Earlier this month, President Trump signed a memorandum aimed to deploy the National Guard to the southern border. Citing a “drastic surge of illegal activity,” including some of the president’s most irresistible talking points — the threat of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), rampant immigration, opioids flowing into the country — the memo was the latest act in the rather surreal theater of Trump’s immigration policy.

“The Mexican border is very unprotected by our laws,” Trump asserted earlier this month, preceding the mobilization. “We have horrible, horrible and very unsafe laws in the United States, and we’re going to be able to do something about that, hopefully soon. We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States.”

When finally enacted, the move was received with lukewarm responses. Even without clear guidelines set out for National Guard personnel, Texas promptly deployed over 700 Guard soldiers to the border. New Mexico and Arizona quickly followed suit. California Governor Jerry Brown, who balked initially, eventually kowtowed to Trump’s demands after repeated thrashings on Twitter, including a presidential tweet that utilized the confusing and off-color term ‘breeding concept’ while criticizing sanctuary cities in The Golden State.

The truth is Trump’s deployment of the National Guard along the southern border is neither the rapid response to a budding emergency, nor an unprecedented and ‘military state’ maneuver by a sitting President. It is simply bad theater. It is President Trump returning to the lowest hanging fruit — desperate migrants and asylum seekers — where his strongman bravado can resonate without an interrupting voice of meaningful opposition.

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National Guard on Southern Border: Protection or Publicity Stunt?