You’ve Yee’d Your Last Haw, Donald Trump

An Overlook of Trump's Presidency, His Wall Proposal, and His Recently Declared National Emergency

Will Archer, Editor in Chief

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If you’re not aware of President Trump’s desire to build a border wall between the US and Mexico at this point, then you’ve been living under a rock since he announced his candidacy back in 2015. It’s almost exited the public consciousness at this point but at the time, no one expected Trump to make it to the first primary debate. He was one of the least popular candidates, with polls showing over 50% of Republicans disliked him; his style of off the cuff speaking instantly resonated with some, but the majority found that more often than not he made a fool of himself. When Trump gave the speech announcing that he was running for President, he promised he would build a wall on the border between US and Mexico and that it would be paid for by Mexico! (He also added that Mexico was “not sending their best” over the border, and that law-abiding immigrants were the exception, not the rule.) Anyone with two brain cells to rub together could have told you that Mexico wouldn’t have paid for Trump’s wall, and at the time many people, including most of the Republicans that later voted for him, criticized Trump for this delusion.

I don’t have a racist bone in my body.”

— Donald Trump

In the time since then, Donald Trump won the Republican primary. Then he won the general election against all polling, pushing through scandal after scandal even into his administration. Before his presidency, we were all shocked when we listened to audio tapes where Trump admitted to sexual assault. During his presidency, he’s been investigated by the FBI, exposed for paying hush money to Stormy Daniels, he’s fired the original FBI director that was investigating him, never released his tax returns, banned trans people from the military, attempted to ban Muslims from entering the country, refused to support the Paris Climate Agreement, supported policies for ICE that separate children from their families (permanently), spearheaded the longest government shutdown in US history, and as of last week his old lawyer testified in front of Congress about his criminal activity — not to mention the continuous stress-testing of the Constitution. There’s a lot to unpack there, and he’s only just entered his third year as of January.

I just want to get [the wall] done faster, that’s all”

— Donald Trump

Mexico didn’t pay for the wall. Disregarding for a second that Trump didn’t deliver on that campaign promise, Congress wouldn’t pay for the wall either, and the perceived lack of border security is being blamed on the newly inaugurated Democrats. People seem to forget that the Republicans held the Presidency, the House, and the Senate for two years. Suddenly, in the two months that the Democrats have had the majority in the House (and only the House, which is in charge of budgeting), the immigration crisis has allegedly escalated to the point of national emergency. In the two years that Trump was in office with a Republican majority Congress, the GOP basically had free reign to pass whatever they wanted, yet the wall didn’t receive funding. Why? Because there was never an emergency in the first place.

Despite Trump building zero miles of wall since the start of his presidency, apprehension of would-be immigrants at the Southern border has been decreasing for the last 18 years. Under the Bush administration, an average of 81,588 were apprehended per month; under the Obama administration, there was an average of 34,647 per month; and so far during the Trump administration, there’s been an average of just 28,869 people apprehended at the Southern border per month. The number of people attempting to enter the country illegally has only decreased in the past two decades. You would think that if there were really a crisis at the border, it would’ve been during Bush’s administration and not Trump’s, which has less than half of the monthly border apprehensions. And you’d be right.

It’s true that during Bush’s administration, there was a proposal to build a wall that was supported by a few high profile Democrats, but both positions make sense in context. The country isn’t experiencing the same post-9/11 hysteria it did in the early 2000s, and the number of people attempting to enter the country today is much lower than it was during that time. There are about 50 thousand fewer people apprehended at the border per month, which is why the Democrats of today don’t support the wall.

Further, Trump’s image of the immigration crisis implies that the majority of undocumented immigrants are criminals that rape, murder, and generally terrorize Americans. This just simply isn’t true. Immigrants, especially documented immigrants, commit crimes at a lower rate than the average native-born American. Crime is simply not a problem among immigrants. In fact, as Charis E. Kubrin, a University of California-Irvine criminologist, writes, “We continue to find that areas with higher concentrations of immigrants have lower violent crime rates.”

…apprehension of would-be immigrants at the Southern border has been decreasing for the last 18 years.”

A border wall wouldn’t be effective at disrupting the drug trade either. One of the main purposes of a wall such as this would be to inhibit travel in the large stretches of land in between legal ports of entry, but the fact of the matter is that the majority of drugs entering the US through Mexico come through those legal ports of entry. Using transfer trucks, the cartels can transport a large amount of drugs at high speeds on existing infrastructure right under the nose of border security. If drug mules were to carry them through large stretches of land on foot instead of over roads by truck, it simply wouldn’t be profitable for the Mexican cartels because it would take too long to transport an amount too small — not to mention the difficulty of trekking through miles and miles of desert. Additionally, a large portion of the drugs entering the US come through sea ports, which wouldn’t be affected by a wall at all.

As far as just stopping illegal immigration itself, the majority of undocumented immigrants come by air travel, which won’t be stopped by a wall that’s less than 35,000 feet tall. Also, 80% of the undocumented immigrants currently residing in the States have been here for 10 years or longer, and most of them overstayed their legal travel visas. Contrary to the narrative that Trump is pushing as part of his national emergency, most undocumented immigrants didn’t actually immigrate illegally; they entered the country through legal channels and overstayed their visa because it’s so difficult to become a US citizen.

The cost of the wall has also been severely underestimated since the beginning. The current claim is that the wall will cost $5 billion, which is no small amount of money, but any amount of research into the matter will tell you this is not true. In 2017, a leaked report from Homeland Security put the material cost of the wall at $21.6 billion, but a few months later a report was released from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the wall could cost as much as $70 billion. Back then the wall was to be made of concrete, but they’ve since switched to steel, which is more expensive. In fact, the wall could also cost billions in other unseen expenses, according to a US government watchdog agency. Most cost estimates don’t even include the cost of obtaining the land or maintenance, which will undoubtedly cost billions. Out of anyone, Texans aren’t going to readily part with their land, so the government will have to buy it using eminent domain, which pays the owners much more than the actual value of the land.

Why would Mexico or Congress want to pay for a wall that’s costly to national relations, expensive, ineffective, and ultimately unnecessary? They wouldn’t, and like I mentioned earlier, that was true for the Republican Congress of 2016-2018 as well. Under the current Democratic House, this unwillingness to pay for the wall was deemed worthy of the longest government shutdown in history, and since that didn’t work, Trump declared a national emergency to bypass Congressional approval so he can build his big, beautiful border fence. “I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.”

In order to secure these funds, Trump is diverting $3.6 billion from military construction projects, $2.5 billion from anti-drug programs, and $600 million from the Treasury asset forfeiture fund. When met with complaints about the programs he diverted funds from, he said “It didn’t sound too important to me.”

Funding the wall using this national emergency, even if it isn’t unconstitutional, is a violation of checks and balances and should be unconstitutional. Not only is there no real emergency, but its express purpose is to bypass the need for Congressional approval — something that’s antithetical to our democracy. Trump himself has said “Look, I expect to be sued,” and he was right, he’s being sued by 16 states and at least 3 landowners from Texas that stand to lose land from the construction.

The text of the National Emergency Act of 1976 doesn’t explicitly prohibit a President from declaring a fake emergency to bypass Congress, but no one should expect Trump to get away with this when it inevitably makes its way to the Supreme Court.