By Andrew Nemeth
Tuesday night President Donald Trump addressed the nation in an eight-minute speech from the White House about the current government shut down which he attributed to disagreements over border control spending.
During the speech, the president highlighted his reasoning to fund the border wall, including the influence of illegal drugs. Trump specifically focused on those that arrive in the United States through Mexico, and possible effects if this were allowed to continue.
Trump is requesting an additional $5.7 billion from Congress to begin construction on the wall stating, “This barrier is absolutely critical to border security.” But Trump lacks concrete evidence to support these claims, and according to a fact check conducted by NPR “most illegal drugs come through legal ports of entry and only a small fraction comes through parts of the Southern border that would be impacted by a wall.”
The direct-to-camera speech framed the proposed border wall as an answer to a “crisis,” specifically immigration on the nation’s southern border with Mexico.
“Tonight, I am speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” Trump said in his address to the nation. “Every day, Customs and Border Patrol agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country. We are out of space to hold them, and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country.”
Trump also warned about the effect of letting violent individuals into the country. “How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job? To those who refuse to compromise in the name of border security, I would ask: Imagine if it was your child, your husband, or your wife whose life was so cruelly shattered and totally broken?”
Although he kept the focus of the speech on violence within America as a result of illegal immigration, Trump also mentioned what those traveling in the caravans to the U.S. have to endure just to make it to the U.S., noting that one in three women are subject to sexual assault and are easily preyed upon by gangs.
According to a survey conducted by Doctors Without Borders this statistic used by the president holds true. The organization reports that in 2016 one third of all migrants to the U.S. from countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala were victims of sexual assault. It should also be noted that they are fleeing to the U.S. due to higher rates of violence within their own countries.
Later in the speech the president proposed from his perspective why the government shutdown has endured for so long. Trump attributes this to opposition from the Democratic party, saying “The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not fund border security.”
This is not entirely true, as the government shutdown only requires agreement on general funding for essential systems, and Democratic party leaders have agreed to continue to provide funding for border security. And Trump’s statement was a departure from previous remarks he made stating that he was proud to shutdown the government until Congressional Democrats agree to fund a wall along the southern border of the country.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security… because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down,” Trump said during a recent meeting with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.
In a statement given directly after the president’s speech, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi agreed that border security was necessary, but the president’s wall was not.
“The fact is on the very first day of this Congress, House Democrats passed Senate Republican legislation to reopen government and fund smart, effective border security solutions. But the president is rejecting these bipartisan bills which would reopen government over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall, a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for.”
Democrats hope to separate the border wall from the issues that Trump often groups them with, making clear distinctions between border security and border walls.
The president’s speech and the government shut down had varying reactions around the Grand Rapids Community College campus, and some had opinions on how the president is approaching his main campaign promise. For one student the government shutdown became a more personal issue.
“I disagree with the shutdown because my sister is working in the Department of Defense, and she is not getting paid,” said Mark Greenduik.
Some only heard about the speech in passing, but still knew about the current situation and what the president was appealing to the public for. “I haven’t heard much about the shutdown, except for from the radio and my parents,” said Hayley Lucarelli. “I don’t think that we need the wall.”
Collegiate reporter Ethan Ream contributed to this report.