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What the Devil won't tell you

Stop making sense: Immigration debate devolving into word salad

Left's amnesia, right's delusion reveal controversy is really about 21st century

The immigration debate has so jumped the shark, the great whites are about to build an overpass.

When I was a teenage idiot, I decided to transcribe the words of Jefferson Airplane's “White Rabbit” ("one pill makes you larger/and one pill makes you small"). This was before the Internet when such a task was a chore involving rewinding the Walkman a bunch of times. I immediately ran into a hiccup: I had no idea that the song was about Alice in Wonderland, nor was I at all familiar with the story. So if you don't know that, you find yourself asking questions like: Who is “Ahuka?” And why is he “smoking character?” Learn Lewis Carroll's story and suddenly the line “hookah-smoking caterpillar” just snaps into place.

The immigration debate is now like trying to figure out a word salad and on this, both sides have gone full-on crazy and hypocritical, unless you apply the White Rabbit test. It's about power — who's losing it, who's got it,  and what they are going to do with it on the brink of massive cultural change.

Law and order? Laws are neglected and ignored all the time. So why is immigration law the legal hillock on which conservatives are going to live or die? Social justice? Inequality of opportunity and legal application affects the disenfranchised all over society. Yet liberals react to a pointless border wall that would be impossible to build anytime soon as if it's Jim Crow redux.

In political discourse, symbols are sex. Issues are term papers. Wars are fought over what's simple because complexity is boring.

The wall looks like that sexy simple, symbol that divides us — not from Mexico — but from the future.

Thus the posturing. The Left is eager to establish a future where the minorities surpass the majority and begin to truly seize power. The Right sees a future where the order they built comes crashing down and God knows what happens next.

Outrage du jour

President  Donald Trump apparently crossed another line and is promising to send the National Guard troops to the border to protect us from "an invasion," pending funding of his beloved border wall.

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Well, he won't send them. A federal law known as the Posse Comitatus Act puts a maze of restrictions on a president's ability to use federal troops, including the Guard under his command, to enforce laws on U.S. soil.

So Trump's asking the various governors, with mixed results, to help forestall an invading horde because he saw a few thousand people demonstrating in Mexico — a thousand miles from our border — on Fox News.

We'll get to that invasion thing in a minute, but let's start with Democrats suddenly huffing and puffing about the unthinkable prospect of National Guard troops on the border.

Oregon Governor Kate brown found it necessary or at least politically helpful to go on Twitter and promise she won't send her state's contingent of troops to the border if called upon to make them available: "There’s been no outreach by the president or federal officials, and I have no intention of allowing Oregon’s Guard troops to be used to distract from his troubles in Washington."

But plenty of governors, Democrats and Republicans alike, have been willing to play along over the years.

I must have hit my head on something because I swear I'm feeling some deja vu. Seems Gov. Janet Napolitano was eager to deploy Arizona's National Guard to the border in 2006, working with President George W. Bush, just before the Left here in Arizona nominated her by acclimation and voted for her in droves.

Or how about U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords repeatedly calling on President Barack “The One” Obama to send the Guard to the border, saying "It's about time" when it happened? St. Gabby and The One were in on it. Terry Goddard also supported it when he was the Democratic candidate for governor.

Presidents ask governors to deploy troops in support of law enforcement — even at the border — frequently enough to have established a pretty clear precedent for this action. Trump wants his wall and if he doesn't get it, he's going to send troops to do what the wall ... can't? A wall is useless but much more a permanent scar than guardsmen supporting the Border Patrol by staring through binoculars in the blazing sun. They can be sent home when cooler heads prevail.

Sending the Guard is standard-issue muscle-flexing — a stunt more than anything. Bush played tough guy, and Obama did as well. For the unfortunate guardsmen from cooler states who end up in Arizona in the summer, the search for shade takes up more time than keeping an eye peeled for border-crossers. Some logistical support for a line in the desert sand might be welcome to some BP agents, but they're still working to stem a receding tide.

Wall against what?

Then again, a wall may be pointless too, but why, liberals, is it the end of the world?

I just wrote a pretty involved column explaining to the Internet that there already was a wall on much of the border and my lefty readers rejoiced. Well, liberals, there's a wall there now.

And yet and yet and yet … the Left didn't want to cave one inch on funding Trump's wall to save 800,000 Deferred Action kids from deportation. DACA kids themselves buttonholed senators demanding they reject the horrible prospect of a an already-present wall for their own future security.

The Left doesn't understand how the federal budget works. Trump was asking for a five-year commitment to the wall. Well, only year one of a five-year federal budget has any legal meeting. The rest is just a suggestion, hope or idea. The same can be said about the budget itself, really, because the Congress hasn't been able to pass an actual budget since Christ was dodging bullets as a freshman. The government runs year after year on “spending packages” (“appropriations bills” in Beltwayspeak). "Budgets" are really more of a guideline, anyway.

And it would take years to build the wall. President Trump doesn't even have a design picked out. Year one of that budget isn't going to build Trump's wall and there's an election between now and then. A whole new Congress could be in power who could eliminate future funding of said wall. Two years after that, the president himself could be swept out of power. Even if he weren't, the thing wouldn't even be designed yet. We're talking about the government here, remember?

If Republicans win this fall and win again in 2020, well then, there's going to be an even wallier wall. Someday. Maybe.

This is the part where elections have consequences.

The invasion that isn't

So the Democrats are making no sense.

But what's this shit about "an invasion" that we must protect ourselves from?

Apprehensions along our borders — in handcuff form — cratered during President Obama's eight years in office, dropping from 1 million a year to just over 430,000 and apprehensions of Mexican citizens fell from 1 million to 192,000 during that time. That wasn't because he decided to stop busting people. This from an Associated Press fact check from FoxNews' website on Trump accusing Obama of an “open borders” policy.

"The government under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama roughly doubled the ranks of the Border Patrol, and Bush extended fencing to cover nearly one-third of the border during his final years in office. The Obama administration deported more than 2 million immigrants during the eight years he was in office, more than in previous administrations."

The Mexican migration influx actually peaked at the end of a recession tearing up their countryside. Once the economy south of the border improved, people stayed home. But that spasm of hurdling humanity through the southwestern American deserts prompted a counter-spasm as America tried to put itself on lock down. Ta-da, the length of stay of the latest undocumented did some serious lengthening as border crossing got harder. The percent of migrants living in this country for more than 10 years was nearly identical to those staying less than five years. During the decade following 2005, the 10-year-plus crowd accounted for 66 percent of all migrants.

In 2015, the U.S. is experiencing a net outflow of Mexicans of 140,000. Immigration from Mexico is at a 47-year low, which makes for a pretty piss-poor invasion.

Immigration is no longer a crisis, no matter what Holy Week demonstrations are taking place in southern Mexico. If it were, then whose brilliant idea would it be to copy Emperor Hadrian's 1st century fix to Scottish problem? A lot of smart phones with GPS in Northumbria, were there?

A matter of trust

Conservatives only started talking about walling off the Southern Hemisphere (and what are perceived as its northern protrusions) after seeing proof that a looming demographic time bomb would be fatal for the GOP. That realization hit the day after the 2012 presidential election. They were not brave in the new world.

The Right has always had problems with modernity. It threatens traditional values and institutions, see. And nothing evokes fear of that change like changing the face of neighbors.

In an absolutely fascinating interview with Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, conservative philosopher Charles Murray laid it out:

Social trust is really important. Francis Fukuyama wrote a whole book about the importance of social trust for societies to function. But at the local level, it’s absolutely crucial for the American civic culture to work. It’s not just that ethnic heterogeneity reduced social trust, it also reduces the trust within ethnicities. So white people in that community don’t trust each other as much as they used to. They hunker down.

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Defending the homogeneity of American ethnicity is a matter of cultural survival. And yet the demographics are shifting so that whites are destined to become a plurality, outnumbered and with some feeling outgunned. Some might say those who fail to trust because they start seeing different ethnicities have the problem and not the "ethnics" who are showing up. Just a thought, Mr. Murray.

Still ...

Bats don't come from coffins... so they say

White males are clinging to power with a record grip strength.

Bobby O. Truckstop runs a warehouse in Heartland, USA. He's helping out his dad because Pa's old factory shut down and shipped his job to Mexico. He can't find workers to staff up his warehouse because of the opioid crisis afflicting his home town after the jobs went away. His wife left him and socked him with a huge child-support payment. He can't ask the receptionist on a date for fear of being deemed a sexual predator. His religion feels under attack from snarky atheists. He's got no problem with gays but doesn't feel the need to give a standing ovation to every couple married under a rainbow and why, that makes him a homophobe. He doesn't get why liberal atheists attack his religion but seem more interested in defending Islam from slurs than defending America from terrorism. This isn't the world he grew up in. And he envisions a wide-open border with nothing but third-world change gushing across it.

That wall is his last line of defense. Is he xenophobic? Sure. Since when were phobias voluntary or malicious? Good luck convincing me bats aren't undead Eastern European nobility, but it would be help keep me from doing stupid shit as a result of my chiropteraphobia.

Just as bats don't come from coffins, our changing culture doesn't come from Mexico. It's downloading through U.S. cities, embracing modernity alongside corporate America seeking to build more perfect global markets. Big business is throwing in with the social justice crowd in the culture war and world markets change reality a hell of a lot faster than any government.

Faceless multinationals are harder for the right to fight (as they bankroll conservative causes) than the changing faces in the neighborhood.

Bobby is global, too. All over the world, rural conservatives are going retro to protect traditional values, institutions and orthodoxy. While the human race is going global, rural traditionalists are going hard right to stop it. The trend is revealed from the Brexit to Iran's Green Revolution.

Conservatives could fight this with outreach to those emergent communities but have chosen to protect their power with rear-guard fights like gerrymandering and voter restrictions. The Right has survived by holding suburbia in a rural orbit. Suburbanites were natural cultural allies on certain issues like late-term abortion and (once upon a time) gay marriage. The surgical approach worked. What could backfire is demanding the suburbs choose once and for all betweeen Donald Trump's visions of yesteryear and their lives rooted in the modern world.

Suburbanites know the switch has been thrown on the future and we're way passed fail safe. The 21st century is just a matter of time and can't be disarmed.

Hell-bent Left

The Left isn't exactly going out of its way to disabuse Bobby of the notion his whole life isn't going to be collateral damage when the big one goes off.

Liberals can seem a bit to eager – a bit too eager – to doom the the traditional foundations of the society that has been. Misogyny and racism prospered under the institutions conservatives seek to protect. Strong liberal forces are “woke” to how the 21st century can witness the destruction of all those traditional bulwarks of evil.

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Whenever I write about this stuff, the columns always run long as I try to prove how I'm not racist or male chauvanist pig. It's just that traditions aren't all bad even if they did foster some nasty stuff.

Maybe the Left should ask itself what it's trying to destroy and why.

If individual liberation is paramount to the strictures of the traditional family, then why do singles spend so much time to trying to find a companion to clip their freedom? If the global login is the answer to our sense of community than why are these connections making us lonelier? Is the laboratory really a sufficient substitute for the church? If market capitalism is so evil than why does the Left insist on it being the venue where they must make their stand? Do liberals seek a national conversation about race like they are always discussing, or is it a national lecture. Do they seek to replace the patriarchy with another -archy that is just as dripping with testosterone as the last?

The path will be uneven with all sorts of backlash and defeats for forces driving the culture toward reversing white male dominance. Yet it's coming. Those forces seem perfectly capable of appropriating the white male propensity toward pronouncing B.S. as horse sense in this debate.

Disruption? Gang, we ain't seen nothing yet. I'm just talking about the demographic shift and the crumbling patriarchy. I haven't gotten to climate, wealth gaps or machine learning.

A border wall? We're arguing over a senseless border wall and a habit of Guard troops on the border in ways that no longer track and are utterly irrelevant to what's coming our way. Immigration and border walls are so 2005. The future is not optional. Walls only work in three dimensions. It's the fourth we should be worried about.

Go ask Alice. I think she'll know a thing or two about crashing through looking glasses.

Blake Morlock is a journalist who spent 17 years covering government in Arizona and also worked in Democratic political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.


TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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U.S. Army

National Guard troops monitor the border in California in 2010.

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