For the past three weeks, we have watched and heard as the president shut down the government while making a weak attempt to sell his border wall to the nation. In a televised primetime speech that was broadcasted last week, Donald Trump utilized predictable fear-mongering techniques to tell Americans that our nation is approaching the point of no return when it comes to securing our borders.
But at this point, this isn’t actually about a border wall. Donald Trump just wants to maintain his image as a “tough” negotiator amid the obvious reality that neither Mexico nor Congress will fund his absurd vanity project. And the president has once again chosen to dig in and spread misinformation in an attempt to maintain two untenable lies.
On the one hand, President Trump has billed himself as a strong man who will always get the “best deal” for the American people and put U.S. citizens first. His foundational campaign promise was not just building a wall along America’s southern border, but that Mexico would pay for the wall. Not that he would renegotiate NAFTA so that trade deficits and tariffs would indirectly offset the construction costs (which is nonsense in its own right), but that Mexico would flat out agree to fork over the money. Now he’s storming out of meetings and refusing to negotiate with Democrats when told that a $5 billion allocation for his wall will not happen.
On the other hand, Trump is doing everything in his power to shift the blame away from his administration’s failure to compromise on the issue of border security and try to pin it on the Democratic party. If the president wants to come out of the national crisis he himself created (and I’m not referring to any border-related crisis), then the president’s best hope is that Americans miraculously believe his farce that Democrats are standing in the way of a building a border wall that would magically “pay for itself many times.”
“Donald Trump just wants to maintain his image as a 'tough' negotiator amid the obvious reality that neither Mexico nor Congress will fund his absurd vanity project.”
The truth is that the president is desperate, unreasonable and probably knows that this political stunt, unlike many of his previous ones, will ultimately backfire on his administration.
For clarity’s sake, there is no crisis at the border. Period. Fact-checkers from all across the internet have shown that border apprehensions are on the decline, a fact corroborated by data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Furthermore, any type of immigration “deal” that’s been previously floated around by White House staffers or surrogates has not been conclusive enough to be deemed credible by immigration advocates.
There was talk about a potential exchange between both sides of the aisle, in which Trump would get some version of his border wall in exchange for some type of protection for Dreamers, but that idea now seems dead. Any attempt at negotiation has been undermined by the fact that the president is neither the dealmaker he has billed himself to be, nor is he willing to accept the responsibilities of leadership. He’s been notoriously all over the map on all sorts of issues and will generally tell whoever’s in the room whatever they want to hear, especially on matters regarding immigration. It’s not clear he understands what’s at stake for hundreds of thousands of young aspiring Americans who could face deportation if the program is struck down, and it’s impossible for anyone to negotiate with him when it’s not even clear what his position is.
If Trump was to say he is willing to work on border security, acknowledging that a physical barrier is a small (though impractical) part of such policies, then negotiations could proceed along a sincere effort to modernize our immigration system and find solutions for Dreamers and temporary protected status holders.
But until that happens, Trump is the barrier to progress on any deal to end the government shutdown ― meaning that immigrants, as well as U.S. citizens who work for the federal government (along with their families), will continue to suffer the consequences of Trump’s border wall tantrum.
Juan Escalante is an immigrant advocate and online strategist who has been fighting for the Dream Act and pro-immigration policies at all levels of the government for the past 10 years.