A convenient outrage

I’ve had enough of this cheap outrage at the border. Liberal Democrats with short memories are making spectacles of themselves.

When Barack Obama was president, these folks never cared about refugee families being separated at the border, people being whisked away into deportation proceedings without due process, children being housed in cages, toddlers having to play lawyer and defend themselves in immigration court, or allegations of physical abuse against children in the custody of U.S. immigration officials.

But now that Donald Trump is president, they can’t stop talking. The mistreatment of Latinos by this administration has become shorthand that allows Trump bashers to emphasize their main point: “We’re much better people than anyone who voted for this president.”

Consider the scene caused by Whoopi Goldberg on a recent episode of “The View.” When Judge Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News Host, accused Goldberg of having “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” the host shot back.

“Listen, I don’t have Trump derangement,” Goldberg shouted. “Let me tell you what I have. I’m tired of people starting a conversation with ‘Mexicans are liars and rapists.’”

Or listen to Sen. Elizabeth Warren discuss what she saw during a recent trip to a Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, Texas. Upon returning to Washington, she sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Warren wrote: “I was appalled by what I observed first hand, and I was shocked by the stories told by the people detained at these facilities.” She continued: “One man called out to me that he just wanted a shower — he said he’d gone six days without a shower or the opportunity to brush his teeth. Another man told me that his two children, aged 15 and 16, were being held separately in the other room.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad so many people on the Left are up in arms and moved to defend powerless and voiceless refugees who have their lives upended at the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. immigration officials.

But this outrage is awfully convenient. Today, liberal Democrats are sanctimonious. During the Obama years, they were silent.

Back then, they said nothing, heard nothing, saw nothing and admitted nothing. And they had plenty of excuses for Obama’s hardline at the border, his use of local police to enforce immigration law, his record number of deportations, his dumping of thousands of U.S.-born children into the foster care system after deporting their parents, etc.

Whenever I wrote about these things, Obama sycophants would say that he had no choice but to enforce the law, that Congress appropriated enforcement funds that needed to be spent, that the rule of law had to count for something, that the parents were at fault for putting their children in harm’s way by coming to the United States illegally etc.

Now, whenever anyone brings up the fact that — with his immigration crackdown — Trump seems to be stealing from Obama’s playbook, the former president’s defenders start splitting hairs.

It’s not the same, they say. Separating families at the border is much worse than separating them once they’ve settled in the interior, they claim. Trump taking children away from their parents and locking them up is much worse than Obama locking up children who showed up at the border as unaccompanied minors, they insist. There is a big difference between Trump carrying out a family separation policy, the expressed purpose of which is to discourage future migration, and Obama simply enforcing the law with family separation as an unintended consequence of that enforcement, they argue.

Each excuse was lamer and more desperate than the one before.

Now some Obama defenders are even going to the trouble of rewriting history. They insist that the reason they missed this story the first time around is because the number of Central American refugees that Obama dealt with was much smaller than the numbers facing Trump.

They have it completely backward. Trump is being rightly criticized for separating a little more than 2,500 families. In 2014, under Obama, more than 80,000 refugees from Central America — mostly women and children — streamed across the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas.

Four years ago, many of the people were mistreated — denied access to legal counsel, separated from their children, held indefinitely in detention facilities that were never intended to hold families, etc.

Most Americans, including many on the Left, didn’t care. Now, we’re supposed to believe, they suddenly do — just because there’s a different person in the White House?

I don’t buy it. For too many people, this is just politics. They didn’t care then, and they don’t care now.

Sadly, the ambivalence that Americans feel toward the suffering of the desperate and less fortunate who walk across along our southern border may be the only constant in this story.

Ruben Navarrette, a contributing editor to Angelus News, is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group, a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, a Daily Beast columnist, author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano,” and host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.”