And so, the battle over immigration rages on.
This week, President Trump waded into the discussion more officially than usual, bringing forward an immigration “framework” he would like to see enacted. The proposal was portrayed as ‘Dreamers v. Wall: The Art of the Deal!’ — where the lives of 700,000 people are bargained for the long-promised border wall with Mexico, and, within the official narrative, other vaguely specified immigration reforms.
Perhaps such a deal would be an opportunity for both sides of the ideological discussion to remove a political thorn from their sides.
Yes Republicans, you can have your stupid wall. And yes, we can stop holding these ‘Dreamers’ hostage for political purposes now.
That which obscures the depth of the issue, obscures the true composition of Trump’s proposal, is a belief that either side, whether in mainstream media or the halls of government, approaches the discussion from an ideological standpoint at all.
It is not as if Republicans don’t know that a border wall is a dumb idea; that more people leave the country across the Mexican border than enter; that architects say the wall is an untenable idea, not necessarily economically or even politically, but geographically.
Conversely, the idea that Democrats — the party for which the death of 500,000 children was “worth it”; the party which sent children back to the war-torn countries they had fled in order to “send a message” politically; the party of “we came, we saw, he died” — are being kept up at night by the plight of Dreamers is somewhat ludicrous.
Am I being cynical?
Why don’t we take a peek at a few of the other prominent narrative storylines from this week.
First, an uproar amongst Republicans and ‘right-wing’ media over a memo written by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes which allegedly shows conspiratorial corruption by a deep state operating within the American intelligence system.
At the same time as conservatives were shouting ‘release the memo!’ Congress was passing legislation which further strengthened the surveillance state, and including in the bill which reopened government a provision that allows the CIA or other parts of the national security apparatus to spend money without Congressional oversight — the actual strengthening of a potential deep state.
Curious to ponder what someone like House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows was thinking when, after voting for both of these things, he said of the infamous memo, “I thought it could never happen in a country that loves freedom and democracy like this country. Part of me wishes that I didn’t read it because I don’t want to believe that those kinds of things could be happening in this country that I call home and love so much.”
A second story this week: allegations that Hillary Clinton enabled and facilitated sexual assault amongst her campaign staff during her 2008 presidential campaign. Those familiar with Hillary’s history might not be overly surprised, though those who bought into her uncontextualized words on women’s rights might be moreso.
There is something in professional wrestling called ‘cheap heat.’ This is when a performer elicits a response from the audience by saying something like, ‘I hate being here in (insert city), the people stink!’ or, ‘I always love coming to (insert city), the people are the best!’ This is called ‘cheap heat’ because the performer has not actually done anything to earn a response, outside of presenting something superficial, ‘cheap.’
When Republicans and ‘right wing’ media shout ‘release the memo’ they understand that a condemnation of the so-called ‘deep state’ is cheap heat for the Alex Jones crowd, the type of heat which ignores the creation of a deep state at the exact same time.
When Hillary tweets “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported” she certainly understands this as cheap heat for the slacktivist generation, and something which preemptively absolves her of a long history of antagonism within the issue.
Similarly, a screaming match between ‘build the wall’ and ‘save the Dreamers’ is just the kind of cheap heat that mainstream media loves to promote. It is not a stretch to say that if not for the incredible work of many immigrant groups, the true depth of Trump’s immigration “framework” may never have seen the light of day.
Yes, a border wall is not all Trump seeks to extort in exchange for the lives of the Dreamers.
His “framework” contains the restriction of ‘family unification’ permits, the elimination of the diversity lottery program, a closing of so-called “loopholes,” meaning mostly certain rights protecting immigrants, and an increase in punitive measures and enforcement.
What this means, according to estimates, is a reduction of legal immigration by something like 50%, alongside allowing for the removal of some 9 million people currently in the country. .
These demands at a time when arrests by ICE are up 40% under Trump, including of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record, and just as the Department of Homeland Security announced an end to the ‘temporary protected status (TPS)’ of over 400,000 migrants from places like Haiti, El Salvador, and Sudan.
Call it a “framework,” or, as United We Dream’s Greisa Martinez Rosas called it, “a white supremacist ransom note.”
It is not exactly calling a country a sh*thole, or tweeting insults at Puerto Rico, or even fantasizing about an untenable wall. But for those insisting that Trump wants to ‘make America white again,’ it is something disturbingly tangible.
The worry is that if you deal in cheap heat long enough, you may not remember how to experience depth.