In a column that ran Friday, Wesley Shirola rebutted my argument that a crisis does not exist at our southwest border. Moreover, he said that President Donald Trump does not hold sole responsibility for our current government shutdown. He went on to say the whole country is in a state of peril because of illegal immigration, the pipeline of drugs and crimes committed by illegal immigrants. However, I wish to clarify my previous statements and furthermore, argue that the evidence Shirola provided does not accurately illustrate the entire picture.
Typically, the word “crisis” describes a problem that’s getting worse.
During the fiscal 2018 year, Customs and Border Protection apprehended 396,579 undocumented immigrants at the southwest border. This is one of the lowest figures of this decade and is only a fraction of the 1,643,679 apprehended under the Clinton administration in 2000.
We are not at at a peak point of illegal immigration. The number of arrests at the border is not increasing.
Yet, Shirola argued that “there are still thousands upon thousands of such crossings every year.” I do not dispute that crossings happen; however, the numbers do not depict our current reality.
In a tweet on Friday, Trump characterized the illegal immigration occurring at the southwest border as an “invasion” — as “dangerous for the entire country.” However, family units accounted for about a third of all border apprehensions in 2018 — including those that were taken from their families under Trump’s family separation policy.
Are we going to place children under the moniker of “invasion?”
If you remove the number of family units and unaccompanied minors from the total amount of illegal border crossing arrests, the resulting figure is nowhere near the thousands Trump described in his speech.
In the past, Trump has characterized undocumented immigrants as “murderers and rapists” — people who terrorize our country. But numerous studies have shown that immigrants commit fewer crimes than U.S. citizens, partially in fear of deportation.
Shirola pointed out that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made nearly 160,000 arrests in the 2018 fiscal year. However, he failed to note that the majority of those arrests were for nonviolent offenses, including traffic violations.
Moreover, Shirola also wrote “most of which involved people with either criminal convictions or pending criminal charges.” However, he failed to explain that prior criminal convictions or pending criminal charges can include initial illegal entry into the U.S.
The people coming here are doing so for a reason. They are LGBTQ+ asylum seekers fleeing persecution. They are families escaping gang violence, leaving poverty in search of jobs, food, clean water and housing.
Shirola said the country sits in a state of peril due to the influx of narcotics. Both Shirola and Trump are right to identify drug trafficking as a major issue; however, that problem will not be solved by the construction of a wall.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, only “a small percentage” of heroin seized by authorities comes across on territory between land ports of entry. Most narcotics are smuggled through official border crossings.
Trump is asking for $5.7 billion to build a wall he implies will prevent heroin from entering the country and reduce heroin deaths. If most drugs are entering the country at checkpoints anyway, a wall wouldn’t help save American lives.
However, after further exploring this issue, I revise my previous statement that a crisis does not exist. A crisis does exist — not one of security, but rather one we have created.
Our immigration system needs reform — a fact both Democrats and Republicans agree on. Yet, the Trump administration has implemented inhumane and destructive policies. That’s the humanitarian crisis we should be talking about.
From the children that are still separated from their parents to the tear gas the Trump administration denied it used on juveniles despite photographic evidence, the humanitarian crisis that exists is one created by the United States. We are not the victim.
Shirola argued that “this is Trump trying to protect the American people.”
But trying to protect the American people from what? From the children his administration placed in cages away from their parents? From the drugs that will continue to flow into this country regardless of his construction of a wall? From people with traffic violations?
I agree with Shirola’s statement that calling for a barrier at the southwest border is not a new matter and has previously received democratic support; however, the framing of his argument is misleading.
Over the past two years, Trump has talked about a wall that will stretch across the the U.S.-Mexico border. Not only is such a border unfeasible because of private land ownership, but Democrats currently in Congress have never voted for any barriers like the wall Trump has proposed.
I stand by my claim that Trump is solely responsible for the shutdown — both the House and Senate have passed bills to reopen most of the government. In regards to compromise, Trump is the one who walked out of negotiations with a “bye bye.”
Maybe it’s time we say “bye bye” to him.
Catherine Buchaniec is a Medill first-year. She can be contacted at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, 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.