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J.D. Long-GarcíaJanuary 08, 2019
(CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters)

In the midst of an 18-day partial government shutdown, on Tuesday President Donald Trump made the case for why the nation should spend $5.7 billion on a border wall.

“America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation. But, all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration,” the president said from the Oval Office. He argued that undocumented immigrants are a strain on public resources and “drive down” jobs and wages. “This is a humanitarian crisis—a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” he said.

'This is a humanitarian crisis—a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,' he said.

Mr. Trump also said that illegal border crossers use children as pawns and noted that a third of women are assaulted on their way through Mexico to the border. Heroin takes the lives of 300 people every week, and 90 percent of it comes from across the border, he said.

“This is the cycle of human suffering I am determined to end,” Mr. Trump said. “This barrier is absolutely critical for border security.”

Despite the president’s insistence on a wall, the number of illegal border crossings have already been going down since 2000. According to the Center for Migration Studies, people who enter the country legally and overstay their visas account for about two-thirds of new undocumented immigrants, a pattern that began in 2007.

Sean Carroll, S.J., director of the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Ariz., said that an urgent humanitarian crisis on the border that the president did not mention in his speech has to do with Central American families asking for asylum. That will not be solved by a border wall, he said.

“We’ve been very concerned about how slow they have been to receive these families,” he said, noting that it takes a family an average of 14 to 16 days to be heard by Customs and Border Protection officials. During that time, the families are vulnerable to those that prey on migrants, Father Carroll said. Some are kidnapped and held for ransom, robbed or assaulted.

“A wall doesn’t help this problem. What we have here is a humanitarian crisis, not a crisis of national security,” he said. “What we need to do is address the root causes of migration. A wall doesn’t address the push factors.”

What we need to do is address the root causes of migration. A wall doesn’t address the push factors.

As far as drugs crossing the southern border, Pat Murphy, C.S.—a priest who runs the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, Baja California—noted that most of the drugs come through points of entry. “If you put up a 500-foot wall, that doesn’t stop drug trafficking,” he told America, explaining that most of it comes in vehicles and is not detected by immigration officials. “We need better scanning.”

Father Carroll added that another way to address the drug issue is to deal with the demand for drugs in the United States.

The proposal from the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Trump said, would improve drug detection and weapons, among other things. “We have requested more agents, immigration judges to process the sharp rise of unlawful migration fueled by our very strong economy,” he said. “Our plan also contains an urgent request for humanitarian assistance and medical support.”

Last month, two Guatemalan children—Jakelin Caal and Felipe Alonzo Gómez—died while in U.S. custody. Both showed signs of influenza, including vomiting, leading some to speculate that proper care would have saved their lives. 

President Trump also cited a number of violent crimes in the United States involving undocumented immigrants. Ronil Singh, a California police officer, was killed the day after Christmas during a routine traffic stop. Marilyn Pharis, who had been a contractor with the Air Force, was brutally raped and killed by an undocumented immigrant in 2015.

Yet, Father Murphy said, most crimes in the United States are committed by U.S. citizens. A study by the Cato Institute found that undocumented immigrants were 25 percent less likely to commit murder than those born in the United States.

“You can’t pull one or two examples and generalize it for the whole population,” he said. “Their only ‘crime’ is being undocumented.”

Earlier this week, Mr. Trump seemed to have considered declaring a national emergency on the border, a move that may have allowed him to fund the border wall. But Kevin Appleby, senior director of the Center for Immigration Studies in New York, said such a move would not be based in reality.

“There’s no evidence of a threat. There’s no army, no organized group, no ISIS lobbing bombs over the fence,” he said in an interview with America. “This is just the administration using hyperbole to justify an unreasonable policy. The Trump administration plays it fast and loose with the facts.”

Amid the shutdown, Mr. Trump has also said he would visit the border. Ashley Feasley, director of migration policy and public affairs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said she was happy to hear it.

“I really hope he takes the time to see the community that’s there,” she said. “I’m hopeful that he looks at the humanitarian groups at the border. It’s a key and essential piece of really studying it and taking it all in.”

While the U.S. bishops acknowledge the need for border security and the right of nations to defend their borders, “a $25 billion wall is not synonymous with border security,” Ms. Feasley told America. “All of these people who are coming must be treated in a way that recognizes their human dignity.”

This story has been updated. 

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Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Todd Witherell
4 years 2 months ago

Symbols and metaphors are profoundly important in both poetry and the Catholic religion. I believe that is why Pope Francis insists that true Christianity is a religion of bridges, not walls. And his statement, both prophetic and poetic, that All Walls Fall will be born out in time. The Wall is a symbol of fear and exclusion because Trump is, as Bruce Springsteen has said publicly, badly damaged at his core. We are better than Trump’s hate and fear. The Wall fill fall.

JR Cosgrove
4 years 2 months ago

Where are you going to put the billion+ people who want to come here. Is it true Christianity to not let them all in? Isn't it true Christianity to find a way for them to live in their native lands. Shouldn't that be our objective?

The Democrats don't care a bit about the welfare of the migrants. They are only a means to an end and they depend on emotional appeals to get their way.

Frank T
4 years 2 months ago

...and the Party of Trump panders to fear and bigotry, stifle's voting rights, and deliberately lies to the nation on a daily basis.

Mike Macrie
4 years 2 months ago

Cos now don’t go blaming the Democrats because there is plenty of blame to go around. It’s become a political football 🏈 where both sides need to save face. I agree with on what you had mentioned earlier on a post of having wealthier South America Latino Countries stepping up to the plate in taking these refugees that are being held in camps. Honduras and Gualamala are a mess, the lawlessness there is about a step below Somalia. Not only do you have ruthless gangs in rape and pillage, the Police, Politicians, and Judges are as corrupt as the gang and the drug dealers. Refugees are not going to stop flowing out of these corrupt Central America countries.
There is no easy answer but nobody wants to stick their necks out politically on how to improve the conditions in these countries.

JR Cosgrove
4 years 2 months ago

You cannot solve the problem till there is an honest discussion about it. There has not been one article on this site that is honest about the problem. A couple articles have mentioned making their countries better but nothing seriously. Any solution will take time and the rule of law is a good place to start. See http://bit.ly/2D1inj3

I believe there have been some progress in Honduras. https://lat.ms/2SK8viP

Annette Magjuka
4 years 2 months ago

Wow. To say I disagree is such an understatement. I think finding a way for them to live in their native lands is noble. But America and its policies have made many native lands dangerous for civilians. We have a moral and religious
obligation to the refugees. A wall is NOT the answer!

karen oconnell
4 years 2 months ago

absolutely: so many of us have to go back and review the history of this country. we took what we wanted from indians,,, spanish. we went into south america...mexico.....destroyed them.. and then wonder why their citizens would want to leave and come here. we (as descendants of those early usa bandits) we...owe it to them. we destroyed them

Dionys Murphy
4 years 2 months ago

"Where are you going to put the billion+ people who want to come here. Is it true Christianity to not let them all in? Isn't it true Christianity to find a way for them to live in their native lands."

A billion plus don't want to come here. And "True Christianity" (you should probably read about the 'no true scotsman fallacy') isn't necessarily to 'find a way for them to live in their native lands' -- if it was, you'd probably return to Ireland where you are from, especially given your propensity to claim a more-christian-than-Jesus self-promotion in everything. In fact, most of these people have a much stronger claim to America than you do as their 'native lands.' Moreover, their 'native lands' were largely made dangerous by the US's interference in central and south American governments and US intelligence agencies intentional destruction of central/south American governments and installation of banana republics. So the US is primarily responsible for making those countries unlivable for the people who've been here many, many, many more generations than you and your family.

"The Democrats don't care a bit about the welfare of the migrants" - What a shameful misrepresentation of the truth.

karen oconnell
4 years 2 months ago

''''trying to get his way'''' in this instance is Trump and his 'mine is bigger' mentality. you seem to be reading only 'trumpian' news/ literature.... and seem to be unaware that he is virtually alone. no one wants his shadow on them.

Zara Brown
4 years 2 months ago

Its very important news to all Americans! Really I am very glad to read this news update about president trump case issues. Its true that most of the people are do not support his all decisions and personal I am too!! So I think people are reading this news attentively. So I much appreciated to the author for sharing this important news. Anyway, I am Zara and a professional worker of online gambling in New Zealand based industry. I have also good knowledge about online gaming industry. My passion is digital marketing and build my personal online gaming business in world wide. I am also love to sharing my knowledge with interested people!!

Todd Witherell
4 years 2 months ago

With respect, Mr. Cosgrove, I do not believe “billions” of people are planning to invade the U.S. and take all our wealth and harm us. Immigrants and refugees flee disastrous situations often beyond their control in search of hope. The wonderful writer Richard Rodriguez was once asked if he was in favor of migration. He replied that it was analogous to be asked if he was in favor of the Pacific Ocean. It is part of life. Hunger and hope drive life on. Calling Mexicans rapists and refugees “stone cold criminals” and trying to equate more than one billion Muslims with the jihadists and ISIS in order to ban them from our country is a grotesque abuse of political language. Cultivating that kind of fear also is bad for rational thought regarding genuine threats because no honest person can believe what Trump says. He is a demagogue walled within his own hates and fears and sins. We must resist him.

Heidi Vass
4 years 2 months ago

This article highlights the crux of the problem. Both sides are talking past one another. The writer does not really address the issues raised in the speech, he simply pivots the conversation to the the humanitarian crisis at the border. The left and the right are having two different conversations. Unless and until we can all sit down togeher like adults, not adolscents, we will continue to talk past one another and not get anything solved. Too bad the Jesuit can't see that. Poor writing, poor reasoning all aroung.

Douglas Fang
4 years 2 months ago

Here is an anecdote to show that NOBODY took it seriously for this POTUS anymore – You cannot fool everyone all the time while you can fool someone (i.e. Trump hardcore believers) all the time (pretty shameful, is it?)


‘Never in our 30-year history have we been this one-sided (9 to 1) on a wager’ – people won big by betting that Trump would spew out ridiculous lies on his speech!

God have mercy on America!

Todd Witherell
4 years 2 months ago

Mr. Cosgrove, you are a bigot. As Richard Rodriguez has put it, it is not Brown you fear but life.

JR Cosgrove
4 years 2 months ago

Thank you for your kind words, Christian charity and incredible insight. I have never called anyone a "bigot" in my life and I hope I never do.

You realize that you have just endorsed my point of view.

Terry Kane
4 years 2 months ago

J Cosgrove - Sadly, the is none so blind as he who will not see. The posters on this site are so virtuous, but they really get a thrill of judging anyone who has a different (and in my opinion, correct) view. It is disappointing to read so many articles and see the comments people make.
Somehow this is no longer the Roman Catholic faith I grew up in.

karen oconnell
4 years 2 months ago

let us never forget that he ... our so-called leader- CAUSED THIS SHUT DOWN...this misery for so many people...this danger for all of us. do not let him off the hook. hold him responsible for this monstrosity of unnecessary pain.

Denise Delurgio
4 years 2 months ago

Trotting out the talking points instead of truly analyzing President Trump's 9 minute speech does not clarify any of the issues that should be discussed. First, Mr. J. D. Long-Garcia, the President of your country gave the speech last night. When you call him Mr. Trump three out of the four times that you say his name you show your disrespect, or maybe it is disdain.
Fr. Carroll addresses asylum seekers as if the thousands from the caravans have legitimate (legal), justifications. A few do, but the sheer numbers have overwhelmed our systematic processing of claims. Fr. Carroll also sites a Cato study that claims that undocumented persons commit 25% fewer MURDERS than natural born US citizens. ONE murder by someone who did not arrive legally is one too many. If they weren't here that American would not be dead! I cried for Mr. Singh, a legal immigrant who was murdered by a gang banger who didn't belong here.
Finally, Long-Garcia repeats that some say that proper care might have saved the lives of the two children who were dehydrated, malnourished, and died of the flu shortly after their parents brought them across the border. Those two children were treated at our hospitals at our expense after their parents put them through the arduous trek for thousands of miles. They could have easily died south of the border, but they came across and were given health care. How many American children died of the flu the same week?
When will this America site accept that all Catholics are not left wingers. We like open, intelligent discussions of topics that affect us, but expect respect from writers and responders.

Greg Krohm
4 years 2 months ago

I think the facts, generated by DHS and Cato Inst, seem to refute the presidents talking points. The objective facts seem to be irrelevant to what he says. But trying to move the argument forward, I would suggest that a multi-billion dollar effort (in conjunction with Mexico) to improve safety and living conditions in Honduras and Guatamala would be a win-win strategy for all parties to this dispute.

Greg Krohm
4 years 2 months ago

I think the facts, generated by DHS and Cato Inst, seem to refute the presidents talking points. The objective facts seem to be irrelevant to what he says. But trying to move the argument forward, I would suggest that a multi-billion dollar effort (in conjunction with Mexico) to improve safety and living conditions in Honduras and Guatamala would be a win-win strategy for all parties to this dispute.

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