On February 15, President Trump declared a national emergency on the border with Mexico to access the $5.7 billion that Congress refused to give him for his promised southwestern border wall. The declaration resulted from a two-month long government shutdown that was essentially the accumulation of the President’s temper tantrum over not getting exactly what he wanted.

The thing is, there are far worse emergencies in the U.S. than border control at the southern border. Trump likes to exaggerate that the border is a lawless region that is inundated with drug dealers, gangs, terrorists and human traffickers who are just waiting to jump at any opportunity to break into the U.S. and harm its citizens. The truth is, though, that illegal crossings at the southern border are the lowest they’ve been in decades. Different technologies are being used to enhance the abilities Border Patrol to protect the border, not to mention that they’re receiving increased funding to enhance their abilities. There are also around 50 miles of border barriers that have been constructed, and what remains is either private land or land held by Native American nations.

Yes, border security is an important part of keeping the U.S. safe, but at the moment, it shouldn’t be as big of a worry as it is. There are much more serious issues that we need to worry about on our own soil. These issues are being overlooked, though, because the President is diverting the attention of Congress and the U.S. public from those pressing issues by making a scene over his border wall.

The Flint Water Crisis

One specific issue that the government should be focusing on and putting money toward is the Flint Water Crisis. The Flint Water Crisis began in 2014 when the city tried to save money by switching its drinking water supply from the Detroit system to the Flint River. The water wasn’t treated or tested adequately, though, so it resulted in water quality issues. For the next 18 months, residents complained about the water smelling bad, being discolored, and tasting off, as well as causing skin rashes, hair loss, and other health problems. It was later found that the water was also multiplying the number of elevated blood lead levels in the children of the city, putting their health at risk. This issue still hasn’t been fixed, and residents have been forced to use bottled water for everything from cooking to bathing for almost five years. The money that Trump wants to use for the unnecessary border wall could easily go toward fixing the Flint Water Crisis.

Gun violence

Another issue that the government could be focusing on is fixing the gun violence issue in the United States. Almost 40,000 people died from gun violence in 2017, the largest yearly total on record in the CDC’s database. If the money that was being used for the border wall was used to research gun violence and find solutions, then gun death rates would go down significantly in the U.S. The money being used for the border wall could easily go toward CDC research of the causes of gun violence, gun violence prevention efforts, and technology that makes it more difficult to get guns. Additionally, if the energy that Congress is putting into disputing over the national emergency declaration was devoted to coming up with and passing common-sense gun legislation, then the gun violence deaths would be reduced significantly.

Climate change

Yet another issue that the government could be focusing on is climate change. Our changing climate is a ticking timebomb, and time is running out for us to reverse it. A World Bank Group report estimates that climate change could force 140 million people to move within their countries’ borders by 2050. That’s just 31 years from now. Additionally, more Americans have died or been displaced by extreme weather events related to climate change since 2001 than by terrorists. The money being used for the border wall could go toward efforts to save the environment, such as regulatory legislation, such as fuel efficiency and emissions standards for cars and trucks or carbon emissions standards for corporations to hold them accountable. The energy that Congress is putting toward disputing the border wall and the national emergency could likewise be put toward figuring out how to make the Green New Deal more affordable, or figuring out how to turn back the clock on climate change before we reach 2030, when we won’t be able to stem catastrophic climate change.

Clearly, there are much more pressing issues that need to be addressed within our own country before we worry about what is going on at our southern border. A border that, for the most part, is already protected by barriers. The $5.7 billion that Trump is throwing a fit over should be used to fix a more pressing issue, and so should the energy that Congress is putting toward disputing the border wall. Illegal crossings at the border are at a low, but the Flint Water Crisis has yet to be fixed, the number of people who die from gun violence is at an all-time high, and the climate change clock is ticking at a rapid pace. We should think about the danger that the President is imposing on this country, not the danger that people from other countries are imposing.

Photo: Evan Vucci

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