Tim Steller

Arizona Daily Star columnist Tim Steller

Thousands of people in Southern Arizona live the Mexican border as part of their daily existence.

So, when the president announced a national emergency Friday, you would hope that he answered the experience-based, sensible questions that people who know the border would ask. Then you’d hope that other Arizona elected officials would evaluate the president’s decision accordingly.

So how did the president do on some of the important questions about his decision to declare a national emergency?

Let’s check in first on a nagging preoccupation people have been pointing out for months. How would a border barrier help stop contraband, when the vast majority of every drug except marijuana seized at the border is found at ports of entries? Here’s President Trump:

One of the things I said I have to do and I want to do is border security because we have tremendous amounts of drugs flowing into our country, much of it coming from the southern border. When you look and when you listen to politicians, in particular certain Democrats, they say it all comes through the port of entry. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s just a lie. It’s all a lie ...

A big majority of the big drugs — the big drug loads don’t go through ports of entry. They can’t go through ports of entry. You can’t take big loads because you have people — we have some very capable people, the Border Patrol, law enforcement, looking.

OK, then, he dealt with that question by denying reality altogether, as the thousands of Customs and Border Protection officers in Southern Arizona can attest, and as the statistics they compile show.

To come to such a conclusion, he must have some other information that none of the rest of us has. Good thing a reporter asked him where he gets his information, since the data from the Department of Homeland Security and other sources shows illegal crossings are at a historically low level. Trump’s answer:

I get my numbers from a lot of sources — like Homeland Security, primarily. And the numbers that I have from Homeland Security are a disaster. And you know what else is a disaster? The numbers that come out of Homeland Security, Kirstjen (Nielsen), for the cost that we spend and the money that we lose because of illegal immigration: Billions and billions of dollars a month. Billions and billions of dollars. And it’s unnecessary.

Perplexed, the reporter asked how he can derive opposite conclusions from the same information everyone else uses: “So your own government stats are wrong, are you saying?”

No, no. I use many stats. I use many stats.

It’s not a particularly reassuring answer, but maybe he has a better handle on something that the Army did on his individual request. What does he think about the rows and rows of razor wire — a type called concertina wire because of how the rolls open up — that soldiers have put up on the border wall in American border towns?

Our military has been incredible. We put up barbed wire on top of certain old walls that were there. We fixed the wall and we load it up with barbed wire. It’s very successful.

Alright, then — he called it barbed wire and showed no recognition of the fact that people in places like Nogales, Douglas and Bisbee-Naco object to the wire that feels like a relic of the Soviet Union.

Since he declared a national emergency, he must be pretty dissatisfied with the spending bill he signed that provided funding for border security. What did he think of that bill?

In the bill, by the way, they didn’t even fight us on most of the stuff. Ports of entry. We have so much money, we don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know what to do with all the money they’re giving us. It’s crazy.

The only place they don’t want to give as much money — $1,375,000,000. Sounds like a lot, but it’s not so much, although we’re putting it to much better use than it used to be. A lot of the past administrations, they had — it was easy to get, and they didn’t build or they didn’t do what they could have done. It would have been great. It would have been great to have done it earlier, but I was a little new to the job, a little new to the profession.

So, leaving aside the odd digression there — the president said he was actually happy with almost all of the bill. Seems the only thing he wanted more money for was border barriers. How then would he justify calling it a national emergency?

In fact, the primary fight was on the wall. Everything else, we have so much, as I said, I don’t know what to do with it we have so much money. But on the wall, they skimped.

So I did — I was successful, in that sense, but I want to do it faster. I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster. And I don’t have to do it for the election. I’ve already done a lot of wall, for the election — 2020. And the only reason we’re up here talking about this is because of the election, because they want to try and win an election, which it looks like they’re not going to be able to do. And this is one of the ways they think they can possibly win, is by obstruction and a lot of other nonsense.

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And I think that I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.

Huh? He just acknowledged the emergency declaration wasn’t needed? That he just did it because he wanted to get more wall done faster? That’s weird. Even the Republicans in Arizona must be fleeing from this flimsy justification. What does Gov. Doug Ducey say?

Arizona has watched for decades as Washington has failed to prioritize border security. It’s unfortunate it has come to this rather than Congress doing its job. But action is needed. I support President Trump’s plan to secure our border.

Wait, but Congress just passed a border-security deal that even the president likes except for one detail, the spending on the wall. That’s how Congress does its job, making compromises. Surely senators like Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema saw through these sloppy justifications. What did McSally say?

I will continue to study the emergency declaration and additional funding proposal to ensure it increases border security while not adversely impacting our military.

Oh, so she took the brave stand of taking no stand. What about Sinema?

Congress just did its job, approving more resources for border security. Congress has more work to do on immigration and border security, and I will keep working with my colleagues to get it done.

OK, now we can see what’s going on. The president just made an incoherent argument that any borderland resident can see through, calling their homes the site of a “national emergency” even while admitting he just wants to build more fence faster.

Interesting how nobody in Arizona’s three highest offices dares to point out the obvious flaws that their own Southern Arizona constituents could point out instantly.

Contact: tsteller@tucson.com or 807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter