The federal government entered into a partial government shut down on Dec. 22, 2018. This partial shutdown was perpetrated by a disagreement between the Trump administration and congressional democratic leaders over funding for a border barrier.
The Trump administration demanded 5.7 billion dollars to build a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Without a Wall there can be no real Border Security,” Trump said in a tweet. “Our Country must finally have a Strong and Secure Southern Border!”
Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi have rejected this line of thinking, insisting border security can be achieved without the wall.
“[The wall] is an old way of thinking,” Pelosi said in a press conference. “It isn’t cost effective.”
So, who is right? Let’s look at the reasoning presented by President Trump in his Oval Office address to the nation on why the border wall is essential enough to partially close the government.
President Trump began his address to the nation with the claim that undocumented migrants coming across the southern border drive down wages for American citizens.
“[Illegal migration] drives down jobs and wages,” Trump said.
While some studies have found that migrants might have a small impact on non-skilled American laborers, The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded in a recent analysis that the inflow of immigrants has a “relatively minor factor in the $18 trillion U.S. economy.” In contrast, closing the federal government is projected to reduce the GDP of the U.S. by up to 0.5 percent.
The president next moved to illegal drugs coming across the southern border as a justification for his border wall.
“Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs,” Trump said.
The president is right. The southern border is the supply for much of the country’s illegal drugs. What he gets wrong is the belief that a wall will stop this. The Drug Enforcement Agency has reported that the vast majority of illegal drugs entering the country from Mexico come through legal border crossings at ports-of-entry. The wall would do absolutely nothing to hinder this.
Trump then repeated what has seemingly become the far-right’s mantra: Undocumented immigrants are vicious criminals.
“Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country, and thousands’ more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now,” Trump said.
Ignoring the fact that immigrants commit crimes at a far lower rate than citizens, the fact is a border wall will not stop the flow of criminals into our country. The southern border is not the main source of recent undocumented persons entering the U.S.
That title can be given to airports. Most undocumented immigrants simply fly into your local airport on a temporary visa and never leave. According to the Center for Migration Studies, a nonpartisan think-tank, visa overstays account for nearly two-thirds of all new, undocumented immigrants.
The southern border is also not a significant source of potential terrorists entering the U.S. either. This distinction again is also given to airports. According to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, of the 2,554 encounters with persons on the terror watch list in fiscal year 2017 trying to enter the U.S., 2,170 of those individuals came by air, and 49 came by sea. The remaining 335 came by either the Mexican or Canadian border. According to NBC News, six times more suspected terrorists were apprehended on the Canadian border than the Mexican border in the first half of fiscal year in 2018.
The simple fact of the matter is that there is no crisis at the southern border. The majority of undocumented immigrants come by air as do the majority of potential terrorist trying to enter this country. The president needs to stop holding the nearly 800,000 federal workers hostage for a border wall that will not fix America’s immigration problem. Trump needs to open the government, sit down with congressional leaders and have a real conversation about addressing the weaknesses of our immigration system.