We are quickly approaching the longest government shutdown ever recorded in American history. As partisan debates rage in Washington, over 800,000 government workers are without pay due to a “humanitarian crisis” at the border wall.
Two nights ago, President Donald Trump addressed the nation, attempting to persuade Americans of the immediate and legitimate reasons to build a steel wall at the southern border. But rather than simply accusing immigrants of “bringing drugs” and being “rapists” as he did throughout most of his presidential campaign, he had the audacity to suggest his effort to promote a wall “is a growing humanitarian and security crisis.”
Worse than this suggestion, and in addition to numerous false claims stated throughout the address, Trump utilized rhetoric laced with fear to discuss human beings, many of whom seek asylum. Unfortunately, this brand of anti-intellectualism and twisted emotional appeal will convince many Americans to defend the building of a wall and the government shutdown in general.
I am not one of these Americans.
After listening to two minutes full of exactly what I expected to hear from the president—mostly empty statistics and inaccurate information about drug smuggling at the border—I was shocked to realize I agreed with one of his statements. He labeled the country’s current state of affairs as “a crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul.”
While I do not believe that America faces a time-sensitive crisis which calls for a government shutdown, immigration reform is an undeniably important issue testing the spirit of America.
In an analogy during his address, Trump asked the question: “Why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside.”
But why not love people inside and outside of America? I understand the logistical problems with letting everyone, despite their legal status, come into America without promoting law and order. I get that. But we have the power to love everyone despite their citizenship. We do not just have to stick up for our own people.
America is a nation of immigrants. Built for immigrants, by immigrants. So to associate Hispanic people and all immigrants as sex offenders and criminals, as Donald Trump did, it paints a broad and, once again, inaccurate picture of the people crossing the border.
Out of the approximate 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, 105,736 are convicted criminals, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Fiscal Year Enforcement and Removal Operations Report. That is less than one percent. Still, the president gave four horrendous examples of undocumented immigrants committing crimes such as raping an Air Force veteran and “beheading, and dismembering [a] neighbor.”
America has seen fearmongering from the White House in the past with films such as “The Birth of a Nation” shown by President Woodrow Wilson. This movie portrayed black men as animalistic creatures murdering and killing white women, inevitably leading to the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and legal segregation.
While we live in the 21st century and Trump’s depiction of illegal immigrants is not this extreme, crimes committed by undocumented migrants should not have been the at the forefront of his address to the nation. We live in a bad world with bad people surrounding us constantly. A person is not more likely to commit a crime simply because they are an illegal immigrant.
When America’s justification for building a wall is rooted in a false sense of fear for other human beings, we will truly experience a national “crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul.”