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On Tuesday, February 5th, 2019, President Donald J. Trump gave his State of the Union address to Congress. The State of the Union was held in Washington D.C. in the House Chamber at 9 pm EST. The guests in attendance were Buzz Aldrin, first person to land on the moon and three World War II veterans: Private First Class Joseph Riley, Staff Sergeant Irving Locker, and Sergeant Herman Zeitchiek. Alice Johnson was in attendance after being granted clemency by Donald Trump at Kim Kardashian’s request. Matthew Charles, the first person to be released from prison under the First Step Act, was also there. Trump also honored Deborah Bissell, Heather and Maddison Armstong, and ICE Special Agent Elvin Hernandez. In addition, Grace Eline, a 10 year old cancer survivor, was present. The president also recognized Tom Wibberley. They were joined by Timothy Mattson, SWAT officer, as well as Joshua Kaufman and Judah Samet, both holocaust survivors. Congress sang Judah ‘Happy Birthday’.

In my opinion, the president’s delivery of the speech was good but there were several things that I noticed and wasn’t a huge fan of. He was reading a teleprompter the whole time which kept him from looking around the whole room. This is fine; however, I know the speech wasn’t written by him because he is not capable of using words as large as the ones he was stating. Any time he would deviate from looking at the teleprompter, he started to use one to three word statements like “Not right”, “Bad!”, “Not even close!”, “Big deal. Big deal.”and “So unfair”. One thing that particularly bothered me was how much time Trump spent basking in the clapping and cheers of Congress. Every time he said something, Congress clapped, and instead of stopping them, he just stood there, nodding and smiling. I counted. Clapping and cheering took up around 29 minutes of his 82 minute State of the Union address. I also found it extremely odd that at least three times during the speech, Congress started chanting “U.S.A!” Donald Trump tried to draw bipartisan applause but Democrats didn’t seem to enjoy his speech very much. There were many disappointed faces in the crowd and Nancy Pelosi had to keep the Democrats from booing and objecting at some points.

In this essay, I will respond to President Trump’s State of the Union address and the proposal he made to Congress regarding his 5 billion dollar security wall on the southern border of the United States. Trump’s wall aims to decrease and prevent illegal immigration from Mexico and while it seems like a good idea, I believe that it is costly and there are better ways to protect the country without harming the residents who live there. He claims to want to defend the U.S. but his wall would lead to many legal disputes, damage the environment, and would cost taxpayers incredible amounts of money. My essay will argue against some of Trump’s false claims and provide facts on why this wall is unfavorable.

President Donald Trump describes the state of the union as strong. This is met with disapproving looks from the democrats. He supports his statement with statistics concerning the increased number of manufacturing jobs and the new acts passed to improve the lives of american citizens, like the First Step Act. He also states that there are more women in congress and on the workforce than ever before. Trump proposes that his border wall is the answer to making America great again. On February 15th, Congress will vote on the wall and he prompts them to vote in support. He uses fear and persuasion tactics when he first mentions that Mexican cities are sending immigrants on trucks and busses towards the border in places with little security. After doing some research, turns out this statement was a bit exaggerated, as not all intended to cross the border; but either way, it is true. Some were attempting to cross the border– which is illegal–so in response, Trump ordered 3,750 troops to the southern border to prepare. He goes on to say that the lives and jobs of American citizens are at risk. Illegal immigration leads to fewer jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools, crowded hospitals, increased crime, and increased sex trafficking. Some of them sell women into prostitution and modern day slavery. Americans are killed by lethal drugs that are smuggled across the border like meth, heroine, cocaine, and fentanyl.

He states that the gang, MS-13 operates in at least 20 states and that they come through our southern border. He does so because recently an MS-13 gang member was arrested for a fatal shooting on a New York subway platform. While that event was devastating, the truth is that the gang was founded in Los Angeles and most all of the members are minors or Central Americans that were blackmailed to join the gang. Some, but not all, have crossed the border illegally. About three years ago, tens of thousands of young migrants, under the age of 18, many looking to escape violence, settled with relatives already in the states. One of the counties that Trump is using for his gang statistics took in 4624 of those minors. These people join because they feel threatened or because they are the only peer group in the community. If there were better systems put in place to protect and serve immigrant minors, then perhaps there would be less gang activity. During his state of the union address, he uses statistics from ICE to persuade Congress that illegal immigrants have no place in America because they bring crime and murder. He states that “In the last 2 years, our brave ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings.” This is true, but the statement needs context. The ICE databases also includes non-violent crimes, such as illegal entry. If you cross the border illegally, you have commited a crime; therefore, his declaration is misleading. In fact, most of the illegal/undocumented immigrants are ones who have just overstayed their visa. He then states facts about San Diego, California as having the most illegal border crossings in the country before a wall was placed there. He states that it has almost completely gotten rid of illegal crossing in the area. He also said that El Paso, Texas used to have extremely high rates of violent crime (one of the most dangerous cities) but another powerful barrier was placed and now it is one of the safest. The second statement is untrue. El Paso was never one of the most dangerous cities in the country. Moreover, before the wall was constructed, it was found to have the second lowest violent crime rate among more than 20 cities of similar size.

The president reports that legal immigrants enrich and strengthen the nation. It is not that he doesn’t want immigrants in the country, he just wants them to come in legally. His proposal is to include humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, better drug detection at the ports, and to close loopholes that enable child smuggling. He also wants a physical barrier separating the U.S. from Mexico. I completely agree with his prior proposals but I don’t think that a gigantic border wall is necessary.

In his speech, he reminds Congress that a few years ago, most people had voted for a wall to be built but a proper wall was never built. He is referring to the Secure Fence Act of 2006, signed by former President George W. Bush. Along the 2,000 mile border between the two countries, 700 miles of fence exist. Congress put aside and spent only 1.4 billion dollars for the project but the whole cost was estimated at worst case scenario 50 billion. Surprisingly enough, the Secure Fence Act resulted in only a .06 percent decline in migration. Trump has said he wants an impenetrable see-through steel barrier barrier as high as 55 feet tall. This isn’t necessary because the costs (both humanitarian and monetary) far outweigh the effectiveness. They aren’t even in the same realm.

The damage it would do to the country is unknown to some, but after doing some fact checking and research I have compiled the 2 major threats it poses, besides costs: the construction of a border wall would lead to the seizure of private land and it would also present a threat to the wildlife and surrounding environment. Trump wishes to build a wall that stretches from San Diego to Brownsville, but in order to do so, many legal battles would ensue. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution requires that the taking be for a ‘public use’ and mandates payment of ‘just compensation’ to the owner. One-third of the land required for the construction of Trump’s border wall is owned by the federal government or Native tribes. The rest is owned by different states and private property owners. Whether it be for historical, religious, or personal reasons, many people do not want their private land to taken from them. Potentially affected Texans have already raised concerns and aren’t afraid to fight back. On top of that, the land along the U.S.- Mexico border is home to one of the most biodiverse areas in North America and over 100 endangered species may be affected if construction is begun. It would endanger the environment, destroy wildlife habitats, and cut off access to the Rio Grande. This has activists up in arms. The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Hidalgo County, Texas is threatened by the building of the wall as well. It houses over 400 bird species and 300 butterfly species. Additionally, tourism brings in $463 million and sustains 6,600 jobs.

Instead, the answer to our security problem is modern technology, increased border patrol agents, better relationships with Mexico, and an updated asylum system. The southern border already has what is known as a “digital wall” that utilizes about 8,000 cameras, 11,000 underground sensors, 107 aircraft, and 8 drones, together with 175 mobile surveillance units and 84 boats.While this appears excessive, drug cartels are passing through our border using modern technology more advanced than we are using to protect it. We should invest in better drug detection at our ports and spend money to better fund the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit. This would solve or mitigate the issue of people overstaying their visas. The United States border patrol is short staffed so they should receive better resources to be able to increase the number of agents protecting the dividing line. If we had better relations with Mexico and their border patrol, we could organize joint patrols and respond to border violence and illegal crossings in a timely fashion and with greater efficiency. Lastly, if we update the asylum process for migrants seeking safety in the United States, it would allow for us to better determine who is “right” for our country and who isn’t. If it is made to be faster, more efficient, and more accurate, it would disincentivize people from crossing the border illegally.

Obviously, the American people aren’t happy. According to the Washington post, only 4 in 10 favor building a wall. I believe that the wall will cause outrage if it is built, in both countries, because of the many people and wildlife that it endangers. Americans would rather have immigration rationalized, that way the process occurs in a legal way and workers aren’t hurt by others joining the economy. Those opposed to increased taxes and unnecessary government spending, private landowners, environmental activists, Native Americans, myself, and others will be uniting to withstand the construction of the border wall. The president’s proposed action is going to harm the American political value of equality. Those who support the wall seem to express more hostile views about the impact of undocumented immigration, as well as legal immigration, than those who oppose it. They state that immigrants burden local communities because they use too many public services and that it bothers them when they meet those who don’t speak English. Some even say that the growing number of immigrants in America threaten traditional American customs and values. What we have here in my opinion is inconspicuous racism and discrimination.

I was originally going to write this essay in support for President Trump’s wall because his speech (while not written by him) was well written and very persuading. He included statistics and facts that seemed very real and made sure to emphasize, even exaggerate, the damage done by illegal immigration. He hosted families that were torn apart by MS-16, which persuades by using high-activation emotions like sadness and anger. When people are angered or upset, they are likely to share information with others or feel strongly towards something. Trump also used another persuasion technique called anchoring. It is the human tendency to rely heavily on information presented first when making a decision. His facts were believable, therefore, without fact-checking, people are likely to go along with it. Once a statement or anchor is set, there is a bias towards it. I decided not to write in support after doing some research about the subject. Trump, of course wants his wall to be built so he didn’t mention any of the negatives that came along with this project, such as costs, increase in racist and discriminatory values, or the people and creatures affected. On top of that, many of his facts about immigration were, as most facts included in persuasive speeches are, exaggerated or false.

I believe that the wall would not benefit the country in the slightest, just as Bush’s fence has. Donald Trump is a business man and he doesn’t care about the little people (or the little animals). Not to mention, he has led 6 of his companies into bankruptcy. What does that say about how he is going to treat our country and handle our money? In addition to the wall on the United States-Mexico border costing much more than his requested 5.7 billion dollars, it will prove to be ineffective, and will cause more harm than good if built. Better programs supporting immigrants and their families, increased border personnel, modern technology, and the creation of transnational alliances would solve the problem of border security much more efficiently than a 55-foot steel wall would.    

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