By Tyler Bauer
Last night, President Trump gave an address from the Oval Office in which he reiterated the need for a border wall and encouraged the Democrats to support the border wall for the safety of our nation. President Trump’s address can be broken down into two distinct parts: the humanitarian crisis and the danger illegal immigration poses to Americans.
The Humanitarian Crisis
In his address, President Trump rightly called the immigration issue a humanitarian crisis – more specifically, he called it “a crisis of the heart, a crisis of the soul.” To support this claim, President Trump spoke about human trafficking across the southern border. Furthermore, he said that one in three women who travel through Mexico to cross the border are sexually assaulted. Lastly, President Trump mentioned the children who immigrate here, and made a point of expressing just how dangerous the journey is for them.
What President Trump said about the effect the immigration process has on women and children is largely correct. (I have no idea whether the one-in-three claim is mathematically correct, but the sexual assault of migrants is certainly an issue).
I don’t think President Trump really cares about the women and children being harmed throughout the immigration process. If he did care, there’s a very simple solution to the problem: just let them into the country. Since President Trump doesn’t seem interested in this obvious (and fairly easy to achieve) solution, I think it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t really care about the women and children involved. (To be fair to President Trump, I don’t think many politicians care about anyone but themselves, so this is nothing new.)
The (Manufactured) Danger of Illegal Immigration
After addressing the humanitarian aspect of the immigration issue, President Trump moved onto the danger immigration poses to American citizens. He began first with the economic impact of unregulated immigration into our country. According to President Trump, unregulated illegal immigration has the effect of putting a strain on our public resources. For example, immigrants use roads, parks, etc., thus placing a greater strain on these public resources. Additionally, an increase in available workers would cause wages to go down and take jobs from Americans who may otherwise hold them.
First, let’s just take a second to praise President Trump for actually applying the economic concept of supply and demand to his policies. The fact that he realized (or likely was told by an advisor) that growing the labor force would decrease wages (as a result of the supply of laborers exceeding the demand for laborers) is nothing short of a miracle. For once, President Trump correctly applied economics to his policies.
Sadly, although President Trump utilized sound economic principles, he is misguided. It is true that immigrants place a strain on public resources and drive down wages by increasing the overall population of the United States. However, this is true of every population increase. Legal immigrants and natural-born American citizens have the same effect. An increase in the birth rate would yield the same effect as an increase in immigrants entering the country. Therefore, President Trump is incorrect to focus on illegal immigrants as it relates to our economy. If he honestly cares about these issues, he should be focused on all increases in our population, not just increases as a result of illegal immigration.
To be consistent, anyone who cared about the strain on public resources and the effect on wages would have to regulate the birth rate as well. Since President Trump only cares about the economic impact of a population increase when it’s due to immigration, it’s obvious that President Trump doesn’t oppose immigration for economic reasons – he opposes immigration for xenophobic reasons.
President Trump then moved onto one of the more life-threatening aspects of immigration – drug trafficking. President Trump was absolutely correct when he said that drugs – including heroin, which he said kills 300 Americans every week – come into the United States over the southern border. He never really said how a wall would fix this problem, though. Let’s assume that President Trump gets his wish and a wall is constructed on the southern border. Drugs can still be trafficked above, below, or around it. Furthermore, people can still take drugs through the border checkpoints (it’s unreasonable to think that we’ll stop all drugs at the border – we can’t even stop drugs from getting into prisons). Put simply, a wall does nothing to stop the drug problem. It may temporarily slow the import of drugs into the United States, but drug traffickers will find ways to get drugs into the United States. (If you need proof, click here. Traffickers are already using catapults.)
If President Trump wanted to protect Americans and stop the heroin epidemic, he would legalize drugs. As I've written before, “legalizing drugs would do a great deal to clean up the southern border. Cartels would be forced to operate above-board, as selling drugs would no longer be illegal. Border crossings would likely decrease, and the border crossings that continued would be made safer by eliminating cartels’ needs to sneak and shoot their way across the border. Lastly, I believe this would make drugs safer and decrease drug-related deaths. Just as prohibition made alcohol more dangerous by forcing it into the black market, the war on drugs makes drugs more dangerous. Allowing the sale and use of drugs to be done legally would allow for a larger market, which would see the best and safest drug dealers profit while the worst and deadliest drug dealers would go out of business.”
If drugs weren’t enough to scare you, President Trump then went on to talk about the violent nature of illegal immigrants and the existential threat they pose to our lives. First, let me make one thing clear: immigrants – regardless of whether they’re here legally or illegally – are not more likely to be criminals than native-born Americans. In fact, the opposite is true. Second, immigrants – again, regardless of whether they’re here legally or illegally – are less likely to commit violent crimes than native-born Americans. Statistically speaking, native-born Americans are more likely to murder, sexually assault, or rob you than immigrants are.
As the statistics show, there is a point to be made regarding the differences between illegal and legal immigrants. Illegal immigrants are more likely than legal immigrants to commit the aforementioned crimes. Despite this, all immigrants – illegal and legal alike – remain underrepresented in terms of criminal convictions, while native-born Americans remain vastly overrepresented in terms of criminal convictions. So, even though illegal immigrants are more likely to be criminals than legal immigrants, they are still far less likely to be criminals than native-born Americans.
President Trump’s Solution
To solve these problems (which I’d argue don’t really need solving), President Trump wants to build a border wall. According to President Trump, law enforcement officials want the border wall to secure the country and make their jobs easier. To build the wall, Congress would need to set aside $5.7 billion for funding. (Never mind the fact that it’ll cost far more than $5.7 billion, as this video suggests at various points.)
President Trump again said that Mexico would pay for the border wall, albeit indirectly by way of a renegotiated trade deal. This is just false. If Congress has to set aside funding for the wall, that means we are paying for it. If Mexico was paying for the wall, the federal government wouldn’t be shut down at the moment. Make no mistake about it – Mexico isn’t paying for the wall, and they were never going to pay for the wall. President Trump can claim that Mexico is paying for the wall indirectly all he wants, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is trying to use our tax dollars to pay for the wall.