The Case Against Trump’s Wall and Shutdown
Bob Sheak – January 16, 2019
Trump and his allies view virtually all migrants crossing the US-Mexico border as a danger to U.S. security, a potential burden for American taxpayers, a threat to US workers, and disproportionately filled with terrorists, law-breakers and drug dealers. The most authoritative evidence offers little support for such views. Nevertheless, dismissive of such evidence, Trump wants to reduce drastically the number of migrants from entering the country. Thus, even though the policy violates international migration law, Trump wants to make it harder for those who are seeking asylum, denying or making it difficult for those who are fleeing violence and oppression in their home countries to relocate in the U.S.
Trump has promoted the idea at least since his presidential campaign began in 2015 that the only way to reduce the number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border effectively is to build a 1,000-mile wall across the 2000-mile border or, in a recent version, across 234 miles of the border. This was a major theme of his presidential campaign, and, along with his general anti-immigration agenda and “American First” rhetoric, it won him the votes and loyalty of tens of millions of Americans, right-wing Republicans, and the right-wing media. But opposition to his wall from Democrats in the Congress has stopped any plan for a wall from getting the necessary congressional approval that would give the president the funding for the wall. Trump’s response has been to shut down vital federal government agencies, causing 800,000 federal employees to be locked out of work or, if considered “essential, to work without pay, with millions of Americans affected by the consequent loss of government services. This has led to the longest shutdown in US history and will end up being the costliest.
My general argument is that Trump and the Republicans in the Senate and House are the principal sources of the dual-crisis that currently afflicts the country, that is, the humanitarian crisis at the border and the economic devastation caused by the shutdown. I present 8 arguments to make the case.
First argument- The humanitarian crisis has been exacerbated by Trump’s policy
Under Trump, a zero-tolerance policy remains in effect, the goal of which is to have border officials, supported with technology and a wall, prevent as many migrants from crossing from Mexico into the US as they can. Trump’s policy is aimed at all migrants, making it extremely difficult even for those who have the legal right to asylum. It’s being accomplished by ensuring there are too few government officials at the 48 border crossings and 330 ports of entry to process the asylum requests and too few judges and court staff to consider them(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Mexico%E2%80%93United_States_border_crossings.)
The method is referred to in a report by New York Times journalists Manny Fernandez, Caitlin Dickerson and Paulina Villegas. It is designed to prevent “migrants from applying for asylum anywhere but at legal border crossings, and then [limiting] the number of migrants it would process each day at those border stations” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/04/us/mexico-wall-policy-trump.html). After being given a number, they are told to be available when their number is called, a process called “metering,” or they are permitted to enter the country but are detained, sometimes for months in unsafe, substandard detention facilities, until the immigration courts can find the time and resources to consider their cases.
More and more migrants are entering illegally and then turning themselves into border authorities. Sometimes this occurs after they have been denied entry at official border crossings and sometimes after crossing the border illegally. Either way, they will at least for a time be detained on the US-side of the border and their hope of being able to stay in the US is kept alive, however unlikely it is.
Once in the U.S., whether legally or not, they are then kept in government or privately run “migrant shelters” or detention facilities, sometimes near the border, sometimes far removed from the border. This situation, according to Fernandez and her colleagues, has resulted in a “capacity problem” in the US (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/04/us/mexico-wall-policy-trump.html). The facilities managed by government immigration and enforcement services alone has seen the number of detainees reach its highest point ever, “with an average daily population of 45,200 single adults and family units.” In response, border officials are simply dropping off some migrants at bus stations. They write: “About 600 migrants were dropped off with no advance planning in El Paso during the last full week in December.” And: “Similar releases have happened in recent days and weeks in Arizona and California.”
Some of these migrants may find shelters operated by nonprofit organizations. According to the article by Fernandez and her colleagues, there is a shelter network in El Paso run by the nonprofit Annunciation House, which “is receiving roughly 200 new migrants a day, the same number it saw in an entire week only a year ago.” They describe what they saw at one shelter, focusing on a family of four, a mother and three daughters aged 10, 9, and 6.
“The girls’ mother, Nelcy, 28, said her daughters got sick not during the long journey to the border in the back of a pickup truck, but during the twelve days they spent at two crowded government detention facilities before arriving at the privately-run shelter in Texas. ‘It was very cold, especially for the children,’ said Nelcy, who would only be identified by her first name. ‘My children got sick. They gave us aluminum blankets, but it wasn’t enough.”
For those who are not able to cross the border, the situation is also often one of growing desperation. According to Fernandez et al, in Tiuana, private shelters managed by local Christian and Catholic groups are near capacity, pushing new migrants into tent cities and improvised shelters that lack proper sanitation.” Recently, municipal leaders in Tiuana “opened an improvised shelter at the Benito Juarez Sports Complex that turned…into a ‘Central American ghetto, with about 6,000 people crowded into a space for 2,000. As time passes, many make repeated attempts to enter the US illegally.
This is the humanitarian crisis to which both Republicans and Democrats refer. Trump and the Republican in Congress blame the Democrats for not strengthening border security and for making it too easy for migrants to cross the border. Word gets out, they say, and others are motivated by the hope they might also be able to enter the U.S. They also blame migrant parents who dare to bring their children on the arduous and dangerous journey from Central American and other places. Democrats blame Trump’s zero-tolerance and anti-immigrant policies for this humanitarian crisis and want to keep the border open to those who are fleeing violence, oppression and poverty, perhaps reverting to the policy under Obama’s administration of releasing migrants who were considered safe and likely to appear in court in order to make room for others who were a higher priority for detention.” One thing is clear, the humanitarian crisis has been exacerbated while Trump and the Republicans have controlled the US government. A resolution to the problem will require more resources on both sides of the border to humanely and justly deal with migrants, a timely decision on asylum seekers, and a foreign policy that is directed at changing rather than causing and reinforcing the conditions that spur migration in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
Second argument – To advance their border policy, Trump and his supporters lie about the threats posed by the migrants
Trump claims that the situation at the border poses a humanitarian and national security emergency and the way to solve it is with a concrete or steel wall on some parts of the roughly 2,000-mile border with Mexico. This is doubtful. And the claim that there are thousands of terrorists, criminals, rapists, free-loader coming across the border is disputed by the evidence.
Brian Tashman, political researcher and strategist for the ACLU, identifies the “biggest border lies” associated with the administration’s characterization of the situation on the southern border (https://www.aclu/org/blog/immigrants/rights/look-trumps-biggest-border-lies).
Tashman’s central contention is that Trump’s border policy “is driven not by facts but by his own nativist agenda and political obsession with building a wall.” I refer here to both Tashman’s examples and relevant evidence from other sources.
Lie 1: Border crossings are at or near an all-time high.
Tashman cites the Border Patrol’s own statistics that “show that the number of migrants apprehended at the border last year was the fifth lowest total since 1973,” that is, in the last 45 years. He adds: “While the Trump administration has repeatedly cited increased migration from Central America as a national security-based justification for the wall, a majority of these migrants are families and unaccompanied children who voluntarily present themselves to immigration authorities.” They are typically not violent male adults or gang members
Other data, cited by Claire Felter and Daniele Renwick in an article for The Council on Foreign Relations, comes from the Customs and Border Protection agencies, which documents that “the number of people ‘apprehended or stopped at the southern border’ in 2017 dropped by 26 percent from 2016, though [my emphasis] ‘Central American asylum seekers, many of whom are minors who have fled violence in their home countries, make up a growing share of those who cross the U.S.-Mexico border’”(https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/us-immigration-debate-0). Thus, overall migration to the southern border is down.
At the same time there are a rising number of unaccompanied children and families from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador traveling to the border, most of them seek entry through official border crossings, at least initially. As pointed out in the “first argument,” some are made to wait on the Mexico-side of the border before being permitted to enter the country. According to the reporting from the border areas by Angelo Guisado, they are destitute, without resources, and with young children and many fall prey to cartels and are regularly assaulted and even killed (https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/11/trump-asylum-policy-entrapment.html). Others are allowed into the country and detained while awaiting their turn in court and a final decision on their status. Some cross the border illegally and immediately turn themselves over to border security officials so that they will be detained on the US-side of the border. Those who end up in the US typically end up in overcrowded, under-staffed, unhealthy detention facilities or tent cities run by the government or private companies. Other are put on buses in cities on the US-side of the border and dropped off to fend for themselves. And some
Lie 2: Terrorists are entering the country through the southern border, creating a national security crisis.
Tashman: “Many of the migrants at our southern border are refugees from violence with a right to apply for asylum in the United States. Many are families with young children or children alone. There is no evidence that any terrorist group is sending people through Central America.” Tashman continues: “The Justice Department confirmed to NBC News that “no immigrant has been arrested at the southwest border on terrorism charges in recent years.”
The New York Times published an article by the Associated Press (AP) that did a “fact check” on “Trump’s Mythical Terrorist Tide from Mexico” (https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2019/01/07/us/politics/ap-us-trump-terrorism-fact-check.html). The AP article refers, first, to a State Department report issued in September 2018, that found “no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.” Second, “State Department reports on terrorism have expressed more concern about Canada, which unlike Mexico has been home to ‘violent extremists inspired by terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida and their affiliates and adherents.’” The article adds: “By far the majority of people who arouse concern try to enter by air,” not through the southwest border.
Tim Lau, who works for the Brennan Center for Justice, refers to another report released by the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security in January 2018. This report hyped the dubious notion that terrorism is committed by immigrants [and Muslims], while “overlooking a bigger threat: terrorist violence from the [domestically rooted] far right” (https://commondreams.org/news/2019/01/09/flawed-terrorism-report-shows-administration-skewed-priorities). The report “contained bad data and misleading assertions and suffered from a lack of objectivity.” Another report released by the Brennan Center for Justice in October 2018 “found that relative to ‘international’ terrorist acts committed by Muslims, the Justice Department has severely under-emphasizes domestic terrorism as a national security threat, sometimes even categorizing it as ‘hate crimes’ or ‘civil rights violations,’ rather than terrorism at all.”
NBC News reported that only six non-Americans on the terror watch list were stopped on the border with Mexico in the first six months of fiscal year 2018, compared to 41 non-Americans who were stopped on the border with Canada (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/only-six-immigrants-terrorism-database-stopped-cbp-southern-border-fist-n955861).
Lie 3: The wall would stop gang members.
Tashman challenges this contention by the White House, pointing out: “The Trump administration has claimed that a wall is needed in order to stop gang members from coming into the U.S., but many of these migrants are in fact fleeing gang violence and forced gang recruitment in their home countries. We have also seen a pattern where government officials have wrongly labeled young migrants as gang members with false and unsubstantiated claims, hyping the threat of groups like MS-13 and threatening the rights of innocent young people.” Border official have distorted, and invented numbers of alleged gang members apprehended.
Tashman links to a report by Philip Bump that appeared in The Washington Post on January 4, 2018 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/01/04/administration-is-using-heavily-inflated-numbers-argue-border-wall/?utm_term=.b322813a0318).
Bump’s main argument is that “The administration is using heavily inflated numbers to argue for a border wall.” He quotes Kirstjin Nielson, Secretary of Homeland Security, who said there were 6,000 gang members apprehended by U.S. authorities in 2017. But only 1,019 were apprehended at the southwest border and only about 800 had crossed the border illegally.
Lie 4: The wall would stop drugs from pouring in through the border.
“The president likes to suggest,” Tashman writes, “that construction of a border wall will help bring an end to drug addiction problems in America.” But the evidence indicates that even a wall across the whole 2,000-mile border would have little such effect. Why? Referring to the best evidence, Tashman writes: “the clear majority of illegal drugs, including opioids, enter through legal ports of entry, and a wall would have no impact on the use of passenger vehicles, boats, planes, and tractor trailers that are primarily used to smuggle drugs.” You can see a detailed presentation of this evidence at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/04/25/the-1-reason-why-trumps-wall-wont-fix-the-drug-problem/?utm_term=ac1802fc13c0).
Lie 5: We need a new wall.
Tashman refers to Trump’s plan for a 1,000-mile long wall (which Trump has since modified). Tashman maintains there Trump’s wall would not improve border security. He notes, first, that there are already 650 miles of “existing border barriers.” Since 2017, “Congress has already approved almost $2 billion to fortify existing border barriers.” However, the barriers are not as high or of the right material (concrete) as Trump has insisted his wall must be. A study by the Government Accountability Office “found that Trump’s ill-conceived wall plan would waste billions of dollars and might ‘cost more than projected, take longer than planned, or not fully perform as expected” (https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/693488.pdf).”
There is also research that finds it is “unlikely that new barriers will reduce migration,” which is the basic point of Trump’s wall. In a study of the results of the 2006 Secure Fence Act, passed on a bi-partisan vote during the Bush administration, “Stanford and Dartmouth economists found that the addition of hundreds of miles of border barriers… barely had any effect on migration (http://stanford.edu/~ExternalFiles/ADM%20-%20Border%20-%20Executive%20Summary.pdf). Tashman also refers to a recent report by the ACLU titled ‘Death, Damage, and Failure,” which details the harms resulting from border walls” (https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-border-rights-center-and-partners-release-report-devastating-impact-trumps-border-wall). Here are the main findings:
• Border walls do not make the U.S. safer or significantly reduce smuggling or immigration.
• Border walls continue to cause even more tremendous environmental devastation.
• Border walls have inflicted serious damage upon border communities and their economies.
• Border walls contribute to the ongoing humanitarian crisis of migrant deaths as they push migrants into more remote desert areas.
Third argument: Trump underestimates the costs and construction challenges of building his wall
Trump and his advisers are particularly facile in their suggestion that the construction of the wall will be easy to build. Todd Frankel has an article in The Washington Post that suggests the opposite (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/build-the-wall-it-could-take-at-least-10-years-even-with-10000-workers/2019/01/09/62d5eaae-1376-11e9-803c-4ef28312c869_story.html).
He writes that if we built the 1,000-mile long wall that Trump really wants, “It would take an estimated 10,000 construction workers more than 10 years” to build it and cost $25 billion, according to Ed Zarensky, “who teaches construction estimation at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. Slimming it down to the 230-mile wall he is now demanding, it would take the same 10,000 workers more than two years to build.” The landscape along the border is “uniquely remote and difficult,” the project site is “narrow and runs for miles,” and there are “unknowns, such as the maximum wind load for a fence reaching three stories high.” Before building the wall, a “roadway running parallel to the border would be needed to allow the backhoes, dump trucks and cement trucks to reach the remote construction sites.” Then there would be the challenge in a tight labor market of finding enough skilled workers. And then there is the price tag. Frankel writes, as indicated by the following facts.
“The construction industry’s rule of thumb, Zarenski said, is it takes 5,000 to 6,000 workers a year to build $1 billion worth of construction. But you cannot fit them all on one job site. For a project like the border wall, you would want to have dozens of different sites going at once.
“Zarenski calculated how fast the work could go – assuming 10,000 workers spread over 50 sites. Then, they could build 37 feet of border wall each workday at each site – about 1,850 feet each workday across all sites.
“Even if these huge crews broke ground today, they would finish just 86 miles of border wall by year’s end. By Election Day 2020, 161 miles of border wall would be done.”
Fourth argument: There is little enthusiasm for the wall among many people who live along the border
In an article for VOX, Dara Lind looks at 2018 midterm elections which resulted in “Republicans losing two seats along the US-Mexico border, one in Arizona and one in New Mexico” (https://www.vox.com/2019/1/8/18173721/trump-border-facts-true-speech-lying). Lind adds these facts. First, “In the current Congress, the only Republican representing a district along the border is Texas Rep. Will Hurd, an outspoken moderate on immigration who says his opposition to a border wall is the reason he won reelection.” Second, a survey by the Pew Research Center in 2017 found that “people who lived less than 350 miles from the border were the least likely to support Trump’s wall.”
Journalists from the New York Times conducted interviews in four border states, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. They “found few who shared the president’s sense of alarm” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/08/2019/01/08/us/border-wall-crisis-mexico-usa.html). They did find concern that Trump’s anti-migrant border policies was the cause of the current humanitarian crisis, “escalating tensions, overwhelming volunteer shelters and putting those seeking asylum from violence at renewed risk of health threats and other problems once they arrive in the United States.” It’s a problem created by the mismanagement of the border by the federal government, according to some city officials in the border town of Columbus, New Mexico. The journalists also heard from city officials of how the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency had “in recent weeks released thousands of immigrants unannounced onto city streets” in El Paso and other cities in California and Arizona, “forcing city officials and migrant shelter operators to scramble to accommodate them.”
Mark Provost visited the US-Mexico border town of McAllen to interview the Mayor of that town in a story for Truthout (https://truthout.org/articles/mayor-of-texas-border-town-trumps-wall-is-pointless). Here’s what he learned.
“McAllen’s Mayor Jim Darling deals with the daily realities of immigration on one of Texas’s busiest border-crossing areas. Darling told the Texas Standard that while the media is hyper-focused on undocumented immigrants, the people he sees at respite centers are coming into the country legally to seek asylum.
Darling could hardly disagree more with President Trump over the idea that his town is experiencing a crisis or ‘national emergency.’ In fact, last year Darling called McAllen “the overall safest city in Texas and one of the safest in the US.”
“Moreover, Mayor Darling points out that nearly 40 percent of the city’s sales tax revenue — the second highest in the state — comes from shoppers from Mexico, who cross the border peaceably and contribute to the local economy.
“Mayor Darling is in favor of border security and says Washington should get behind “immigration reform,” but he argues that Trump’s border wall is useless since the Rio Grande acts as a natural border. ‘We know where our border is and we have one,’ Darling says. ‘A wall is really not the effective way to protect our border.’
“Darling argues that wall construction would significantly damage the sensitive ecology and private property of residents. Darling also believes environmental impact reports shouldn’t be waived simply because the federal government demands it.”
Fifth argument – Trump’s border policy of zero tolerance violates international immigration laws
Marjorie Cohn has paid attention to how Trump’s border policy violates pertinent international laws (https://truthout.org/articles/indefinite-detention-of-migrants-violates-international-law). Her professional credentials are impressive. She is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, an advisory board member of Veterans for Peace, as well as an author of books and many articles. In this piece for Truthout, she focuses on how the “indefinite detention” policy of the Trump’s Department of Justice violates international law, a policy and practice that allows border officials to detain those seeking asylum in the US for months or even years. Cohn points out that, as of July 2018, there were more than 1,000 applicants who have been “incarcerated” for months or years with no resolution of their cases.
She writes: “Indefinite detention violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Refugee Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.” She also informs us of US obligations under international law. “The United States has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, making its provisions part of the US law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which says treaties ‘shall be the supreme law of the land.” How does this apply to the present border situation? Her answer: “Keeping families locked up for months with no good reason is unjust and inappropriate. It denies them due process and a timely resolution of their legal claims. And their time of release is unpredictable.”
There is expert evidence that prolonged detention causes serious psychological harm to detainees. On this point she writes: “Experts report that prolonged indefinite detention can cause anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.” She refers specifically to a letter written by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which “wrote a 2015 letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security [under Obama]. The letter stated: “The act of detention or incarceration itself is associated with poorer health outcomes, higher rates of psychological distress, and suicidality, making the situation for already vulnerable women and children even worse.”
Cohn also considers how the indefinite detention policy of the Trump administration violates the Refugee Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. For example, “The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states, ‘No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.” She quotes Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, who stated: “Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation.” In short, the policies of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice for detaining migrants who seek asylum, especially for families and children, violate international laws to which the US is legally obligated.
In the meantime, the US Navy “is planning to build tent cities to house migrants, including two camps in California slated to house up to 47,000 people each.” Cohn adds: “They will be called ‘austere cities.’”
There is some good news amidst it all: “local officials in Texas near Austin, California’s Sacramento Country, Springfield County in Western Oregon, and Alexandria, Virginia, have cancelled deals with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain migrants.”
(You can find an in-depth analysis on the subject of international law and refugees at: https://ijrcenter.org/refugee-law.)
Sixth argument – Trump’s shutdown of government agencies is ruthless, politically expedient, and causing great harm to federal employees and other Americans
As of January 15, 2018, a quarter of the federal government has been shut down for 25 days, longer than any previous shutdown, and the political impasse in the nation’s capital continued to be unresolved. As a consequence, funding for 10 government agencies, the Executive Office of the President, the Judicial branch, and various “independent agencies” is being withheld, affecting 800,000 federal government workers, and leading to a ripple or multiplier effect that will cause financial hardship and mental stress among contract workers who make up 40 percent of the federal government workforce, the businesses that rely on the purchases of government employees, the many thousands of families being directly and indirectly impacted, along with those who rely on government social-welfare (e.g., food stamps and housing subsidies) and government loans and subsidies (e.g., many farmers), and those who count on tax refunds. Public parks and museums are closed or largely unsupervised. And the problem will worsen the longer the shutdown continues. The Wikipedia “page” titled “United States federal government shutdown of 2018-2019” provides useful facts and background information (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_government_shutdown_of_2018%E2%80%932109#).
A New York Times editorial board article provides additional evidence on the federal employees (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/02/opinion/government-shutdown-2019-trump.html). The editors write: “Some 420,000 of those, deemed ‘essential personnel,’ are working without pay. This includes upward of 41,000 law enforcement officials, 54,000 border patrol agents, and 53,000 Transportation Security Administration workers. (If you flew this holiday season, it was only thanks to these unpaid women and men.) Another 380,000 workers have been furloughed, including 28,000 employees of the Forest Service, 16,000 in the Park Service and 16,700 at NASA.” Many of the workers do not have backup reserves and consequently are unable to pay the mortgage and other bills, their lives now filled with stress, financial turmoil, and an unpredictable future that could “carry heavy consequences.”
The editors also add these statements on how some government functions and services are being affected: “…the Small Business Administration has been shuttered, delaying the processing of loans. A growing number of national parks, museums and historic sites will need to close, disrupting tourism for the sites and for surrounding businesses. At some of the parks kept open during the holidays even as many rangers and other support staff were furloughed, there were reports of trash piling up, toilets overflowing with human waste and episodes of vandalism. Routine screenings by the Food and Drug Administration are being put on hold, and the Federal Communications Commission is set to halt most of its operation on Thursday. The situation on Indian Lands is about to get dire. The list goes on and on.”
Despite this havoc, Trump’s responses have shown little empathy toward the affected government employees, saying that “most of the people not getting paid are Democrats,” or most of them are willing to stay out until he [Trump] gets his wall, or the “furloughed” workers will make adjustments as they always do, and other dismissive remarks.
Seventh argument: The majority of Americans oppose the shutdown and want it to end.
The New York Time editors refer to “a recent poll by Reuters/Ipsos [that contradicts the president and] found that only a quarter of all Americans support the shutdown. [Additionally] Only 35 percent said they favored including money for the wall in a spending bill.” On top of all this, Trump’s callousness toward the affected federal workers is revealed when he recently issued “an executive order freezing pay for the government’s civilian workforce in 2019.”
Other polls find the same thing. A poll that ran on December 21-22 for The Business Insider by Survey/Monkey Audience asked 1,025 respondents “What is the best use of $5.7 billion in federal funding, offering four options, according to an article written by Bob Brian and Walt Hickey (https://www.businessinsider.com/government-poll-ocasio-cortez-ideas-for-trump-border-wall-money-2018-12). Here are the options and the results.
•”build a portion of a wall along the US-Mexico border” – only 19% of respondents chose this option
•”fund pre-kindergarten programs for every child in the US for a year” – 15%
•”pay the healthcare expenses for roughly 530,000 Americans for a year” – 36%
•”fund infrastructure improvements” – 30%
Four out of five chose an option other than the wall. However, within the data a predictable partisan split is manifest. Of those identified as moderately or very conservative, 53% wanted the wall, while only 2% of those who identified as moderately or very liberal chose this option. The implication drawn by the Brian and Hickey is that “only the core supporters who comprise Trump’s base want the funding for the wall, while the rest of respondents were uninterested in allocating nearly $6 billion to the border partition.” This finding, the journalists point out, matched “up with a previous INSIDER poll, conducted before the start of the shutdown, that found 60% of those surveyed wouldn’t tolerate a shutdown over the wall. Other pollsters found similar results.”
Eighth argument – Trump says shutdown could go on for months or even years, with malice of “no thought”
Supported by the Republican leadership and most Republicans in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, repeated by his press secretary and others in his administration, echoed by Fox News and right-wing radio hosts, and dutifully followed by his base, Trump has insisted that he would not sign any legislation to end the partial federal government shutdown until there was legislation from Congress that included $5+ billion for a “wall” to “secure” or increase security along a relatively small section of the 2000-mile U.S.-Mexican border. He has said recently that, unless the Democrats in the House agree to his demands, the shutdown could go on for months or even years. In an article published in The Atlantic, Russell Berman confirms this.
“During a two-hour meeting [on Friday, January 4] that both parties acknowledged was contentious, the president told Democratic leaders that the current partial shutdown of federal departments and agencies could stretch on for ‘months or even years’ if they do not yield on funding for his southern-border wall, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters” https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/01/trump-shutdown-could-last-months-or-even-years/579535
Subsequently, according to Berman’s account (and widely reported), “Trump confirmed making the threat—’I absolutely said it,’ he boasted—during his own, much lengthier press conference about an hour later, digging in on the border impasse even as he directed Vice President Mike Pence to lead talks with a team of congressional negotiators over the weekend. ‘I don’t think it will, but I am prepared,’ Trump said in the Rose Garden outside the White House, where he was flanked by Pence, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and the top two Republicans in the House.”
On Tuesday evening, January 8, Trump gave a roughly ten-minute address to the nation on his reasons for the shutdown. It was broadcast on network news outlets. The New York Times published an article in which they provided background and fact checks of the speech (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/08/us/politics/trump-speech.html). Here are a few examples from the article.
Trump blamed the shut down totally on the Democrats unwillingness to fund border security. But the facts indicated that the Democrats have “offered $1.3 billion in funding for border security measures like enhanced surveillance and fortified fencing,” though they do not support Trump’s wall. And, “at a meeting with Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer in December, Mr. Trump took responsibility for the partial government solution,” saying “I will take the mantle. It will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”
Trump claimed“ Every week 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across our southern border.” The fact check found otherwise. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s latest Drug Threat Assessment report, “most of it is smuggled into the United States through legal ports of entry at the southern border, not through the desert.” The New York Times fact checkers also refer to the opioid epidemic and how the drug fentanyl plays a major part in it. But most “fentanyl enters the United States from packages mailed directly from China through traditional ports of entry…and through Canada from China.” The low-grade fentanyl that comes from Mexico “is often hidden in automobile compartments, much like conventional drug smuggling,” and enters through legal ports of entry.
Trump claimed that “…all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages.” The New York Times points to this fact: “In many cases, immigrants – legal or illegal – are seeking jobs that American citizens do not want to do.”
How will it end?
Trump is now threatening to declare a “national emergency” over his inability to get Democratic support in the US Congress for his “wall.” If he carries through with his threat, he would give himself the authority, for example, to deploy the army engineers to the border to build the wall. But there would be much more he could do. In an in-depth article for The Atlantic magazine, Elizabeth Goitein gives us an idea of how broad presidential power would be extended under a declaration of national emergency.
“The moment the president declares a ‘national emergency’ – a decision that is entirely within his discretion – more than 100 special provisions become available to him. While many of these tee up reasonable responses to genuine emergencies, some appear dangerously suited to a leader bent on amassing or retaining power. For instance, the president can, with the flick of a pen, activate laws allowing him to shut down many kinds of electronic communications inside the United States or freeze America’s bank accounts. Other powers are available even without a declaration of emergency, including laws that allow the president to deploy troops inside the country to subdue domestic unrest” (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/01/presidential-emergency-powers/576418). Under a proclamation of a national emergency, the president might even postpone upcoming national elections.
Currently, there is no compromise in sight. Democrats in the House have been passing bills that address the border crisis. See, for example, the report by Politicususa on the two-part bill passed by the Democratically-controlled House on Thursday, January 3 to end the partial government shutdown (https://www.politicususa.com/2019/01/03/democrats-push-plan-to-end-shutdown-and-ignore-trumps-wall-demand.html). Trump paid no serious attention to it because it did not include the $5.7 billion for the wall he wants, though it did provide “1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other border security items including technology and cameras.” The other part “would fund the other federal agencies that are now unfunded including the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Commerce and Justice, through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year,” and fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb 8. Democrats in the House are now passing separate funding bills to open specific agencies in what seems a futile effort that the Republican-controlled Senate will take a vote in support of one of the Democratic bills, opening the opportunity for a bipartisan challenge to the president.
I’m left with the ominous feeling that those who see developments that are taking us toward an authoritarian government, if not a 21st century fascism, may be right. See, for example, Carl Boggs book, Fascism Old and New: American Politics at the Crossroad, or Jason Stanley’s How Fascism Works: The Politics of US and Them. Can these trends, exemplified in Trump’s actions toward migrants and the shutdown, be reversed? The answer will probably come soon.