President Trump used his first Oval Office address to make an impassioned plea for border security and funding for the border wall. So let’s take a quick look at a few points Trump made that he got right and wrong.
1) The crisis at the border
“Tonight, I’m speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” Trump said to open his address.
There certainly is a serious problem at the southern border. It may not qualify as a national emergency, but it’s unfortunate that Democrats and members of the media have tried to downplay it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is one of many who tried to quell the idea that there’s a problem at the southern border, saying, “President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage and stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government.”
But the issue isn’t as simple as being black and white. The Washington Post reported, “Record numbers of migrant families are streaming into the United States overwhelming border agents and leaving holding cells dangerously overcrowded with children, many of whom are falling sick.”
In the month of December, two migrant children died from the harsh conditions in the southern U.S. desert after crossing the border between ports of entry. It was widely believed there was a humanitarian crisis up until Trump considered building the wall under emergency authority.
“Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl,” Trump said. “Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border.”
The 90 percent figure is somewhat misleading. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, “only a small percentage” of heroin, as well as other drugs, is seized by U.S. authorities from border crossings between ports of entry.
The DEA said in a 2018 report that the most common drug trafficking method by transnational criminal organizations is smuggling drugs in passenger vehicles and tractor trailers through U.S. ports of entry, which are subject to inspection. Additionally, many of these drug cartels use buses, cargo trains, and even tunnels.
So yes, there are certainly many drugs pouring into the U.S. But building a border wall might not actually lead to a reduction in drug trafficking.
Trump described the brutal killings committed by undocumented immigrants, saying in his address, “America’s heart broke the day after Christmas when a young police officer in California was savagely murdered in cold blood by an illegal alien, just came across the border. In California, an air force veteran was raped, murdered, and beaten to death with a hammer by an illegal alien with a long criminal history. In Georgia, an illegal alien was recently charged with murder for killing, beheading, and dismembering his neighbor.”
Trump described these particular crimes accurately. There’s no denying that. The question that needs to be asked is would these crimes be prevented with Trump’s proposed solution of a border wall?
In the case of Ronil Singh, the California police officer who was gunned down by an undocumented immigrant, Sheriff Adam Christianson said in a news conference that the suspect illegally crossed the border into Arizona.
It’s possible that a border wall would have prevented Singh’s murder as only parts of the border Arizona shares with Mexico contain any physical barrier.
In the case of Air Force veteran Marilyn Pharis, who was raped and murdered, two men were convicted of her killing: one was an undocumented immigrant, while the other was a U.S. citizen.
It’s difficult to say that Pharis’ murder could have been prevented with the construction of a border wall, since authorities could not confirm how the perpetrator entered the country.
And with respect to Robert Page, the Georgia man who was murdered and dismembered by an undocumented immigrant, we know that the suspect moved from Mexico to Georgia three months prior to the crime, but authorities would not say how he entered the country.
It could be that a border wall would have prevented many of these crimes, but we also have to acknowledge that many of these perpetrators were arrested in the U.S. prior to these heinous acts. Trump’s approach to enforcing immigration law cannot be boiled down to only what happens at the southern border. If he’s serious about solving the problem, he’ll have to push for ending sanctuary cities.