Trump recently declared a national emergency on border patrol, but many disagree with this decision, pointing to climate change as the real issue.
PC: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Wikimedia Commons

Since Trump’s inauguration, he has made it known that one of his priorities during his term would be border patrol. He has proven this narrative by first suspending an Obama era decision called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Next he placed a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Lastly, he has emphasized one huge plan: building a southern border wall. It has become a well known statement said by his supporters; “build that wall!” Trump even went as far as announcing border security as a national emergency. He continues to make plans for his walls, testing out new models, and finding a new way to pay for this extravagant feat. Contrary to this obsession over border security, others have decided that climate change, among other issues, has been overlooked, and is a risk that threatens our very future on earth in the next 30 years.

The history of climate change begins with humans’ first civilization and the modern climate era. The resources we are offered by this earth have been recklessly over-consumed ever since we could get our hands on them. We have polluted our oceans with single use plastics, and forced hundreds of once thriving animals to go extinct. The air is not as clear as it once was, thanks to the fumes left behind from factories and carbon dioxide emissions. Unfortunately, climate change has only been seen as a threat to our society very late into the game, and has yet to catch on as a worldwide movement, despite the clear science behind it.

“Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. According to the NASA Global Climate Change website, there are nine major reasons to pay attention to climate change: global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreat, decreased snow cover, sea level rise, declining arctic sea ice, extreme weather events, and ocean acidification. NASA has all of these topics covered to the point, with specific references to climate research centers across the world, where scientists are monitoring all of these aspects every day. “Species are going extinct at alarming rates, weather/ storms are more severe than ever, wildfire seasons bigger and longer, loss of habitat due to desertification, effects on agriculture and foods we eat, sea level rise and effect on coast lines, I could go on and on but that’s a start,” said environmental science teacher Megan Whisnand.

Despite the glaring evidence behind climate change, and the seemingly urgent importance of resolving it, our president has decided to focus on border security, specifically the southern border surrounding Mexico. “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall,” said Trump in his presidential announcement speech. The reason for the government shutdown a few months ago was, in part, due to Trump not wanting to sign any spending bill that doesn’t include the wall, causing many American government workers going without payment for the longest time in history. The bill Trump signed specifically called for: $251 million for approximately 14 miles of secondary fencing along the southwest border in the San Diego sector, $445 million for 25 miles of primary pedestrian levee fencing along the southwest border in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, $196 million for primary pedestrian fencing along the southwest border in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, $445 million for replacement of existing primary pedestrian fencing along the southwest border, $38 million for border barrier planning and design, and $196 million for acquisition and deployment of border security technology. “I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded,” Trump tweeted.

These plans were the most important to Trump and what he first wanted to focus on, but why? What is so threatening about the border that we need to pay more attention to? According to him, Mexicans are out for jobs that belong to Americans, and they’re bringing crime and impending doom onto our economy. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said in a speech during his presidential campaign. “They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said. Although he has since lightened his words about Mexico a bit, his opinions still stand strong on the wall. In a recent state of the union, he even admitted that border security is more important than trade to him. “I don’t believe that the issues facing our southern border are worthy of a national emergency but I can understand why our president declared one. In his eyes, the border is a pressing issue and I can see how the lack of action by Congress would be frustrating to him,” said Sam Oeding (12).

Some information that directly contradicts Trump’s concerns is that according to the Department of Homeland Security, the southwest border has been stronger than ever. Congress has invested tens of billions of dollars over the last two decades to deploy infrastructure, technology, and personnel to secure our southwest border. According to the Trump Administration, the estimated number of undetected unlawful entries fell 93% from 2006 to 2016. The deployment of Integrated Fixed Towers (IFT) and other technology along the border provides law enforcement with almost full visibility to stop unlawful entries. In fact, the Trump Administration estimates there is a 91% probability of detection. The combination of technology, natural barriers, and the more than 16,500 Border Patrol Agents at the southwest border means that it is extremely difficult to enter the country without authorization. On average, a border patrol agent on the southwest border catches fewer than two people per month. There is more infrastructure, technology, and border patrol agents at the southwest border than at any point in history, resulting in fewer attempts of unlawful entries and a higher probability of detection.

While unlawful entries have reached an all time low, there is a new and unique challenge of increasing numbers of families seeking asylum into the United States, particularly from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, due to increased rates of violence and murders in their countries. This is different from an illegal immigrant situation because under U.S law, they are treated using other circumstances, like being sent to holding centers to be processed, rather than being sent straight back. Although, the current administration has warned it will change some protections for asylum seekers.

Yes, the prevalence of violence and drugs is still an issue, but for now, the larger problem of the world losing access to clean water sources, clean air, natural food sources, and even their homes due to major storms, seems to what our president needs to focus on. Instead of focusing on the physical side to border security, there are other ways to approach the argument. To deal with the root cause of mass migration, we should provide aid to Central America in order to solve economic and security issues. We need to solve the system involving minors migrating, so that it allows them to properly apply to seek refuge for a better life. We should reach out to the Mexican government to find a way to humanely process migrant families. The wall is certainly not the only solution. “I think that the best way to address the problems at the border is to provide aid to these countries in Central America, specifically to their law enforcement programs. Violence is the main reason these families are leaving their countries so addressing that is the first step in solving our border crisis,” said Oeding.

In terms of climate change, the U.S needs to get involved in things like the Green New Deal, a proposed package that addresses climate change with new ideas, such as renewable energy. “Get off fossil fuel, move more to renewable clean non-polluting energy. Reform agriculture, use less water, less chemical fertilizers, pesticides etc, Eat less meat. So much of the crops grown are to feed cows. Protect our oceans and natural places by creating more protected wildlands. The healthier our land, plants, animals and ecosystems as a whole are the more resilient they will be to the changing climate. We need our government and corporations on board with regulations and incentives to reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. And really systematic change. There are so many solutions out there! Education is so important but action is key!” said Whisnand.