ON JULY 1st Mexicans are set to elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador as their next president. Since they twice rejected him, in 2006 and 2012, by coalescing behind the opponent with the best chance of winning, that requires some explanation. Mr López Obrador is of the left, but he is a would-be saviour rather than a social democrat. Instead of a better future, he promises to return Mexico to a better, safer past of strong, paternalist government. He invites voters to trust in him, rather than in democratic institutions. As the last two contests showed, in normal circumstances he would not win.
.. But Mexicans are not looking for politics as usual. Under the outgoing president, Enrique Peña Nieto, they suffer rampant crime and corruption, and mediocre economic growth. Each day 85 people are murdered. Voters “want blood”, in the form of systematic punishment of corrupt politicians
.. Many think that centrist politicians have failed them and that things cannot get any worse.
.. Brazilians are in a similar mood ahead of their election in October.
.. one of the front-runners in the opinion polls is Jair Bolsonaro, a crudely authoritarian, misogynistic and homophobic former army officer. Brazil, unlike Mexico, has a run-off vote; Mr Bolsonaro may well figure in it but is unlikely to win it.
.. A recent poll found that 62% of respondents aged 16-24 would leave if they could.
.. It is not the first time Latin Americans have turned, in an emergency, to would-be saviours. In 1990 voters in Peru found one in Alberto Fujimori, an obscure former university rector. A political outsider, he was elected when his country faced a terrorist insurgency, hyperinflation and economic meltdown. When he sent tanks to shut down the congress two years later, polite society was appalled but ordinary Peruvians cheered. Mr Fujimori won a second term in 1995.
..Or take Venezuela. The collapse of the oil price in the 1980s and 1990s weakened a stable social democracy, hollowing out its welfare state, causing bank failures and exposing corruption. In anger, Venezuelans turned to an army lieutenant-colonel, Hugo Chávez, who had led a failed coup ..
.. As the oil price surged again, he became a popular hero. But long before his death in 2013 he had propelled his country towards its current feral state of corruption, brutality and penury.
.. Colombians in 2002 were suffering the tightening grip of the FARC guerrillas over much of the national territory as well as a recession and a banking crisis. They normally chose moderate presidents, but they elected Álvaro Uribe, an intense conservative who promised to be “the first soldier of Colombia” and to double the size of the security forces.
Mr Fujimori and Mr Uribe saved their countries, but in both cases there was a dark side. Mr Fujimori governed as a dictator and resorted to systematic bribery. Mr Uribe appointed officials with links to right-wing death squads.
.. When voters choose candidates they normally wouldn’t, the negative consequences are long-lasting. In Venezuela, Colombia and Peru these include political polarisation.
.. This lasting polarisation is what may face Mexico and Brazil. It is the high price that countries pay when the political establishment fails in its most basic functions of protecting the lives of citizens or preventing the pilfering of public money. When that happens, it is hardly surprising that voters look elsewhere. But the problem with saviours is that, sooner or later, countries have to try to save themselves from them.
In reality, MS-13 members make up a fraction of Border Patrol arrests and a small part of gang activity in the United States. While the group has committed brutal murders on Long Island, there is no evidence that the gang is increasingly sending members into the country.
.. Rather than a nationwide threat, the group is being used as a political tool used to “turbocharge the xenophobia that underlies the debate around immigration
.. MS-13 members, some 10,000 in number, make up less than 1 percent of the approximately 1.4 million gang members in the United States, according to F.B.I. estimates. Other gangs are several times larger... MS-13’s numbers are stagnant, too. While precise size estimates are hard to come by, authorities have used the same figure of about 10,000 members for over a decade. (The F.B.I. estimates the gang has between 30,000 and 50,000 members around the world.).. Far from menacing cities across the country, as Mr. Trump has suggested, the gang’s presence is concentrated in Long Island, Los Angeles and the region outside Washington... In addition, most MS-13 recruits are not migrants but teenagers who live in the United States and are alienated from their communities.. In those areas, the gang may be the only group that provides a sense of identity.. Policymakers in Central America have argued deporting criminals from the United States has exacerbated gang problems abroad, ultimately worsening crime in the United States... While MS-13 began in the 1980s as a small and unorganized street gang in Los Angeles, some evidence suggests the group expanded in Central America after the United States began deporting illegal immigrants — many with criminal backgrounds — with greater intensity in 1996. Experts have described this process as “exporting” American-style gang culture to Central America... Poor prison conditions in those countries may have also helped MS-13 become larger and better organized.. By 2008, law enforcement found evidence that MS-13 leaders in El Salvadoran prisons were ordering assassinations in Washington while making plans to unify gang groups in the United States.
“MS-13 was a gang fueled by deportation, not immigration,” Dr. Leap said.
.. Trump uses MS-13 as a political tool
At a rally last month in Nashville, Mr. Trump once again linked MS-13 to his political opponents. He has said on Twitter that Democrats are “weak on crime” along the border and are “protecting MS-13 thugs.”.. Mike Huckabee, tweeted an incendiary picture of MS-13 members, likening them to the campaign staff for Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader... MS-13 has entered the national conversation because of Mr. Trump’s anti-immigration agenda, not because it has become more threatening, Dr. Cruz said. Because of the gang’s association with Central American countries that Mr. Trump dislikes, “it’s the perfect group for him to blame,” he added.
Republicans who spoke up this time should be asking themselves why a president of their party felt he was enforcing its principles by breaking apart families and caging children.
.. But many, many other party leaders have been venturing ever deeper into the dank jungles of nativist populism for quite some time, exploiting the politics of fear and resentment. Mr. Trump did not invent Republican demonization of “the other” — it came about in two ways: gradually, and then all at once.
.. From the early 1990s to 2000, the conservative firebrand Pat Buchanan kept the Republican Party on its toes, running for president three times with an explicitly isolationist message.
.. But it was during the George W. Bush years that anti-immigrant sentiment started to become more central to the party’s identity.
.. Mr. Bush made comprehensive immigration reform a priority of his second term.
.. Conservative talk radio took up the cause, smacking Mr. Bush as squishy on immigration. The very concept of comprehensive reform became anathema to many on the right.
.. The Great Recession that Mr. Obama inherited did nothing to quell nativist resentment among working-class whites, and the rise of the Tea Party pulled the Republican Party further to the right
.. Just ask Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican, who saw his fledgling political career almost snuffed out by his flirtation with comprehensive reform
.. in the wake of Mitt Romney’s presidential loss in 2012, after which the Republican Party briefly decided that one of its principal goals was to improve its image with Hispanic voters.
.. The resulting plan would have done everything from beefing up border security to overhauling visa categories to promoting a merit-based immigration system.
It also provided for the legalization of undocumented immigrants, which meant conservatives hated it.
.. the bill cleared the Senate by an impressive 68-to-32 vote. But John Boehner, then the House speaker, refused to bring it up for a vote in the Republican-controlled lower chamber.
.. Mr. Rubio became a pariah to the Tea Party voters who had propelled him to office three years earlier. Soon, he was denying that he had ever really supported the bill.
.. Party leaders fanned those flames, accusing Mr. Obama of being imperious and “lawless.” In one bit of twisted logic, Mr. Boehner argued that the House couldn’t possibly take up reform legislation because it couldn’t trust Mr. Obama to carry out said legislation.
.. Along the way, Republican candidates continued to play to their base’s darker impulses. On the whole, the rhetoric was subtler than that of the current president
.. Steve King, Republican of Iowa, painting Dreamers as drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
.. Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama: “I’ll do anything short of shooting them”
.. Nor was Mr. Trump the first Republican to promote the idea that within every immigrant lurks a murderer or terrorist.
.. Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, ran around warning of what came to be mocked as the great “terror baby” plot. As Mr. Gohmert told it, radical Islamists were plotting to impregnate droves of young women, who would infiltrate the United States to give birth here. The babies would be shipped back home for terrorist training, then return as adults to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting America.
.. Time and again, given the choice between soothing and stoking nativist animus, Republican lawmakers chose the low road.
.. And he has even less interest in addressing the root causes of migrant families flocking to the border.
.. In 2016, the Department of Homeland Security reported, “More individuals sought affirmative asylum from the Northern Triangle Countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) in the last three years than in the prior 15 years combined.”
.. Helping these nations stabilize themselves is key to reducing the flow of asylum seekers. But Mr.
Trump does not like complexity or long-term strategizing.
He prefers casting blame and making threats.
.. In the administration’s budget proposals, it has sought deep cuts in aid to these countries — something Congress has wisely ignored. Removing a financial lifeline from nations already in chaos is hardly a recipe for progress.
.. Mr. Trump’s move to kick out as many people who are from these countries as possible threatens to overwhelm nations ill equipped for such an influx. And without the money that many of the immigrants living here regularly send back to their families, the economies of these countries would further crumble.
.. In 2016, 17 percent of El Salvador’s gross domestic product came from remittances from abroad.
.. America’s immigration mess is not going to be cleaned up anytime soon.
.. conservatives are terrified that the base will punish them if they concede even an inch. Speaker Paul Ryan, with one foot out the door, has no juice. And pretty much everyone assumes that nothing will move through the Senate anyway.
.. Trump is planning fresh crackdowns in the run-up to the midterms, to reassure his base that he has not lost his resolve. If anything, given the fragility of his ego, last week’s flip-flop will make him all the more desperate to prove his strength.
.. Mr. Trump is more a breaker than a fixer.
.. The question now is whether the conference will learn anything useful from this episode.
.. There is also his
- politicization of law enforcement, his
- attempts to undermine public faith in the democratic process, his
- attacks on the press, his
- family’s suspect business dealings and his
- habitual lying
.. this is unlikely to be the last time the president puts members of his party in an uncomfortable, and perhaps untenable, position.
.. The weight of this moment should be recognized. Mr. Trump’s capitulation was not a given. With a little less media scrutiny, fewer heartbreaking photos and fewer calls from angry voters, tent cities could have kept on filling with traumatized children.
.. Having done so much to pave the way for Mr. Trump and his immigration policies, they now owe it to the American people to help keep him in check.
“For 50 years, and long before that, it was a disaster. But over the last 20, 25 years, it’s gotten worse.”
The numbers suggest that this is not true.
Unauthorized crossings along the border with Mexico have sharply declined over the past two decades, according to government data. From the 1980s to the mid-2000s, the government reported annually apprehending around 1 million to 1.6 million people who tried to cross the southwestern border illegally. That number has been halved in recent years. By month, border apprehensions averaged more than 81,588 under President George W. Bush, declined to more than 34,647 under President Barack Obama and now stand at 24,241 under Mr. Trump.
.. The president is correct in citing a spike in illegal border crossings that occurred in March: The 37,393 individuals apprehended was a 203 percent increase over the same period in March 2017, though the number was lower than in 2013 and 2014.
.. Research shows that incarceration rates of both legal and undocumented immigrants across the country are lower than those of native-born Americans, and that the net economic impact of immigration is positive.
.. “There’s this misconception that we’re in this lawless land, and it’s the wild, wild frontier, and it’s not,” said the Brownsville police chief, Orlando C. Rodriguez. “We see actually a downward trend in crime in Brownsville over the past few years, and the numbers are just getting better every year.”
.. Asked whether the city’s population of undocumented immigrants was committing widespread crime, Chief Rodriguez said they were most definitely not.
.. “To say that illegals are running around in Brownsville causing problems, we just don’t see it,” the chief said.
.. In Nogales, Ariz., which borders and shares its name with a Mexican city, the number of violent crimes plummeted by more than 70 percent from 1997 to 2016. Similar trends can be seen in San Luis, Somerton and Yuma. The overall crime rate in Arizona has also dropped by more than a third from 1993 to 2016. During that same time, the state’s undocumented-immigrant population more than doubled
.. The drug trade fuels public corruption.
.. Police chases of smugglers’ vehicles often end in tragedy — in deadly collisions, fatal shootings and rollovers.
.. Sergio Sanchez, a Republican activist and commentator in nearby McAllen, agrees with Mr. Trump’s portrayal of the border and his hard-line approach to illegal immigration.
.. “The crisis is real,” said Mr. Sanchez, the former chairman of the Hidalgo County Republican Party and the host of a conservative talk-radio show called The Wall. “The crisis is immediately south of the border, and it bleeds over to our side. Mexico is literally a lawless land and they need to come to grips with that. The crisis has been going on for decades.