That’s the border (the address) that separates the White House from the rest of Washington, and President Trump from reality. We have no crisis at our border with Mexico, no national emergency and no threat to our national security that a wall would alleviate.
There are 48 designated border crossings across our southland where people legally (but sometimes with illegal intent) cross the border between Mexico and the United States every day. Some of those designated crossing points, such as San Ysidro, California, have numerous additional designated points of entry within their jurisdictions. Collectively, these are the primary points of entry through which drugs or bad people infiltrate the United States from Mexico. There are another 118-border crossing points between the United states and Canada, and they have seen their share of mischievous travelers heading to the United States too.
It is not our point to suggest that a wall or some other barrier should not be built along our border to the south or the north. But let’s get serious. Bad people and lots of drugs do cross our borders, and, according to government data, almost all of it comes, surreptitiously, through these legal check points.
There is a border crisis though. It was created when candidate Trump decided, as a campaign ploy, to make building a wall between Mexico and the United States the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Millions of Americans internalized candidate Trump’s exhortation that drugs, rapists and murderers were flooding across our southern border. “Build that Wall,” became a rallying cry. It was Trump’s “Remember the Alamo.” It was a crass meme—a call to action, easy to remember, easy language with which to excite people, and easily passed along from one person to the next.
It is a campaign rallying cry run amok, and it has the President trapped in his own mischievous rhetoric. Hundreds of thousands of government employees are out of work (or, more properly stated, out of income) and thousands of other workers are out of work and income because the private-sector services they provide to government facilities and to government families are, for the time being, suspended. This orchestrated massive hardship to thousands of American families is a travesty, and when they do finally come back to work, these families will begin receiving paychecks that will remain frozen to 2018 levels thanks to one of President Trump’s most recent executive orders.
There are documented cases in which real terrorists have come across our borders. In 2001 nineteen of them flew in and landed in New York with legally obtained visas in hand, and went on to murder over 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Then there was that case in 1999 when Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian citizen living in Montreal, Canada, was arrested trying to bring a cache of massive explosives into the United States aboard a ferry from Canada at Port Angeles, Washington. His target was Los Angeles International Airport. And during the Second World War Nazi saboteurs came ashore in Connecticut to commit mayhem in the United States. The one thing these cases, and others like them, have in common is that none of them involved terrorists who crossed into the United States from Mexico.
A study by the CATO Institute found that from 1975 through 2017, seven people who entered the U.S. illegally from “special interest” countries — states tied at least loosely to terrorism — were convicted of planning attacks on U.S. soil. None crossed from Mexico. They came from Canada or jumped ship in U.S. ports, and all before special interest countries were classified as such. The only known terrorists who crossed illegally from Mexico in those decades were three ethnic Albanians from Macedonia who came as children with their parents in 1984 and, in their 20s, were arrested in the foiled plot to attack the Fort Dix, New Jersey, Army base in 2007.
When there were disorders at our border with Mexico a few weeks ago by some members of the caravan from Honduras, the disruption took place near a guarded designated border crossing. They weren’t crashing through an unguarded border somewhere south of Arizona or New Mexico or Texas. Nearly everyone who arrived at our border with that caravan, was, and is, waiting, patiently, and under horrendous living conditions for an opportunity to properly present their applications for political asylum. And by all accounts, they will be waiting a very long time.
While we do not believe a wall between the United States and Mexico serves any urgent purpose, this essay isn’t really about opposing a wall. Our point is that President Trump has attempted to foment an aura of hysteria over the need for a wall between the United States and our neighbor to the south.
Do illegal immigrants commit crimes in the United States? Of course, some do, but overwhelmingly most do not. Do visitors with legal visas commit crimes in the United States? Of course, some do, but overwhelmingly, most do not. Do American citizens commit crimes in the United States? Of course, some do, but overwhelmingly, most do not. President Trump knows this, but he also knows that the artful use of information to mislead or to influence the public is an effective, time-tested rhetorical device. It’s called a red herring. It is a metaphorical distraction, a diversion.
Hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans are working without pay or denied their jobs (having been furloughed). There is indeed a crisis at a border, but it is nowhere near Mexico. It’s the border at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
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