It’s not just about a physical barrier. He wants to hang an “unwelcome” sign on a nation built by immigrants.
Donald Trump wants more than a wall.
The president, once again, has created his own reality, manufactured a crisis, invented an invasion, criminalized immigrants, made up facts and, in a nationally televised speech on Tuesday, argued for a new wall at the United States-Mexico border. “How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?” he asked from the White House.
Mr. Trump is not the first president to ask for money for a wall. George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush built fences and walls along the southern border. Barack Obama maintained the resulting system of roughly 700 miles of physical barriers. So why don’t we want Mr. Trump to build his wall? What is different?
The difference is that Mr. Trump’s wall is a symbol of hate and racism, it would be completely useless, and it does not address any national emergency.
The $5.7 billion requested by the Trump administration to build 234 more miles of walls and fences would be an enormous waste of time and money. Beginning with the first, 14-mile stretch of border fencing, built between San Diego and Tijuana in the early 1990s, undocumented immigrants have shown they can adapt very fast and move to areas with no border barriers. Deserts in Arizona and open areas along the Rio Grande in Texas are now a favorite point of entry. The same thing would happen with a new Trump wall.
We also know that almost half of all undocumented immigrants arrive by plane or with a visa. They come legally as tourists or visitors and simply overstay their visas. The tallest fence cannot stop that.
Nor would a new wall prevent the flow of illegal drugs entering the country, as Mr. Trump claimed in his speech. Most drug seizures happen at ports of entry. And as long as we have more than 28 million Americans regularly using illegal drugs, we will have drug dealers in Mexico and the rest of Latin America moving their products to the most profitable market in the world.
The White House claims that 4,000 suspected terrorists were arrested along the southern border last year. That is simply wrong: A vast majority were detained at airports. Just six were actually caught crossing illegally by foot.
I have recently traveled to the border in California and Texas, and I can report that contrary to what the president said in his speech, there is no invasion. The undocumented population has not grown in a decade; in fact it has fallen to 10.7 million. And despite the presence of violent drug cartels on the Mexican side, the American border towns are among the safest in the country.
What is undeniable is the humanitarian crisis in Tijuana. But it is a crisis created in part by Mr. Trump. Record numbers of desperate families, fleeing violence, corruption and extreme poverty, have been arriving in caravans to our southern border. Instead of their asylum requests being promptly processed, as established by international and United States laws, only a few are allowed in every day. This policy of cruelty by design has unjustly affected children and the most vulnerable people in our hemisphere. These refugees certainly do not pose a danger to our national security.
This is about more than just a wall. Mr. Trump promised it in 2015, in the same speech in which he announced his candidacy, the same speech in which he called Mexican immigrants rapists, criminals and drug traffickers. His goal was to exploit the anxiety and resentment of voters in an increasingly multicultural, multiethnic society. Mr. Trump’s wall is a symbol for those who want to make America white again.
The chant “Build that wall, build that wall” became his hymn — and an insult not just to Latinos but also to all people who do not share his xenophobic ideals. The wall went from a campaign promise to a monument built on bigoted ideas. That is why most Americans cannot say yes to it. Every country has a right to protect its borders. But not to a wall that represents hate, discrimination and fear.
No, Mexico will not pay for the wall. And it seems Congress won’t either. But the concept of America as an unwelcoming country to immigrants and uncomfortable for minorities is already here.
In a way, Mr. Trump already got what he wanted. He is the wall.
Former Obama White House official Ben Rhodes, in his forthcoming memoir, tells of a moment of doubt the first African American president had after the election of Donald Trump on a campaign dominated by white grievance.
“Sometimes I wonder whether I was 10 or 20 years too early,” President Barack Obama said in the passage, first reported thisweek by Peter Baker in the New York Times.
I hate to say it, but I think the former president was correct.
Ten or 20 years from now, America will be much closer to the majority-minority nation it is forecast to become in 2045. A racist backlash to a black president wouldn’t matter as much.
But what was naively proclaimed in 2008 as post-racial America was instead kindling for white insecurity, and Trump cunningly exploited and stoked racial grievance with his subtle and overt nods to white nationalism. He is now leading the backlash to the Obama years and is seeking to extend white dominion as long as possible, with attempts to stem immigration, to suppress minority voting and to deter minority census participation... ● Trump had no criticism for Roseanne Barr after her rebooted ABC show was canned because she called former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett a cross between the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.” Instead, Trump used the occasion to demand an apology of his own from ABC for unrelated slights.● Trump rallied supporters in Nashville with many of the race-based themes of his campaign, saying Mexico is “going to pay for the wall and they’re going to enjoy it.” He led the crowd in denouncing Latino “animals” who join the MS-13 gang, and repeated his message to black people: “What the hell do you have to lose?”
● Trump pardoned Dinesh D’Souza, the Indian American provocateur who had called Obama a “boy” from the “ghetto” and a “grown up Trayvon,” had dismissed Rosa Parks, and was prolific in his use of the n-word. This follows Trump’s previous pardon of anti-immigrant provocateur Joe Arpaio.
● Trump’s new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, hosted the previously shunned Hungarian foreign minister, following his government’s reelection on a campaign of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim demagoguery. The ruling party won by demonizing the Jewish Hungarian American George Soros, a Holocaust survivor.
.. And, finally, a new study by academic researchers in California found that opposition to welfare — another Trump fixation — has grown among white Americans. The researchers concluded that “whites’ perceptions that minorities’ standing is rising can produce periods of ‘welfare backlash’ ” — but only if they believe the programs primarily benefit minorities... the main predictor of support for Trump is racial anxiety — far more than economic anxiety... he tax cut, in the first quarter, contributed toan 8 percent increase in corporate earnings but only a 1 percent increase in consumer spending — the lowest increase in five years — and even though coal jobs are disappearing faster than before, wages remain stuck and the promised return of manufacturing hasn’t happened.
There is absolutely no evidence that Trump’s supporters, either in the primary or the general election, are disproportionately poor or working class. Exit polling from the primaries found that Trump voters made about as much as Ted Cruz voters, and significantly more than supporters of either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Trump voters, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver found, had a median household income of $72,000, a fair bit higher than the $62,000 median household income for non-Hispanic whites in America.
.. Trump support was correlated with higher, not lower, income, both among the population as a whole and among white people. Trump supporters were less likely to be unemployed or to have dropped out of the labor force. Areas with more manufacturing, or higher exposure to imports from China, were less likely to think favorably of Trump.
.. In the primary, though, the story was, as my colleague Zack Beauchamp has explained at length, almost entirely about racial resentment. There’s a wide array of data to back this up.
UCLA’s Michael Tesler has found that support for Trump in the primaries strongly correlated with respondents’ racial resentment, as measured by survey data. Similarly, Republican voters with the lowest opinions of Muslims were the most likely to vote for Trump, and voters who strongly support mass deportation of undocumented immigrants were likelier to support him in the primaries too.
.. The white nationalist wing was gaining in strength, and due for a win. It got one in Trump.
.. Taking Trump supporters seriously means not pretending their concerns are about the economy
.. There’s a parallel temptation among leftists and social democrats who, in their ongoing attempt to show that neoliberal capitalism is failing, attempt to tie that failure to the rise of Trump. If economic suffering among lower-class whites caused Trump, the reasoning goes, then the solution is to address that suffering through a more generous welfare state and better economic policy, achieved through a multiethnic working-class coalition that includes those Trump supporters
.. But we have a good case study we can examine to see if Western European–style welfare states can prevent far-right racist backlashes from popping up. It’s called Western Europe. And Sweden’s justly acclaimed welfare state did not prevent the rise of the viciously anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, which has its origins in the Swedish neo-fascist and white supremacist movements and is now the third-largest party in Swedish parliament.
.. Nor has Germany’s strong, manufacturing-heavy and export-oriented economy, arguably the strongest in Europe, kept the far-right AfD party from gaining in recent local elections. It’s telling to note that while economically thriving Germany is facing a far-right menace, Spain, where unemployment is 20 percent (similar to the US in the Great Depression), has no far-right movement of much consequence.
.. Comprehensive welfare states are very, very good. They do not solve racism. Whites in both Europe and America have made it very clear that they will not accept becoming a demographic minority without a fight, and will continue to vote for candidates that speak to that concern and promise immigration policies that put off white minority status for as long as possible.
.. If Trump’s supporters are not, in fact, motivated by economic marginalization, then even full Bernie Sanders–style social democracy is not going to prevent a Trump recurrence.
.. What’s needed is an honest reckoning with what it means that a large segment of the US population, large enough to capture one of the two major political parties, is motivated primarily by white nationalism and an anxiety over the fast-changing demographics of the country.