Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon

President Donald Trump’s PR battle at the Southern border

The U.S.-Mexico border near Hermanas, N.M.

The U.S.-Mexico border near Hermanas, N.M. Credit: AP / LM Otero

The 1,000-plus refugees traveling together toward the Southern border of the United States who sent President Donald Trump into a rage this week were not trying to sneak into our nation. Neither were they planning an invasion. Or attempting to get special treatment because they were children.

This annual Holy Week pilgrimage, organized by Pueblo Sin Fronteras for more than 15 years, and larger this year than ever, was composed mostly of women and children. To guarantee safety, the caravans are peaceful, large and well publicized. The pilgrimage is not the scene of widespread rape, as Trump bizarrely claimed on Thursday.

Participants hoped to seek asylum via the legal process put in place by the U.S. government so that they might be safe from corruption, violence, poverty and gang warfare at home. Many are from El Salvador, where drug-fueled gangs terrorize the populace. More were from Honduras, where November’s rigged election of President Juan Orlando Hernandez led to violence and a military crackdown that left at least 30 people dead. This was not some roving band of desperadoes before Mexico, under pressure from the United States, broke up the caravan this week. These were people fleeing danger, the type of people this nation has often welcomed.

A dose of reality is needed to counteract all this bluster.

Trump promises to send the National Guard not to combat illegal immigration, but to combat the idea that he’s gone soft on illegal immigration. The president signed a budget last month that provides only $1.6 billion for security at the Southern border, with none of that money allowed to be used for the construction of his promised “big, beautiful” wall. Now erstwhile political supporters with television platforms are roasting the president, and Fox News riled up the base with dire stories about a caravan of immigrants from Central America.

The National Guard has been deployed in support roles at the border on occasion during past surges in illegal crossings. But there is no such surge now. Illegal crossings at the Southern border are at their lowest since 1971. And Trump took his generals and the sheriffs and governors of border states by surprise when he touted his plan via TV and Twitter.

The president can fight to hire more border patrols. And he can fight to fund his wall. But militarizing our border to wage a public relations battle against desperate women and children is lunacy.

— The editorial board