Shirola: Border crisis, shutdown not solely Trump’s fault

Wesley Shirola, Columnist

On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump delivered an address to the nation from the Oval Office. He stated that there is a “growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border” where many illegal immigrants have entered, and are entering, our country. Yet, in a column that ran Wednesday, Catherine Buchaniec makes the bold claim that, not only is this situation not a crisis, but that it doesn’t actually exist at all. She goes on to argue that Trump is the sole actor to blame for the ongoing U.S. government shutdown and that in the process he is holding the country hostage. I wish to address both of these issues in turn.

Buchaniec’s statements on the southern border issue are far from the truth. Indeed, while apprehensions by the U.S. Border Patrol of people illegally crossing the southern border are at historic lows, there are still thousands upon thousands of such crossings every year. According to Buchaniec, however, the thousands of people that Trump described in his address as spilling into the country each day “do not exist.” How, then, does she account for the roughly 400,000 of such cases reported by the U.S. Border Patrol in 2018 alone? Is the agency simply lying and fabricating these numbers? I don’t think so.

Buchaniec’s proclamation that our southern border is not in a state of peril is simply unfounded — it is in a state of peril. In fact, the whole country is in a state of peril as a result. Among many of the issues at our southern border is its acting as a pipeline for a plethora of illegal drugs including methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. In his address, Trump duly informed the nation that “every week 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border.” These statistics are generally correct, according to Vox. Whether or not the border wall would actually stop or slow the crossing of illegal drugs is another issue altogether and has no bearing on acknowledging that there is still a legitimate crisis at our southern border.

Still aren’t convinced? In the last year alone, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made nearly 160,000 arrests for immigration violations, most of which involved people with either criminal convictions or pending criminal charges. Trump correctly pointed this out in his address, yet Buchaniec doesn’t believe this constitutes a crisis. If the roughly 400,000 illegal crossings, the pipeline of drugs and the crimes committed by illegal immigrants crossing our southern border aren’t enough to constitute a crisis, then what is?

Buchaniec’s declaration that Trump is the only one to blame for the government shutdown is also not true. Buchaniec wrote that the government shutdown “is not an immigration debate” and “is not political discourse.” Rather, she tells us that “this is Trump firing up his base and dragging the country along for the ride.” I beg to differ. This is Trump doing what is best for the country. This is Trump trying to protect the American people.

Calling for a barrier at the southern border is not a new matter, nor has it been something supported only by Trump and Republicans in the past. If it were, then why in 2006 did then-Senator Barack Obama enthusiastically support the passage of legislation providing for “better fences and better security along our borders?” Not only did he support this legislation, but he also directly oversaw the construction of over 100 miles of barrier along the southern border in 2009. Obama is not the only Democrat to have supported a border barrier in the past, however. President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have all done so as well. Democrats reversed their position only after Trump was elected president.

Why, then, should Trump have to compromise with Democrats on an issue that some of their top leaders used to ardently support? Buchaniec believes he should do so in order to “protect the country.” I’m pretty confident when I say that Trump does not wish for the government shutdown. But, at the same time, he shouldn’t be any more expected to compromise with Democrats than they should be expected to compromise with him.

I’ll admit that it is time for the shutdown to end, but neither side looks ready to back down just yet. Buchaniec is right that it is time for Trump to “govern the democracy he was elected to lead.” In order for this to happen, however, Democrats will also have to step up to the plate, consider Trump’s position and have real negotiations. They are no more privileged to stand firm in their demands than President Trump. The shutdown is not solely Trump’s fault as Buchaniec claims. Instead, it is the result of strong-willed leaders on both sides of the aisle. I’m certain, however, that American democracy will lead us out of this conflict as it has always done for nearly 250 years.

Wesley Shirola is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.