The real national emergencies Trump is ignoring

By focusing on the border, the president is distracting us from the greater threats facing America

By Janet Napolitano and Karen Breslau | POITICO

Janet Napolitano, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013, is president of the University of California. She is author of the forthcoming book, “How Safe Are We?: Homeland Security Since 9/11” with Karen Breslau.

In its landmark report condemning the U.S. government’s failure to prevent the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the 9/11 Commission noted that the “most important failure was one of imagination.” President Donald Trump’s declaration of a state of national emergency to fund a border wall may go down as the opposite: the triumph of one man’s imagination over reality.

Trump’s vision of the southwest border as a lawless region teeming with immigrants, gangs, drug dealers, gun runners, human traffickers and terrorists trying to burst through and do the U.S. and its citizens harm underlies his insistence on a wall as the sine qua non of homeland security. This approach amounts to a willful misreading of the true threat landscape facing the U.S. nearly two decades after the 9/11 attacks.

Here are the facts about the 1,954-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico: illegal crossings are the lowest they’ve been in decades. Technologies like sensors and drones are being deployed to enhance the capabilities of the Border Patrol and are receiving increased funding in the recently signed appropriations bill. And all but around 50 miles of border barriers previously identified by experts as necessary have already been constructed. The small remainder crosses either private land or lands held by sovereign Indian nations, making their suitability for barrier construction very doubtful.


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February 2019