President Donald Trump's Oval Office address this week was a total bust. His visit to the border fared no better. Trump predicted that his words and actions wouldn't "change a damn thing" when he spoke to news anchors before the speech. He's right — but not for the reasons he thinks. If Congress were to appropriate the $5.7 billion Trump wants for a wall — steel slats, bollards, alligators in a moat or whatever else he comes up with next — little, if anything, would change with respect to what's happening at our southern border.
Although illegal immigration is dramatically down, as is the size of the undocumented immigrant population living in the U.S. — by more than 1.5 million since its peak in 2006 — the number of families and unaccompanied minors seeking asylum has risen sharply over the past two years, reaching about 160,000 last year. But no matter how hard this administration tries to portray these people as criminals, they are simply following U.S. law. Most are fleeing extreme violence, much of it the direct result of U.S. demand for illegal drugs that are grown or processed in their home countries.
As odd as it may seem to many Americans, asylum requires the individuals to present themselves to immigration agents on U.S. soil. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website states it plainly: "To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process you must be physically present in the United States. You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status." Asylum-seekers have one year to make their claims after entering the U.S., and a wall would simply funnel them to ports of entry that are already jammed.