We do not have an emergency at the southern border, and so it’s good President Trump did not try to seize power by declaring a state of emergency during his national address Tuesday night.
We do have a serious problem with border security, and so it’s unfortunate Democrats and the media have tried to downplay the problem.
More than 10 million illegal immigrants currently reside in our country. They drive down wages for struggling, low-skilled Americans, and they live in the shadows, fostering an atmosphere of lawlessness. An estimated two-thirds of the illegal population is from Mexico, Central America, or South America, reflecting the porousness of our southern border.
Some of our southern border has physical barriers. For much of it, though, we depend on natural barriers to deter illegal entry, such as the cruel desert or the Rio Grande. If it’s already illegal and deadly to cross in these places, there’s little sense to the protestations by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that a physical barrier there would be immoral.
Of course, Trump doesn’t help his cause when he exaggerates, misrepresents, and misunderstands the facts. It’s not true that terrorists are streaming across our southern border. It’s also not true that our unprotected border areas are the main avenue for illegal drugs — those are mostly smuggled in through valid border crossings, as far as the data can tell us.
Our border problem is not one of illegal drugs and terrorists. But it also isn’t a story of Trump trying to “ manufacture a crisis,” as Pelosi charged Tuesday night. We could debate the definition of “crisis,” but we can’t deny a bad problem.
“Record numbers of migrant families are streaming into the United States,” the Washington Post recently reported, “overwhelming border agents and leaving holding cells dangerously overcrowded with children, many of whom are falling sick.”
Two Guatemalan children died from the harsh conditions in the southern U.S. desert after crossing our unprotected border. That was universally considered a humanitarian crisis until Trump said there was a crisis at our border.
Is the problem growing, declining or generally steady?
That depends on how you measure it. We wouldn’t call it an emergency, and we argued against such a declaration by Trump. We’re glad he followed the course we prescribed.
But Trump has a magical power to control what people think, particularly his opponents. Trump’s overblown statements about terrorists, heroin, and emergencies have driven his critics to declare our southern border is just fine. That’s a lie. Our border is porous, and our country suffers from it. Better physical barriers would help. Once we accept that basic truth, we can have a better debate.