Sunday, June 24, 2018

San Francisco is the worst US city for you to retire in. Here's why


Darla Mercado, CNBC, USA TODAY

Come to San Francisco for the scenery, just don't plan on retiring there.

That's because it's the worst city in the country to retire if you'd like to keep more of your cash in your pocket, according to an analysis from GoBankingRates.

The personal finance website looked at major cities in all 50 states, ranking them based on property taxes, state levies on retirement benefits, health care costs and the average retirement benefits check from Social Security.

In particular, San Francisco residents are facing high living costs: The median list price of a home is $1.19 million. The average property tax bill is also on the hefty side: $9,137, GoBankingRates found.

The average monthly Social Security benefit clocks in at $1,387 for San Francisco residents.

"When you've saved so much for retirement, the key thing that will hurt your savings is where you decide to live," said Sydney Champion, deputy editor of GoBankingRates.

In this case, real estate — particularly home prices and high property taxes — made several metro areas in the Golden State too expensive.

Fremont, San Jose and Irvine rounded out the top four worst cities for retirees, according to GoBankingRates.

BEST CITIES

WORST CITIES

1. Fort Wayne, Ind.

1. San Francisco

2. Baltimore

2. Fremont, Calif.

3. Toledo, Ohio


3. San Jose, Calif.

4. Spokane, Wash.


4. Irvine, Calif.

5. Indianapolis

5. Honolulu, Hawaii

"Many of these cities have really high housing prices," Champion said. "If you rented out a home instead, that might be a smarter bet to live there."

Other costly cities include Honolulu; New York; Oakland, California; Los Angeles; Seattle and San Diego.

On the other hand, retirees hoping to stretch their dollars should look no further than Fort Wayne, Indiana, which GoBankingRates deemed to be the best city for wealthy retirees.

‘Get so close — and nothing happens’: Congress’s record on immigration is repeated failures - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."


Paul Kane, Washington Post, June 23

Image from article, with caption: People gather at Saint Mark Catholic Church for a solidarity with migrants vigil, Thursday, June 21, 2018 in El Paso, Texas.

In January 2007, soon after a “thumping” in the midterm elections, President George W. Bush met with the new congressional leadership to talk about the agenda for his final two years in office and his hopes for a breakthrough on immigration.

He knew that 23 Senate Republicans had voted in 2006 for legislation granting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, thinking a new bill would have even more momentum with Democrats now in charge of the House and Senate. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had just been elected speaker, said Bush was stunned when he heard warnings about a rebellion brewing among conservatives that could sink the legislation.

Sure enough, six months later, the Senate choked on its bid to pass a sweeping rewrite of border and immigration laws. It has been this way for a dozen years now, as Congress has tried — and repeatedly failed — to deal with immigrants in the country illegally and to prevent drugs from flowing across the border.

“Breaks my heart every time. Get so close — and nothing happens,” said Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the No. 2 member of GOP leadership, who has been involved in almost every recent immigration negotiation.

Immigration has eclipsed every other domestic issue in terms of political stalemate. Republicans live in fear of a conservative backlash if they support anything critics deride as “amnesty,” while Democrats champion themselves as the welcoming party but live with the regret of doing nothing when they had their chance.

Indeed, while the current floundering is largely a Republican dilemma, Washington has had every iteration of partisan control of the White House and Congress over the past 12 years, and the result has always been the same: failure.

The legislative futility has created an opening for an aggressive chief executive, and both Democrat Barack Obama and President Trump have acted unilaterally to set policy. Obama, in 2012, cited congressional inaction in creating a program to protect from deportation young undocumented immigrants brought here as children. Trump canceled the program last fall and called on Congress to fix it, something lawmakers still haven’t done. This spring, Trump instituted his “zero-tolerance” policy, including separating migrant children from their parents at the border.

In recent days, House Republicans have flailed in their bid to find the right policy mix to deal with immigrants and strengthen border security. They voted on a conservative GOP draft on Thursday and it failed. Then they pulled the plug, for now, on a more moderate version of the legislation because it was woefully short of the votes needed for passage.

There might be a vote in the coming week, or maybe not at all, as Trump has gone back and forth on his support for the legislation.

Some contend that the president and senior adviser Stephen Miller have poisoned the well with nativist talk and policy proposals. “It’s been within our reach, but as long as Miller is his adviser and is trusted by this president on the issue, it is unlikely we will do anything productive,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Democratic leader who has played a key role in the immigration negotiations.

But some conservatives think the issue is bigger than Trump, that his 2016 presidential campaign just tapped into the strain of nativism that had already spoiled previous attempts at rewriting the border laws. Trump is not the cause but merely the biggest symptom indicating where the most active Republican voters are on immigration.

“This issue has pivoted on amnesty every time, and now it’s pivoting on amnesty,” said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a conservative who has fought every immigration proposal.

King opposed Trump’s offer to Democrats early this year for a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million undocumented young immigrants, in exchange for $25 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Now, King hopes that Trump realizes the conservative base will recoil at anything resembling amnesty. “I think Trump pulled back. I think people have gotten to Trump now and he knows how big this amnesty is,” King said.

The current deadlock has left Washington in the same place it was in 2006, the last time a Republican president and GOP-led Congress tried to reshape immigration laws.

“The debate on immigration is the same as it ever was. Same as it ever was,” said Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), reciting lyrics from the 1980 Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime.”

McHenry, now a top vote counter in GOP leadership, arrived in Congress at the dawn of an effort to change immigration laws, beginning with a 2005 enforcement bill that authorized the construction of some border wall and created a system that was supposed to verify employees as legal residents.

The next year, the House and Senate tried to tackle immigration but never resolved the deep differences in their legislation. By June 2007, much to Bush’s surprise, the Senate was deadlocked when Republicans, including Cornyn, abandoned a bill they had been supporting.

“We had a president who was fully committed — President Bush. We did not have Republicans in the Senate willing to go down that path,” said Pelosi, now the House minority leader.

Cornyn accused Democrats, including Obama, then a young senator, of voting for a poison-pill amendment that was a favor to labor unions knowing the result would be “to keep this issue alive for the next campaign.”

After the Latino vote broke heavily for Obama in 2012, leading Republicans such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) started a new round of bipartisan talks that drafted a broad border-and-immigration bill, leading to the bipartisan support of 68 senators.

House Republicans joined some Democrats in their own private negotiations, with the tacit support of Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), fresh off his 2012 vice presidential nomination. But the negotiators could not get past the Senate bill’s support for a path to citizenship at a time when many Republicans were facing difficult primary challenges on their right flank.

Miller, then an aide in the Senate to Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s pick for attorney general, worked with House allies such as King to increase the pressure. Anyone who supported the Senate bills from 2007 or 2013 was branded “with the scarlet letter A, for amnesty,” King said.

Then Dave Brat, an unknown college professor, defeated the sitting House majority leader, Eric I. Cantor (Va.), in the 2014 Republican primary largely by accusing Cantor of supporting amnesty, ending any hope of an Obama-Republican deal.

The best framework for immigration legislation probably came in 2009 and 2010, when Obama was president and Democrats held majorities in the House and Senate.

But Democrats focused first on an economic stimulus plan and followed that with the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank bill regulating Wall Street. “Those were immediate, important issues. I wish we had time to do more; I certainly would have included immigration in that,” Durbin said.

In the waning days of 2010, Durbin pushed a slimmed-down bill, the Dream Act, that would grant a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, figuring those children were innocents in their parents’ actions. Most “dreamers” have resided in the United States almost their entire lives.

But on the key parliamentary vote, Durbin fell five votes short. Just three Republicans joined Durbin, while five Democrats from largely rural states broke ranks and opposed the Dream Act.

The issue returned to prominence last year when Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The president gave Congress until March to come up with a new law and even sent up his proposal in January for a path to citizenship in exchange for the wall funding. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled that he was willing to make the exchange, but then the negotiations broke down on other issues related to enforcement measures and legal immigration.

The federal government shuttered for a long weekend during that standoff, and after a few failed votes in the Senate, over two days in February, the issue seemed dead because DACA was tied up in federal lawsuits. Only in recent weeks, as moderate House Republicans face pressure at home, has the issue roared back, with failure as the outcome. Again.

Cornyn said the easiest way to handle these issues would be to tackle them one at a time, particularly those with bipartisan support such as keeping families together after they have crossed the border illegally, providing legal status for dreamers and increasing border security funds.

But there is “very little trust” on immigration, Cornyn said.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

How Britain Lost Its Power of Seduction


Aatish Taseer, New York Times, June 22


Excerpt:
As an unapologetic “anywhere,” I am in the grip of a nostalgia of my own. I find myself composing an elegy for that brief interregnum when Britain had ceased to rule but was nonetheless dazzlingly cosmopolitan. “European rule in Asian countries was based on force,” Arthur Koestler wrote in “The Lotus and the Robot,” “but its cultural influence was not.” He added, “We ruled by rape, but influenced by seduction.” As Britain withdraws into itself, I cannot help feeling we are going to miss that last benign act of British power when the rape fell away, and seduction remained.

Our Real Immigration Problem


Bret Stephens, New York Times, June 21; original article contains links

Image from article, with caption: New American citizens at a naturalization ceremony in Los Angeles in March.

I prefer the window seat.

I like to idle away time on flights trying to guess where and what I’m flying over, without the benefit of the map. I’m hypnotized by the red-beige-brown carpet of California desert; mesmerized by the unbroken wilderness of northern Maine; awed by the peaks and valleys of the Cascades; calmed by the serenity of the Great Lakes.

And I draw a political conclusion: America is vast, largely empty and often lonely. Roughly 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas, covering just 3 percent of the overall landmass. We have a population density of 35 people per square kilometer — as opposed to 212 for Switzerland and 271 for the U.K.

We could use some more people. Make that a lot more.

That’s a point worth bearing in mind in the larger immigration debate unfolding in Congress. The Trump administration’s policy of forcibly separating migrant Latin American children from their parents was a moral outrage that, had it not been belatedly terminated on Wednesday, would have taken its place in the annals of American ignominy.

It was also a moral outrage that concealed a political folly. As of this writing, House Republicans are flailing in their efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. That’s just as well since, as the Cato Institute’s David Bier points out, even the more moderate of the two G.O.P. bills would have cut overall legal immigration.

But that means we still need real immigration reform, and not simply as an act of decency toward so-called Dreamers brought to this country as children by their undocumented parents. America’s immigration crisis right now is that we don’t have enough immigrants.

Consider some facts.

First: The U.S. fertility rate has fallen to a record low. In May, The Times reported that women “had nearly 500,000 fewer babies than in 2007, despite the fact that there were an estimated 7 percent more women in their prime childbearing years.” That’s a harbinger of long-term, Japanese-style economic decline.

Second: Americans are getting older. In 2010 there were more than 40 million Americans over the age of 65. By 2050 the number will be closer to 90 million, or an estimated 22.1 percent of the population. That won’t be as catastrophic as Japan, where 40.1 percent of people will be over 65. But remember: We’ve only avoided Japan’s demographic fate so far by resisting its longstanding anti-immigration policies.

Third: The Federal Reserve has reported labor shortages in multiple industries throughout the country. That inhibits business growth. Nor are the shortages only a matter of missing “skills”: The New American Economy think tank estimates that the number of farm workers fell by 20 percent between 2002 and 2014, accounting for $3 billion a year in revenue losses.

Fourth: Much of rural or small-town America is emptying out. In hundreds of rural counties, more people are dying than are being born, according to the Department of Agriculture. The same Trumpian conservatives who claim to want to save the American heartland from the fabled Latin American Horde are guaranteeing conditions that over time will turn the heartland into a wasteland.

Fifth: The immigrant share (including the undocumented) of the U.S. population is not especially large: About 13.5 percent, high by recent history but below its late 19th century peak of 14.8 percent. In Israel, the share is 22.6 percent; in Australia, 27.7 percent, according to O.E.C.D. data, another indicator of the powerful correlation between high levels of immigration and sustained economic dynamism.

Finally, immigrants — legal or otherwise — make better citizens than native-born Americans. More entrepreneurial. More church-going. Less likely to have kids out of wedlock. Far less likely to commit crime. These are the kind of attributes Republicans claim to admire.

Or at least they used to, before they became the party of Trump — of his nativism, demagoguery, and penchant for capricious cruelty. It was nice to hear Republican legislators decry the family separation policy. But there’s no sugarcoating the fact that a plurality of Republicans, 46 percent, favored it, while only 32 percent were opposed, according to an Ipsos poll commissioned by the Daily Beast.

This isn’t a party that’s merely losing its policy bearings. It’s one that’s losing its moral sense. If anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools, then opposition to immigration is the conservatism of morons. It mistakes identity for virtue, entitlement for merit, geographic place for moral value. In a nation of immigrants, it’s un-American.

I’ll be accused of wanting open borders. Subtract terrorists, criminals, violent fanatics and political extremists from the mix, and I plead guilty to wanting more-open borders. Come on in. There’s more than enough room in this broad and fruitful land of the free.

Looking for work? From San Jose to Charleston, these are the 10 best markets for jobs


Charisse Jones, USA TODAY

Unemployment reached an 18-year low last month, slipping to 3.8%. But for those who are still searching, some cities have better prospects than others.
That's the word from Zippia, a San Mateo, California-based job search site, which used data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics to rank the top job markets in the U.S. based on how much local wages rose, unemployment dipped as well as their current jobless rate. 

"These metro areas are home to growing, well-paying jobs,'' Chris Kolmar, Zippia's head of marketing, said in an emailed statement. "These are the metros that have seen bigger decreases in unemployment and increases in wages than competing metros.''
The best spots for jobs are:   

1) San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California

Number of Employed: 1,089,070
Jobless rate: 2.4%
Annual mean wage: $78,990

2) San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, California

Number of Employed: 116,630
Jobless rate: 2.6%
Annual mean wage: $48,740

3) Odessa, Texas

Number of Employed: 68,280
Jobless rate: 2.8%
Annual mean wage: $47,160

4) Midland, Texas

Number of Employed: 88,270
Jobless rate: 2.1%
Annual mean wage: $53,190

5) Charleston-North Charleston, South Carolina

Number of Employed: 336,560
Jobless rate: 2.3%
Annual mean wage: $44,500

6) Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, Virginia

Number of Employed: 69,370
Jobless rate: 2.9%
Annual mean wage: $42,960

7) Florence, South Carolina

Number of Employed: 84,850
Jobless rate: 3.2%
Annual mean wage: $41,010

8) Ann Arbor, Michigan

Number of Employed: 213,990
Jobless rate: 2.8%
Annual mean wage: $56,160


9) Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa

Number of Employed: 88,160
Jobless rate: 2.7%
Annual mean wage: $41,450

10) Roanoke, Virginia

Number of Employed: 152,640
Jobless rate: 2.9%
Annual mean wage: $43,650

Beyond Trump’s separation of migrant families lies a real border crisis that is proving bigger than the presidency


David Nakamura, "Beyond Trump’s separation of migrant families lies a real border crisis that is proving bigger than the presidency" -- The Debrief: An occasional series offering a reporter’s insights, Washington Post, June 23

Image from article, with caption: Volunteers walk dozens of women and their children, many fleeing poverty and violence in Central America, to a relief center following their release from Customs and Border Protection on June 22, 2018, in McAllen, Tex. 

Did President Trump manufacture a border crisis where none existed?

That’s the argument his critics have made over the past week in the wake of an international uproar over the Trump administration’s now-reversed decision to separate immigrant families. The rate of illegal border crossings remains historically low, said immigrant advocates, who accused the president of intentionally sowing chaos to put Democrats on the defensive over immigration and rally his conservative base.

But behind the images of frightened children housed in cage-like detention facilities lies a real and intractable crisis that has received less political attention: The dramatic surge over the past half-decade of families and children fleeing Central America, part of an unprecedented worldwide migration phenomenon that has overwhelmed international support systems and scrambled global politics.

Last week, the United Nations Refugee Agency released an annual report that cited a record-high 68.5 million migrants, including 25 million refugees, pouring out of places as far-flung as Syria, Myanmar, Congo and Venezuela. Analysts cited war, economic hardship, unstable governments and climate change to suggest the unprecedented displacement is the new normal and bound to get worse — with no clear international road map over how to address the phenomenon.

Growing anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe and the United States has led countries to pursue hard-line policies and offer less support to refu­gee programs operated by the United Nations. Given those political constraints, analysts suggested, the uncontrolled movement of desperate populations has become a much bigger problem than what can be solved by a U.S. president.

“The institutions, internationally and nationally, are wholly unequipped to deal with the challenge,” said Robert Muggah, co-founder of the Igarapé Institute, a Brazil-based think tank. “In a way, the U.S. and Canada have been sheltered a long time from these kinds of challenges. But now I think they are starting to feel the level of crises are reaching such a peak that it’s forcing them to confront the brittleness and fragility of the immigration system. How long before the system breaks or the political will is mustered to respond to the challenge?”

In the United States, the federal government’s inadequate response to the Central American migrants has now resulted in two political imbroglios. The first came in 2014, when the Obama administration disregarded warnings signs and was caught unprepared for a surge of unaccompanied minors and families with children.

Thousands slept on concrete floors at Border Patrol stations in Texas as the government scrambled to find shelters for them.

Veterans of the Obama White House recall their raw apprehension after the initial scramble to deal with the humanitarian emergency gave way to a dawning realization of the sheer scale of what was happening. By the end of 2014, nearly 140,000 children and families had crossed the border from Mexico without authorization — the vast majority coming from the gang-violence-plagued nations of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, known as the “Northern Triangle.”

“There is the immediate political crisis, the images flashing on CNN,” said Amy Pope, who helped coordinate the administration’s response as a deputy homeland security adviser at the White House. “But then you have what’s actually behind it all. There was no sign that was going away.”

It hasn’t gone away. The Obama administration attempted to mount a broad response, including a $4 billion emergency aid package from Congress for additional shelters, $750 million in economic assistance for the Northern Triangle countries, closer border coordination with Mexico and the personal attention of Vice President Joe Biden, who traveled to the region. But by President Barack Obama’s last year, the total arrests of Central Americans at the border had surpassed the 2014 figures.

Those figures, after dipping at the start of Trump’s tenure, are on pace to approach all-time highs again this year. Over the first eight months of fiscal 2018, nearly 91,500 Central American families have been apprehended, part of a broader border surge that has threatened to undermine the president, ahead of the midterm elections, on his key campaign promise to curb illegal immigration.

Experts said that while overall border arrests have remained far lower than during the peak rates of the 1990s and early 2000s, the shift in the makeup of the immigrants — from lone Mexican men seeking work toward Central American families fleeing violence — has complicated Washington’s challenge and left the federal government without adequate tools to respond.

“When you’re looking down the barrel of gun, you take your chances and head north,” said Kevin Appleby, a senior director at the Center for Migration Studies of New York. “The forces pushing them, that are making them willing to risk their lives, are much stronger than anything Trump can come up with” as a deterrent.

Trump aides said his family separation policy was aimed at setting a strong deterrent. But his administration, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, have largely overlooked the more systemic problems of gang violence, domestic abuse and economic hardship in the poorly governed Central American countries.

Washington has tried and failed to pass significant immigration reform legislation several times over three decades, but it has done little to address the festering migration crisis in the Northern Triangle. The neglect comes even though Washington contributed to the disarray by supporting corrupt regimes in regional conflicts in the 1980s and the United States remains the most lucrative market for Central America’s drug cartels.

“The backyard of U.S. is not seen as a priority,” said Manuel Orozco, a migration expert at the Dialogue, a think tank on Latin American issues. “How do you raise attention to this problem? We’ve been hesitant to look into the humanitarian reality. This is it.”

Over the past week, even as bipartisan pressure mounted on Trump to reverse the family separation policy, a partisan debate broke out over whether the media had devoted comparable coverage to the Central American crisis under Obama as it did with Trump.

Conservatives argued that Obama had gotten a pass on the kind of emotionally freighted media reaction that marked Trump’s handling of the situation. A photograph of immigrant children sleeping on the floor of a detention facility that went viral online among liberals accusing Trump of being callous turned out to be from the 2014 border crisis.

Liberals countered that Trump, unlike Obama, had acted with intentional malice, magnifying the problem by essentially orphaning children who had no certainty of being reunited with their parents. The children sleeping on the floors in 2014 were unaccompanied minors who reported to border stations without adults.

But some veterans of the immigration fight said the fierce backlash over Trump’s tactics was predictable — a hard lesson for a president who is learning, as Obama did before him, how difficult it will be to unilaterally impose his will on immigration laws.

“This is more like trench warfare than it is shock and awe,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports lower immigration levels. “It is more difficult and a lot slower than people would like.”

Where Migrant Children Are Being Held Across the U.S.


By SARAH ALMUKHTAR, JUGAL K. PATEL, DEREK WATKINS and KAREN YOURISH, New York Times, June 21, 2018

[pink] States with shelters [brown] Locations of known shelters

The more than 2,300 children who were separated from their parents while crossing the Southwest border in recent weeks have been sent to shelters and other temporary housing across the United States.

The shelters are part of a system, shown [above], overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, that was originally established to provide temporary housing for children entering the country without parents.

The system has an estimated 100 shelters in 17 states. The Department of Health and Human Services has not indicated which of these shelters the recently separated children were sent to, but state and local officials have confirmed that some were sent as far as New York, Oregon, California and Florida.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said on Wednesday that 350 migrant children separated from their parents by federal immigration officials had come through a center in Harlem.

The shelter locations above were compiled using information from state agencies and nongovernmental organizations.

Note: Some minors are also placed into foster care. Those locations are not shown on the map.

Additional work by Jasmine C. Lee and Jeremy White.

***

Roger Cohen, "Trump the European Nationalist Puts America Last," New York Times; original article contains links and iustrations

ATHENS — President Trump, in concert with several European leaders, including those of Hungary, Poland, Austria and Italy, is intent on dehumanizing immigrants and refugees. The aim is to equate them with terrorists and criminals ready to “infest” — Trump’s word — American and European civilization, defined as a threatened white Judeo-Christian preserve.

It’s a consistent policy buttressed by insinuation and lies about the supposed threat, and designed to manipulate fear and nationalism as election-winning emotions in a time of rapid technological change, large migrant flows and uncertainty. Vermin infest, not humans.

Every utterance of Trump on immigration is meant to conflate immigration with danger. This is a direct repudiation of America’s distinguishing essence — its constant reinvention through immigrant churn.

The immigrant brings violence. The immigrant brings terror. The immigrant’s humanity is lesser or nonexistent. These are tropes about “the other” whose capacity to galvanize mobs, and wreak havoc, was proved in the first half of the 20th century. Trump does not hesitate to use them.

Nor does Viktor Orban, the right-wing Hungarian leader, who has said that “every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk.” The Hungarian parliament has just passed legislation that would throw people in jail for providing assistance to asylum seekers and migrants.

It’s known as the “Stop Soros” law, a reflection of Orban’s obsession with the liberalizing work of the Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish. Orban’s propagandists have worked hard to whip up a frenzy over the “cosmopolitan” designs of this “speculator.” From here to words like “infest” is but a short distance, a quick sprint from 1933 to 2018.

Matteo Salvini, the rightist Italian interior minister who has turned away two rescue ships carrying more than 850 migrants since taking office this month, is pursuing a similar objective. Before taking office, he said Italy was packed with “drug dealers, rapists, burglars,” whom he wants to send home. The portrayal of Mexican migrants as “rapists” was, of course, a takeoff point for the Trump campaign in 2015.

It is critical to see Trump as a part of this wider phenomenon. One may debate the reasons for the phenomenon: the destabilizing impact of globalization on Western democracies; stagnant middle-income wages; growing inequality; fear of an automated future; the sheer scale of current migration, with some 68.5 million refugees or internally displaced people in the world; the failure of the United States or Europe to enact coherent immigration policies; the sense of vulnerability that jihadist terrorism since 2001 has propagated; the resultant spread of phobia about Islam; the ease of mob mobilization through fear-mongering and scapegoating on social media.

In the end it does not matter which factors weight most. What matters is to recognize that Trump is strong because of a global nationalist lurch; that his feral instincts make him dangerous; and that he may well win a second term, just as Orban has now won four terms.

To ridicule Trump will achieve little absent a compelling social and economic alternative that addresses anxiety. The Democratic Party, for now, is nowhere near that.

Eighteen months into a presidency during which Trump has shown contempt for the truth, Republican support for him is overwhelming. The fact that this is shameful does not make it any less politically significant. The zero-tolerance border policy that left more than 2,300 children separated from their parents — a policy Trump has now rescinded after coming under enormous pressure — had broad backing until children’s desperate cries delivered what no atrophied Republican conscience could summon: moral revulsion.

Trump likes to go for the jugular. He sees opportunity in a Europe that is split down the middle between nations like Hungary and Poland that make no attempt to sugarcoat their anti-immigrant nativism and states like Germany that have not forgotten that the pursuit of racially and religiously homogeneous societies lay at the core of the most heinous crimes of the last century.

In this split, Orban and his ilk are in the ascendancy. In fact, Orban is the most formidable politician in Europe today. It’s no coincidence that Trump called him last weekend. Their aims overlap.

Nor is it a coincidence that Trump tweeted this week that “Crime in Germany is way up” and that allowing immigrants in “all over Europe” has “strongly and violently changed their culture.”

Let’s put this bluntly: Trump (whose stats on German crime were wrong) backs Orban against Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in the continuing bid to make racism and xenophobia the new normal of Western societies.

Le Monde, the French daily, had a banner headline on its front page this week: “The U.S. President Is Indifferent to Human Rights.” It’s true, of course; we’ve known that for a while. In fact, Le Monde was being charitable. Trump is hostile to human rights.

There are many flashpoints around the world today. But the greatest danger is within. A two-term Trump presidency would likely corrode American institutions and values to the point at which they could scarcely be resurrected. Then, even the screams of traumatized immigrant children torn from their parents may fall on deaf ears.

***
Megan Cerullo, "Trump-autographed photos of people killed by undocumented immigrants at White House event for ‘Angel Families," New York Daily News

A White House event Friday honoring people who’ve been killed by undocumented immigrants featured photos of the victims — all of which were autographed by President Trump.

Trump highlighted the so-called “Angel Families” in an attempt to shift the narrative around his “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has sparked outrage for separating more than 2,000 immigrant children from their families.

“We’re gathered today to hear directly from the American victims of illegal immigration,” Trump said.

“You know, you hear the other side, you never hear this side.”

"These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones. The word 'permanently' being the word that you have to think about. Permanently — they're not separated for a day or two days, these are permanently separated because they were killed by criminal illegal aliens," he said.

Trump accused his opponents of “burying” the families’ stories. ‘’

Image from article, with caption: President Donald Trump speaks on immigration in the South Court Auditorium, next to the White House on June 22, 2018 in Washington, DC, next to people holding posters of people allegedly killed by illegal immigrants.

“These are the stories that Democrats and people that are weak on immigration, they don’t want to discuss, they don’t want to hear, they don’t want to see, they don’t want to talk about,” he said.

The event had “Angel Parents” standing on stage against a backdrop emblazoned with the phrases “Protect Our Communities” and “Secure Our Borders,” holding photographs of 11 deceased relatives, which bore Trump’s autograph in bold marker.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the President signed the photos or if the families had asked him to sign them.

Trump used the occasion to tout his immigration policies — insisting that the families’ losses will not have been for nothing.

Image from article, with caption: The News' front page for Saturday, 23, 2018.

“We will secure our borders, and we will make sure that they’re properly taken care of,” he said.

He insisted that illegal immigrants commit violent crimes at a far higher rate than U.S. citizens, despite several studies that have found the opposite. "You hear it's like they're better people than what we have, than our citizens. It's not true," he said.

He also griped about the lack of uproar over the mayor of San Diego’s alleged warning to residents about an imminent ICE raid, saying there should be far more outrage.

“And what are they going to do about looking at her, by the way? I've been asking this question now for four weeks. She can do that?” Trump fumed.

However it was Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, a Democrat, who had issued the warning, not San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican.

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Julie Turkewitz and Jose A. Del, "Why Are Parents Bringing Their Children on Treacherous Treks to the U.S. Border?" New York Times, June 22; original article contains additional illustrations

President Trump hopes to deter the flow of migrants into the United States, but near the busy border crossing in Arizona, some said that the threat of separation from their children would not deter them.


Image from article, with caption: Miriam, a Guatemalan asylum seeker with her son Franco at Casa Alitas, a private shelter that provides temporary housing in Tucson, Ariz.


TUCSON, Ariz. — When Luis Cruz left behind his wife, four of their children and the house he’d built himself, he’d heard that American officials might split him from his son, the one child he took with him. But earlier this month, the two of them set out from Guatemala anyway.

The truth, he said this week, moments after they arrived at a cream-colored migrant shelter in Tucson, was that he would rather be apart from his child than face what they had left behind. “If they separate us, they separate us,” said Mr. Cruz, 41. “But return to Guatemala? This is something my son cannot do.”

For years, children and parents caught crossing the nation’s southern border have been released into the United States while their immigration cases were processed, the result of a hard-fought legal settlement designed to keep children from spending long months in federal detention. In the eyes of the Trump administration, this practice has served as an open invitation for people like Luis Cruz, and has played a major role in driving thousands of families across the border with Mexico.

Mr. Trump’s newest immigration policies — first an effort to separate families crossing the border, and now an effort to change the legal settlement on migrant family detention — represent an aggressive effort to rescind that invitation, one that has plunged the nation into a debate about the limits of its generosity.

But interviews at shelters and passage points along both sides of the border this week, as well as an examination of recent immigration numbers, suggest that even with tightened restrictions on families, it’s going to be difficult for the president to stanch the flow.

Though it’s impossible to know yet whether the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” crackdown on illegal border crossers will have a significant deterrent effect, one thing was clear this week at the Arizona-Mexico border: Many families — especially those from countries in Central America plagued by gang violence and ruined economies — are making the calculation that even separation or detention in the United States is better than the situation at home.

“Why would you undertake such a dangerous journey?” said Magdalena Escobedo, 32, who works at the migrant shelter here in Tucson, called Casa Alitas. “When you’ve got a gun to your head, people threatening to rape your daughter, extort your business, force your son to work for the cartels. What would you do?”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April announced a policy of prosecuting all illegal border crossers, yet federal agents caught nearly 52,000 people at the border in May, marking a steady rise in illegal entries after a sharp decline during the first year of Mr. Trump’s administration. More than 250,000 migrants had been arrested this year as of late May, according to data by United States Customs and Border Protection; that number is close to the total number arrested in all of 2017, about 311,000.

Casa Alitas, a low-slung building down a dusty street in Tucson, takes in families who’ve presented themselves to border officials to ask for asylum. Once they’re processed at immigration facilities, authorities drop them off here for a meal and a shower before they head off to stay with friends or relatives and wait for their day in court.

On Thursday, men like René Pérez, 40, who made it into the United States with his son this week, said he was well aware that they might have been separated or placed in custody. “If it happens, it happens,” said Mr. Pérez.

Across the border in the Mexican town of Nogales, many parents preparing to cross the border said temporary separation from their children in the United States would be better than facing the violence back home.

Pancho Olachea Martin, a medic, took a group of Central American asylum seekers to a shelter in Nogales.

“I’d rather accept that, to know that my son is safe,” said Lisbeth de la Rosa, 24, who was waiting in line to enter the United States with her 4-year-old son.

“It’s worth it,” said Lidia Rodríguez-Barrientos, 36, standing with her 9-year-old daughter. “Why? Because we’re afraid to go back.”

What has guided much of border detention policy in recent years is a 1997 agreement in the case Flores v. Reno, in which the federal government was barred from detaining migrant children, save for a short period and under certain conditions. The agreement was interpreted later to include children traveling with their families.

Unwilling to separate young migrants from the parents traveling with them, both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations arrived at the policy of releasing families while they awaited immigration proceedings—though Obama administration officials did so only after having been successfully sued over their policy of holding families together in detention.

Critics, including Mr. Trump, have long said that allowing migrants to go free while their immigration cases are pending encourages parents to enter the United States with children, and some conversations bear that out.

“This is the reason I brought a minor with me,” said Guillermo T., 57, a construction worker who recently arrived in Arizona. Facing unemployment at home in Guatemala, he decided to head north; he had been told that bringing his 16-year-old daughter would assure passage. He asked that only his first named be used to avoid consequences with his immigration case.

“She was my passport,” he said of his daughter.

The Trump administration is asking for changes to the Flores settlement that would allow officials to detain children with their families for longer than the short period allowed under the agreement. Lawyers for the Obama administration already asked for changes to that settlement and were denied. In any case, it’s unclear if that will stop people from coming.

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a global fellow at the Wilson Center who has interviewed hundreds of Central American migrants in the field, said that they are primarily motivated to leave their countries by violence and lack of economic opportunities, phenomena which she described as closely connected.

She said these migrant families choose the United States because they often have networks in the country already and know that there are many job opportunities. “There are push and pull factors. The push factors are the lack of economic opportunities and the security problems in their countries. It’s a mix of these conditions. The pull factors are of course the jobs and the families.”

Even with steep drops in the number of recorded murders in the past year, El Salvador and Honduras, the home countries of many migrants, are still among the most dangerous countries in the world. Poverty is hammering away at livelihoods in much of Central America, and for some, the decision to leave is a gamble on a better life.

For others, it’s a matter of saving the one they have.

On Thursday, federal officials dropped Mr. Cruz and his 16-year-old son, also named Luis, at Casa Alitas. Both wore black, despite the southwestern heat, and inside, they sat at a table covered with a cloth of bright sunflowers.

They eagerly consumed big bowls of soup before explaining why they had come.

The elder Mr. Cruz, a lemon and orange grove worker, had hoped to live his life in his home state of Suchitepéquez. Then in late May, his son was approached twice by a gang who demanded he join them, flashing a gun and urging him to commit his first extortion. “They kill you if you don’t obey,” said Mr. Cruz.

On June 3, the pair left for the United States, and then presented themselves at the border to ask for asylum. After lunch at the shelter, the younger Mr. Cruz pulled a piece of paper from his pocket, unfolding it to reveal a letter his school director had written before he left — a note they hoped would be the evidence they needed to win asylum in the United States.

“The student had to withdraw himself from school due to violence and gang persecution,” she wrote. “He decided to move to save his life.”

Julie Turkewitz reported from Tucson and Jose A. Del Real reported from Nogales, Mexico. Miriam Jordan contributed reporting from Los Angeles and Frances Robles from Miami.