After Donald Trump addressed the nation Tuesday in a speech that attacked immigrants and demanded a border wall, Sen. Bernie Sanders called out the president for lying to the American people and creating a false crisis at the border. We speak with Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas, an immigrant rights group based in Chicago.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play the response of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who also gave a response. I mean, the Democratic leaders, Pelosi and Schumer, did a joint response, but on Facebook, Twitter, Bernie Sanders responded to Donald Trump’s speech.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: President Trump tonight has told us why he believes we need the wall. It gives me no pleasure to tell you what most of you already know, and that is that President Trump lies all of the time. And in his remarks tonight and in recent weeks, regarding immigration and the wall, he continues to lie.
Just a few examples. Trump has told the American people several hundred times—and he mentioned it tonight—that Mexico would pay for the wall. That’s a lie. If this wall were to be built, Mexico would not pay for it, American taxpayers would.
Trump said that thousands and thousands of terrorists are entering the United States from the southern border. That is also a lie. According to a State Department report released in September, quote, “At year’s end there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have … sent operatives via Mexico into the United States,” end of quote. That’s not Bernie Sanders’s opinion; that is a direct quote from Trump’s own State Department.
Trump recently said that some ex-presidents told him that they should have built a wall. That is a lie. All four living ex-presidents have stated clearly that they never talked to Trump about their desire to build a wall.
Trump said that we need a wall to prevent heroin, fentanyl and other illegal drugs from coming into the country. Another lie. According to Donald Trump’s own Drug Enforcement Administration, the most common method Mexican cartels use to transport illegal drugs over the Southwest border is through legal ports of entry using passenger vehicles. And on and on it goes.
AMY GOODMAN: That is independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont giving his response to President Trump’s Oval Office address, which every major corporate network ran last night. Oscar Chacón, if you can respond to what Senator Sanders said and also talk about what you think needs to happen now? And the fact that to accomplish what Trump wants to, he has shut down the government, at least a quarter of it, but included in that is homeland security. So, as he talks about his concern about homeland security, the TSA agents at the airports, prison guards in prisons, the border guards on the border are being forced to work without pay.
OSCAR CHACÓN: Well, essentially, I mean, I agree with everything Senator Sanders said. I mean, I was saying pretty much the same thing before I heard the recording of his response yesterday.
You know, what I really believe needs to happen is a much stronger response, not only by members of Congress, but by citizens of the United States of America. We need to understand that this is a president that seeks to create crisis, that seeks to create chaos, to then use chaos and crises precisely to continue to feed the fear campaigning that he does, in order to get away with what he wants.
In the end, we must understand that, yes, the United States of America has been, for years, in a bad need for a brand-new immigration policy. Clearly, what is happening now, and what the president is proposing, is absolutely no solution. We need to understand that the first thing we need to do is acknowledge that immigrants and immigration has been a true benefit for the country, a net asset in our nation—and also for their countries of origin. And then we also need to acknowledge, once and for all, that the policies that we have in place need to be brought in sync with the realities of the 21st century.
Let me just give you one concrete example. We often, in the United States of America, celebrate when a corporation becomes more profitable because they move abroad, leaving people without jobs in the U.S. But we fail to acknowledge the fact that hard-working people in places in Central America or in Mexico should also have the right to be able to come and work in a country like the U.S., if they consider that they will be able to get a better pay in return for their labor.
That is at the core of what is wrong with our immigration policy. We need to affirm the right of people to live in community with their families, because family is central for the well-being of human beings. These are principles that we must absolutely understand, that have to be at the core.
And ultimately, we also need to approach this from a foreign policy perspective. If we really don’t want people to come, let’s really work to make countries like Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala places people do not want to leave because they have an opportunity for a decent way of life in their own nation.
Until all that happens, I think we are going to continue to be just basically fooling ourselves, thinking that with building walls or simply funding more immigration enforcement, the way we’ve been doing it for the past 25 years, is going to solve a problem that, again, is real, but the solutions we have been so far talking about simply do not measure up.
AMY GOODMAN: Oscar Chacón, we want to thank you very much for being with us, executive director—
OSCAR CHACÓN: Pleasure.
AMY GOODMAN: —of Alianza Americas, an immigrant rights group based in Chicago.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the next guest just left NBC, writing a memo talking about perpetual war and the national security state. Its representatives are populating so many of the pundit positions of all the major networks. Stay with us.