With hubris, President Donald Trump went to El Paso, Texas to proclaim the “benefits” of the wall–as if he knows more about the situation than local officials and residents of this border city.
What’s worse, he did it through falsehoods and exaggerations. He trotted out his new campaign slogan, Finish the Wall, when its building hasn’t even begun. He failed to mention that the tentative funding agreement announced earlier this week only gives him $1.4 billion of the $5.7 billion he had been demanding for the wall.
Trump was “received” by the “March for Truth” led by former El Paso congressman, Beto O’Rourke, who is one of the potential contenders for the democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
O’Rourke and local officials from El Paso, in turn, have dismantled Trump’s arguments about the effectiveness of walls. O’Rourke declared that El Paso is “one of the safest cities in America — safe not because of walls but in spite of walls.” He added: “It is safe because we treat each other with dignity and respect.”
But Trump, who essentially launched his re-election campaign this week in El Paso on the theme of immigration, continued spreading the same falsehoods from his State of the Union address, saying that El Paso used to be one of the most “ dangerous” cities in the United States and that all changed when barriers were erected along parts of the border. The reality is, the crime rate in El Paso shrunk before fencing was installed. In actual fact, the crime rate spiked momentarily both during and after the barriers were installed.
Trump continues to use the specter of the migrant caravans to perpetuate the false idea that we are being invaded by millions of migrants. But those who have arrived at the border line are seeking asylum in the United States, after fleeing the violence that plagues many Central American countries. Presenting oneself at a port of entry and requesting asylum is legal, but the administration has changed asylum policies to make it not only difficult, but impossible.
He also continues to claim that everyone who crosses the southern border is a criminal or gang member, ignoring the fact that more than 50% are actually families and children.
But he never talks about the crisis he, himself, created: separating families and literally losing children that still have not been reunited with their parents. He also never points out that more than half of the people in the U.S. without immigration papers did not come in through the border, but via airports and other ports of entry, remaining here after their visas expired.
Trump insists that the wall is needed to stop drug trafficking, but he never mentions the subterranean tunnels which walls cannot detain, nor the fact that those who are intent on bringing drugs into the United States often do so via cars, trucks, or cargo trains.
The president has fabricated a crisis in order to maintain the support of his base who believes all of his falsehoods and hopes that he will follow through on his promise to build the wall–even if he aldready broke the promise since Mexico is not going to pay for it.
And if Congress is not giving him the money for his wall, he could use his executive powers to pay for it by tapping into other sources, like disaster relief funds needed in other jurisdictions–like Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
It would all be just to give the perception that he is fighting for the wall. He just wants to massage his own ego.
The worst is that he is hypocritical. On the one hand, Trump declares himself enemy of the undocumented people and paralyzes the government, insisting on his useless wall. On the other, his businesses knowingly hire undocumented immigrants, according to press reports, and in many instances have even helped them procure false documents so that they can work.
The level of cynicism and hypocrisy this president is displaying on immigration has reached stratospheric levels.
Earlier this week, a tentative government funding agreement among legislators in both chambers of Congress was announced. A plan needs to come together by this Friday, when the temporary measure that reopened the government after 35 days of shutdown over Trump’s wall expires.
Different press reports indicate that the language would offer almost $1.4 billion for 55 miles of physical barriers at the border, less than the $5.7 billion Trump was asking for. Essentially, they are offering the same proposal he rejected earlier, which provoked the longest government shutdown in the history of this country.
We still do not know whether Trump will accept the deal, torpedo it, or take funds from other programs to build his wall.
What we do know is, just like in 2016, immigrants are once again the favorite scapegoat of Trump in his 2020 re-election campaign.