In addition to his examination of a recently renovated portion of border fencing in Calexico, California, President Trump’s roundtable meeting with United States Customs and Border Patrol officials on Friday, April 5th, is somewhat of a validation of the already existing propellers of anti-immigration sentiment and stringent border control action that remain firmly in gear within the executive. In his meeting, the president strongly advocated for the continuation of such a border wall, citing issues relating to illegal immigrants, human trafficking, and those seeking asylum as evidence for the need of such barriers.
President Trump characterized the migrant system as being “full”. Noting that the United States had more than 70,000 illegal immigrants make way towards the border, he stated , “But the system is full. And when it’s full, there’s nothing you can do. You have to say, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t take you.’ ” In regards to human trafficking along the Southern border, the president addressed the issue as one that is both ancient and overlooked, claiming, “The human trafficking is something that nobody used to talk about. I talk about it. It’s a terrible thing. It’s ancient and it’s never been bigger than it is—modern, right now, today.” He asserted that such trafficking occurs along areas of the United States-Mexico border at which the wall is not present, alluding to the need to continue the expansive project.
President Trump’s discussion of illegal immigration did not end with illegal immigrants and human trafficking. He quickly shifted gears toward the pressing demands made from asylum seekers looking for refuge. Referring to asylum laws as being “broken”, the president voiced that the system is a “scam” and a “hoax”. He characterized the marginalized group as gang members that aren’t afraid of anything, suggesting that they pose themselves as victims of potential harm when, in fact, they are the aggressors.
The nature of President Trump’s rhetoric regarding the issue of mass immigration and boarder security in respect to the United States is just one of many cases feasible in explaining the theories presented among scholars of political discourse. In his 1964 essay, “The Paranoid Style of American Politics,” historian Richard Hofstadter introduced the concept of a “paranoid style” of governing and how it relates to leaders of a given polity. That is, a leader who exhibits a paranoid style views the hostile world in which he or she is a part of as a direct threat to the nation, culture, and way of life that the leader is a part of, affecting both the leader and others who live in the same environment. (Hofstadter, 4) The President’s claim that the gang members that are seeking asylum are “the ones that are causing fear for life” is illustrative of such a point. He speaks for not only himself, but for the millions of Americans who also reside within the United States. His portrayal of illegal gang members also fits into Hofstadter’s conception of the paranoid style of ruling as acknowledging the presence of a sinister conspiracy or a subtle machinery of influence set in motion to undermine and destroy a way of life. (Hofstadter, 29) Hofstadter’s view of the paranoid tendency as an arousal of confrontation of opposed interests is analogous to the often polarized that the views that Commander-In-Chief has with members of the Democratic Party regarding national security. (Hofstadter, 29) During the roundtable meeting, President Trump referred to the issue of immigration as a crisis that is “The direct result of the obstruction by Democrats in Congress” and suggested that actions would be taken to remedy such obstructions.
It is also interesting to note the subtle populist tendencies that President Trump exhibits as characterized in Jan-Werner Müller’s, What is Populism? Müller suggests that populists will often characterize certain issues as “crises” that can be used as mechanism to legitimize their governance. (Müller, 43) The arenas of immigration and national security have been closest to the president; with the partial United States government shutdown of 2019 illustrating the need for the allocation of funds toward the curbing of an immigration “crisis”. (Pramuk, Schoen)
President Trump expressed his expectations for approximately 400 miles of the United States Southern Border to be enclosed by 2021. The completion of the Southern border wall is estimated to span of the course of thirty-three projects with a total cost of $8 billion. (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-roundtable-immigration-border-security-calexico-california/)
Müller, Jan-Werner. What Is Populism? London: Penguin Random House, 2017.
Hofstadter, Richard J. 1964. The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Chapter 1.
Pramuk, Jacob, and John W. Schoen. “The Government Shutdown Is Tied for the Longest Ever as Trump’s Border Wall Fight Rages On.” CNBC, CNBC, 11 Jan. 2019, www.cnbc.com/2019/01/10/government-shutdown-ties-for-longest-ever-amid-border-wall-fight.html.
*Photo, “Finish the Wall”, Creative Common Zero License