The more President Donald J. Trump talks about the need for a steel wall on the U.S. border with México in response to a “crisis,” the less believable he and his supporters become.
In his first formal address to the nation from the Oval Office last Tuesday, Trump laid out an extremely weak case to bolster public support in his quest for $5.7 billion from Congress to build a wall he originally said México would pay for.
First, there is no crisis at the border. Undocumented immigration is at its lowest number in decades; U.S. travel advisories for travelers target states well within México’s interior (with the exception of a sliver of Tamaulipas state near the Texas border); and, the president’s so-called “humanitarian crisis” is of the Trump administration’s own making when they began to separate children from their parents who were legally seeking asylum.
In the days leading to Trump’s 9-minute, televised speech, Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials suggested that 4,000 “known or suspected” terrorists have been arrested at the southern border. However, those lies were unmasked by the media who noted the vast majority of that number were detained at airports and ports.
Other fact-challenged points Trump and his administration have raised is that undocumented immigrants are murderers, rapists and drug smugglers who intend to do harm to Americans. Trump paints the southern border as “a growing humanitarian and security crisis.”
While it is true that drugs do too much harm to Americans, a border wall does little to strangle the flow because the vast majority of illicit drugs are caught at legal checkpoints.
Yet, the president continues to insist that there is a crisis and that a steel wall is the only solution.
“This is a humanitarian crisis – a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” Trump said on television. “Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis, and they have refused to provide our brave border agents with the tools they desperately need to protect our families and our nation.”
The fact remains that border security relies on physical barriers, boots on the ground and high-tech surveillance to deter undocumented entry. Democrats have agreed to provide $1.7 billion for such efforts in federal spending legislation that the Republican-controlled Senate and House passed last month.
At the last minute, Trump refused to sign the spending bills and triggered a partial federal government shutdown that has affected 800,000 workers and their families. Up until the legislation was passed, the president never uttered a word about a need for billions of dollars for a border wall.
This comes from a president who has attempted to restrict legal immigration through ending family reunification, doing away with a visa lottery, and making the asylum procedure more difficult.
It would serve Trump and his followers well to remember the words of President Ronald Reagan who, in a 1980 Labor Day speech at Ellis Island, summed up the immigrant experience: “These families came here to work. They came to build. Others came to America in different ways, from other lands, under different, and often harrowing conditions, but this place symbolizes what they all managed to build, no matter where they came from or how they came or how much they suffered.
“They came to make America work.”