Advocacy & News

Democracy and the Southern Border

Here in the U.S., a national emergency has been declared in response to an illegal immigration and drug trafficking crisis that President Trump says is happening at the southern border …

I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster. President Trump, National Emergency Declaration, Feb 15th 2019

Trump has often repeated claims that drugs and illegal immigrants are flooding into the U.S. from across the southern border and that building a physical wall (extending what is already there) is a proven way to stop this from happening. Such an invasion, if a national emergency is to be taken seriously, must surely mean there’s been an alarming increase in the number of illegal crossings and drugs being brought into America. But in Trump’s own words, he didn’t really need to declare a state of emergency. So why is that?

Regularly throughout his campaign, and for some time after his election, Trump used a rallying cry that fired up his diehard base which was centred around Mexico being made to pay for the wall – they aren’t. He then claimed that the new United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) would pay for the wall – it isn’t. And when his attempts to repurpose government funds didn’t get the Congressional approval needed to redirect taxpayer money, the only way to get the financing he wanted was by executive order.

So does a border wall mean fewer drugs will be coming into North America? In a word, no. While there’s no doubt from the 2018 report via the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that there’s an urgent need to address illegal drugs being transported into the United States, the report reveals that most drugs produced in Mexico and/or transported across the southern border are trafficked through ports of entry in vehicles. Renovating existing wall makes sense, but funding should at least be focused on updating and improving technology at ports of entry and increasing training and personnel numbers when monitoring vehicles. Without this, nothing is likely to change.

Is there an increase in the number of people illegally crossing the southern border? Again, that’s a no. According to the Department for Homeland Security (DHS), illegal immigration at the southern border, both in successful and unsuccessful entries, is at an all-time low.

… data also indicate the lowest number of illegal entries at least since 2000, and likely since the early 1970s. DHS, 2017 Report on Border Security

Even though the DHS data seemingly supports that border walls can function well at reducing illegal crossings, it also shows that what is currently there is working. Improving what already exists would be the most logical step (along with the updated and improved technology at ports of entry mentioned above). What the data doesn’t support is the idea of an “invasion”, an increased uptake, that would warrant a national emergency.

America seems to be quite divided over Trump’s border wall

It’s perfectly legal for a POTUS to use their powers to initiate a state of emergency, there have been 58 since 1979 after all, but surely legality comes into question when a president openly admits, as Trump did, that it doesn’t really need to happen. I think this is classic racist dog-whistle politics. We’re being told there’s a “crisis” even though the evidence proves otherwise. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t think democracy is about unchecked power.

Do you think Trump was right to declare a national emergency? Will he veto the bipartisan Congressional legislation seeking to put a stop to his national emergency? 

 

EXTRA READING:

Trump Wall – All You Need To Know (via BBC) does show that 2017 had the lowest number of crossings since 1971 but reveals that in 2018 there had been an increase.

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