I can almost hear the chants, nearly four years ago, at a Trump rally during his campaign: “Build-that-Wall! Build-that-Wall!” The idea of building a “big beautiful concrete wall” at the US-Mexico border was the wave Trump rode in straight to the White House. Disgruntled voters, overeager to break the system through an outsider, believed him. And when he asked who was going to pay for the Wall, they had no doubt in their mind: Mexico. It’s 2019, and Trump declared a National Emergency over this same issue. How did it come to this? Two years into the Trump presidency, why isn’t there a concrete wall on the southern border? What has happened to the Mexican promise?
Well, Trump was never very clear on the specifics on how that would happen. What he was specific about was that he most definitely wasn’t talking about building a fence. In August 2015, he said, “it’s not a fence, Jeb, it’s a WALL, and there’s a big difference.”
Shortly after winning the presidency, in January 2017, Trump quickly began to change his rhetoric. Mexico wasn’t paying for the Wall up front: “The dishonest media does not report that any money spent money on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed) will be paid back by Mexico later.”
“Mexico in some form, and there are many different forms, will reimburse us and they will reimburse us for the cost of the wall. That will happen, whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment. (…) But it will happen.” Once occupying the Oval Office, and feeling the pressure from the public’s insistence that he keep his promise, Trump started getting more defensive: “I never said they’re going to pay for the start” and he kept his reimbursement idea for quite some time.
Mexico’s then-President, Enrique Peña Nieto and his team publicly declared Mexico would never pay for the wall, and when asked if he thought Mexico would pay for the wall, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell his answer was “Um… No,” which prompted chuckles from reporters and himself.
By December 2018, Trump claimed Mexico would pay for the wall through the new trade deal, the USMCA, from all of the new revenue that would be coming in. However, this was flawed logic at best, and a lie at worst.
To put it bluntly, while all three governments have a say in the agreement they sign, all of the revenue generated from it goes to private citizens, not the US Treasury. Unless of course, his plan was to tax those entered in business with Mexican companies. If his idea was to tax them, then logically, American taxpayers would be paying for the wall. The wall would never have been built at the expense of Mexico or Mexican citizens.
And, remember what he said about the fence? By December 2018, a month after taking a big hit at the midterms, Trump saw himself cornered when he understood he would be getting zero dollars for the wall. “The only thing that’s going to stop that is great border security, with a wall, or a slat fence, or whatever you want to call it.” By January 2019, his government shutdown proved to be a full-on war of attrition against the Democratic House. Desperate to get some funding, he began to call it a slat fence barrier. And upon realizing a concrete wall was further away from him, he began to use phrases like “call it whatever you want.”
And now he’s changed it so much, it’s almost unrecognizable: from wall to fence and “whatever you want to call it,” and from concrete to steel. But the hysteria is far from over. He held a rally in February where a huge sign said “Finish the Wall,” not “Build That Wall.” But there he himself has added zero kilometers to any type of fence at the border. Sad!
Now, he’s declaring a National Emergency to bypass Congress and get funding for his signature issue, on which he was gotten beaten not once, nor twice, but three times. First, with a Republican-controlled House, then at the midterms, then at the shutdown, and now it seems, he’s going all in with the National Emergency. But who’s to say this will go well for him, anyway?
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