Trump rallies supporters amid wall deadlock

Brick and mortar: 58% of Americans are opposed to the border wall, while 40% are in favour.

As another government shutdown looms, Trump used a rally in El Paso, Texas, to insist that his wall is being built. But the city’s mayor says there is no crisis at the border.

US President Donald Trump held a rally in the border city of El Paso, Texas, on Monday. Thousands of his supporters were at the County Coliseum, which was decked out with US flags and huge red banners reading “Finish the Wall”.

“We are doing whatever we have to do,” said the president, to rapturous applause. “The wall is being built.”

Trump’s divisive border wall pledge was central to his bid for the White House, but in recent months his rhetoric has ramped up. He claims the border is the site of a “humanitarian and security crisis”.

“Tremendous numbers of people are coming up through Mexico in the hopes of flooding our southern border,” Trump tweeted last week. According to the president, only a “big, beautiful wall” will stop illegal immigrants bringing violent crime, terrorism and drugs into the US.

In October, 2,000 troops were sent to defend the southern border, and the Pentagon has promised more.

The Democrat-controlled House disagrees and is standing firm against Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to fund the wall. With options running out, Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to bypass Congress.

The US-Mexico border winds 1,954 miles through towns and desert. Around 600 miles are fenced off.

El Paso sits just across the Rio Grande river from Mexico.

“From my vantage point in El Paso there is no crisis,” said Dee Margo, the city’s mayor. “You look south and you can’t tell where El Paso merges into Júarez.”

The number of immigrants crossing into the US from Mexico is, in fact, falling. Last year, there were 400,000 border arrests, compared with well over one million in the early 2000s.

Trump has often cast immigrants as criminals and rapists. In reality, criminal conviction rates are much higher for people born in the US than those who immigrated from elsewhere.

Back in El Paso, a 43-year-old Mexican woman was among the immigrants registering with officials.

“Trump calls us killers, delinquents and drug dealers,” said Iris Galindo Maldonado, who came to the border with her 10-year-old daughter after her husband was killed by drug gangs. “In fact, that is exactly what we are fleeing from!”

Build the wall!

Is there a crisis on the US border? While overall immigrant numbers are falling, more and more asylum seekers are arriving at a time when the White House is restricting asylum applications. Should all asylum seekers be accepted? If so, how much help should the state give them? More or less than its own citizens?

Whether or not a wall is the answer, many Americans are concerned about immigration. Too often, the debate is reduced to accusations of scaremongering or xenophobia from either side. How can we have a sensible conversation about the issue?

You Decide

  1. Is immigration good or bad for a country?
  2. Is there a crisis at the US-Mexico border?

Activities

  1. In one minute, write down all the words you associate with the term “immigrant”. Overall, are they negative or positive? What does this tell you about how immigration is viewed? Is it a fair representation?
  2. Aside from El Paso, research another town or city on the US-Mexico border. Try to find out how the town is affected by migration and what local politicians think about the wall issue. Write a page-long account, including quotes if possible.

Some People Say...

“Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.”

Joseph Fort Newton

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Democrat-controlled House is no nearer to giving Trump the $5.7 billion he wants to build a 1,000-mile concrete wall along the US-Mexico border. Over Christmas, the stand-off triggered the longest government shutdown in US history as the two sides struggled to agree on a budget. As another crisis looms, Democrats and Republicans have tentatively agreed on a deal that would put $1.4 billion towards border security, which includes money for 55 miles of fencing — far short of what Trump is demanding.
What do we not know?
Whether the wall will be built, or even what it will look like. Trump originally promised to cover the entire border with a concrete wall, but later clarified that the wall would cover half the border, while natural terrain such as mountains would be a barrier for the rest.

Word Watch

Border
Every congressperson along the southern border opposes the wall.
Drugs
Most drug busts happen at border entry points rather than the gap in between, so the wall is unlikely to stop drugs entering the US. In addition, drones are increasingly being used by Mexican cartels to fly drugs over the border.
Pentagon
The headquarters of the US Department of Defence, which is in charge of the US military.
Democrat-controlled
Democrats won control of the House of Representatives (one of two chambers in the US Congress) in November’s midterm elections.
Rates
According to the Cato Institute, there are proportionally fewer criminal convictions of both undocumented immigrants and legal immigrants than of US-born citizens in Texas.
Seekers
Previously, asylum seekers were given a tag and allowed to live in the US until their case was heard, but the Trump administration sees this as a loophole into the country. Therefore, they have sought to detain more asylum seekers in custody, which is overwhelming facilities.
Xenophobia
Fear or dislike of people from foreign countries.