’re actually facing something that could be argued as a crisis, and we have a humanitarian crisis at the border on our hands, specifically regarding the massive crowding of detention centers and family separation at the border. However, the policy debate that could fix this has been overshadowed by an over-glorified engineering project, with Trump fighting for billions of dollars in taxpayer money to build a wall that is completely and utterly unnecessary. Not to mention that our president doesn’t seem to have any capacity of devising a more effective solution, since any policy solution would require a negotiation with Congress and a negotiation with the Mexican government. For any other president these tasks would be challenging, but for Trump they seem impossible.
For most conservatives, supporting Trump was a gamble. Would the short-term benefits outweigh the long-term cost of his incompetence and unfitness? Unfortunately for them, the long-term has already arrived. In Washington, the president continues to sound the metaphorical alarm for a border wall, ignoring the humanitarian crisis that is actually happening.