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Tomgram: Todd Miller, The Great Mexican Wall Deception

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

These days, we're in what seems like an election campaign of one. It's Trump vs. Trump. Does Hillary even exist? There's conflicting evidence on that. If Trump loses, I suspect we'll all be able to say that never has a candidate trounced himself quite so efficiently. All his opponent evidently has to do is not give press conferences, stay out of the spotlight, and wait for Trump to tromp Trump.

At the moment, his polling figures are looking increasingly dismal and he's shaken up his campaign team (yet again!) -- the Ukrainians having lost out to Breitbart News and American "nationalism." Still, The Donald rumbles on. He's a figure the usual journalistic crew is essentially incapable of covering. For that, you need a coterie of cartoonists and, of course, New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz.

Only recently, for instance, The Donald gave a speech in which he suggested that a new Cold-War-style "ideological screening test" for immigrants be developed to keep... well, you know whom out. He's referred to the process he imagines putting in place as "extreme vetting." The goal, he says, is to ban those "who support bigotry and hatred" (of whom he perhaps feels we already have our fill without the aid of immigrants) and, above all, those "who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law." He hasn't yet suggested just what that screening test might be like, but TomDispatch has a few obvious suggestions.

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The first question for any prospective immigrant would surely have to be: "Do you belong to ISIS?" The answer to that one will obviously eliminate many of the most dangerous potential infiltrators. You'd then follow up with the surefire extreme-vetting question: "Do you believe that Sharia law should be imposed on the United States?" And if that doesn't eliminate the rest of the potential Islamic terrorists, you'd finish off the process with a trick question. Best suggestion at present: "Death to America: Yea or Nay?"

Those who pass will obviously be ready to receive their visas and, as The Donald so movingly puts it, "embrace a tolerant American society."

Let me just add that Trump supporters shouldn't feel complete despair if, in the course of this election campaign, The Donald goes down in electoral flames. As TomDispatch regular Todd Miller suggests in his latest report from the U.S.-Mexican border, when Hillary Clinton emerges from the shadows to take the oath of office, she will find herself presiding over far more Trumpian American borderlands than many of us might assume. And for that we'll have to offer thanks not only to the inspiration of Trump but to the actions of two other figures on the American political landscape: Bill and Hillary Clinton. Tom

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No Need to Build The Donald's Wall, It's Built
Trump's America Already Exists on the Border
By Todd Miller

At the federal courthouse, Ignacio Sarabia asks the magistrate judge, Jacqueline Rateau, if he can explain why he crossed the international boundary between the two countries without authorization. He has already pleaded guilty to the federal misdemeanor commonly known as "illegal entry" and is about to receive a prison sentence. On either side of him are eight men in the same predicament, all still sunburned, all in the same ripped, soiled clothes they were wearing when arrested in the Arizona desert by agents of the U.S. Border Patrol.

Once again, the zero tolerance border enforcement program known as Operation Streamline has unfolded just as it always does here in Tucson, Arizona. Close to 60 people have already approached the judge in groups of seven or eight, their heads bowed submissively, their bodies weighed down by shackles and chains around wrists, waists, and ankles. The judge has handed out the requisite prison sentences in quick succession -- 180 days, 60 days, 90 days, 30 days.

On and on it goes, day-in, day-out. Like so many meals served in fast-food restaurants, 750,000 prison sentences of this sort have been handed down since Operation Streamline was launched in 2005. This mass prosecution of undocumented border crossers has become so much the norm that one report concluded it is now a "driving force in mass incarceration" in the United States. Yet it is but a single program among many overseen by the massive U.S. border enforcement and incarceration regime that has developed during the last two decades, particularly in the post-9/11 era.

Sarabia takes a half-step forward. "My infant is four months old," he tells the judge in Spanish. The baby was, he assures her, born with a heart condition and is a U.S. citizen. They have no option but to operate. This is the reason, he says, that "I'm here before you." He pauses.

"I want to be with my child, who is in the United States."

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It's clear that Sarabia would like to gesture emphatically as he speaks, but that's difficult, thanks to the shackles that constrain him. Rateau fills her coffee cup as she waits for his comments to be translated into English.

Earlier in April 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, still in the heat of his primary campaign, stated once again that he would build a massive concrete border wall towering 30 (or, depending on the moment, 55) feet high along the 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexican border. He would, he insisted, force Mexico to pay for the $8 billion to $10 billion barrier. Repeatedly throwing such red meat into the gaping jaws of nativism, he has over these last months also announced that he would create a major "deportation force," repeatedly sworn that he would ban Muslims from entering the country (a position that he regularly revises), and most recently, that he would institute an "extreme vetting" process for foreign nationals arriving in the United States.

In June 2015, when he rode a Trump Tower escalator into the presidential campaign, among his initial promises was the building of a "great" and "beautiful" wall on the border. ("And no one builds walls better than me, believe me. I will do it very inexpensively. I will have Mexico pay for that wall.") As he pulled that promise out of a hat with a magician's flair, the actual history of the border disappeared. From then on in Election 2016, there was just empty desert and Donald Trump.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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