President Trump’s Immigration Address

Roselind Zeng, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, President Donald Trump gave his first formal national address, broadcast across several major news networks: NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. The speech, nearly ten minutes long, was aired with a premise of a “growing humanitarian and security crisis at [the] southern border.”

During his time on air, President Trump called the American public’s attention to the U.S.’s current immigration policy. In what he called “A crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul,” he cited statistics regarding the illegal aliens crossing the border. “Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone… In the last two years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records… Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the United States.” After providing an account of the situation, President Trump immediately offered his solution: a proposal “developed by law enforcement professionals and border agents at the Department of Homeland Security… [which] includes cutting edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons, illegal contraband… [as well as requesting] more agents, [and] immigration judges to process the sharp rise of unlawful migration.” But most notably, the President called for “$5.7 billion for a physical barrier… a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall.” In his appeal, he cited “Democrats [not funding] border security” as the one reason why “the federal government remains shut down.” After citing instances where illegal immigrants have incited violence and bloodshed, President Trump made an analogy to wealthy politicians, positing that “They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside but because they love the people on the inside.” And on that note, he called upon the people and Democrats to rise to the occasion to support his efforts on border security.

Following his message, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer took to the floor in response. Both focusing on the government shutdown, Speaker Pelosi began the counterargument. She stated that “President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety, and well-being of the American people and withhold paychecks of 800000 innocent workers across the nation— many of them veterans.” To reiterate her point, Senator Schumer addressed the President’s actions, announcing that the U.S. doesn’t “govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down.” The address “just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his Administration.” With that, both Democrats implored the President to “re-open the government, [so that they] can work to resolve [their] differences over border security.”

As both sides are deadlocked over the issues at hand, President Trump’s claims have been fact-checked for accuracy. His bold declaration that “The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal [the Administration has] made with Mexico” was untrue—the aforementioned deal has not been ratified by Congress, and no specification was given that any of that money would be apportioned to the border wall. The President went on to say how “Every day, Customs and Border Patrol agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter [the] country”—a statistic that has been blown out of proportion. According to the current available Customs and Border Protection data for 2018, a total of 396,579 people were taken into custody, with the highest daily average peaking in September, at only 1,400 people per day; nowhere near the advertised “thousands.” This current figure is the lowest it has been in the past 45 years. His statistics do not account for the bigger picture, as illegal border crossings have reached historic lows compared to more than 1 million in the early 2000s. In regards to the “vast quantities of illegal drugs” that President Trump was referring to, it is true that 90% of the U.S.’s heroin is brought in through the southern border. Yet, nearly all of the seizures made by the U.S. government have been at legal points of entry: a wall would do nothing to stop the flow of illegal substances. The most suspect statement would be the opener the President gave to the nation: “Tonight I am speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.” There is no new security breach presenting itself at the Mexican-American border. With the pre-established decline of apprehensions, more individuals overstay their visas than attempt to make the crossing into the U.S—606,926 in 2017, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

In the aftermath of these events, President Trump visited the southern border in Texas on Jan. 10, in efforts to promote his border wall initiative. The major news networks that covered the President’s address have received major blowback from the public; parallels have been made between President Trump and former President Obama’s requests to address the immigration issue, with President Obama having been rejected for having a speech that was too partisan. As of now, a resolution to the 2nd-longest government shutdown in U.S. history has not been reached.