The top headline in the Gazette yesterday made a national story quite local. Ace military reporter Tom Roeder wrote that our president has decided to send lots more troops south. He is upping the ante in his campaign to make Americans fear immigrants. Mr. Trump has increased the number of troops he is rushing to the border to as many as 15,000 – roughly the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and three times the number we have in Iraq – including thousands of active-duty troops. That number will include 200 soldiers from Colorado’s own Fort Carson.
Mr. Trump is worried about what he called an “invasion of our country.” The focus of his concern is the election, I mean the “convoy,” of thousands of people walking across Central America and Mexico, with most presumably wanting to get to the United States. The size of the “invasion” has dropped significantly in recent days, but some folks are most certainly on the way, in hopes of finding a better life.
A cynical person might note that it will take up to two months or so before these pedestrians can make it to our southern border, so it’s not entirely clear why we had breathless shots of uniformed military personnel loading onto aircraft to fly south, less than a week before an election that is not headed entirely in the president’s way.
An even more cynical person might wonder what those Fort Carson troops and their brothers and sisters in arms will be doing down there. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 makes it illegal – for very good reasons – to use active-duty troops as police. That’s why when, for example, I was a member of the Air Force Security Forces (think Air Force cop), my authority to detain ended at the edge of the military base. A quick review of world history shows the dangers inherent in having a national military force act as a police force.
So, we are told that these active-duty troops rushed to the border will assist the National Guard troops and the Border Patrol with logistics and such. But that is most assuredly not the image Mr. Trump is suggesting in his last-minute rallies. No, he’s suggesting strongly that the brave men and women of Fort Carson and other posts will be standing on the (metaphoric) wall, keeping us safe.
The president and his minions have been foisting quite a range of “alternative facts” on this issue, to include a claim that criminals and “known Middle Easterners” are hidden within the caravan. His vice president recently asserted, falsely, that “10 terrorists or suspected terrorists” are caught per day on the southern border. The press secretary repeated the claim, which is a lie. The truth is that the Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, said last June that roughly 10 questionable folks are detained per day throughout the U.S., with the overwhelming majority of those bad guys being detained at airports. Last time I checked, not too many of the walkers are renting jets.
But let’s say, for a moment, that there are bad folks on the march. In fact, that seems likely. But the larger question is what kind of nation are we becoming?
The poverty rate in Honduras, for example, is over 60 percent, with one of the highest murder rates in the world. If you were living there, and loved your kids there as you love them here, might you want to find a better life for them? The jobs that most Americans disdain are often filled by those who have walked through hell and back to give their families a shot at – not the American dream – but just a chance to feel safe.
We are a nation primarily of immigrants. Yet, far too many suggest that it’s long past time to pull up the ladder and to abandon the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The president that many conservatives profess to admire most – Ronald Reagan – could not get the GOP nomination today. Mr. Reagan supported amnesty, and once stated about those seeking to cross into the United States to make a new home: “They didn’t ask what this country could do for them, but what they could do to make this refuge the greatest home of freedom in history … They brought with them courage and the values of family, work and freedom. Let us pledge to each other that we can make America great again.”
That is a vision of making America great again that many could get behind. But, sadly, not today’s GOP. And that’s a shame.