Congressman Meadows’ pro-border wall argument ignores facts; plays to fears

by Dr. Mary Curry
Printed in The Mountaineer, August 25, 2017

I can agree with Congressman Mark Meadows (Aug. 21 op-ed) on three points. First, of course the US, like all nations, needs secure borders, and second, of course we want to protect Americans to the extent possible from criminals’ violating our laws. Third, the title of Mr. Meadows’ opinion essay is ‘A common-sense approach to border security.” Anything that is “common sense” should be based on facts, not unfounded biases and fears. A “common sense approach” must really protect us.

However, common sense in Mr. Meadows’ argument is overwhelmingly absent. First, he has no proof that a wall would keep out more criminals than were stopped in the recent past. Second, he drags out one of the few instances of a violent crime committed by an illegal (compared to the many committed by US-born citizens), the murder of Kate Steinle. “Business Insider,” a Republican leaning publication, emphatically documented that immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than the general public. So Mr. Meadows would spend billions while not protecting us from the huge threat from US-born criminals.

Meadows’ first paragraph contains three lies. I regret having to use the word “lie” but it is necessary. What he wrote is not merely an “alternative fact” or another way of interpreting some facts; it is what it is—a lie. If he did not know he was lying, his staff have been giving him poorly-researched information. Meadows stated, 1) “Last November the American people went to the polls and resoundingly rejected the 2) “open borders” policies of the Obama administration. . . . 3) Unfortunately, President Obama chose to ignore this problem . . .and failed us when we needed him to succeed.”

I’ll take up this last lie first. President Obama did the opposite of what Mr. Meadows asserts. Mr. Obama aggressively acted to prevent illegal immigrants’ lawbreaking, a truth documented by the non-partisan, non-profit Migration Policy Institute. President Obama continued to protect American families with effective policies. He also added strong new ones that kept more criminals from entering the US from Mexico (and elsewhere), and he deported criminals who had entered earlier. These efforts have made Americans far safer to this day. This truth is based on information from the Dept. of Homeland Security.

Now let’s take up Mr. Meadows’ first sentence, containing two general lies: “the American people went to the polls and resoundingly rejected the ‘open borders’ policies of the Obama administration.” The truth: the popular vote really rejected the Republican Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates—Mrs. Clinton and Senator Kaine won the popular vote. Second, as the Migration Policy Institute and other non-partisan research shows, there never were any “’open borders’ policies”; instead, President Obama improved on Bush and Clinton policies by stopping entry and rounding up an even greater number and percentage of criminals – more than during the Bush Administration.

Mr. Meadows touts a proposed law he’s co-sponsored, a law whose name is the typical emotional trigger that makes fearful voters who cannot or will not do their civic homework feel good: the “Border Security for America Act.” Of course it’s for America—who else?

For starters, he wants $15 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars to build a wall and related “infrastructure and technology along our border with Mexico.” This horrendous boost to our national deficit could be better spent adding more border patrol and other public safety personnel that he–rightly–mentions. And the price isn’t the real price: the conservative-leaning “Fortune” magazine found this: the wall would cost up to $25 billion. That means the $15 billion would just be a down payment for a wall that will not make us safer. I guess his research team failed him on this one, too; he seems not to know that a mere 28 percent of Americans want a border wall.

Spreading lies and preying on people’s fears are dangerous. Fearful people who cannot or will not research to find unbiased facts become more fearful, then they become furious; then they direct their fury at scapegoats or anyone who disagrees with them. And finally, some of those fearful Americans commit acts of domestic terrorism and assassination. Congressman Meadows would do well to remember the Commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” There’s a reason God made lying one of the Ten Commandments.

About: Dr. Mary Curry taught research methods in the sciences, business, and arts for eighteen years until retiring to WNC in January 2016.

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