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Breaking Down the Shutdown: It’s Time for a Fact Check on Trump’s Border Brawl

For the last three weeks, we’ve seen the White House reach new lows in its attempts to spin the media and the American public on its demands for some kind of border wall. Is President Donald Trump adamant in wanting concrete, or is he “compromising” by settling for steel slats? Is “The Wall” needed for “national security”, or is Trump endangering national security by keeping much of the federal government shut down? Are Democrats being unreasonable by refusing to compromise, or is Trump being irrational by rejecting what was supposed to be the compromise?

As Trump prepares to grab more camera time tonight, let’s break it down as we debunk the lies and seek out the truth behind Trump’s shutdown sh–show.

Lie #1: “Democrats won’t compromise”
Photo by Andrew Davey

Last week, Rep. Mark Amodei’s (R-Carson City) office issued this press release denouncing the new House Democratic majority’s plan to end the shutdown. In the release, Amodei declared, “House Republicans took care of business nearly two weeks ago, voting to keep the federal government open, secure our borders, and provide relief to areas torn apart by natural disasters. […] Now, House Democrats are attempting to hold funding for border security hostage while bringing up a Senate-passed funding package that has not gone through regular order, excludes a number of House-passed priorities, and is already considered dead on arrival.”

At first glance, Amodei’s statement raises alarms on the byzantine Senate rules and Democrats’ ongoing blockade against Trump’s demands for $5 billion or more in border wall funding. But when we scratch the surface, we uncover this inconvenient truth: Congress had already authorized $1.3 billion in annual “border security” funding last year, and a bipartisan group in the Senate Appropriations Committee made the offer last June to go up to $1.6 billion this year. Up until December 20, even the White House was willing to accept the bipartisan $1.6 billion Senate offer after Trump signed previous appropriations bills that had “border security” at the $1.3 billion level. Just to make this point even clearer, the $1.3 billion level that House Democrats are now offering is the current status quo that’s already gone through regular order while the $1.6 billion Senate compromise (of the earlier compromise) was openly considered in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s homeland security subcommittee.

Unlike the other two proposals, which have undergone some type of proper Congressional vetting and bipartisan negotiations, Trump’s $5 billion+ border wall ultimatum is the product of Fox News hysteria. So if Amodei and other House Republicans truly want “regular order” and “bipartisan compromise”, why have they been so willing to jettison the proposals that are based on previous bipartisan compromise to instead champion a last-minute ransom demand that formed as the result of far-right media personalities’ publicity stunt?

Lie #2: “Mexico will pay for it”, or “‘The Wall’ will pay for itself”
Photo by Andrew Davey

Thanks to Trump’s own actions to impose tariffs on imported steel, the total cost of the “steel slats” version of “The Wall” would cost at least $39 billion. If Trump (again) reverts to his desire for a concrete wall, the total cost would similarly hover around $38 billion. Since the Mexican government has repeatedly stated it will not pay for any of “The Wall”, this means Trump wants American taxpayers to foot the bill for his desired border wall.

No, the new NAFTA (“USMCA”, the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement replacement) has no provision requiring Mexico to pay for any of “The Wall”. No, none of Trump’s tariffs are making Mexico pay for any of “The Wall”. (Again, it’s actually the reverse in that his tariffs are adding to the cost of the steel version of his wall.)

And no, there’s no evidence showing that “‘The Wall’ will stop the crime that’s hurting our citizens”. As we’ve discussed on these pages before, there’s no relationship between immigration status and criminal behavior. And for all the recent bluster from the White House about “terrorism” and “drugs”, their elaborate PowerPoint presentations are very easily debunked. If anything, the shutdown is further endangering Americans by crippling agencies like TSA that provide actual security services (rather than merely physical representation of campaign rhetoric).

Lie #3: The showdown over “The Wall” has become a “crisis”. (OK, there is actually some truth to this, just not what Trump wants us to believe it is.)
Photo by Andrew Davey

Over the past 72 hours, the Trump administration has been floating the idea of declaring a national emergency to somehow enable construction of “The Wall”. Though Trump isn’t expected to declare one during tonight’s primetime TV special, the White House continues to peddle the notion that Trump simply wants to “fix the crisis at the border”, where apprehensions at southern ports of entry last year were less than half the total of 2007 and less than 25% of 2000’s total.

Indeed, there is a crisis at the border and with the larger immigration system. However, Trump has actually been exacerbating it by pursuing a “zero tolerance” policy that’s resulted in family separations, denial of critical protection to refugees in need, unnecessary prison-style detention of refugees escaping the very crime Trump claims he’s fighting against, and an ever-escalating deportation regime that targets established immigrant communities instead of any real criminal threats. “The Wall” doesn’t do anything to solve this crisis, and it’s not even a priority of many of his fellow anti-immigrant hardliners who would rather escalate the deportation regime than throw money at a physical manifestation of Trump’s campaign rhetoric.

If Trump eventually follows through on his threat to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congressional budget authority, Trump will in fact exacerbate the constitutional crisis he’s inflicted on the nation ever since he first took office amidst questions of his campaign’s ties to the Russian government. With Robert Mueller potentially uncovering new evidence in the Trump-Russia investigation, Congressional Democrats introducing new legislation addressing the much more real national security threat of widespread gun violence, and Americans across the nation suffering the consequences of this Trump-induced shutdown, we’re left to wonder whether tonight’s big show of a “national address” will be anything more than yet another of his weapons of mass distraction. And that, right there, gets to the true heart of the real problem at the center of this shutdown shitshow.

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