On Tuesday night, Donald Trump gave a rare prime time Oval Office address to plead his case for the need for a wall on the southern border. He didn't say anything new—in fact the only thing that was different about this speech was that he dropped the preposterous claim that thousands of terrorists have snuck in through the border with Mexico. He stuck to his previous talking points about immigrants causing crime (despite being less likely to break the law once they're in the U.S., regardless of immigration status) and that a wall is the only way to stop drug trafficking (the vast majority of drugs are smuggled through ports of entry, not hauled on foot through desert).
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi gave a joint response afterward that invited comparison to the painting "American Gothic." But the real red meat came later on MSNBC, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke to Rachel Maddow about the president's speech. When asked to give a response, she focused on the ways ICE and Border Patrol have terrorized citizens and immigrants alike in the name of rounding up as many people as possible for deportation, as well as the inhumane, brutal, and sometimes lethal conditions those people are kept in. She tripped over her words once or twice in her reply, but she was speaking quickly and passionately:
Moreover, the one thing that the president has not talked about is he has systemically engaged in the violation of international human rights borders—human rights on our border. He has separated children from their families. He talked about what happened the day after Christmas—on the day of Christmas, a child died in ICE custody. The president should not be asking for more money to an agency that has systemically violated human rights. The president should be defending why we are funding such an agency at all. Because right now what we are seeing is death, right now what we are seeing is the violation of human rights. These children and these families are being held in what are called hieleras, which are basically freezing boxes that no person should be maintained in for any amount of time, let alone the amount of time that they're being kept on.
In fact, multiple children have died this year in border detention facilities, and there are reports of at least one infant contracting pneumonia after being kept for days in one of the freezing cold cells known as hieleras.
Ocasio-Cortez then turned to the administration's openly hostile attitude toward all immigrants, regardless of their status or how they entered the country:
And moreover, even if you are anti-immigrant, the majority of immigrant overstays, the majority of the reason that people are undocumented, is visa overstay. It's not because people are crossing a border. It is because of visa overstay, which, mind you, he's talking about legal immigration. He's trying to restrict every form of legal immigration there is in the United States. He's fighting against family reunification, he's fighting against the diversity visa lottery, he's fighting against almost every way that people can actually legally enter this country, forcing them to become undocumented. Then he's trying to attack their undocumented status. This is systematic. It is wrong. And it is anti-American.
She only touched on a few of the ways Trump and his cabinet have tried to marginalize, punish, and strip protections from documented immigrants in the U.S., though to be fair that list is obscenely long by now. But she gets at the heart of why the border wall is bullshit: none of the issues Trump brings up to justify it will be affected by a physical wall. What it will do is serve as a monument for every person who, like the president and his advisers, think America is for whites only.