On the Border, Little Enthusiasm for a Wall: ‘We Have Other Problems That Need Fixing’

Little Enthusiasm

COLUMBUS, N.M. — Just minutes from the border in rural New Mexico, the Borderland Cafe in the village of Columbus serves burritos and pizza to local residents, Border Patrol agents and visitors from other parts of the country seeking a glimpse of life on the frontier. The motto painted on the wall proclaims “Life is good in the Borderland.”

“This is the sleepiest little town you could think of,” said Adriana Zizumbo, 31, who was raised in Columbus and owns the cafe with her husband. “The only crisis we’re facing here is a shortage of labor. Fewer people cross the border to work than before, and Americans don’t want to get their hands dirty doing hard work.”

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President Trump has shut down part of the government over border security and his plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico, but based on her conversations with customers, Ms. Zizumbo said, people in Columbus oppose the idea of a wall by about a “90-to-10 margin.”

“Enough about the wall already,” she said. “We have other problems here that need fixing.”

Extending nearly 2,000 miles from southern Texas to a fence jutting out into the Pacific Ocean in San Diego, America’s border with Mexico is as long and as varied as the terrain. Remote spots in the desert like Columbus, a town of 1,600 people about 80 miles west of El Paso, are sleepily tranquil. In cities like El Paso and San Diego, the growing number of migrant families pushing for entry to the United States has generated crowds and controversy, with migrants packed into detention centers and bus stations, and clashes at the fences between rock-throwing immigrants and federal agents.

On Tuesday, when Mr. Trump made the case in a prime-time address that the nation is in the midst of an immigration crisis, The New York Times sent correspondents to the Mexico side of the border and to the four states on the United States side — California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas — and found few who shared the president’s sense of alarm.

The border has long been more than a barrier or a headline. It is the setting of a uniquely American story, a binational place of contradictions and commerce. One afternoon a few months ago, a Latino teenager walked through the bus station in the South Texas city of McAllen, a transit hub where hundreds of apprehended immigrants are dropped off daily by the authorities. The boy was not fresh from detention. He was a native Texan. He was visiting a relative and wore a black T-shirt correcting any misconceptions about his identity. It read “Relax Trump, I’m legal.”

That was the vibe along many parts of the border on Tuesday, ahead of Mr. Trump’s speech.

A cattle rancher in southern Arizona said he had traveled to Mexico a day earlier, and he saw no emergency. The lines were long — officials have shut down the number of ways people there can cross — but there were no signs of conflict or people pressing to get in.

“There is no border problem, except for ones we are causing,” said the rancher, who said he had not had any problems with illegal border crossers on his property and who asked not to be identified out of fear of retribution from strident supporters of Mr. Trump’s planned border wall. “There’s no need for a bigger wall. There is not a border crisis down here.”

Little Enthusiasm

Some of the worsening problems, some city officials have said, are a result of the federal government’s own management of the border. In El Paso and other cities in California and Arizona, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has in recent weeks released thousands of immigrants unannounced onto city streets, forcing city officials and migrant shelter operators to scramble to accommodate them.

“Nothing much happens, and that’s the way people like it,” said Mr. Haddad, 32.

Still, quiet Columbus hasn’t escaped the political turmoil over border policy: Ahead of the midterm elections in November, self-described militia members from around the country descended on the town to prepare for the arrival of a caravan of Central American migrants, then making its way up through Mexico.

“Honestly, these guys were kind of absurd, wearing camo and looking at their maps,” Ms. Zizumbo said. “They accomplished nothing, and now they’re gone. Maybe they’ll be back after Trump talks.”

Hours ahead of Mr. Trump’s address on Tuesday, Randy Shaw, 71, was outside the Borderland Cafe. He held a sign that read “Stop truth decay: Dump Trump.”

Mr. Shaw is from Wyoming, but spends winters in Columbus. “This whole crisis thing is Trump’s creation,” he said. “Don’t let him fool you.”

EXCLUSIVE-Retired U.S. military chiefs fight Trump trans ban

EXCLUSIVE-Retired

LONDON, Jan 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Four senior retired U.S. military officers on Tuesday blasted a legal ruling backing President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the armed forces as “wrong” ahead of a key decision from the country’s top court on Friday.

The officers said a ruling last week by a Washington appeals court in favour of a ban on transgender recruits was misguided and backed an earlier decision that such a policy would violate their constitutional rights.

“The D.C. Court of Appeals made an error when it lifted one of the injunctions that protect transgender members of our military,” said retired officers Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, Rear Admiral John Hutson, Major General Gale Pollock and Brigadier General Clara Adams-Ender.

“The need for an injunction protecting transgender people who serve their country remains precisely the same,” they said in a joint statement obtained exclusively by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In July 2017, Trump tweeted that transgender people would be banned from serving in the U.S. military, citing the “tremendous medical costs and disruption”.

Former defense secretary Jim Mattis last year proposed allowing trans individuals currently serving to remain.

However, new transgender recruits and trans servicemen and women who sought to transition after the ban took effect would be barred.

In its ruling, the Washington appeals court said the Mattis proposal did not represent a “blanket ban” on trans individuals.

But the retired chiefs said the rationale for the Mattis policy and the Trump tweets was “the same — politics, not military expertise — and courts should not be deferring to it”.

A 2016 RAND Corporation survey estimated that there were between 1,300 and 6,600 trans men and women on active duty in the 1.3 million-strong U.S. military.

“The Trump tweets and the Mattis policy take aim at the same people: troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, an independent research institute that focuses on LGBT+ people and the military.

EXCLUSIVE-Retired

“They ban the same thing: gender transition. They have the same effect: forcing transgender troops to live a lie and denying them medically necessary care.”

Other LGBT+ rights organisations echoed Belkin’s concerns.

The administration is “trying to package this as an entirely new policy, but all it does is what President Trump ordered: ban openly transgender people from bravely serving their country”, said Tara Borelli, counsel at Lambda Legal.

Ryan Thoreson, an LGBT+ researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “Wording the Mattis policy slightly differently doesn’t change the plain fact that this is and always has been a ban on transgender service.”

Under rules introduced by former U.S. President Barack Obama, the country’s military did not distinguish between trans men and women and other service personnel.

Americans Increasingly See The Government Shutdown As Serious

Americans Increasingly

More than four in 10 Americans now consider the partial government shutdown a very serious problem, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds.

Seventy-one percent of Americans now say they see the partial government shutdown as at least somewhat serious, a modest uptick from 62 percent last week and 61 percent at the beginning of the shutdown. The share who consider it very serious now stands at 42 percent, up from one-third last week.

The shift also means that concerns now surpass the public’s worries about last year’s brief January shutdown, which was seen as at least somewhat serious by only 64 percent of Americans in HuffPost/YouGov’s polling.

Twenty-three percent of Americans now say they’ve been affected in some way by the current shutdown or that they expect to be, up from 10 percent at the start of the shutdown. For some, that simply means living with the sense that their government isn’t working. But other responses were more specific. Several said they’d reconsidered visits to national parks or expressed looming concerns about tax season. (The White House has since announced that tax refunds will be paid regardless of the status of the shutdown.)

For many federal workers and their families, the shutdown has already had a serious financial impact, forcing some to max out credit cards or borrow money from relatives.

“My husband works for the government and is currently furloughed,” wrote one woman polled who said she was concerned for her family’s “immediate financial future” and that she disapproved of the role both congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump had played in the shutdown.

HuffPost readers: Are you affected by the government shutdown? Email us about it. If you’re willing to be interviewed, please provide a phone number.

Americans are 34 points more likely to disapprove than they are to approve of the way Congress has handled the shutdown. The public also disapproves of the performance of the congressional GOP, specifically (-29), and, by smaller margins, of Trump’s performance (-17) and congressional Democrats’ actions (-9); they’re about split on the performance of their own representatives (+2).

Americans Increasingly

The results appear to represent a modest reversion from the change seen in last week’s survey, although, as before, it’s unclear to what extent the movement reflects a genuine shift in opinion, rather than the kind of fluctuation inherent to tracking surveys.

In contrast with shutdowns from previous years, there’s so far been relatively little polling on this one, perhaps in part because its start coincided with Christmas and the new year.

An Ipsos/Reuters tracking poll finds that currently about half of Americans mostly blame Trump for the shutdown, with 32 percent naming congressional Democrats and 6 percent congressional Republicans. Another survey from Morning Consult, taken at the beginning of the shutdown, bore similar results, with 43 percent of voters saying Trump was most to blame, 31 percent pointing the finger at Democrats in Congress, and 7 percent naming the congressional GOP.

An Economist/YouGov poll taken over New Year’s also gave President Trump the plurality of the blame, and found that 40 percent of the public believe Trump should accept the Democrats’ current offer of $1.6 billion for border security, with just 24 percent saying Democrats should agree to spend $5 billion for a border wall. Another 19 percent said the two parties should meet somewhere in the middle.