The debate surrounding President Trump's proposed $8.6 billion in appropriations for a border wall separating the United States and Mexico has seen extreme partisanship in recent weeks. There have been few signs of cooperation or compromise between Democrats and Republicans in Congress and it continues to be the principal impediment preventing a full fiscal year national budget from being passed.
Protests continue, Republicans and Democrats remain unwavering in their arguments, and an agreement seems to be incredibly far from achievable. President Trump and his administration persistently voice their support for the wall in efforts to appeal to those who do not see the benefit while Democrats in Congress refuse to budge either, vocally opposing on the basis of moral grounds. They cite that a wall that divides two individual, sovereign nations is against our values as a country of safe harbor, welcoming, and a land of and built by immigrants.
As our border remains open and illegal immigrants continue to make the treacherous journey into the United States, Americans are growing restless in wait of a solution, and Democrats sustain their stance that a border wall is unjust and inhumane. But where do the real immoralities and dangers facing foreigners who seek to enter our country illegally lie?
In a White House press release issued early February, the Trump administration highlighted the most important rationales for the border wall, stating, "There is a humanitarian crisis at the southern border as human traffickers victimize countless women and children...traffickers use loopholes in our immigration laws to exploit women and children." Trump is quoted as he explains his administration's dedication to "leveraging every resource" to advocate for and assist the victims and survivors of trafficking and to hold their traffickers accountable, followed by staggering statistics of the prevalence of human trafficking at our border.
"More than 50% of women are sexually assaulted on the journey to our southern border. Nearly 70% of migrants traveling to the United States are victims of violence."
Although it is undeniable this is indeed a crisis, the manner in which to solve it remains highly contested. In this release, President Trump proposes a solution: a wall spanning the southern border to divide the land currently "wide open to human trafficking." However, this proposition was quickly met with serious backlash. Notably from the political left, Sen. Bernie Sanders has actively voiced his opposition, arguing the construction of a wall would "waste billions of dollars," however, in the same breath, agreeing that it is time to "finally address the need for comprehensive immigration reform, including improved border security."
An exact plan was not specified in this particular incident to counter the border wall, but what is shocking is Sanders' complete ignorance to the drug and human trafficking violence and tragedy that occurs on our southern border every day. In an address in response to a Trump Oval Office Address Sanders said, "Mr. President, we don't need to create artificial crises. We have enough real crises." While it may be true that countless other issues plague the world and the United States at the moment, to denote the trafficking crises at our border as "artificial" can only be seen as obtuse and audacious rhetoric. Yet Sanders says, "I think the entire Trump view[s] on immigration is heartless."
It's easy to side with those who preach empathy, love, and acceptance as being their motivations to oppose the border wall, but it's time to acknowledge the hypocrisy in their criticisms. The Trump administration's reasoning behind the wall and the factual evidence used to support the assertion that a border wall will work towards the prevention of human trafficking, despite avid unfounded rebuttals from Democrats, is backed by history. In fact, the implementation of barriers across the border to prevent illegal immigration and trafficking/drug activity has been used several times in the United States — and successfully.
Several highlighted by the release include: A 92% drop in illegal traffic in San Diego over 23 years, a 72% drop in the El Paso sector in one year and 95% over 22 years, a 90% decline in the Tucson sector over 15 years, and a 95% drop in the Yuma sector over nine years.
Regardless, even if choosing to ignore the most proven successful solution we have seen, several adversaries to Trump's proposal have gone so far as to say the trafficking that occurs at our Southern border has not reached levels of "crisis."
According to UNICEF, there are currently 16,000 child victims being exploited and trafficked for sexual purposes.
Far too many of these children fall victim to "coyotes" and "polleros" — nicknames for traffickers and smugglers — who promise easy entrance and false promises of work into the United States in return for large sums of money. Since these children are often, or almost always, impoverished, many are forced into prostitution by their smugglers to repay their high debts. Hundreds of undocumented immigrants, including some of these children, die while making the trek, and almost all of those who cross are led by smugglers per Customs and Border Protection Spokesman Mike Friel. "There are very few people who attempt to cross on their own," Friel says, as most migrants avoid the "risk of going against the cartels" who have control over most of the land along the Mexican border on the Mexico side.
Additionally, approximately 33,000 unaccompanied children are apprehended each year attempting to illegally enter the United States, many of whom aren't even from Mexico. Children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador make up the largest proportion of these children and their poverty and circumstance make them incredibly vulnerable and easy targets for smugglers and sex traffickers.
While sex trafficking reports have increased steadily in the United States over recent years, the highest of these numbers still exist in border states like California, where 1,323 cases were simply reported in 2016, and Texas, where 670 were reported in 2016. This doesn't even begin to include the countless cases that are never reported and victims who are never saved.
Although every individual is entitled to their opinion and to their political ideals and beliefs, it simply cannot be debated that a crisis does exist at some level on our border, and children and families, whether United States citizens or not, are suffering because of our lack of action. Democrats continue to use empathy as a weapon to fight against Trump's agenda, but what their arguments lack is fact. If Democrats, such as Sanders, want to base their immigration reform on not being "heartless," then it is time to protect the deplorable violations of human rights at our own border. Fight for the well-being of those who fall into the traps of smugglers and traffickers when they only seek a better life for themselves and their families and prove that what you care about is not the politics of this circumstance, but the protection and prosperity of these children and families.
I will always respect and understand political disagreements, and if you have a real basis to your argument against Trump's border wall, then so be it. But don't offend me by pretending your focus is on love, acceptance, or your morals when the facts are clear.