We Still Are Not Controlling the Borders

Kevin D. Williamson

Donald Trump rose to political power waving the bloody shirt of Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant from Mexico, one who already had been convicted of a raft of felonies and deported five times. Donald Trump promised he would put a stop to that.

He hasn’t.

The outrage over Steinle’s death was understandable — and, worse, the man who killed her, José Inez García Zárate, was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges and, incredibly enough, even (on appeal) of the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, though he indisputably 1) is a felon, and 2) was in possession of a gun at the time he shot it and killed Kathryn Steinle. Expect to hear a good deal less about the death of 16-year-old Franklin Mercado, who was stabbed to death in what police believe was a gang retaliation and dumped in a park in Dallas.

Among those charged in his death is 25-year-old Jonathan Alexander Gonzalez-Rosales, a gangster from El Salvador, a member of something the U.S. government designates a “transnational criminal organization,” illegally present in the United States, known to law enforcement, and under a removal order.

See if you can spot the weak link: In 2017, Gonzalez-Rosales appeared in a San Antonio court on unrelated charges and came to the attention of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). They filed an “immigration detainer” and issued him a notice to appear. He was released from ICE custody in February 2018 after posting bond, and his hearing was set for July. Of course, he did not show up for his hearing. Of course, the authorities lost track of him. Of course, nothing was done until he had murdered a 16-year-old.

He was picked up Tuesday in Dallas on the murder warrant. He’ll be in ICE custody until he is turned over to Dallas. In theory, he will be deported after the murder case is resolved. Don’t be surprised if he is right back in the middle of another mess on our side of the border.

The Trump administration cannot be blamed for a judge letting Gonzalez-Rosales out on bond. But the director of ICE works for him — or would, if there were one. Like so many positions in the Trump administration, the director of ICE — the agency charged with implementing was what supposed to be Trump’s top policy priority — is only there in an “acting” capacity. The Trump administration finds it hard to keep good help, in part because it expects its senior officials to put on a Vegas-lounge-act version of The Death of Stalin every time they appear in public, ritually praising His Excellency the Big Kahuna, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas, etc., nervously looking around so as not to be the first who stops applauding.

These things matter. The acting secretary of the Navy has just “resigned” after the unseemly spectacle of his flying all the way to Gaum in order to throw a hissy fit, getting on the loudspeakers of a Navy ship, and screaming out a profanity-laced denunciation of that vessel’s recently dismissed captain, Brett Crozier, who was canned after complaining about the fact that his superiors were sitting on their thumbs while coronavirus raged through his ship, needlessly endangering his sailors — who cheered him heartily as he was led away. The new guy called the former commander “stupid” and “naïve.” On loudspeakers, this was, for the benefit of the crew. The Navy took the captain’s advice but fired him, anyway, for shaming them into action.

Captain Crozier recently has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, had his job because the previous secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, was pushed out after he criticized the Trump administration for soliciting special treatment for a former SEAL demoted after grotesque misconduct but, happily for him, acquitted on the murder and attempted murder charges he was brought up on. That was the double sin of criticizing the president and contradicting the Fox News line.

(Former ICE director Thomas Homan’s retirement gig? Fox News.)

Trump’s apologists often speak and write as though the complaints against him were only a matter of etiquette — the tweets and the boobishness and the boorishness and the endless stream of petty lies (and non-petty ones, too), but the real complaint is that Captain Chaos is a lot better at Twitter than he is at governance. That is apparent in big, headline-grabbing issues, most prominent among them his administration’s beef-witted response to the coronavirus epidemic. It is a truly epic collection of blockheads indeed among whom Peter Navarro, as witless a crank as American public life has to offer, stands out for his foresight on the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak.

But it is apparent in the small print, too, including a little police item about a dead teenager in Dallas.

There’s a pattern: Trump can snipe and troll about the “Chinese virus,” but he still feels obliged to suck up to Chairman Xi at every opportunity. He can keen and sniff about the “bad hombres” illegally present in our country, but they slip through the fingers of his administration as easily as they did Barack Obama’s. Trump’s is a rhetorical presidency.

There are show horses and there are workhorses. Trump is a show horse.

Some show.

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