WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump made an untenable case Saturday that a Mexican border wall would be a magic bullet for America's drug problem.
Drugs from Mexico are primarily smuggled into the U.S. at official border crossings, not remote lands that can be walled off. His proposal to end the government shutdown implicitly recognizes that reality by proposing money to improve drug-detection technology specifically at land ports of entry. Even so, Trump pitched a wall as a solution to drugs and crime.
A look at his remarks:
TRUMP: "If we build a powerful and fully designed see-through steel barrier on our southern border, the crime rate and drug problem in our country would be quickly and greatly reduced. Some say it could be cut in half."
TRUMP, on the virtues of a wall: "We can stop heroin."
THE FACTS: His argument flies in the face of findings by his government about how drugs get into the county. It also contradicts a multitude of studies that conclude people in the country illegally do not commit violent crime at a higher rate than other people.
The Drug Enforcement Administration says "only a small percentage" of heroin seized by U.S. authorities comes across on territory between ports of entry. It says the same is true of drugs overall.
In a report , the agency said the most common trafficking technique by transnational criminal organizations is to hide drugs in passenger vehicles or tractor-trailers as they drive into the U.S. though entry ports, where they are stopped and subject to inspection. They also use buses, cargo trains and tunnels, the report says, citing other smuggling methods that also would not be choked off by a border wall.
Even if a wall could stop all drugs from Mexico, America's drug problem would be far from over.
The U.S. Centers on Disease Control and Prevention says about 40 percent of opioid deaths in 2016 involved prescription painkillers. Those drugs are made by pharmaceutical companies. Some feed the addiction of people who have prescriptions; others are stolen and sold on the black market. Moreover, illicit versions of powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have come to the U.S. from China.
As well, many researchers have found that people in the U.S. illegally are less likely to commit crime than U.S. citizens and legal immigrants — except, that is, for the crime of being illegally in the country. A March study by the journal Criminology, for example, said states with larger shares of illegal immigration had lower crime rates between 1990 and 2014, and "undocumented immigration does not increase violence."
The libertarian Cato Institute has reached similar conclusions in a series of studies. One found that people living illegally in Texas had 56 percent fewer criminal convictions than native-born Americans in the state, as a percentage of their respective populations.
DEA report: https://www.dea.gov/documents/2018/10/02/2018-national-drug-threat-assessment-ndta
CATO report: https://www.cato.org/publications/immigration-research-policy-brief/their-numbers-demographics-countries-origin
EDITOR'S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures