US midterm elections loom; Opposition struggles to counter Donald Trump’s hardline immigration battle cry

Democrats with their eyes on the upcoming midterm elections and struggling to come up with a clear message to resist US president Donald Trump have zeroed in this one for now: #AbolishICE, referring to US government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division that has shot into prominence under Trump for its strongarm methods of questioning and rounding up illegals (and others) in the US.

The #AbolishICE battle cry has entered the national conversation as the latest act of mass resistance against US President Donald Trump's immigration policies spilled out on the streets this week.

But to what end?

The noise around immigration in America is comprised mainly of a lot of half cooked policy thoughts. It has become the vast battlefield on which all partisan politics is being played. Since legislative solutions are near impossible, it boils down to a lot of projections and soundbites. Trump is the loudest and gets highest marks for clarity if not anything else.

US midterm elections loom; Opposition struggles to counter Donald Trump’s hardline immigration battle cry

Protesters march during an immigration family separation protest this week. AP

Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered before Independence Day weekend in major cities across America, moved by accounts of children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Wearing white, the protestors carried signs reading: "No more children in cages," and "What's next? Concentration Camps?"

“Families belong together”, these thousands chanted while news networks played side by side visuals of children behind wire mesh fencing waiting to be reunited with parents.

But wait a minute. By the time people marched, Trump had already signed his executive order ending family separation at the border.

So, why protest for something that’s already been given to you?

It’s the same trouble with Democrats kicking up a fuss about Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Rounding up people at the border is not the only thing that ICE does, it just one of the jobs it does.

Trump seems to relish the possibility that Democrats will actually go ahead and double down on border control issues like this before the midterm elections this year.

"Well I hope they keep thinking about it. Because they're going to get beaten so badly," he told his favourite television station Fox News.

The debate over ICE’s role in America’s neighbourhoods has been spiralling in recent weeks - especially after the Trump administration separated more than 2,000 migrant children from their parents at multiple places across the US border.

“…Get rid of ICE you're going to have a country that you're going to be afraid to walk out of your house. I love that issue if they're going to actually do that”, Trump said, riffing on the same grab bag of persuasion models he used to win the presidency in 2016.

It’s clear to see that Trump is enjoying campaigning on immigration, the fiery one liners come easily to him and go to the heart of scary imagery - “open borders”, “let the animals come in” - that have been central to his rise in American politics.

Midterms are less than six months away and Trump is showing no signs of backing down on a restrictionist border control agenda that defines the soul of White House immigration policy.

Democrats are defending more than two dozen Senate seats, including 10 in states Donald Trump won in 2016. Republicans have just eight Senate seats up for re-election in 2018.

"If you want to come to the United States, come legally, or don't come at all” is the White House bottom line.

Only difference is that the White House is telling Americans that yes, these families belong together but not in our neighbourhoods.

It’s tough to argue with that from a political stump and the resistance to Donald Trump is faltering. By the time Democrats come up with the next idea, Trump would have met Russia’s Vladimir Putin and taken the game up several notches.

Meanwhile, the US government has been portraying illegal immigrants as “enemies”, “animals”, “criminals” and most recently, pests.

The Opposition is missing the point entirely by relying on flash protests with tired slogans. “Families Belong Together” is fairly obvious to anyone and nobody in the US government is refuting it either.

The While House is simply deciding where these families belong together - whether in jails or detention facilities or temporary Walmarts converted to shelters.

The resistance to Donald Trump is framing nationwide protests as reminders of value systems like “Families belong together” and in doing that, it is making the same tactical mistake over and over again - the protest dies out, the slogans are forgotten and Trump is growing in confidence for a 2020 run.

(With reporting by Nikhila Natarajan)

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Updated Date: Jul 03, 2018 21:13:25 IST

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