Editorial: Trump’s border security the wrong answer to real problems

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Editorial: Trump’s border security the wrong answer to real problems

President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs the White House.

President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs the White House.

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS

President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs the White House.

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS

Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS

President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs the White House.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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President Donald Trump’s first prime-time address from the Oval Office was his opportunity to make a case for his border security plan. Instead, it highlighted just how little Trump understood the problems he hoped a border wall would fix — economic costs, crime and drug trafficking — and how desperate he is to blame Democrats for the government shutdown.

“The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only,” he said. “Because Democrats will not fund border security.”

But this is far from an accurate assessment of the shutdown. During negotiations aimed at avoiding a shutdown, Democrats offered to approve $1.3 billion to fund surveillance measures and fortified fencing directed at border security. Approval for funding was withheld for Trump’s border wall.

The one individual who has welcomed responsibility for sparking shutdown was Trump himself when he met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in December.

“I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down,” Trump said. “I’m not going to blame you for it.”

Trump then moved to misrepresent the effects illegal immigration has on employment, claiming it “drives down jobs and wages.” But employers frequently point to a shortage of immigrant labor as responsible for driving up costs — a tight labor market has made it difficult for industries to employ low-skilled immigrant labor to keep down costs. Studies have also concluded that whatever strain illegal immigration puts on public services is readily made up for by taxes paid by immigrants. Undocumented immigrants filed nearly 4.4 million income tax returns in 2015, paying up to $23.6 billion in income taxes.

Trump also said his border wall would help address drug trafficking and the opioid crisis. Not only does he misunderstand these problems, his prescription wouldn’t help either.

Illegal drugs that make their way into the United States from Mexico typically enter through legal ports of entry like airports and rail stations. Likewise, the fentanyl fueling America’s opioid crisis doesn’t usually go through unsecured portions of our southern border.

Instead, the fentanyl enters through packages mailed from China or by smugglers driving through border checkpoints. A border wall that secures vast stretches of desert addresses none of these narcotics trafficking techniques.

Trump frequently exaggerates and misrepresents, and he was no different during his prime-time address. He pointed to the number of immigrants with criminal records arrested by ICE, but he neglected to mention that many were guilty of immigration-related offenses rather than violent crimes.

This continues Trump’s habit of exaggerating the threat posed by immigrants who statistically commit crime at lower rates than those born in America.

Trump’s willingness to place livelihoods, solutions and truth on the line for a game of chicken is dangerous to the safety of immigrants and Americans alike. Trump used last night’s prime-time address to merely double down on the collision course.

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