Lankford: Trump should say migrants are coming here "for economic opportunity"

If you were watching Meet the Press this morning you probably noticed a big dose of “moderation” coming from Senator Jim Lankford (R-OK). When asked about the President’s characterizations of illegal aliens crossing the border during some recent speeches, Lankford indicated that he would prefer we don’t focus quite so much on the aspiring MS-13 pledges crossing the Rio Grande, but rather the larger number of people who were seeking “economic opportunity.” By that, I assume he means the ones coming here to illegally work at jobs for employers who aren’t supposed to be hiring them. (NBC News)


Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said Sunday that a “small percentage” of migrants seeking entry into the U.S. fit President Donald Trump’s characterization of the “worst” of society, insisting that a “vast majority” are doing so for economic opportunity.

“I would just say I would prefer the president would step out and say” that “a lot of these folks” are coming “for economic reasons,’ Lankford said on “Meet the Press.”

“They want to be able to flee into an area where they have greater economic opportunities.”

Lankford did at least admit that there are important security concerns to keep in mind. He pointed out the number of people DHS stops every month that are on the terror watch list or who already have prior convictions. He won a few more points for calling on protesters to stop demonizing law enforcement officials at the border. But in the end, he sees the job seekers as the majority of the flow.

Opposing Lankford, they had Senator Angus King (I-Maine) who insisted that many of the illegals are fleeing violence and seeking asylum.

“If you’re crossing the border illegally with no claim of asylum or refugee status, then that’s a crime, and we have a process for deportation,” King said. “People coming to claim asylum are not illegal immigrants.” Large numbers of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. have said they are fleeing violence in their home countries, not coming for economic reasons.

“These are almost entirely people coming from Central America, not Mexico,” King said, “and they are fleeing violence.”


King is trying to have his cake and eat it too. It’s true that you’re not an illegal alien if you come here requesting asylum, but that’s only true if you present yourself to officials at the border and formally request asylum. If you swim across the Rio Grande and get caught sneaking through a national park heading north and then claim that you were fleeing the gangs in your home country you’re still an illegal alien. It probably doesn’t do much for your asylum case, either.

As for Lankford… sure. He’s technically correct. The number of people who come here specifically intending to join a gang or smuggle drugs is probably significantly lower than those hoping to find a comfortable spot to settle and perhaps even find work. But if the two senators will excuse me for pointing this out, they’re missing the main point.

You realize that’s not Trump’s thing, right? No matter what the total numbers are, President Trump didn’t butter his bread by focusing on the number of people fleeing Central American cartels or looking for jobs. He fires up his base by pointing out the admittedly smaller number who show up here and begin causing mayhem. Asking him to change that tune after the band has been playing for this long is something of a lost cause. You might as well ask him to give up on building the wall.


If the Sunday shows want to trot these folks out to discuss the issue, perhaps the hosts could remind them of a few realities. Allow me to help:

  • If you cross the border without going through an immigration portal, you are in the country illegally and subject to detention and deportation.
  • If you cross the border illegally having already been caught and deported once you are subject to felony charges and imprisonment.
  • No sad story you have to tell the authorities about where you came from changes those first two facts.
  • If you come to an immigration portal and request asylum, you may have it granted to you but it’s going to take time. We are overwhelmed with cases and we don’t have enough border guard or judges. Please mention that fact to the Democrats who are supporting your cause.
  • If your request is denied, you have to go back home. Failure to do so makes you an illegal alien if you remain.
  • There are horrible conditions in many countries all around the world. The United States does not have the resources to take in everyone who comes from a bad situation. This is regrettable, but it’s true.
  • We have a method in place for you to become a citizen without demanding amnesty. It’s called naturalization. It’s a long, sometimes difficult process, but it’s worth it. And if you manage it we will welcome you with open arms as a new citizen.

Sadly, that’s not a conversation I expect to hear on Meet the Press, but hey… a guy can dream, can’t he?

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