U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that his “wall” has “slowed” the entry of COVID-19 from Mexico, despite the fact that his country far exceeds its neighbor in the number of deaths and that the border states of Arizona, Texas and California are experiencing a strong upsurge in contagion.
Trump traveled to the Mexican border to celebrate progress on his star campaign promise, the construction of a border barrier, and chose the state of Arizona, which will be key in November’s presidential election to win a second term.
“I have built the wall and it has helped 100 % (…). It has stopped the COVID, it has stopped everything,” the president said during a meeting with local and federal officials in the border town of Yuma, Arizona.
A PARADOXICAL MESSAGE
Trump said this despite the fact that Arizona has recorded the largest increase in VIDOC-19 cases in the U.S. in the past two weeks, and on Tuesday set a new record of 3591 positive and 42 deaths in the past 24 hours, with nearly 80% of its intensive care unit beds occupied.
The situation is similar in California and Texas, which are also border areas and are registering records of daily infections, but Trump insisted on describing a scenario in which the problem was not on his side of the border, but on the Mexican side.
“If you look at some of the cities on the other side of the wall (…) In California we have an area that is heavily infected on the Mexican side, and if we didn’t have a wall there, the situation would be catastrophic,” Trump said, without clarifying which area he was referring to.
The United States is the country in the world with the most infections and deaths from the new coronavirus, while Mexico is in fourteenth place in terms of cases and seventh in terms of deaths, according to the independent count from Johns Hopkins University.
DEFENDS ASYLUM RESTRICTIONS
The Trump government has temporarily closed the border with Mexico for non-essential travel and has extended indefinitely the practice of expelling those immigrants who enter the country illegally through the border area, with the stated goal of containing the pandemic.
“Without these measures, the southern border would be a global epicenter of virus transmission,” Trump said from a border county that is, paradoxically, one of the most affected by COVID-19 in Arizona.
Many asylum seekers are now stranded in the Mexican border area, with no clue as to when they will be able to appear before a U.S. immigration judge, but Trump said that if they continue to enter the country there would be “a coronavirus catastrophe on the southern border.
VISIT THE WALL
Trump made these statements before moving to a section of the border fence in nearby St. Louis, where he signed a plaque installed on the “wall” to commemorate the 200-mile (322-kilometre) barrier completed by his government.
Of that stretch, only three miles (4.8 kilometres) have been erected on parts of the border where the U.S. had no fence until now: the vast majority of the “wall” Trump boasts about is a replacement and upgrade of fences installed years ago, according to May data from the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The president, however, boasted about the progress in the construction of this new steel border system, which he defined as equipped with state-of-the-art technology and “unclimbable” unless someone “gets an extraordinarily high ladder” because of its approximate 30 feet in height.
A MESSAGE TO THE “DREAMERS”
In statements to the press by the wall, Trump briefly referred to the undocumented youth known as “dreamers,” who are mostly Mexican: “My message (to them) is to have courage,” he said, adding that “good things are going to happen for DACA beneficiaries pretty soon.
Last Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created in 2012 and which protects nearly 650,000 “dreamers” from deportation, but Trump has promised to start the process again to end the measure.
Trump also confirmed that he plans to receive his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, at the White House “quite soon” in what would be the first bilateral meeting between the two.