By Clint Confehr
It’s “xenophobic rhetoric” and “fear mongering,” but most Americans are more pragmatic about border security, according to NAACP leaders and friends commenting on President Trump’s first televised Oval Office speech.
“There is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border [with] thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country,” Trump said. “All Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages.
“Among those hardest hit are African Americans and Hispanic Americans,” Trump said.
NAACP Nashville Branch President Keith Caldwell asked, “How has he arrived at this conclusion that African Americans are being adversely affected by immigration trends?”
An attitude about ability is exposed; “We know,” Caldwell said, “he’s talking about the jobs that no one wants, that are reserved for African Americans and migrants in the fields.”
Trump said the partial government shutdown should end with Democrats’ compromise on a wall.
Deidre Malone, president of the NAACP branch in Memphis, said, Trump “needs to work with the Democrats and get the government back open. A wall is not needed … He’s saying those from Mexico are terrorists and his own government is saying terrorists are coming in through airports.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis said Trump’s “reality and most Americans’ reality are at odds … Fear mongering … does not create a crisis… Few beyond his core acolytes will accept that the country needs to spend $5.7 billion to build an ineffective wall to keep asylum seekers out.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville sees “better” and “cheaper ways to secure our borders…”
Better policing Laredo, El Paso, and San Diego will stop thousands of trucks, often hiding drugs and people. Stop paying Congress and White House negotiators until the shutdown ends.
Gloria Jean Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee State Conference NAACP, said, “We need better border security, but we don’t need a wall… He’s used the same rhetoric he’s used all along… I don’t think he’s changed anyone’s opinion.” Trump was “talking to his base [and] mixing up the facts to his advantage.”
Immigration is down, Sweet-Love said. “It’s not a “growing … security crisis,” but humanitarian issues exist.
Roan County’s NAACP branch President Joe Eskridge, a vice president to the state conference, said Trump’s speech was “just more rhetoric to his base.”
The wall, Trump said, “would very quickly pay for itself [because] the cost of illegal drugs exceeds $500 billion a year.”
A former Jackson Madison County Narcotics Unit deputy commander, Harrell Carter, president of the Jackson, Madison County branch, said, “We need security, but it comes from a well-thought-out strategy, not from this knee jerk reaction to people of color…
“Back in the day, we had a problem with planes flying [across the Gulf of Mexico] as far north as they could [and] in several occasions, local officials were involved in the drug trade.” Now, most illegal drugs come through airports and cargo ships.
Trump is “clouded by his views” Carter said. “He … doesn’t represent the majority of the American people.”
Murfreesboro NAACP Branch President Katie Wilson looked at “photos of children with plastic sheets over them;” concluding, “The money for the wall could be spent on immigration reforms, and to support people coming to the border, and the officers who address their needs…. They’re coming to America … because they couldn’t continue to live in their homeland because of the crime.”
This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune.