We do have a border crisis—the one Trump created
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers walk along a wall at the border between Mexico and the United States, as seen from San Diego on Nov. 25, 2018. Migrants approaching the U.S. border from Mexico were a short time later enveloped with tear gas. | Greg Bull / AP

It was a busy evening for the fact checkers, with business remaining brisk for “expert” commentators overnight and straight through to the morning talk shows. The source of their heavy workload, of course, was the president’s Oval Office speech making the case for the Trump Wall on January 8—a speech which was chock full of misinformation, distorted facts, and outright lies.

The data tabulators exposed his tales of illegal aliens who supposedly scour the country raping and murdering with statistics proving immigrants actually commit violent crimes at a rate far lower than the native-born. His accusation that it was border-guard-hating Democrats keeping the government shut down and federal workers locked out from their jobs was swiftly dispatched by reference to past budget allocations for border security passed by Democratic Congresses and presidents.

In short, the whole Trump monologue was red meat for those who make a living corroborating and refuting the claims of fast-talking politicians. But there was actually one big truth to be found in Trump’s speech, one for which he deserves all the credit.

The President started his address by announcing to the nation that there was “a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.”

Finally, we hear words of truth from Trump’s mouth! There is a crisis at our southern border, but it’s not the one he peddled in his speech. Instead, it’s the one he has fostered through his own policies.

Our border crisis is not one of terrorists sneaking into the country to carry out their nefarious plots of mayhem and murder. (We’ve got enough domestic white supremacist terrorists already handling that portfolio.) Nor is it a crisis of migrant thieves snapping up all those American jobs and leaving everyone born here out of work. (Hasn’t Trump been telling us for months that everyone’s already got a job thanks to the record low unemployment he’s supposedly brought us?)

No, our border crisis isn’t any of those things.

Our real border crisis is one of children stolen from parents and locked away in detention centers and internment camps. It is a crisis of those same parents then being deported and left to helplessly wonder what will happen to their kids. (With two children having already lost their lives while in U.S. custody and reports of abuse emerging from the detention centers, families have ample reason for despair.)

Our crisis is one of desperate people pleading for asylum but being turned away by tear gas fired at them by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Their only offense? Fleeing from the violence of drug cartels, U.S.-backed dictatorships in Central America, and the economic tyranny of neoliberal capitalism.

Our crisis is one that extends far north of the Mexican border and stretches across this country, with a Trump-led anti-immigrant offensive that has thrown Dreamers back into legal limbo and left millions of Muslims arbitrarily locked out of the United States.

Real border security and immigration reform, however, have nothing to do with a 2,000-mile-long wall, holding kids in desert concentration camps, or putting entire countries on no-fly lists. Instead, it would start by protecting vulnerable individuals, such as undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children and holders of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) visas.

Real reform would continue by cutting down on unnecessary detentions and refusing to allow ICE and Homeland Security to continually go over their budgeted allocations for immigrant jails. Instead of prisons and camps, it would rely on more humane and cost-effective options while people await immigration hearings.

Real reform would craft a mix of legal immigration channels that allow families to reunite and workers with skills to find the jobs that need filling. It would create a path for those already in the country and working in the shadows of the underground economy to gain legal status and join the workforce (and a union).

But Trump doesn’t talk about any of these things. Instead, he creates a spectacle of human suffering and then tries to sell us a program that is all about security and enforcement, but which lacks any real suggestions for solving the problems we face. It’s a scam built on racism, extremist nationalism, and fear—a political distraction from the corruption and disarray that characterize this administration.

Don’t be deceived by Trump. Comprehensive immigration reform is something we need, but that’s not what he’s talking about when he demands we all put up $5.7 billion for his wall.

There is a border crisis, “a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” as the president himself said. But he’s not offering any solutions—neither for the totally unnecessary human catastrophe he’s created nor for our actually-existing immigration reform challenges.


C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left.