The passage of time hasn’t dimmed the passion John Walsh feels about hunting down the “bad guys” and the “dirt bags” who prey on children. For the 34th year since his son Adam was abducted in 1981, Walsh will be walking the halls of Congress, this time to lobby for the reauthorization of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which was signed into law in 2006 by President Bush to create a national sex offender registry.
The legislation is “stalled on the vine,” Walsh says. He’s not sure why or by whom, but promises “I’ll do my homework and find out who’s for and who’s against,” and buttonhole lawmakers who might find it hard to resist the man whose name is synonymous with crime fighting.
The longtime host of America’s Most Wanted and its successor show, The Hunt with John Walsh, was in Washington last week to promote his new gig as spokesman for the Justice Network, which features true-crime investigative programming, and every hour on the hour devotes 30 seconds to highlight a missing child, 30 seconds to help catch a most wanted fugitive, and 30 seconds to provide safety tips. Since its launch in January, the network claims that 35 fugitives have been apprehended and 27 missing children returned to their families.
Asked about Donald Trump’s charge that illegal immigrants from Mexico bring crime to the United States, Walsh called Trump “so wrong on the immigration problem,” noting by way of explanation, “He is one crazy bastard.” Perhaps that’s a term of affection in some quarters, because Walsh went on, “He’s a friend of mine, and whatever you think of Donald, he’s done a lot of charitable things in his life. He did a lot of fundraising for the center,” which is the Center for Missing and Exploited Children that Walsh founded after Adam, who was 7 years old at the time, was kidnapped outside a Sears Department store in a mall in Hollywood, Florida, where the family lived.
That’s the conundrum with Trump. Countless causes and people who he has helped are at pains to understand where Trump is coming from, or for that matter where he’s going, on immigration, and a lot of other things. “I call him a crazy bastard, but he got people thinking,” Walsh said, a rationalization that Trump uses, saying he thrust an important issue into the forefront of the campaign. So far it’s been mostly name-calling and fear-mongering. “When I see him, I’m going to tell him this country would not operate (without immigration). I’m in the horse world. I can’t get an American kid to work in my barn six days a week and muck stalls. … Our crops, the fruit would rot on the vine. He wants to send them (undocumented immigrants) in a Holocaust-type movement across the border. It is so ridiculous. His solutions are so outlandish, it’s embarrassing.”
Walsh has some ideas he’d like to share with his friend The Donald. One, many migrants from Mexico working in agriculture haven’t seen their family in years. Give them green cards so they can safely go back and forth across the border. Two, there are a lot of bad illegals. Find out who they are and put them in jail. Everybody else: “We’ll swab your mouth and if you’re not a felon, you can stay and work and you’ll be a citizen in five or six years.”
Walsh wants Trump to stop beating up on Mexican immigrants and recognize that people overstaying their visas are a bigger problem than people crossing over from Mexico.
Walsh’s proposed DNA database for immigrants may not be everybody’s idea of a solution, but the answer to him is not a wall, and it’s not mass deportation. “You can’t build a wall high enough. Even talking about deporting the people is a bad, bad joke,” says Walsh. “Somebody’s got to wake him up. You can’t build a wall. But he’s not a bad guy.” What Trump says on the campaign trail and what people who’ve known him over the years imagined he might say if he became a candidate are worlds apart. He’s one crazy bastard or one clever politician. Take your pick.