Fishing for the truth with Trump

The Trump administration has become widely identified with deceptive stock phrases. Ironically, his claims about immigration at the Mexican border is itself “fake news.”

For example, immigration from Mexico peaked in 2005. And since 2009, Mexicans (and their U.S. born children) have been returning to Mexico in greater numbers than those who are entering, legally or not. Trump’s wall is more likely to prevent them from returning to Mexico!

The sherriff of Santa Cruz County, Calif., says border violence “is completely overblown. His county, “hasn’t seen any homicides in five years.” Moreover, as a noted conservative columnist recounts, “Roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males between ages 18 and 39 wind up incarcerated, compared with 3.3 percent of native-born American men of the same age. Among native-born men without a high school diploma, about 11 percent are incarcerated. Among similarly educated Mexican, Guatemalan and Salvadoran men here, only 2 or 3 percent get incarcerated.”

Furthermore, the middle of the Rio Grande River is the border for 1,300 miles and a wall can’t be built because the river wanders greatly. Even where parts of the wall already exist, it is regularly breached. The Arizona governor says, “You show me a 50-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder. . .” The government owns only one-third of the land, and lengthy eminent domain proceedings are needed. One existing case has been in the courts for seven years!

The GOP Congressman of a district on the border writes, “For every move we make to defend ourselves, our adversaries will make a counter-move. True border security demands a flexible, defense-in-depth strategy that includes a mix of personnel, technology and changing tactics, all of which come at a lower price tag than a border wall. During the campaign, Trump suggested his wall would cost between $8 billion and $12 billion. . . (T)he MIT Technology Review suggests the cost could be as much as $40 billion.” To give some perspective on this number, the entire national intelligence program’s . . . annual budget is $53 billion’.” That would pay for really worthy needs; e.g., deficient bridges — 40 in Chautauqua County, 99 structurally obsolete (Google “How many structurally deficient bridges are in your county“). The Congressman prudently adds, “As a conservative legislator, I believe the U.S. government has a responsibility to use the hard-earned taxpayer dollars entrusted to it wisely.”

GOP senate majority leader McConnell admits Mexico will not pay for the wall! One GOP idea is to instead levy a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports. But that would mean that Americans will end up paying that much more for Mexican goods (e.g., vegetables, beer, auto parts).

As to need, in 2016 the FBI reported that “the number, type, and location of encounters with known or suspected terrorists across the United States. . . at land border crossings were higher in northern states than southern.” “We are looking the wrong direction,” said a senior Homeland Security official. In fact, “more than twice as many watchlisted individuals were encountered at land border crossings in northern U.S. border states than in all states on the Mexican border combined.” Meanwhile, more immigrants are entering from China, India, and East Asia than from Mexico, and most undocumented immigrants are from China.

Importantly, an immigration official says that “The Mexican government (is), strengthening border enforcement with Central America, sending people back” He adds that the wall “‘is not needed since illegal immigration from Mexico is at a 40-year low,” and that any problem is “a border management issue, not border security.” Thus it is wise to remain friendly with Mexico in order to continue such good will and cooperation. The new Secretary of Homeland Security said that such “partnerships ‘as far south as Peru’ are more important to U.S. border security than building a wall.”

Many people have been misled by Trump’s insulting rhetoric against Mexicans, and claims for the wall. If there is any “fake news,” it originates in the Trump administration, and readers should be alert to being misled into accepting Trump’s alternative reality of an America in decline that only he can fix. In 33 days, he made 132 demonstrably false or misleading claims (Google, “100 days of Trump claims”).

Americans need to be more critically aware of such deception by taking fully into consideration real facts (as above), not Trump’s “alternative facts.”

Thomas A. Regelski, Ph.D., is emeritus distinguished professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia.