Donald Trump’s Border Deployment Doesn’t Make American Safer
Sending troops to threaten asylum-seekers underscores America's moral decline
Journalists and human-rights advocates have begun asking when the U.S military will end its deployment of nearly 6,000 troops to the United States-Mexico border.
The deployment began just prior to the Nov. 6, 2018 mid-term elections allegedly in response to the “threat” that a caravan of Central American refugees seeking asylum in the United States posed to U.S. security.
Initially the Pentagon claimed the deployment would end on Dec. 15, 2018, but now it seems to be walking back that deadline. Now it’s unclear when the deployment will end. And on Nov. 21, 2018, the Trump administration loosened the rules barring troops from using lethal force on U.S. soil, an illegal move that nearly is certain to draw a major legal challenge.
The border deployment is important because it demonstrates once and for all that the U.S. military is an entirely political institution that has little to nothing to do with the security of the American people. The migrants in the caravan not only are not a security threat to the United States, they are in fact some of the least powerful people in the entire world — homeless, penniless, effectively stateless families with no weapons and barely any food or water.
Deploying the U.S. military against them is like threatening a sick child. In fact, it literally is threatening sick children and their desperate parents plus thousands of others. An act of pure cowardice.
Donald Trump and his allies justify the deployment by saying that the caravan includes dangerous criminals. There is a good chance this is true, if only because any group of 7,000 people likely will have criminals in it.
It’s also true that immigrants are significantly less likely to commit crimes than are native-born U.S. citizens, which means that those worried about stopping criminals should specifically direct their attention away from immigrants.
In fact, as this caravan formed specifically to try and avoid the dangers of migration, a military focused on security should seek to help these people, not threaten them.
Even if the entire caravan were composed of troops from these Central American states, we would have little to fear. El Salvador’s military budget is less than half the size of San Antonio’s annual police budget. The entire Honduran economy is about the size of the North Carolina state government. The New York Police Department spends 30 times more money on its police force than Honduras does on its entire military.
And again, these aren’t soldiers on the caravan — even mythological MS-13 super-gangsters — but people who need a place to live and work. Most actually are fleeing political conditions largely resulting from U.S. foreign policy. If they were a threat, then U.S. security policy actually would have made us less safe.
But they aren’t a threat, which underscores that not only is U.S. security policy bad for Central Americans, it actually isn’t about protecting people on this side of the border, either.
Finally to this point, even if these migrants were criminals in their past or may become them in the future, their current plans are to obey U.S. law by presenting themselves at the border to seek asylum.
The United States and other countries passed these laws after World War II when the world sought to make amends for its complicity in the extermination of 12 million people under the Nazi regime. Countries the world over refused to take in these threatened populations and millions died.
If security doesn’t entail preventing future genocides and mass murders using the very tools designed to prevent them, then security isn’t really worth very much. This deployment signals a political commitment to ending the post-World War II plans for preventing future crimes against humanity.
It is true that there is no consensus among the ruling class about the best strategy with regard to immigration. Some elements prefer to use the U.S. southern border as a means of arbitraging labor costs, pitting workers on either side of it against each other in order to drive down wages.
This requires easy transfer of labor from one side of the border to the other, and it works even better when authorities turn a blind eye to unauthorized work arrangements that allow employers to even more intensely exploit their workers.
Trump and his allies have used this phenomenon as an excuse for declining middle-class fortunes in the United States, a convenient scapegoat for the true problem — the liquidation of middle-class wealth by the ultra-wealthy since the 2008 financial crisis. Trump and his wing of the ruling class likely also share a sincere nationalist outlook that rejects the wage-arbitrage strategy in favor of protectionism to stem the flow of resources out of the United States.
In both cases, using the U.S. military to signal their strategic commitments and to stoke convenient popular fears is smart politics.
It isn’t, however, an effective way of protecting the American people, and so it ought immediately to end. As for working folks, our interests lie in rejecting both strategies, which means joining forces with the workers from Mexico and Central America to end the border altogether.
Both factions of the ruling class use it like they use the U.S. military — as a private tool of their exploitation and power. The fact that there seems to be no effective organized effort to do so indicates the bleak prospects for us in the near future, at least.
Until then, we should at least be able to settle on a demand that deploying U.S. troops against the needy is wrong. That this is a controversial idea demonstrates just how bad the United States has become. Hopefully the 7,000 get to join us soon, so they can begin to change us for the better.