Trump’s new border wall rhyme is misleading and factually dubious

Katie Rogers, Linda Qiu

As new polls showed a majority of Americans had cooled to the idea of a protracted government shutdown over his long-promised border wall, Donald Trump woke up with the same two options facing him as the past 33 days - he could fight back or concede.

Or maybe he could try rhyming?

“BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!” Mr Trump wrote in his daily morning Twitter address. “This is the new theme, for two years until the Wall is finished (under construction now), of the Republican Party. Use it and pray!”

Two minutes later, Mr Trump tweeted the rhyme again for emphasis.

Mr Trump, a born marketing machine, brought to the White House a history of selling Americans everything from steaks to questionable real estate credentials to the catchphrase “You’re Fired!” And his red-and-white “Make America Great Again” hat is instantly associated with Mr Trump; an accessory that, as Americans were reminded last weekend, draws controversy like a laser beam.

According to people who have been in the room when Mr Trump fires off a tweet, the president gets visibly excited when he comes up with a message he believes will go over well with his base — he peers over his phone with a “watch this” expression, according to two people who have observed such a process.

The wall rhyme appears to fit into that same bull’s-eye category. The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment about the origin of Mr Trump’s latest catchphrase. But a senior aide to the president said Mr Trump came up with it himself, and credited the new slogan to his “marketing genius.”

There are a few hitches: Mr Trump’s rhyming sales pitch that a border wall will reduce crime is not credible and the facts he uses to bolster his claims are often correctable.

First, despite the president’s repeated claims, construction has not yet started on the border wall: The “under construction now” in his morning tweet needs more context. Customs and Border Protection has begun or completed several projects to replace old fencing with new barriers, but no additional miles of wall have been added yet. Construction to build a new levee wall system in Texas is scheduled to begin in February, the first extension of existing barriers.

Second, Mr Trump’s rhyme that a wall will lead to falling crime rates may be catchy, but it is at odds with what data shows about the influence immigration has on crime.

Law enforcement agencies rarely release crime data that includes immigration status, but several studies have found that immigration does not lead to an increase in crime.

Others have shown that immigrants — including those who are in the country illegally — are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

Also, a border wall would not suddenly alter the population of unauthorised immigrants already in the country, as the president suggests; most of them are here because they overstayed temporary visas, not because they crossed the border illegally.

The statistics Mr Trump often uses to portray a criminal threat are also misleading. He has pointed to 17,000 criminals caught trying to cross the border, omitting the fact that a majority were stopped at legal ports of entry, not wall-less areas of the border.

He has recounted that officials have made 260,000-some arrests of immigrants with criminal records in the last two years, though the charges included a range of crimes, many non-violent like traffic violations or illegal entry.

He has also issued baseless warnings of terrorists infiltrating the border, despite State Department and counterterrorism officials saying there is no credible threat.

Mr Trump, known to be more concerned with the broad contours of his messaging than the particulars, continued to push his new slogan, targeting a segment on MSNBC that showed immigrants slipping across the border into the United States from Mexico.

“Even Trump Haters like (MS)NBC acknowledge you ‘BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!'” Mr Trump wrote, his delight undimmed by his new rhyme.

The New York Times