The resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen, the former homeland security secretary, this week ended months of friction between her and President Donald Trump over border issues that had made her the target of his criticism.
Trump reportedly told aides he had grown increasingly “frustrated” with Nielsen and wanted someone who would be “tougher” on immigration.
Well, Mr. President, there are many people frustrated by your antics over our immigration system. Start with your policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border because you thought it would deter migrants from seeking asylum. Parents waited in frustration for missing children. No level of frustration on your part is greater than the ongoing shock to parents and their children from that separation policy.
How about the frustration in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where gangs, poverty and killings of innocent people leave honest people with no choice but to run for their lives? Fleeing death from corrupt governments and violence is frustrating. Many seek asylum under U.S. laws and international agreements, but the crowded conditions at holding centers and dysfunctional policies make a lawful path difficult. Imagine how frustrated Nielsen was after she signed an agreement with officials from those countries to help curb the drivers of migration only to then have you threaten to cut off all aid to those countries.
Think about the frustrations in Mexico. Laborers come here to work and ease the labor shortage in states and industries. You label all of them criminals and terrorists. Yes, there are drug cartels and gangs in Mexico that its government and ours should prosecute. But not every person who hails from Central America is a “bad hombre.”
Also mounting is the frustration among border lawmakers and governors over your continued oversimplification of migration policy and your inadequate solutions. Walls are words. They will not address the economic conditions around the world, nor address our own labor issues and our broken system for legal entry to an America built on accepting people from other lands.
It’s time for a conversation that goes beyond easy fixes to migration — before you hire people who will be “tougher” on it.
Tara D. Sonenshine is a former U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. She advises students at The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.