Guns, Opioids, Mental Health More Urgent than Wall

Created: 15 February, 2019
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO

Our nation has serious crises that lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of people each year.

Innocent people are dying and we’re not doing enough to help prevent those deaths.

30,000 killed each year by guns. 45,000 die by suicide. 72,000 overdose on opioids.

Americans are dying in increasing numbers each year yet there is no presidential declaration of an emergency in any of those cases.

During last week’s State of the Union address, President Donald Trump instead focused his attention on fighting illegal immigration with his long-promised border wall, falsely claiming that tens of thousands of Americans have died at the hands of undocumented immigrants.

For weeks, Trump has decried a national emergency at the border, and has alarmed people by claiming that 63,000 Americans have been killed by undocumented immigrants since the September 11th terrorist attacking in 2001.

That dubious claim has been debunked by various groups that study homicide statistics but that clearly doesn’t stop the President from repeating it. There is no evidence of any such number of deaths attributed to undocumented immigrants.

The best estimate of such crimes comes from a Cato Institute study released last year that reviewed homicides in Texas in 2015. Of 951 convictions, 93% were committed by US-born assailants, 1.6% were committed by legal immigrants, and 5.3%, or 51, were committed by people in the country illegally.

Yes, that’s 51 too many, but we must look at them in context.

During the same period, 3,776 people died by suicide in Texas, 3,356 people died from gun related deaths, and 2,979 people overdosed. Where’s the outcry about those deaths.

When compared to homicides by undocumented immigrants, Texans were 74 times more likely to die from a gunshot, 65 times more likely to commit suicide, or 58 times more likely to overdose than to be killed by someone in the country illegally.

And of those people in the country illegally, most arrived legally on visas or passports and simply overstayed their legal visit, not by running across an unprotected border, so a border wall or fence would not have stopped them anyway.

Illegal border crossings at near historic lows. Since 1971, we have had more than 15 years with more illegal crossings that this past year.

So what’s the crisis at the border?

The “crisis” is manmade, engineered by Trump to create a powerful political issue. It’s true that caravans of migrants have and continue to make their way toward our border, but that’s been happening for years. And when they arrive, some seek asylum through the legal process, some return home, and some do attempt to cross the border illegally.

But that’s not a crisis, it’s reality of living on the border with the world’s wealthiest country aligned next to a still developing nation.

We have border walls, fences, double fences, barbed wire, and over 20,000 Border Patrol agents on the border now, along with military personal deployed by Trump last year.

No doubt, there are issues at the border that can be addressed with more physical barriers, technology, and personnel, but a national emergency it is not. And spending $5 billion and up to $30 billion on a wall, or barrier, or fence, is not the answer.

Immigration, both legal and illegal, must be dealt with in a comprehensive way that will allow families to stay intact, allow young adults and children brought here as minor to have a sensible path to citizenship, and allow employers to continue providing good paying jobs to hard working immigrants that want to achieve their own American dream. That’s real immigration reform.

We should also be unified in attacking the causes of gun violence that kill thousands each year, including children.

We should be addressing the mental health issues that lead thousands each year to take their own lives, including military veterans returning from service.

We should be fighting the epidemic of prescription drug overdoses that is claiming the lives of fathers, mothers, and children that have gotten hooked on drugs that were intended to help heal, not kill.

If President Trump is truly serious about protecting Americans, and he’s willing to shut down the government to get his way, he should be boldly leading us toward an America where we are safe from gun violence, protected from dangerous drugs, and healthy enough to want to live our lives, not take them ourselves.

That would make American great again.

A border fence? No, thanks, we already have that.