Several hours before President Donald Trump used his first-ever prime time television address to warn of a so-called national security crisis on the southern border, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii issued a tweet.
“Spoiler Alert: The President will lie to the American people from the Oval Office tonight,” Hirono said. “The only crisis that exists is the one he manufactured and the only wall that’s real is the one closing in on him.”
Hirono, the first immigrant to serve in the U.S. Senate, nailed it precisely. That didn’t stop Trump from urging Americans in his short speech Wednesday evening to support his goal of spending $5.7 billion of taxpayer money to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.
At least the president didn’t take the foolish step of declaring a national emergency and using the military to build a “beautiful” wall … yet.
Let’s call Trump’s wall what it is and what it has been since he first campaigned on it: a shameful, hurtful, wasteful, racist, immoral and stupid crusade to scare Americans into electing him and keeping him in the White House.
Some parts of the U.S.-Mexico border already have fencing, such as this stretch in Arizona. But none of it was built since Donald Trump became president.
Donna Burton/U.S. Customs and Border Protection
It has also led to the nation’s second-longest government shutdown, now in its third week, in which states like Hawaii have been particularly hard hit because there are thousands of federal employees here, as well as other workers tied to government contracts.
The U.S. House of Representatives, now controlled by Democrats, is right to reject the wall money while pledging support for border security through more staffing and operations.
Indeed, that’s what the Republican-controlled Senate did just a few weeks ago when it agreed to a continuing resolution sans wall funding to keep the full government running.
Democratic House and Senate leaders reiterated Tuesday that they stand ready to work with Senate Republicans to quickly approve a spending plan for all parts of government.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t even send a measure to Trump unless it’s one he’s already indicated he’ll sign. The Senate should grow a collective spine and stand up to the president.
But it would take two-thirds of both chambers to override a potential veto, a high bar that would require lots of Republicans to go against the head of their party.
There is a need to have a serious policy discussion on border security and immigration reform, one that includes Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that is on hold because the Trump administration is trying to kill DACA in the courts.
The tone of the president’s speech Tuesday night, at least in the beginning, was uncharacteristically restrained.
But it only highlighted that his rationale for a wall is built on the shifting sands of a bed of lies. News outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN published lists of fact checks before Trump’s address in anticipation of perfidy from the POTUS.
There is good reason to publish such stories. Even Fox News fact-checked White House press secretary Sarah Sanders when she said Sunday “nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.”
In fact, only a dozen non-citizens on the terrorism watch list were stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2018, CNN reported. Most illegal immigration doesn’t come through the Mexican border, as CNBC reported this week, and government data shows that arrests “are down compared with the Obama administration as most illegal immigration occurs through overstaying temporary visas.”
As for drug smuggling, a concrete or steel wall won’t stop that thriving illicit industry. Newsweek reported Monday that U.S. soldiers — that’s right, Americans — pleaded guilty to smuggling $1 million worth of cocaine from Columbia aboard a military plane.
Besides, experts say most illegal drugs come in through normal border checkpoints. That’s why most say a wall won’t stop it.
Trumps’ supporters will no doubt call these and other reports “fake news.” They no doubt believe that the wall will be paid for by the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, as Trump has said, something the Post calls “a Four-Pinocchio claim.”
Nor has construction on the wall begun, as Trump has asserted repeatedly.
“Since he took office, no new miles of barriers have been built,” according to the Times. “In February, construction will begin on 14 miles of new barriers, which would be the first extension of the current barriers.”
The U.S.-Mexico border, by the way, is 1,954 miles long. But one hears little about the U.S.-Canada border, which, excluding Alaska, is 3,987 miles long.
A real crisis is when families, including women and children and people seeking asylum, are separated and unreasonably detained at the border. The president ought to pay a visit to the centers when he flies to the border Thursday for his photo op.
A crisis is also when an unfunded government struggles to process tax returns and provide food stamps. A crisis is when 800,000 federal workers go without a paycheck, as will happen this week barring a shutdown breakthrough. A crisis is when Congress that can’t do anything else until it funds operations.
And a crisis is when unpaid TSA screeners walk off the job and airport check-in lines begin backing up. Meanwhile, the largest pilots’ union is raising concerns about flight delays and threats to safety. That will also hurt tourism-dependent Hawaii.
Come on, Congress: Reject the stupid wall, reopen the government and get back to work. It’s your job.
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The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Jim Simon, Richard Wiens, Chad Blair and Jessica Terrell. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.