Speaking to the nation from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump scraped up what little ability he possesses to appear as a humanitarian, all with the single goal of
kickstarting his 2020 campaign getting more of the public to back his absurd, ineffective border-wall proposal.
But speaking in a reasonable tone of voice and citing facts didn't make him any less credible in his first televised Oval Office address. The speech was a feast for the fact-checkers, and has made it even more painfully obvious that he's manufacturing a crisis while people are suffering as a result of the partial government shutdown, which began in late December.
Even when his facts were true, he used them in a self-serving way that may appeal to his supporters, but is just as dangerous as telling lies. He spent a large part of the address talking about the humanitarian issues migrants face, such as the many women who are sexually assaulted during their journey, calling for the need to end "the cycle of human suffering" — probably the most phony display of empathy we've ever seen.
It's true that a stunningly high number of female migrants crossing into the U.S. through Mexico are sexually assaulted; 80% according to one investigation. But using their experiences to argue for the wall is blatantly cruel. On top of that, there is absolutely no evidence that a wall will stop any of this abuse. According to everyone from policy experts to Border Patrol agents to even former smugglers, a wall would not deter unauthorized migrants from trying to enter the U.S. In fact, most undocumented immigrants overstay their visas instead of crossing the border illegally.
"Building a wall will not protect women from assault," Archi Pyati, chief of policy at Tahirih Justice Center, told Refinery29. "The opposite is true. Many of the women risking their lives to come to the U.S. are running from sexual violence and threats of death. When they make the difficult decision to leave everything behind and journey north, they are doing so to protect themselves and break the cycle of violence. When they are forced to wait in Mexico, they are more vulnerable to unsafe conditions, disease, and sexual violence. And if they are not admitted, face a wall, or are deported without a chance at asylum, they are sent back to face rape, abuse, and even death."
Said Heidi Altman, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center: "The president's invocation of the word 'crisis' to describe what is happening on the border disrespects the lives lost in CBP and ICE custody and the suffering of thousands waiting in Mexico for a now-often-illusory chance to seek safety in the United States. These harms are the true crisis, and they are of the president's making."
If Trump truly wanted to help women who had experienced sexual assault, he would not have instructed border agents to automatically reject the applications of asylum seekers who are fleeing domestic abuse or gang violence. He would address the humanitarian crisis in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, where there have been frequent reports of sexual assault and where two young children died in December alone. And, he would not have allowed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos dismantle Title IX or let the Violence Against Women Act expire.
Besides, this sudden concern for women's welfare sounds incredibly disingenuous from a president who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women. The real "crisis of the soul"? It's in the White House.