Ben Warner, Ph.D.
Associate professor of political communication, University of Missouri
Alumni Editor of The Eagle
First, the most damaging thing Trump continues to do is portray immigrants as violent and dangerous people. Among every class of people there are some who commit violent crimes. However, most violent crimes in the U.S. are committed by white men. Immigrants commit violent crimes at much lower rates than U.S. citizens. By constantly narrating a few nasty crimes committed by a few in a country of almost 400 million people, Trump is stoking fear, anger, and hatred to an audience of people who have already demonstrated a willingness to commit violence in response. Since Trump’s election hate crimes against people of color have spiked. The tragic shooting in Pittsburgh was a response to Trump stoking fear and hate toward the caravan of migrants seeking asylum. In my view, the single most important story about this speech is that Trump gave an oval office address on national television in which he continued to fuel the fires of hatred and fear that have already generated substantial violence.
Second, I was really upset by the section of the speech where Trump argued that he wanted to build a wall to protect immigrating women and children. It is staggering that he wants us to believe the best solution to the violence experienced by asylum seekers is to erect a wall and turn people away. I accept that we cannot (or at least will not) give asylum to everyone who makes the journey and requests it, but to pretend that a good and humane solution to the violence that drives people to the border is to throw up a wall? This from the president who separated children from their parents at the border.
Third, shutting down the government over wall funding is really wild. Trump had a Republican House and Senate for two years and didn’t push for a border wall. He got a big tax cut and almost repealed healthcare but never even had a wall bill voted on. He had a deal with House Democrats to get funding for the wall in exchange for DACA protection, which was really an outstanding deal since he promised both in his campaign so he was making a deal to get two things he purportedly wanted to happen, but he backed out of the deal. “We will give you two of your campaign promises.” “No deal!” How artistic.
Fourth, there is no crisis. Immigration is down. Illegal immigration is down. Violent crime (from immigrants and citizens alike) is low. The idea that an acute crisis is forcing Trump’s hand has no basis in reality. He’s inventing this crisis out of whole cloth.
Fifth, the wall obviously won’t do anything. Most drugs come across the border at port of entries (smuggled through inspection). A wall won’t change that one bit. People can go over or under the wall. There is already tunneling at the border. Most people in the US who don’t have legal status entered the country legally and overstayed their visa. So a wall won’t address any of the concerns Trump raised in his speech. It is a $5 billion symbol of Trump’s feelings about immigration.Finally, Trump *promised* that Mexico would pay for the wall. So why does he need to shut the government down to get taxpayer money for it?