By Tanisha Bhat (‘20)
President Trump’s border wall has been in the center of controversy ever since his campaign days in 2015 with his infamous claim that Mexico would pay for the wall. Four years later and two years into his presidency, Trump is still fighting to convince both Congress and the American people that his wall is a necessity for national security.
During the first half of Trump’s presidency, Congress offered multiple deals to fund the border wall which were all rejected. In early 2018, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offered a deal to President Trump that would help secure funds for the border wall. The deal included $25 billion for the construction of the wall in return for a path of citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers. The president refused this deal claiming it was not sufficient enough for Republicans.
Congress then made it a point not to include funding for the border wall in the 2019 budget bill. The president and senate also refused to approve a bill that did not include $5.7 billion for building the wall. The gridlock resulted in a 35-day government shutdown, the longest ever in American history.
During this time, Trump offered the Democrats an alternative deal in which he asked for border wall funding in exchange for temporary legal protection for undocumented immigrants and temporary legal status and authorization for Dreamers to work. This deal was quickly struck down by Democrats since it was unable to provide permanent protection for Dreamers.
Junior Rujuta Swant said, “The deal Trump gave is obviously not something Democrats would take. He basically offered something temorary in exchange for something permanent and that is not fair.”
On the 35th day of the shutdown, President Trump along with Congress decided to reopen the government for three weeks in order to make sure federal workers would get paid and to give themselves additional time to come to a decision. A new budget bill was created and passed that only provided President Trump $1.4 billion for his wall.
In addition to passing the budget bill for the new year, Trump declared the situation on the southern border as a National Emergency and plans to redirect funds from other programs like education or FEMA to build the wall. The declaration of a National Emergency for this situation can not only be seen as unethical by critics but can also set a dangerous precedent for future administrations.
AP Government and Politics teacher, Mr. Scott Wissocki, said, “The main issue with President Trump declaring the situation on the southern border as a national emergency is that it sets the potential precedent that political objectives that are not met by Congress can be accomplished by the president. Many Republican senators are worried that a Democratic president in the future can deem any issue that Republicans oppose as a national emergency in order to push their agenda.”
The president’s desire for a steel wall/barrier and the lengths he will go to achieve it must make the American people question whether or not it really is worth the trouble.
Is the construction of a wall really worth ruining the economic stability of 800,000 federal workers, defunding other government programs and departments, and setting a potentially problematic standard for future presidents?
The answer is no.
Despite what side of the political spectrum a person falls on, all sides can agree that border security is important and that we cannot simply open our borders for anyone to come in. But where a majority of people differ is how to accomplish the task of protecting borders for national security purposes while also showing compassion to those suffering in other countries.
Regardless of what some wall proponents say, building a wall will not entirely cure the problem of undocumented people entering this country.
According to Pew Research Center, the rate of undocumented immigrants from Mexico has declined since the 2008 recession and only 9% of current undocumented Mexican immigrants crossed over in the past five years. In 2007, Mexicans made up 52% of the total undocumented population which decreased to 24% in 2016.
Meanwhile, the undocumented population percentage for Asians, Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), and other countries in 2007 was 13%, 11%, and 24% respectively. These rates increased in 2016 with undocumented immigrants from Asia reaching 22%, immigrants from the Northern Triangle becoming 18%, and all other countries reaching 36%.
The rise in undocumented immigrants from Asia and other countries is bringing to light a new immigration problem for this country to deal with. Unlike undocumented persons from Mexico, those who are from Asian countries cannot simply jump into the ocean and enter America. A majority of people undocumented from Asia enter America legally by getting visas, but end up overstaying their visits since immigration officials do not entirely keep track of visa holders.
The number of undocumented immigrants who entered this country legally but failed to depart before their visa expired has risen since 2007 according to the aforementioned source. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has created three annual reports since 2016 regarding the number of overstayed visas. The last one made was in 2017 which claimed that more than 700,000 visa holders should have left by September 30, 2017.
Another question we must ask ourselves is if the percentage of undocumented immigrants from Asia has been increasing over the past eleven years, why hasn’t Trump made this the center of his claims? Why has he only gone after Mexicans when there are people from many other countries that are entering undocumented as well?
The answer may just be that the president is, in fact, racist or that he is simply running after votes. A majority of his supporters are coming from border states like Texas and Arizona who deal with people crossing over. By claiming to solve an issue that these particular states face, Trump is able to garner the votes of everyday citizens who have been given information that is partially true.
President Trump’s main campaign promise was to fix the immigration laws and work towards reducing the number of undocumented people entering the country. Although border security is a topic both sides of the aisle think is important, President Trump has not predominantly mentioned how he plans to address overseas undocumented immigration. If the Trump administration really wants to crack down on undocumented immigration, they should put in place rules and regulations that prevent people from all over the world from entering illegally, not just one region.