The deadlock between Donald Trump and the Democrats reflects the inability of the two sides to calmly discuss immigration for years now.
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” The catchphrase of the former Democratic senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, still resonated Tuesday, Jan. 8, as Donald Trump addressed the country on television from the Oval Office. The president of the United States chose this solemn setting to plead the case for the wall he wants to erect on the border with Mexico.
This plan, which Democrats oppose, has plunged a quarter of the federal government into a shutdown, a deadlock that no one in Washington can see the end to. In a striking paradox, those who are responsible for securing this border are among the most impacted.
The president put forth his arguments with more gravity and sobriety than he has in recent weeks, without actually masking the weaknesses of the plan. Can one call it a border “crisis,” as he did, when arrests of undocumented immigrants, the best indicator of illegal immigration, are at some of the lowest rates in the last 20 years, even if they’ve begun to rise over the last few months?
The True, the Unknown and the False
Why obsess over this border, when the majority of immigrants without legal documentation enter the United States on legally obtained visas and do not leave when they expire? Why promise, as the president did on Tuesday, that a wall would put a decisive end to drug trafficking, when most of it comes through official border crossings, drowned in the flow of goods into the United States?
Since his election, Trump has managed to blur the lines between the true, the uncertain and the false. His repeated denunciation of the media, lumped all together as the “enemy of the people,” has been part of the same calculation, allowing him to free himself from the facts in favor of slogans more in line with his wishes, particularly on immigration, which he presents as an existential threat.
This project involving the wall, supported by a few complacent media outlets, however, faces a stubborn and inconvenient reality. Despite the presidential hype, a clear majority of Americans remain unconvinced of the necessity of a structure that will certainly not be without effect, but whose pros and cons have never been subject to debate, because, it remains above all an unfulfilled campaign promise, designed uniquely to satisfy his base.
The fetishizing of this wall does not spare the Democrats, but impacts them in an opposite way. In 2006, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and current Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer voted in favor of the partial closure of this border, albeit not on scale with the grandiose work envisioned by Trump. Today, by their inflexible opposition and denunciation of the project as “immoral,” they are giving credence to Trump’s argument that they only now oppose it because he is defending it.
The United States has suffered for years in its inability to calmly discuss immigration. George W. Bush, then Obama, tried in vain. But, far from bringing a talent for negotiation to Washington, their successor, a self-proclaimed champion of deals but quick to incite fear, is only digging his country deeper into the rut.