With 'zero tolerance' immigration policy, Donald Trump is seeking to fire up voters ahead of midterm elections

The US border crisis is not about US immigration, it’s not about family separation which was always fated to be a quick and dirty policy that could be yanked the moment it delivers the goods.

Just like how the Singapore summit that was "cancelled" was never really cancelled; it just allowed US to negotiate better terms.

 With zero tolerance immigration policy, Donald Trump is seeking to fire up voters ahead of midterm elections

File image of US president Donald Trump. AP

What’s being called “family separation” is red meat politics with an unambiguous time stamp - the November 2018 midterm elections which will decide whether Republicans hold on to their majority in the US House and the Senate or not. The way the border crisis is currently being framed unifies Democrats but divides Republicans. That's not a wedge Republicans want in election year.

All 435 House seats are up for grabs and 48 seats are considered competitive. Democrats need to flip 24 Republican seats while keeping the 194 seats they currently hold. Thirty five Senate seats are up for re-election of which 26 are held by Democrats.

Republicans running on the economy and maybe the 'historic' North Korea summit could maybe hold ground in the midterms but Trump has proved in 2016 that these wonk type issues are not the ones that turn out the base.

Those who support the US president’s overall strongarm policy on immigration and see immigrants as lawbreakers are not turning away despite the chaotic scenes of family separation over the last few weeks. They're instead applauding Trump for exposing the underbelly.

With a booming economy and unemployment at its lowest since the crash of 2008, Trump the politico needs some bad news on the ticket to keep his voters riled up.

What better way to relitigate the terms of engagement than with images of scruffy and exhausted masses of migrants scaling walls in the deserts of Arizona or trying to sneak in through the underbrush in Texas’ boondocks.

Until now, people have heard intermittently about open borders but rarely been assaulted by its visual reality on live teleivsion. Trump made that possible.

How Trump stepped in also proved the entire system worked, says Trump supporter Scott Adams: "Nobody's reporting that. There was a problem, the media got there, the public weighed in and Trump did something about it. It signals an intent to fix this. I’m only making the point that Trump supporters literally don’t see what anti-Trumpers regard as obvious."

One question that’s doing the rounds is this: Did all this happen just now and was it very different under the Obama administration?

Here’s the difference: In the Obama era, families that crossed illegally were referred for civil deportation proceedings and this did not require separation.

Now, under Trump’s policy, the government is prosecuting border crossings as crimes. By injecting tremendous stress at the point of illegal entry, Trump has led news networks on a breathless chase for desperate visuals. In the process, he’s got what he wanted for free: scenes resembling the migrant camps of Europe, a hall of mirrors which the US government has scripted to near perfection.

The results allowed Trump enough elbow room to inject a new word into his view of border crossings: “infest”. Think about that word - it’s conjures thoughts of rodents and worms, of disease and general murkiness.

See Breitbart's reaction: "It was once said Trump would never be able to deport the millions of illegal aliens already in the U.S. because Americans would not tolerate the sight of families being rounded up. It turns out we will not even tolerate the sight of families being detained when they are caught in the act of crossing illegally."

“We don’t want to be back in this place two years later. We want to fix this once and for all”, Trump’s lynchpin on all immigration matters Stephen Miller said early this Spring.

Miller is widely seen as the mastermind behind Trump's controversial policy of separating parents from their children at the US southern border. He barely manages to hide his glee that Trump will be running on hardline immigration both in the midterms this year and in 2020.

If the latest TIME magazine cover is a masterclass in copywriting and photoshopping, consider that it flows from the arsenal that America’s ‘visual President’ has armed the news cycle with.

For every pundit who’s railing against US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump for sparking the latest crisis of family separation a month ago, they’re entirely missing that it’s just one data point on a continuum. That Trump is selling it as piecemeal items to align with political priorities doesn’t mean that each of these is a new issue.

The issue, in Trump’s lingo, is this: “I will never sacrifice the safety and security of the American people. We want people to come in. We want them to come in through merit. Not luck or happenstance.”

Who, on the left, right or centre can argue with that?

It's like Trump's wall. It was never a wall before Trump made it so by repetition. He said "wall" so many times that even opposing media houses began running pictures and videos of potential walls.

The wall is still not reality, Congress is still trying to please Trump by getting it funded, Trump keeps saying Mexico should pay for it and all of this is just words. There's barely any wall but it's a heady sauce, an image of a muscular America that appeals to a herd which fears losing its dominant identity in a tidal wave of multicultural migration.

Even in the latest example, where the whitest of white evangelical Christian leaders have condemned Trump and the family separation policy, there’s little evidence that their rank and file will turn on Trump.

At least 7 in 10 of them are for expanding the border wall along Mexico with older voters more likely than younger ones to feel more strongly about this.

Die-hard Trump supporters remain steadfast despite painful images seared into television screen of terrified children crying out for their parents.

"The mamas and daddies are responsible for that," said Inman, a 55-year-old truck driver. "I feel sorry for the kids ... but why can't we protect our borders the way other countries protect theirs?"

Cincinnati resident Andrew Pappas supports Trump's decision to separate children from parents who crossed the border illegally because "it got Congress talking about immigration reform."

Howard G Buffett, author of New York Times bestseller and most recently author of 'Our 50 state border crisis' says it best: We must be committed and relentless in defending the rule of law in our country and that defense must begin at the border....if we ignore these threats, these problems and these crises in Central America today, we will address them on our own front porches tomorrow."

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Updated Date: Jun 22, 2018 07:28:37 IST