“I myself have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants,…[that] you shall know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 10:1)
There was a purpose in God’s 10 plagues (the final three of which are described in this week’s Torah portion “Bo”) despite the suffering they caused the Egyptians – that the people may know the difference between good and evil, human power and divine power, and what God requires of us: “Only to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8)
In contrast to the prophets of the Hebrew Bible who sought to establish goodness in the world, the President’s Oval Office speech this week exposes his malignant world view?
The President claimed that there is an “unprecedented crisis on our southern border,” a crisis so severe that the country teeters on the edge of imminent doom. Drug cartels, murderers, and rapists are pouring into our country, he says, putting stress on public safety, schools, hospitals, jobs, and wages. The only way to stop it is to build a wall to keep migrants out of our country.
Speaking to his base, the President mischaracterized the opposition to his wall as dangerous to the well-being and safety of America. The truth is that both sides of the congressional aisle support reasonable border security; but they disagree on how best to use our nation’s resources.
Oblivious to the truth, Trump said building the wall “should have been done by all of the presidents that preceded me, and they all know it. Some of them have told me that we should have done it.”
Former Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Carter were quick to refute that claim – they said that they didn’t tell Trump anything regarding his expensive and pointless wall.
We must ask – Is there a crisis and is anything Trump said true?
The simple answer is no, none of it’s true. There’s no significant body of research to back up any of his claims. Illegal immigration is decreasing. Violent crime is down. Property crime is down. Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. Immigrants work at jobs most American citizens do not want and they pay taxes and support the economy. The majority of undocumented immigrants didn’t illegally cross the border but were welcomed into this country with visitor visas. They overstayed the term of the visas which is what makes their status illegal.
Trump is right, however, in only one of his claims. There is a crisis at the border, but it’s a crisis he created with his draconian immigration policies. The real crisis is that the administration has ignored, denied, and mischaracterized the group of political asylum seekers as hostile invaders. Most of the recent 8000 immigrants who walked in a caravan to escape the violence in their home countries in Central America are women and children. They are no security threat at all.
The real crisis is that America is doing nothing to address these people’s needs. The facilities at the border, meant to hold people for a couple of days, aren’t geared at all for children. Two children have died as a consequence of the administration’s neglect and incompetence, and with the flu season upon us, many more are at risk.
To compound the hard-heartedness, the administration set up a policy called “metering” which limits the number of people seeking political asylum each day thereby forcing them to wait in Mexico until they can be processed. There they live without clean water, food, and places to bathe, thus exacerbating the conditions that breed illness.
“Metering” forces these people to choose to wait in line for weeks or months and get sick, or take the route of smuggling.
Trump spoke earlier this week about the possibility of declaring a national emergency and ordering the military to build his wall. To do this he would have to support his claim in court with evidence that there is, indeed, a national emergency. If the courts rule against him, the funds will be taken away in the form of a court injunction.
Trump fabricated a crisis, stretched his presidential power and shut down the government, hurt 800,000 middle and low income American workers who either have been furloughed or forced to work without pay, threatened the constitution’s separation of powers, and transparently sought to shift public attention away from his political mess and the Mueller investigation.
The first Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Abraham Isaac Cook, put it well in our attempt to describe Trump with these words:
“There are hearts and there are hearts / There are stones and there are stones. / There are hearts that are stones and / There are stones that are hearts…”
Trump’s heart is stone. Let ours not be!